HC Deb 27 March 1975 vol 889 cc685-7
Q1. Mrs. Hayman

asked the Prime Minister if the public speech on one-parent families by the Secretary of State for Social Services at the conference of the National Council for One-Parent Families on 21st February represents the policies of Her Majesty's Government.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

Yes, Sir.

Mrs. Hayman

Is my right hon. Friend aware that that answer, like the speech, will be greeted with great disappointment by the many one-parent families in this country? Does he agree that the 1 million children of one-parent families are the largest group of children in the country who are potentially the most economically and socially vulnerable? Will he undertake to reconsider the guaranteed maintenance allowance, accepting that a special cash benefit would be the most important help that could be given to these families?

The Prime Minister

I agree with my hon. Friend about the special category here and the amount of poverty, which in many cases is concealed. She will know that the Finer Report had 200 recommendations and that in this, as in all matters of social services and health, we are having to proceed in accordance with priorities. A considerable amount has been done within the Finer Report to help. My hon. Friend who has studied this matter so fully will know what has been done and I shall not outline it now. The particular point that she mentioned is being considered in relation to other social service and health priorities and general priorities, and also against the very severe constraints on public spending which must operate at this time.

Mrs. Thatcher

Is the Prime Minister aware that he would get a great deal of support from this side of the House if he were to consider transferring some of the money at present spent on indiscriminate food subsidies to help one-parent families? We are not asking him to increase public expenditure. We know his difficulties—all Governments have difficulties—but some of us think it wrong that our needs should take priority over the needs of this group.

The Prime Minister

Yes, but so little has been done in this area. Of course, all families benefit from the food subsidies to the extent of about 7p in the pound in the shopping basket, and that includes the one-parent families. This is a matter of priorities. We are proceeding with great urgency. The point raised by my hon. Friend is being considered, but I cannot give any assurance about timing at this stage.