HC Deb 22 June 1971 vol 819 c1180
14. Mr. Leonard

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether, in view of the higher cost of living in London and the widespread practice of employers, both in the public and private sectors, of paying a London allowance to their employees, he will institute an inquiry into the possibility of adding a London weighting to family allowances and all social security benefits.

Sir K. Joseph

No, Sir. Most benefits and allowances are paid at a flat rate without regard to individual means or commitments, so that a London weighting would not be appropriate. For those who are dependent on social security, the supplementary benefit scheme provides payments tailored to individual requirements, including actual housing costs.

Mr. Leonard

Is it not utterly illogical that people who are in employment should be deemed to warrant a London allowance whereas the majority of those on social security benefits should not?

Sir K. Joseph

I do not think so. I do not think that there is a parallel with workers. In the contributory insurance system there is a contribution for a flat-rate benefit. It is when people need to be made up to the minimum income through supplementary benefit that actual housing cost, which is the biggest differential in the cost of living between different parts of the country, is paid.

Mr. James Hamilton

I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman is disinclined to agree with my hon. Friend's supplementary question. Is the Secretary of State aware that a London allowance would be grossly unfair to the development areas in Scotland because of the low wages and heavy unemployment there, and that any increase in family allowances should be across the board?

Sir K. Joseph

I am glad to welcome an ally.