HC Deb 06 February 1973 vol 850 cc209-10
9. Mr. Ewing

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services when he expects to announce an increase in the death grant payment.

Mr. Dean

The death grant will be considered, along with all other claims on the resources available, when this year's review of national insurance benefits is carried out.

Mr. Ewing

I hope that that reply means that the death grant will be increased. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that I have done some research into this subject and some very interesting facts have emerged from the largest funeral undertakers in England, Scotland and Wales? Whereas in 1967 the average cost of a funeral was from £45 to £60, the average cost in 1973 is from £84 to £110. That is nearly double the 1967 figure. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will give serious consideration to these facts when the matter is under review.

Mr. Dean

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that all these factors will be given serious consideration before the uprating. Clearly, however, I cannot commit my right hon. Friend to what the outcome will be.

Mr. McCrindle

When my hon. Friend reviews the death grant will he pay particular attention to those who either receive no death grant or receive a grant of only £15? As these people generally are very elderly, there is a degree of urgency. Perhaps my hon. Friend will be able to tell me that he will turn his attention to this matter when the death grant next comes under review.

Mr. Dean

Without committing myself, I can gladly assure my hon. Friend that sympathetic consideration will be given to the point he has raised.

Mr. O'Malley

While an increase of that type for very old people currently excluded from entitlement would be welcome, may I ask whether the hon. Gentleman is aware that when the death grant was first introduced it was set at a level to provide for the total cost of a funeral of minimum standards? Since that time the cost of funerals, as my hon. Friend has said, has escalated enormously. Therefore will the hon. Gentleman, when reviewing the level of death benefit, ensure that it is put up to a level that will meet the total cost of a funeral, as is urgently required by many poor families in 1973?

Mr. Dean

It is very easy to make a strong case for an increase in any benefit. It is the job of the Government to allocate the priorities within the resources available. I clearly cannot say what the outcome of the uprating will be.