HC Deb 28 January 1997 vol 289 cc141-2
5. Mr. Purchase

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will make a statement on the increase in spending on benefits since 1979. [11373]

Mr. Lilley

Since 1979, spending has increased by £40 billion in real terms. More than two thirds of that increased help is for the elderly, the long-term sick and, above all, disabled people.

Mr. Purchase

Does the Secretary of State realise that the growth in those benefits is almost twice the growth of annual average gross domestic product in Britain under Conservative rule? Does he not recognise that the figures that he has announced show that the Government's economic policy has failed? Most important, does he not understand that his Government have robbed young people of the understanding of the connection between work and welfare, and that the best welfare policy is to put young people back to work?

Mr. Lilley

The hon. Gentleman was not listening to my answer. Two thirds of the extra help goes to disabled people, long-term sick and elderly people. Is he saying that it is a failure to increase help to disabled people and that Labour would undo it? Is he saying that it is a failure that there are more elderly people? The life expectancy of someone reaching retirement age now is more than two years higher than under Labour.

Mrs. Roe

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that his reforms, including his proposed reforms of family benefits, are essential to control the increase in social security spending? Is he aware that his planned reforms of family benefits would not be implemented by the Labour party? Has it told him where the money will come from to compensate for the lost savings?

Mr. Lilley

My hon. Friend makes a very important point. The reforms that we announced in the Budget will ultimately save about £500 million through equalising benefits for lone parents with those available to married couples, which is not only fair but makes it possible for us to improve benefits elsewhere. The hon. Member for Peckham (Ms Harman) has said that she will not implement the measures necessary to save that amount, but will live within the total budget. To increase benefits for lone parents by £500 million, she must take money either from married couples, single people who do not have children or elderly people. Can she tell us which?

Ms Harman

Will the Secretary of State confirm that the social security budget is £15 billion a year more than it was in 1992? Will he confirm that that means that, as Secretary of State, he has increased the social security budget by 20 per cent.? Will he admit that it is no good blaming the elderly? They account for only £1.5 billion of that £15 billion annual increase. Will he admit that it is no good blaming the disabled? They account for only £4 billion of the £15 billion increase. Will he admit that the main reason for the £15 billion increase is that one in five households are without work?

Mr. Lilley

The hon. Lady's figures are wrong. That is the simple answer to her question. Perhaps she will answer my question and explain—[Interruption.]

Madam Speaker

Order. As the right hon. Gentleman is aware, this is Question Time, when the Government answer questions.

Mr. Lilley

The simple answer to the hon. Lady's question is that her figures are wrong. Two thirds of the growth in social security spending in real terms since I took office has been spent on disabled, elderly and long-term sick people. That is fact, and I shall put the figures in the Library. I am sorry that the hon. Lady did not however use the privilege that the House offers to give us the answer that we want: where will she get the money?