HC Deb 23 May 1968 vol 765 cc949-51
Mrs. Hart

I beg to move Amendment No. 25, in line 5, leave out from beginning to ' and ' in line 8.

This is consequential on the dropping of Clause 2 and amending the Title to make it appropriately represent the only contents of the Bill.

Amendment agreed to.

Bill reported, with Amendments; as amended, considered.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

Lord Balniel

There was no debate on Clause 2, when we had wished to raise a number of questions, but since then there has been a fairly wide debate and, therefore, I can make very briefly the points I wish to put now.

We welcome the fact that half the Bill has been withdrawn—the last act of the right hon. Lady just now was to move an Amendment cutting its Title by half. We support the help the Government are giving to families with children so as to protect them from the full impact of devaluation and the Budget, and the deluge of rising prices that will follow during the months ahead. But we regret that the Government have not taken the opportunity to concentrate help on those families in the greatest need. This is exemplified by the fact that even when the Bill receives its Royal Assent about 200,000 children will still be living below the poverty line as defined by the Supplementary Benefits Commission. We also regret that when the Bill becomes an Act about 300,000 people, all of them in the lower income groups, will be brought into the tax system and pay tax for the first time in their lives. We regret that 250,000 other families who were paying tax at the lower rate will now be brought in to pay tax at the standard rates. We regret that the Bill includes a proposal to decrease the insurance benefits available for the sick, the unemployed and the injured.

Mr. Loughlin

The hon. Gentleman has repeatedly said this afternoon that the Bill decreases the insurance benefits. That really is not so if one accepts the complementary nature of the two benefits, and he knows it.

Lord Balniel

We have debated this matter at great length. As I have pointed out, the family allowances are increased by 3s. for families with two children, and the insurance benefits available for the sick, the unemployed and the widows are decreased by 3s. Therefore, these families, unlike families in work, are left without the net increase which other families have.

I shall keep my remarks brief, because I know that there is an important debate to follow. The last point we regret is that because of the whole sequence of increases, one following quickly after the other, the complexity of the work of the Inland Revenue Department is very considerable. About 1 million hours of overtime must now be worked.

We welcome the Bill because it brings help, but regret the serious defects which we think exist in it.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.