HC Deb 04 March 1968 vol 760 cc15-6
16. Mr. Fisher

asked the Minister of Social Security whether she will take steps to empower the Supplementary Benefits Commission to provide rent allowances to those in full-time work whose incomes are below supplementary benefit level.

Mrs. Hart

We see the forthcoming improvement in family allowances, linked with Income Tax adjustments, as the best way of helping poorer families. I would remind the hon. Member that these families can also benefit under the Rate Rebate Scheme, for which the qualifying limits will be raised this autumn.

Mr. Fisher

Can the right hon Lady tell me whether the Prime Minister's pledge that the poorest families would be protected from post-devaluation price increases will be honoured? Is she aware that, even after the increase in the family allowances, there will be a quarter of a million children still living below the poverty line, and this would be a way of helping those who really need help?

Mrs. Hart

To take the second part of the question. the problem about rent allowances is that they come into the category of benefits in which there is a real difficulty about entitlement and take-up. One certainly could not assume that the hon. Gentleman's suggestion would be an effective way of solving the problem. On the first point we have made it quite clear that at the right time, we will take whatever steps we believe necessary to protect the most vulnerable. We have already announced what we are to do about supplementary benefits for the old, and the sick, and I must ask the hon. Gentleman to be patient. In April an extra 7s. per family allowance child will go to each of these families. We are dealing with this problem.

Mr. Worsley

Would not the right hon. Lady agree that help given through housing subsidies on the one hand and through the insurance scheme on the other is totally unco-ordinated and that this produces most extraordinary anomalies? Could she state whether, as part of this review, she is considering these two activities together?

Mrs. Hart

I am very much aware of the hon. Gentleman's point. There is the problem of a multiplicity of means-tested benefits, operated both by the Government and by local authorities. I can assure him that I have them very much in mind.

Mr. Spriggs

Does not my right hon. Friend consider that this question should not relate to higher benefits, but to better basic wages?

Mrs. Hart

Every time we have discussed this matter in any depth in the House I have made it perfectly clear that one has to look at the cause of the problem which lies essentially in the low wages that the father, who is in full-time employment, is receiving.

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