HC Deb 22 February 1972 vol 831 cc1089-90
17. Mr. Pardoe

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will estimate, from information available to him, the average additional cost per year for a married man with average industrial earnings of having one child, two children, and three children, respectively.

Sir K. Joseph

We do not have the information required to make an estimate of the annual cost of having children.

Mr. Pardoe

Is the Minister aware that I rather suspected that that might be the answer, but that it is inadequate. A very large part of our social security system is based on the figure he cannot give. Is he aware the additional allowance on the supplementary benefits scales for a child aged 5 to 11 is 21 per cent. of that for a married couple, compared with 37 per cent. recommended in Beveridge and 40 per cent. given in Japan, America and Germany? Why is that?

Sir K. Joseph

There is a wide range of circumstances which the different facets of the social security system try to take into account. There is a wide range of other factors to be taken into account before such judgments as the hon. Gentleman is seeking to make can accurately be made. But if he would tell me what he has in mind in particular, I will try to arrive at an accurate figure.

Sir B. Rhys Williams

When prices go up, the men may get the wage increases but it is the women who face the price increases. Would the Secretary of State not agree that now is the time to introduce family allowances for the first child?

Sir K. Joseph

That is easier said than done. It would be a very big operation which to a large extent would be unnecessary since the vast majority of families with one child—there are four million of them—and with a first child who do not receive family allowances do not need extra help in that way.

Mr. O'Malley

While I recognise that the Government's top priority through tax concessions is help to the wealthy, does the Secretary of State not think that the Government ought to keep the Conservative election pledge to help parents with moderate incomes by increasing family allowances and preferably by making these family allowances tax free?

Sir K. Joseph

The House has debated this in great detail on many occasions. I am not in the least defensive about the fact that this country requires encouragement to the enterprising as well as help for those who need help, and it is Conservative policy to provide both.