HC Deb 05 August 1975 vol 897 cc211-2
6. Mrs. Hayman

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether she will now lower from two years to 12 months the qualifying period for the long-term addition to supplementary benefit.

Mr. O'Malley

This is a question which we shall consider as resources permit.

Mrs. Hayman

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many people who are dependent on supplementary benefit, particularly one-parent families, are becoming increasingly desperate and disillusioned concerning their ability to cope in the present economic crisis? Does he agree that the Government should take action at least on the short-term measures suggested by the Finer Report? If the Government continue not to accept the guaranteed maintenance allowance, when will they come up with measures involving a non-means-tested benefit for all one-parent families?

Mr. O'Malley

I wish that my hon. Friend would occasionally draw attention to how much money in additional resources has been spent by the present Government in the whole area of social security. The record of the Labour Government bears comparison with any previous Government in this country throughout the whole post-war period. There is no dispute between my hon. Friend and the Government about wanting to improve the lot of deprived families, whether one-parent families or any other group of families or individuals in the community. We shall achieve this as quickly as available resources permit us to do so.

Mr. Cormack

Does the Minister agree that he has not answered the question? Does he agree that it is now 13 months since Finer reported? The Government have not yet provided time for a proper debate on that report. Does he not agree that this is a scandalous situation and shows a distorted sense of Government priorities?

Mr. O'Malley

If there is one thing which is scandalous in the history of the treatment of one-parent families—and, indeed, of all families with children—it is the failure of the previous administration to increase family allowances ever since 1956. As for what has been implemented arising out of the Finer recommendations, I refer the hon. Gentleman to Questions already answered in this House.