HC Deb 08 February 1977 vol 925 cc1206-8
3. Mr. Montgomery

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he has planned a further meeting with representatives of the Supplementary Benefits Commission.

The Minister for Social Security (Mr. Stanley Orme)

My right hon. Friend is meeting Commission members again on 23rd March.

Mr. Montgomery

When the right hon. Gentleman meets members of the Supplementary Benefits Commission, will he confirm or deny the reports which are circulating that the Government intend to cut the real value of unemployment pay?

Mr. Orme

The Government intend no such action. Therefore, it will not be necessary for it to be discussed.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

When my right hon. Friend meets the Supplementary Benefits Commission, will he press upon its representatives that they should make it easier for pensioners and other long-term recipients of supplementary benefit to have their rates and rents paid direct to the authorities rather than their having to collect the money, take it home, possibly keep it at the risk of its being pinched, and then hand it to the appropriate authorities?

Mr. Orme

This is a matter which the Supplementary Benefits Commission is looking at closely. At present, it cooperates with local authorities. I take note of my hon. Friend's point.

Mrs. Knight

Will the right hon. Gentleman recognise on this matter that the councils themselves are extremely anxious that a change should be made? Although everyone will recognise that it is good to encourage people to manage their own monetary affairs, some tenants fail persistently in this regard.

Mr. Orme

I certainly take note of the hon. Lady's point.

Mr. Fernyhough

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that old-age pension benefits, sickness benefits and unemployment benefits were always the same until the vandals at present on the Opposition Benches passed the 1973 Act, and that it was they who made the distinction between the unemployed and the rest of those receiving social security benefits?

Mr. Orme

The Government give equal importance to the recipients of retirement pensions, unemployment benefit, sickness benefit, and benefits for the disabled.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

Will the right hon. Gentleman take this opportunity to correct his right hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough), who perpetrated a manifest falsehood? The Conservative Party has never drawn any distinction between the benefits paid for unemployment and for sickness.

Mr. Fernyhough>

Oh, yes; definitely it did.