§ 1. Mr. John Marshall
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many people are now receiving family credit.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Social Security (Mr. Alistair Burt)
At the end of October 1992, 450,000 families were receiving family credit.
§ Mr. Marshall
I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. Does he accept that it is probably now time for another publicity campaign on the merits of family credit? Does he agree that it is much better to help the low paid through family credit than to legislate for their unemployment through a national minimum wage, as the Labour party wishes to do?
§ Mr. Burt
Yes, I think that my hon. Friend is right on both counts. We take quite a lot of notice of the effect of advertising campaigns and some of those that we have run have been very successful. That is one of the reasons why the numbers have been boosted to their present level of 450,000.
On my hon. Friend's second point, I believe that family credit is a better scheme than the minimum wage. It is better targeted on those who need it most and there is no evidence to suggest that it costs jobs. Indeed, even under the Labour party's scheme as announced before the general election, family credit would still have been necessary with the minimum wage.
§ Mr. Olner
Does the Minister not realise that people want not low wages but proper wages for proper jobs? Does he not realise that family credit will have to be considerably extended when the Government bring into law the abolition of wages councils, which is a great time bomb ticking away for the low paid?
§ Mr. Burt
No, I do not accept that at all. There is no evidence to suggest that low wages are connected with family credit, which is available to workers who have a family and is, therefore, better directed. It is not aimed at all wage earners. Nor do I accept the hon. Gentleman's point about wages councils. The amount of money needed for family credit depends on the number of people in the family rather more than it depends on wages.
§ Mr. Spring
Will my hon. Friend confirm that in order to qualify for family credit the number of hours worked 710 per week was recently reduced from 24 to 16? Does he agree that that will have the beneficial effect of spreading the benefit more widely to many more families?
§ Mr. Burt
Yes, I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. The hours were reduced from 24 to 16, which has enabled a large number of extra people to obtain family credit. We estimate that some 60,000 people have now obtained family credit for that reason in the past year or so. That further emphasises our determination to help the low waged with an in-work benefit, because it is far better for people to be in work than not.