HC Deb 27 January 1976 vol 904 cc227-8
5. Mr. Gow

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what proposals she has for simplifying the current regulations governing the payment of social security benefits.

The Minister of State, Department of Health and Social Security (Mr. Brian O'Malley)

Statutory regulations are expressed as simply as is consistent with the need for legal provisions. The substance of them is set out in everyday English in free information leaflets which are readily available to the public.

Mr. Gow

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that at present more than 120 separate leaflets are in force giving details of entitlement to supplementary benefit and war pensions? Has the Minister read any of those 120 documents issued by his Department? Does he not think that the level of take-up of supplementary benefits might be increased significantly if those leaflets were simplified and streamlined?

Mr. O'Malley

I have read them. Recent editions of leaflets that have come out of my Department are far simpler and better presented than anything published in earlier years. The hon. Gentleman is right when he says that with means-tested benefits there is inevitably a major question of take-up. This Government have done everything possible to encourage the maximum possible take-up of means-tested benefits, but of course the solution, as my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary explained earlier, is flatly in contradiction to the policies of the previous Government, who sought to extend means-testing rather than reduce it, as we are doing, for example, under the Social Security Pensions Act 1975.

Mr. Ogden

Will my right hon. Friend give his attention to the difficulties that can be caused to those receiving supplementary benefits when the Giro draft is either lost in the post or stolen? The recipient then has to wait seven or more weeks before he can claim the benefit. Is there not a way in which that amount could be credited and, if the form later shows up, any benefits received repaid?

Mr. O'Malley

Although only a tiny proportion of benefits paid by Giro is lost in the post, or lost for any other reason, such a loss presents a problem for individuals. I am prepared to consider any suggestions that my hon. Friend has on the matter.