HC Deb 10 November 1970 vol 806 cc183-4
16. Sir B. Rhys Williams

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what steps he will take to reduce the number of people dependent upon supplementary benefits.

Sir K. Joseph

I must ask my hon. Friend to await publication of my proposals for the reconstruction of National Insurance.

Sir B. Rhys Williams

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is appalling that more than four million people should be dependent on such supplementary benefits? Will he undertake to take urgent measures to reduce that number?

Sir K. Joseph

Yes, Sir. It would be rather more appalling if we were to have a lower standard of supplementary benefit and therefore reduce the number of people on it. The number on it to some extent reflects the level which the country regards as the tolerable minimum. Certainly, by raising the other resources of the elderly the Government desire to reduce the number on supplementary benefits.

Mrs. Shirley Williams

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the effects of the decision not to do anything about inflation between now and the next up-rating of old age pensions will mean in practice that a larger number of people will be dependent on supplementary benefits, unless the Government are prepared to intervene in the price increases?

Sir K. Joseph

We shall certainly try to abate the pace of inflation which we have inherited. It is some comfort in this situation that the Supplementary Benefits Commission exists to help people in need.

31. Mr. David Steel

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he will introduce an isolation allowance in computing supplementary benefit for those who live in very isolated parts of the country.

Mr. Dean

No, Sir.

Mr. Steel

Would the hon. Gentleman accept that there is a real, though admittedly minority, problem here, and that if people feel that they they cannot maintain themselves in isolated parts of the country they are likely to move into the towns and be an even greater charge on the taxpayer and ratepayer combined? Is he aware that very real hardship is caused to those whose cost of living is substantial because they live well away from areas of communication?

Mr. Dean

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will appreciate that it would be difficult to define the cases, but I can assure him that additional benefit can be granted in individual cases where there are exceptional needs.

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