HC Deb 09 March 1970 vol 797 cc911-2
33. Mr. Gwilym Roberts

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will take steps to introduce an unemployed housewife's benefit at the standard rate of unemployment benefit for a single person available to housewives with at least one child under school age, if they are not in employment, and to all disabled housewives; what is the estimated cost of such a proposal; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Ennals

A benefit to compensate for loss of earnings from unemployment is not appropriate to people, including housewives, who are outside the employment field, and it would cost something of the order of £700 million a year. I would remind my hon. Friend that very severely disabled housewives will be eligible for the new attendance allowance for which the National Superannuation and Social Insurance Bill provides.

Mr. Roberts

Although I accept that the cost of this suggestion would make it prohibitive in the near fututre, would my hon. Friend accept that urgent steps are required to make the profession of housewife an honourable profession, which is not even conceived in the new social security Bill which is to come before the House?

Mr. Ennals

With some experience, I should have thought that the rôle of housewife is an extremely honourable profession. Normally the responsibility of looking after her welfare falls on her husband, and that should remain, but family allowances and tax relief help the husband to do his duty towards his wife.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Is there such a person as an unemployed housewife?

Mr. Ennals

This was largely the question I had in mind when replying to my hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Gwilym Roberts). Certainly housewives are very fully engaged, but they are not unemployed unless of course they are actually searching for employment for which there is better remuneration than their husbands can give them.