HL Deb 19 July 1972 vol 333 cc859-61

8.8 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the Supplementary Benefit (Determination of Requirements) Regulations 1972, a draft of which was laid before this House on July 4, be approved. These regulations increase the rates of requirements laid down in regulations made under the Ministry of Social Security Act 1966. The new rates of supplementary benefit requirements will, together with an allowance for rent, make up the guaranteed levels of income for retired people and others not in full-time work from October 2. We expect that this increase will not only maintain, but also provide some additional real improvement in, the standard of living of the most vulnerable members of our community. They match the increases in National Insurance benefits proposed in the National Insurance Bill now before another place. The main increases proposed are 75p in the rate for a single householder, taking the rate up to £6.55 a week and £1.20 in the rate for a married couple, giving a new rate of £10.65 a week.

The regulations also provide for certain selective improvements which will give some groups of beneficiaries a special increase over and above the general increase. The first of these is an increase of 10p a week in the long-term addition, which is paid to all supplementary pensioners and to those under pension age (except the unemployed) who have received supplementary benefit for two years or more. The standard rate of the long-term addition is 50p and this will go up to 60p: where the claimant or his wife is aged 80 or over the higher rate of long-term addition will also go up by 10p, from 75p to 85p a week.

When beneficiaries have special expenses which exceed the amount of the long-term addition these can be met by special weekly additions to their benefit. Your Lordships will be pleased to hear that the Supplementary Benefits Commission have decided to increase the amounts given for extra heating, where there is poor health and/or bad accommodation, and also for special diets where these are medically prescribed. The increases reflect movements in fuel and food prices since the amounts were last fixed. These increases are not dealt with in the regulations because they are made under the Commission's discretionary powers. They will operate from October 2. Pensioners who receive such special additions will receive the increases in them on top of both the 10p increase in the long-term addition and the increases in the main rates.

The other two selective improvements will benefit young persons—claimants aged 16 to 20 who are non-householders; that is, those who are not directly responsible for rent and household necessities, usually because they are living in their parents' or other relatives' homes. First, non-householder claimants aged 18 to 20 who previously qualified for a lower scale rate will now receive the adult non-householder rate. This change recognises the fact that, whatever may have been the case in the past, there are now no good grounds for setting the needs of a non-householder aged 18 at a lower level than those of one aged 21. Secondly, we propose that 16 and 17 year-old non-householder claimants should be eligible for the standard rent addition paid to non-householders. This change reflects the fact that a 16 or 17 year-old who is in full-time work nowadays earn enough to make it reasonable to expect him to make some contribution to the rent if he lives in the household of a supplementary benefit claimant—and it is an obvious corollary of this that when he is out of work and receiving supplementary benefit himself he should be enabled to make a contribution to the rent like any other claimant. I am sure your Lordships will welcome these improvements for young non-householder claimants, which will in particular do something to help the young unmarried mother living at home.

We propose to increase the amount specified for attendance requirements from £4.80 to £5.40, to match the increase proposed in the rate of attendance allowance in the National Insurance Bill. This principle is applied again in Regulation 2, sub-paragraph 3, which provides for a new lower rate of attendance requirements, of £3.60 a week, to match the new rate of attendance allowance proposed in the National Insurance Bill for severely disabled people who need a great deal of care or supervision by day or by night. The new lower rate of attendance requirements will apply to persons awarded the new rate of attendance allowance as this is introduced in phases over the period from June, 1973, to December, 1974.

My Lords, expenditure on supplementary benefit is expected to increase by £51.6 million in a full year as a result of the proposals in these regulations. The increases will help nearly 3 million people and their dependants, including, as well as nearly 2 million pensioner claimants, many thousands of the sick, widows and the unemployed. As well as protecting the standard of living of all those who must rely on supplementary benefits, these regulations seek to give additional help concentrated among those groups where it is most needed. I am sure your Lordships will approve the purpose of these Draft Regulations. My Lords, I beg to move.

Moved, That the Draft Supplementary Benefit (Determination of Requirements) Regulations 1972, laid before the House on July 4, be approved.—(Lord Aberdare.)

8.15 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to thank the Minister for explaining in such clear terms the purpose of the Regulations. I am sure your Lordships would not expect me, nor indeed would wish me, at this stage to introduce some of the arguments and some of the debate which we may well have on the National Insurance Bill. We can only be glad to know that the 3 million people in the population who need this extra help are to get it, albeit not until October. I should like to thank the Minister for introducing these Regulations this evening.

On Question, Motion agreed to.