HC Deb 15 March 1993 vol 221 cc12-3
12. Mr. Harris

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what is the total value of extra help which has been directed to less well-off pensioners since 1989.

Miss Widdecombe

My hon. Friend will be pleased to hear that, by April, the total extra help given to pensioners on income-related benefits since October 1989 will be worth around £1 billion a year.

Mr. Harris

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer and congratulate her on it. However, does she accept that difficulties arise increasingly among people who are just above the general benefit level? For example, someone in my constituency wrote to me only last week to say that he was facing a bill of £500 from South West Water, on an income of just under £6,000. Can anything be done to help such people, who qualify for no benefit at all?

Miss Widdecombe

Those who do not qualify for income support can qualify for housing benefit or council tax benefit and to be eliminated from receiving those, people must have savings of £16,000 a year or an income that is substantially above the income support rate. Although we always have those limits under review and although we have raised them each year and more than in line with inflation recently, as has been pointed out, we believe that the system strikes a fair balance between those who have resources and savings and those who do not.