HC Deb 06 March 1989 vol 148 cc586-7
3. Miss Widdecombe

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what proportion of public spending is taken up by his Department.

The Secretary of State for Social Security (Mr. John Moore)

My Department is responsible for 31 per cent. of all Government spending in 1988–89. This is up from 25 per cent. in the last year of the Labour Government. It is thanks to the success of this Government's economic policies that the country is able to afford the massive resources devoted to social security spending.

Miss Widdecombe

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on that achievement. By what percentage has Government expenditure on support for the family increased since 1978–79?

Mr. Moore

Not surprisingly, support for the family has increased by 27.3 per cent. since 1979, in comparison—just in case the answer needs further embellishment—with the reduction of 7 per cent. under the Labour Government.

Mr. Haynes

Why is the Secretary of State bragging about the amount of money that the Government are spending on social security? I have mentioned it to him before. When will he wake up to the fact that some people in my constituency live in wheelchairs because they have lost lower limbs? They apply for attendance allowance but are regularly turned down. Why? What kind of instructions are going out from the Department?

Mr. Moore

I was not bragging. The emotions of the hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Haynes) are understandable, but I was happy to be able to reflect on the Government's economic success, which has enabled them to care in a greater and more effective way. I do not for one moment doubt the emotions and support of the hon. Gentleman or other Labour Members, but their economic failure when in office created great difficulties for those whom they wanted to support.

Mr. Hanley

By what percentage has the amount spent on the long-term sick and disabled increased since 1979?

Mr. Moore

Facts such as this are always difficult for the Opposition when compared with their own appalling record—[Interruption.] Of course, the Opposition want to speed quickly across such issues, which contrast so starkly with their own record. Expenditure on the long-term disabled and sick has increased by 90 per cent. in real terms since 1979.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Will the Secretary of State cease his practice of blaming social security officers for not making payments from the social fund? Is not the truth that the system is so circumscribed by regulations and rules that the payments simply cannot be made? Does the Secretary of State realise that Conservatives up and down the land are increasingly concerned about the Government's meanness? They want to vote Tory but want the Government to show more charity.

Mr. Moore

The hon. Gentleman is trapped in utter nonsense. I have never once criticised my social security officers about expenditure on the social fund. I have encouraged them to use their discretionary flexibility when dealing with community care grants. I have criticised authorities—especially Labour-controlled local authorities—which, despite their supposed interest in the claimant, sought to boycott the social fund in its early stages.