HC Deb 25 June 1996 vol 280 c147
12. Mr. Hutton

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what changes have been made since 1993 to the social security funeral payments scheme; and what is his assessment of the effect of these changes. [32983]

Mr. Roger Evans

Changes have been made to stop abuse of the system. People with a genuine reason for taking responsibility for a funeral get help. A £500 limit was placed on specified funeral directors' charges. Those changes have successfully reduced previously escalating expenditure.

Mr. Hutton

Is it not becoming increasingly clear that the funeral payments system frequently fails to cover even the cost of the most basic funeral service, causing additional stress to the families of the recently bereaved? In the light of the evidence, what plans do the Government have to review the operation of the funeral payments system?

Mr. Evans

The scheme is kept under review. I have caused inquiries to be made. There are four funeral directors in the hon. Gentleman's constituency, three of which will provide social fund funerals within the present scheme. The fourth is more expensive—but the fourth is the Co-op.

Mr. Bernard Jenkin

Does my hon. Friend agree that it would be rather illogical to accept the premise that social security expenditure is too high and then to complain about every change that the Government make to bring social security expenditure under control? Is that not exactly what the Labour party continually does?

Mr. Evans

My hon. Friend is right on both points. Each year, the social fund pays for 10 per cent. of all funerals in Great Britain.