HC Deb 28 July 1997 vol 299 c20
25. Mr. Skinner

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many people were on income support at the latest available date. [9053]

Mr. Keith Bradley

In August 1996, nearly 5.6 million people were receiving income support, almost double the number in 1979. That is the legacy which we inherited from the previous Administration. We now have the opportunity for a fresh start. Most people who are capable of work want to work. We shall modernise the social security system to help them do just that.

Mr. Skinner

Is my hon. Friend aware that one thing the Government will have to do is ensure that work is provided? We cannot get work out of thin air. We can modernise and privatise those offices until the cows come home, but there are large areas of Britain—inner cities, old coalfield areas and other ex-industrial areas—where literally 30 or 40 per cent. of the people are without work. Many are on income support and not on unemployment benefit. The Government must turn their attention not only to welfare-to-work schemes but to providing work.

Mr. Bradley

I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. As a Member of Parliament representing an inner city, I recognise the problems that he identifies. We need to re-skill, re-educate and ensure that real opportunities in employment are available throughout the country. We need to look particularly at areas that have been devastated by the previous Administration's policies.