§ 11. Mr. Congdon
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many increases in child benefit have been announced in the past two years.
§ Mr. Burt
Since April 1991, there have been four increases in child benefit rates—in April and October 1991 and April 1992 and April 1993. These have increased the pre–1991 rate of £7.25 a week for each child to the current rate of £10 a week for the eldest eligible child and £8.10 a week for all other children.
§ Mr. Congdon
Will my hon. Friend confirm that the Government have pledged to retain child benefit as the cornerstone of their policy for helping all families with children? Will he further confirm that the annual uprating of child benefit, in line with the increase in prices, fulfils that pledge? Does he agree that the greatest threat to universal benefits is the threat to means-test them, which emanated from members of the Labour party?
§ Mr. Burt
Yes, what we know from the Commission of Social Justice, which is not very much, shows that my hon. Friend is right to have such suspicions. Child benefit remains the cornerstone of our policy; but since 1988 the Government have been able to find additional resources worth £1 billion, which have been made available to the least well-off families with children. That is a record of which to be proud.