HC Deb 24 June 1991 vol 193 cc677-8
14. Mr. Sayeed

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what percentage of current family credit applications are being approved.

Mr. Jack

I am pleased to be able to tell the House that the success rate for family credit claims in May 1991 was 74.1 per cent., the highest ever.

Mr. Sayeed

May I say to my hon. Friend how welcome are the Government's effective efforts in increasing the take-up of this important benefit? Are not the two great advantages of the benefit that it provides an added incentive for people to work their way out of their difficulties, unlike the FIS system, and that this system pays 272 per cent. more for the average family?

Mr. Jack

Earlier I alluded to the percentage of people on different levels of family credit. For many it is a stairway back into the world of work. The improvements that we shall make, with the reduction of hours, will introduce more people to the opportunities available and we shall be looking at further campaigns to ensure that the message continues to get through to those who need help.

Mr. Winnick

Should not there be some concern about the many people whom employers are exploiting by paying them the lowest possible wage? I am glad about the take-up of benefit, because anything that increases the income of such people is to be welcomed, but we must remember that the main responsibility should be with the employer. Some poorly paid workers are bound to compare their plight with the position of the chairman of British Gas, with his obscene increase of 66 per cent. Perhaps we can have some reflections from the Government about what happened last week.

Mr. Jack

Sometimes Labour Members do not seem to be living in the real world. I should like to take the hon. Gentleman to a biscuit factory in my constituency, where many of the work force are able to obtain family credit. The employer puts on display in the entrance hall a copy of the family credit pack. Those people are on seasonal employment, making biscuits for the Christmas trade. Their hourly rate is quite reasonable, but the number of hours that they work each week is not sufficient to give them an adequate income for their families. However, their income is made adequate because they are able to claim family credit.