HC Deb 17 July 1995 vol 263 cc1296-7
3. Mr. Whittingdale

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security by how much planned social security spending for the year 2000–01 will be reduced compared with plans published in "The Growth of Social Security". [32765]

The Secretary of State for Social Security (Mr. Peter Lilley)

Since publication of "The Growth of Social Security" in 1993, projected expenditure in 2000–01 has been reduced by nearly £8 billion. More than half that amount is due to policy changes announced since 1993; the rest is largely due to improved economic and social performance over the last two years. In the longer term, total savings so far announced will be £14 billion a year.

Mr. Whittingdale

I thank my right hon. Friend for his answer, and congratulate him on his efforts to contain the growth in social security spending.

How much of the social security budget is currently spent on asylum seekers? Does my right hon. Friend agree that that part of his budget should be subjected to particularly rigorous scrutiny?

Mr. Lilley

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his support for the changes that we have introduced. As I recall, the total cost of benefits going to asylum seekers is some £200 million a year. Fewer than 10 per cent. of those people are ultimately granted refugee status, although an additional number are granted exceptional leave to remain. They are the subject of considerable interest in my Department.

Mr. Frank Field

As everyone is congratulating everyone else this afternoon, would it be in order to congratulate the Secretary of State on not moving?

Does the right hon. Gentleman recall saying, in his Mais lecture, that it cost every person in work an average of £13 a day to pay the social security bill? In his Social Market Foundation lecture, he said that that amount had risen to £15 a day. The right hon. Gentleman is supposed to be a cost-cutting Secretary of State; what is his estimate per day for those in work at the millennium?

Mr. Lilley

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for welcoming my continued presence at the Dispatch Box. To echo the earlier observation of his hon. Friend the Member for East Kilbride (Mr. Ingram), I do not know whether it is a promotion or a punishment but I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman remains opposite me as Chairman of the Select Committee on Social Security.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned the rise in the cost of the social security bill per working person per working day from, in round numbers, £13 to £15 over a three-year period. That is a growth of 2.7 per cent. per annum in real terms—slightly below the long-term trend of 3.3 per cent. The figure in real terms at the millennium will be about £16 per working person per day as a result of the changes that I have introduced. It would be considerably higher if we had not made those changes, and I remind the House that the Opposition opposed nearly all of them.