HC Deb 05 July 1993 vol 228 cc9-10
8. Lady Olga Maitland

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many payments have been made since the introduction of the discretionary social fund.

The Minister for Social Security and Disabled People (Mr. Nicholas Scott)

Since the discretionary social fund was introduced in 1988, more than 7.2 million grants and loans, worth more than £1.2 billion, have been awarded.

Lady Olga Maitland

I thank my right hon. Friend for that most encouraging news. Will he confirm that, since the introduction of the social fund, more than £300 million has been given to community care projects and more than £800 million in interest-free loans? Is not that another good example of the Government targeting those most in need?

Mr. Scott

I have no doubt at all that, in the five years of its life, the social fund has demonstrated its ability to respond flexibly to need at the margins of the overall social security system and to control expenditure—something which its predecessor manifestly failed to do.

Mr. Skinner

Why do not the Government admit the facts—that during their period in office, they have allocated £26.2 billion in tax cuts to the richest I per cent. of people in Britain, yet they have the cheek to tell people who are living below the poverty line that they cannot get money from the social fund? This Government stink to high heaven.

Mr. Scott

I am tempted to respond to the gross discourtesy shown by the hon. Gentleman earlier in our proceedings by ignoring his question. Instead of doing that, I shall say that the social fund has responded to need and that Governments of all political colours have always found that, at the margins of any social security system, there is a need for a flexible response to special need. The social fund has provided such a response. The single payments scheme was doubling in cost every two years and had simply become unaffordable. I believe that we were right to bring that expenditure under control while meeting special needs.