HC Deb 19 March 1996 vol 274 c167
13. Mr. Steen

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what is his policy in respect of single mothers. [19711]

Mr. Lilley

Our policy has three strands. First, we have improved the incentives for lone parents to work, which increases their income and relieves the burdens on the taxpayer. Secondly, we aim to ensure that more of them receive regular maintenance from the absent parent. Thirdly, we propose to ensure that the benefits system does not discriminate against married couples.

Mr. Steen

Since legal aid impinges on the social security budget, will the Secretary of State look at the case of an Australian schoolmaster earning £25,000 per year who gets legal aid to fight his wife in Britain? He has not paid a penny piece to either his wife or his children for four years, yet he still receives public money in Britain under the Legal Aid Board. That is not a good use of public funds or of our Government's care for the family.

Mr. Lilley

I will take the matter up with the Lord Chancellor, whose responsibility it is to meet the budget for legal aid. I agree that great resentment arises from that sort of case.

Mr. Chisholm

Why are the Government hell bent on reducing lone parent benefits and ignoring all the evidence about the additional costs faced by lone parents, as presented in the Department's 1985 Green Paper and in a recent study by the Joseph Rowntree Trust? Why not let the facts get in the way of prejudice for a change?

Mr. Lilley

Far from being hell bent on this, we are taking a gradualist approach. Does the hon. Gentleman agree with his colleague, the Chairman of the Social Security Committee, who said: If one-parent benefit is phased out … it is a move we"— the Labour party— should support"?