HC Deb 10 December 1974 vol 883 cc212-3
1. Mr. Kilroy-Silk

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services on what grounds she has extended the cohabitation rule to the disabled.

The Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security (Mr. Alfred Morris)

I assume my hon. Friend is referring to the proposals in the Social Security Benefits Bill relating to non-contributory in-valdity pension and invalid care allowance, under which a woman who is living with a man as his wife would be treated in the same way as a married woman who is living with her husband. I am sure that this parallel treatment is right in principle.

Mr. Kilroy-Silk

Does my hon. Friend appreciate that that is an unsatisfactory, if not a disgraceful, answer? It demonstrates the male chauvinist assumption that only the man can be the breadwinner. Is he aware that this unwarranted discrimination against women fits ill with the Equal Pay Act and the intention of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to introduce an anti-discrimination Bill? Will he ensure that in these proposals men and women will qualify for the benefits as of right by reason of their disability and not their marital status?

Mr. Morris

I said it was right in principle because it would be wrong to treat the co-habitee preferentially compared with the married woman.

Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

Hear, hear.

Mr. Morris

As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said in a letter, We readily accept that there is a desire to make progress beyond the limits of those changes"— the non-contributory invalidity pension and the invalid care allowance— which we hope to introduce in the near future.

Mr. Boscawen

Is the Minister aware that this universally-disliked cohabitation rule would have been totally redundant had the Labour Party followed the proposals of the Conservative Party and included the disabled housewife in the Bill which the Government have brought forward?

Mr. Morris

We hope to provide for the disabled housewife after the introduction of the non-contributory invalidity pension and the invalid care allowance. The cohabitation rule applies across the system and not to this area alone.