HC Deb 03 March 1981 vol 1000 cc115-6
4. Mr. Hannam

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will now take steps to restore the full value of the invalidity benefit.

Mr. Rossi

My right hon. Friend has given an assurance that invalidity benefit will be restored to the level of retirement pension when incapacity benefits are brought into taxation, subject to resources being available.

Mr. Hannam

I welcome the announcement by my right hon. Friend to discontinue the abatement of invalidity benefit this year and in future, but will my hon. Friend accept that a disabled couple are losing nearly £100 a year through the present abatement? Will he therefore do his utmost to ensure the restoration of the amount as soon as possible, bearing in mind that the bringing into taxation of the benefit is now receding further into the distance, probably as far as 1984?

Mr. Rossi

I assure my hon. Friend that we are doing our utmost.

Mr. Carter-Jones

Irrespective of the economic position of this country, is it not intolerable that the weak in our community should pay for our errors?

Mr. Rossi

Both the Conservative Party and the Labour Party when in office have been determined to bring these benefits into taxation. This is a first step towards that. Necessarily, it is a crude step until the Administration are able to deal with the main problem of taxation. We must wait for my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who may have something to say about this matter when he introduces his Budget.

Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

When considering the very necessary uprating of the invalidity benefit, will my hon. Friend also consider increasing the death grant, which is crucial to many invalids and to all old-age pensioners?

Mr. Rossi

We are very much aware of the widening gap between the death grant and the average cost of a funeral today. We are looking at the matter. I can make no promises, but it is receiving anxious consideration.

Mr. Rooker

Will the Minister confirm that the method used to cut invalidity benefit has been so crude, in advance of taxation, that 400,000 people for whom that benefit is the sole source of income have total incomes below the tax threshold and would not even be paying tax if it were a taxable benefit? That being the case, will he cease the attempt that is before the House to take a further 1 per cent. from those benefits?

Mr. Rossi

I am aware that some beneficiaries who are affected by the 5 per cent. abatement would not pay tax ordinarily. That is a problem, and that is one of the reasons why we are not continuing the abatement in the coming year. The 1 per cent. clawback was debated very fully on the Second Reading of the Bill, and we spent most of the morning on it in Committee.