HC Deb 19 July 1977 vol 935 cc1360-1
6. Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will receive a delegation from Stockport Gingerbread Group to discuss the child benefit scheme.

Mr. Orme

My right hon. Friend has twice received a delegation, which included Gingerbread, at national level, and its views have been taken fully into consideration. As my hon. Friend will know, we have now announced a substantial improvement in the rates of child benefit, including doubling the premium for one-parent families now getting 50p.

Mr. Bennett

May I assure my right hon. Friend that the Stockport group is extremely pleased about the announcement that was made last week? However, there is still some concern because it is so sad that the announcement always comes so early compared with the actual uprating. Can my right hon. Friend tell us how soon the whole thing will be put on a computer so that the uprating can be done more quickly and so that there can be variations according to the age of the child?

Mr. Orme

On the last point, I am sure that my hon. Friend and the House would want to examine in some detail whether we wish to have different rates, because that could possible be regressive. As for computerisation, we are taking steps in that direction but it will possibly be some time in the 1980s before this is completed.

Mr. Peter Bottomley

Will the Minister explain his reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Mr. Neubert) in which he said that the supplementary benefits review and Professor Donnison's speech had nothing to do with the child benefit scheme, although the right hon. Gentleman has spoken of using the scheme as a means of getting people off mean-tested benefits? Why have the Government decided not to bring in the full child benefit scheme by April of next year?

Mr. Orme

We have discussed this in the House many times and we now have an agreement for phasing in the child benefit scheme which has been widely accepted. I should have thought that the substantial increase that is proposed for next year—which will cost more than £300 million in public expenditure—was a sign of the Government's good intentions.