HC Deb 19 July 1977 vol 935 cc1359-60
5. Mr. Neubert

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services when he expects the Supplementary Benefits Commission to have completed its review of the supplementary benefits system.

The Minister for Social Security (Mr. Stanley Orme)

I cannot yet say when the team of officials which my right hon. Friend established to carry out this review in close consultation with the Commission will complete its work. But we hope to receive early next year its first recommendations for discussion of possible options for the future, which we have undertaken to publish.

Mr. Neubert

Why must we wait until 1979 for the full implementation of the child benefit scheme? Why does not the Minister take the opportunity to complete the change next April?

Mr. Orme

That question has nothing to do with the Question on the Order Paper.

Mr. Boscawen

Does the Minister recall those confident days when the Labour Party used to condemn any extension of means-tested benefits? How will he end means-tested benefits? What does he have to say about the fact that there are 1 million more people on means-tested benefit today than there were four years ago?

Mr. Orme

Our attitude to means-tested benefits has not changed. The development of the child benefit scheme is an indication of the phasing out of means-tested benefits.

Mrs. Chalker

What response has the Minister felt able to give to Professor Donnison, who has committed himself to believing that the best way of getting rid of many of the problems of means-tested benefits is to phase in a full tax credit scheme?

Mr. Orme

Professor Donnison, as Chairman of the Supplementary Benefits Commission, rightly has a great deal of freedom to express his and the Commission's views, and obviously the Government will listen to what he has to say.