HL Deb 24 January 1973 vol 338 cc157-73

2.46 p.m.

BARONESS ELLIOT OF HARWOOD rose to draw attention to the Government's proposals for a tax-credit system, with particular reference to the payment of child credits to father or mother; and to move for Papers. The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in raising this Motion to-day I do not do so to criticise the introduction of a new method of taxation—V.A.T. or the tax-credit system. If the Green Paper outlines it correctly, as I am sure it does, this should be a simpler method of assessing taxation, and a simpler method of collecting taxes. If the tables on pages 32 and 33 of the Green Paper are right, then there should be a small advantage to all taxpayers. Equally, I welcome the straight £2 a week for each child. This is a good suggestion which is advantageous to the family. The object of my Motion is to bring to the attention of the Government, who from their own statements have still to make up their minds, the real distress which will be caused if, when the family allowances are replaced by the tax credits, the credit is not paid to the mother as a principle. This is what I want to discuss this afternoon, not the whole changeover of the taxation system.

There are many people in your Lordships' House who will remember the late Eleanor Rathbone, and one or two Members will have been with her in another place. I well remember the battle which Eleanor Rathbone fought to get family allowances. How strangely obscurantist the opposition to this humanitarian and excellent proposal seems to us all to-day! At the time when it was introduced opposition came from men in all Parties, and support came from men and women in all Parties. It was not really a Party political issue; it was simply a matter of whether people thought it a good idea or not.

Family allowances have been a most enormous help to millions of women and to their families and are built into the lives of mothers in a way in which few other helping propositions in the social work scale can be. They come as a right; they come automatically, without any means test, and they are collected quite simply at the Post Office by the mother—a really excellent and simple arrangement. I can honestly say that in my experience in local government, social work services, youth work, child care, and in many other ways, the family allowance paid to the mother has been a life-line in countless families. In the happiest of families the mother is delighted to draw the family allowance herself; in unhappy marriages, broken families, the allowance is often the mother's only source of income until, after a little while, National Assistance comes in. It can also be a means, in my opinion, to avoid the break-up of a family and perhaps tide over bad times in family relations. It is, in my opinion, absolutely vital to maintain the principle of paying an allowance for children to the mother and not to the father. That is the principle, and however the tax system alters, the principle should remain.

I have here an article which appeared in The Times, by Sir John Walley, who was deputy secretary in the Ministry of Social Security, and it is a very interesting article indeed. He puts forward a plea for children's allowances to go straight to the child, on the perfectly sound principle that the money is not meant for the father or the mother but for the child. I do not think that this would be a practical or easy way to administer this allowance, but the next best way to get the money to the child is to make it payable to the mother. I know that the Green Paper does not commit the Government to any particular method of paying the credit allowance. Paragraphs 82 to 91 outline the three methods of paying the tax. I am against the arguments put forward in paragraph 85. A family allowance, or the credit replacement by the credit allowance, is not, as is suggested in that paragraph, to be treated like National Insurance or a supplementary benefit. It has been, and could still be—and in my opinion should be—distinguished from the main source of income, supposing this to be earned by the father—this is not always the case. To keep the simple method of paying through the Post Office is not starting something fresh, but simply continuing what is a very satisfactory arrangement.

My Lords, methods of taxation are invented by ingenious people in the Treasury and it should not be beyond their powers to arrange for the credits to be paid through the Post Office to the mother, as before. Even if administratively the cost is a little more, the saving reflected in the satisfaction and happiness in a family would be compensation for the unhappiness and breakdown which result often in far more money being paid out in National Assistance and in other ways. On the occasion when we discussed family planning, some of us pointed out the enormous expense which the taxpayer has to pay out for the breakdown in family life—the children taken into care and the many expensive things which have to be done to prevent children from suffering unduly when family life is broken. The mother deserted by her husband has possibly no income apart from the family allowance. These allowances have been, and still are, the lifeblood of the woman, and to break this would lead to far greater expense by local authorities and by the National Assistance Board. I urge the Government to pay the tax credit in full to the mother through the Post Office, and nothing short of this will satisfy the women in all walks of life who to-day draw the family allowance, with gratitude, and want to continue in the same way. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

2.55 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Baroness for having initiated this debate. I certainly recall Eleanor Rathbone. She was in the other House when I went there, as a much younger woman of course, and I was always impressed by her capacities to withstand the hostility, the ridicule and indeed the cruelty of certain male Members of the Commons. I recall well that the then Speaker was certainly not her friend; if possible, he tried to ignore her when she stood up. In the Women's Room one night I said to her: "I am very impressed with your struggle. Don't you get downhearted?" She replied: "No. I have a philosophy. Always remember this. Twenty-five years must elapse between the inception and the fruition of a new idea." With that philosophy she struggled on. I would say, looking at our Parliamentary history, that it probably took us fifty years to impress the Commons. There was the period before Eleanor's time, and then Eleanor came along and of course finally got family allowances put on the Statute Book. But it probably took fifty years to change the male-dominated House of Commons. As we can see, my Lords, from the list of speakers to-day this seems to be a women's struggle. I am rather shocked in looking at the list of speakers because I should have said that a social question of this magnitude—I repeat, this magnitude—was a matter which should concern both sexes equally.

