HC Deb 02 April 1990 vol 170 cc882-3
9. Mr. Orme

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what would be the current value of child benefit it it had been uprated in line with inflation over the past three years.

Mr. Scott

The value would be £8.60 a week from later this month.

Mr. Orme

Is not that figure an indictment of the Government's policy and of the amount of which parents and children have been robbed? When will the Minister's Department stand up for child benefit? In the past, the Secretary of State was known to be an open supporter of such a benefit, so why are not he and his colleagues fighting to ensure that there is an uprating every year and that mothers and children receive the benefits to which they are entitled?

Mr. Scott

Child benefit remains important help for many families—in fact, for 6.7 million families. I tend to share the view of Mrs. Castle, when she was Secretary of State and introduced the benefit, that indexation of child benefit would be inappropriate and that Parliament would wish to exercise its judgment about the balance of family support, year by year.

Sir Ian Lloyd

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the existence of virtually any rate of inflation is a precise and inescapable index of the fact that the community as a whole has overfunded its requirements in relation to resources by precisely that amount? To the extent that a beneficiaries—or any one else in society—have their income guaranteed by uprating, is not that a guarantee that inflation will continue? If not, does my right hon. Friend agree that that creates the massive problem of who will bear the burden of reducing inflation?

Mr. Scott

My hon. Friend has added yet another reason why it is inappropriate to index this benefit, as has been suggested by the Opposition. For other reasons, we need to assess our priorities on family support each year when the time comes.