HC Deb 06 April 1982 vol 21 c819
10. Mr. Canavan

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he will now make a statement about the level of the death grant.

Mr. Rossi

I refer the hon. Gentleman to my statement to the House on 30 March 1982.

Mr. Canavan

Bearing in mind that the current maximum grant of £30 would pay for only about 10 per cent. of the costs of a simple funeral, is it any wonder that the Government's consultative document is seen as an absolute sell-out? Instead of introducing a means-tested grant and applying it to a much reduced number of people, why not have a general uprating of the grant to at least the original 1949 level, which would be about £200 in today's money—or is it now official Tory Government policy to increase the cost of dying as well as the cost of living?

Mr. Rossi

If we were to increase the death grant to its 1949 value universally, to about £200 per death, it would cost us £115 million, and the resources are not available for that. If I had that sort of money, I would have better uses for it than to pay a large death grant to each family.

Mr. Grieve

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that it is essential to give benefits where they are needed and not where they are not needed?

Mr. Rossi

I am grateful to my hon. and learned Friend. That is entirely the policy behind the consultative document.

Mr. Freud

When it was leaked that the Government were to introduce a substantial increase in the death grant and claw back such money from those who had means, the House generally welcomed the idea. What has gone wrong and why is it now so complicated?

Mr. Rossi

I am not responsible for the leaks and I do not know their source, but they are obviously inaccurate.

Mr. Stallard

May I remind the Minister of the reply that he gave me yesterday to a written question? I asked what would be the necessary increase in the national insurance contribution to raise the death grant to £200. His reply was that if the increase were borne totally by the employer it would cost the employee about 15p a week. Why has that not been included as one option available to the Government during the consultation process?

Mr. Rossi

Clearly, the matter is on the table. We must await the results of the consultation document. However, we must be careful before we make any increases in national insurance contributions, because they are not popular.

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