HC Deb 21 May 1996 vol 278 cc85-6
5. Mr. Win Griffiths

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what assessment he has made of the proportion of gross domestic product devoted to social security expenditure (a) in 1994–95 and (b) in 1995–96. [28808]

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

In 1994–95, social security expenditure accounted for nearly 13.1 per cent. of GDP. For 1995–96, it fell to just under 13 per cent. We expect reforms already introduced to bring it below 12 per cent. by the end of the century.

Mr. Griffiths

Will the Secretary of State say how much of the reduction in the share of GDP taken by social security spending is being borne by people who are already poor through benefit cuts, and how much is the result of more people getting jobs?

Mr. Lilley

I have not made any allowance for our great and continuing success in reducing unemployment. If that continues, as I assume it will, the situation will be further improved. The reforms that I have introduced have been sensible, well thoughtout and designed to focus benefit on those in need. I do not propose to take away benefit from children who stay on at school to study and get qualifications because that would deter—as the hon. Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown) proposes to—children from doing that and getting good jobs. That would mean that they would be more likely to be on the dole and increase public expenditure.

Mrs. Roe

Can my right hon. Friend confirm that social security spending would increase if the jobseeker's allowance were scrapped, because work incentives would be damaged and dependence increased? Does my right hon. Friend agree that that work-to-welfare policy was revealed as being on the Labour party's hidden agenda in the article by the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) that appeared during the weekend?

Mr. Lilley

My hon. Friend is right. We are committed to a policy of getting people off benefit and back into work. All Labour's proposals would get them out of work and on to benefit.

The hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) let the cat out of the bag by saying that Labour was committed to abolishing the jobseeker's allowance. He has since told us that they were words he did not write in an article he had not read. None the less, what he said was official Labour policy; he is a Labour spokesman. Another Labour spokesman, the hon. Member for Makerfield (Mr. McCartney), said in the House on behalf of Labour Members: We reject the JSA and all it stands for … we will get rid … of the ISA".—[Official Report, 17 January 1996; Vol. 269, c. 765.]

Hon. Members


Mr. Lilley

Were they words he did not say?