HC Deb 27 November 1984 vol 68 c773
12. Mr. Skinner

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will introduce measures to raise the death grant to at least £300; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Newton

We have been continuing to give consideration to our policy towards the death grant in the light of the response to the consultative document published in March 1982, which revealed no clear public consensus. This consideration will now be carried forward within the context of the wider re-examination of social security which my right hon. Friend has set in hand.

Mr. Skinner

Is it not a fact that if the £30 death grant had been uprated in the same way as the Government are keen to uprate supplementary benefits to attack strikers, it would have gone up to something well over £300 in real terms? Will he also bear in mind that on 5 February 1982 when my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross) brought in a Bill which was talked out by the Government, one of those hon. Members who took part in the campaign was made a Whip for his services in talking out the Bill? No consultation of any kind has been taken into account. If the Government can find £4,500 million to smash the NUM, why can they not find sufficient money to pay for a decent funeral?

Mr. Newton

I cannot understand how the hon. Gentleman has the nerve to accuse the rest of us of trying to talk out his question. To increase the death grant to the level that the hon. Gentleman suggests would take almost exactly the amount of money that would be required to do what one of his hon. Friends was urging earlier—to extend the long-term rate of supplementary benefit to the long-term unemployed with children. I know what my priority would be.

Mr. Yeo

Is my hon. Friend aware that there is widespread support for a substantial increase in the death grant to restore its real value, but that it would be acceptable to have it means-tested so that those who died leaving even a relatively small capital sum would not be eligible for it?

Mr. Newton

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. He will not expect me to pre-empt the result of my hon. Friend's review in this respect any more than in any others, but he has made a sensible point.