What I have to say is nothing new, of course, but I still cannot believe that the Government are going to embody a proposal of this kind in an Act and put it on the Statute Book. If they do, it will in my opinion provide a classic example of an action by a male-dominated Government who are completely ignorant of the manner of life of a working-class home and the economy. We know to-day that we are bombarded day after day with information concerning prices, wages and hours of work; yet it seems that no Minister is prepared to champion that key worker in the community who has no legal right to one penny in return for the labour which she does for her home and for the country. She is a worker whose hours are unlimited and who undertakes cooking, washing, cleaning, nursing, "shopping around", as commanded by the Government, to get the cheapest cuts of meat; and most of these jobs, of course, command a high rate of pay in the market.

I tried to alleviate her lot by piloting the Married Women's Property Act 1964. Looking back it seems a mean little measure because it enables the housewives of the country to claim half the savings out of their housekeeping allowance. But, as your Lordships will see to-day, it is most difficult to get any measure through the House which concerns women. I was able to get that measure through only because the Lord Chancellor of the day gave me his blessing, as did the noble Earl, Lord Dundee—one of the finest men in the House: yes, I lost my heart to him years ago. Late at night I gazed at him and said, "What about it?"; and he said, "Wait a minute. I'll go and see". He came back, and I started to pilot this Bill. He is the only man on the other side whom I see to-day who helped then (others voted with us after, I agree) to alleviate the lot of that worker in the country who is not legally entitled to one penny in her own right; and we got the Bill through. It was due mainly to his encouragement that I could face the House, because I thought all the men would be against me. This is the only amount that the woman can have, and the only reason I was able to get it through was because the Royal Commission on Marriage and Divorce made only one unanimous recommendation, namely that the housewife should legally be entitled to half the savings out of her housekeeping allowance.

Most men, when they give money to women, are not unaware of how they are going to spend it, and I am afraid the majority of men in the country fix a certain amount for the housekeeping allowance and the woman, after she has spent money for food, clothing and so on, has none left. So that my little Bill, although it meant well, has not in practice made a great deal of difference to her because there are no savings left after she has spent the housekeeping allowance.

There is a curious idea among men that because wages are high today every wife automatically has her housekeeping allowance increased, but of course the wages are not necessarily reflected in the housekeeping allowance. Too many wives do not know what their husbands earn. In fact when it was suggested that wages should be paid by cheque I was astonished to find that some workers protested because if they were to be paid by cheque it would be easier for their wives to find out how much they were earning. So most wives do not know—indeed even in this House, my Lords, there may be noble Lords listening to me now whose wives do not know exactly the income of their spouse. I will wait to see whether there are any blushes! So many working wives do not know what their husbands earn or whether they have been given a rise in pay. It has astonished me to find that this matter is often kept rather secret, so that the wife will not learn of it. The result is that the poorest and the most helpless—and often the women with the largest families—rely upon the family allowances to help them to buy the food and clothing. As they say, it helps them through the week.

I recall again that when women were given a legal right to the family allowance it was only after those men who protested (oh yes! there was a widespread protest) were shamed into silence. I recall too that in Australia the women demonstrated in order to compel the Government to pay the allowance to them. I am going through this history in order to remind noble Lords that this tiny concession, this legal right to have this miserably small sum in their own right, has been fought and struggled for. The men have tried to prevent it, and here to-day the Government come along and lightly say that in order to manage some fiscal affair they are going to take this money from the housewives.


My Lords, I wonder whether I might interrupt the noble Baroness at this stage because I think it is important that we should know exactly what the Government have said. They have not said that. The Government have said that they would like to listen to the arguments and that at this stage they have an open mind.


My Lords, I am quite aware of that. I think I am arguing, am I not? How would the noble Earl sum up my remarks?


My Lords, I was merely summing up the remarks made by the noble Baroness to the effect that the Government had taken a decision that this money should go to the husband rather than to the wife. That seemed to be the burden of her remarks, and no such decision has been taken.


My Lords, I welcome that. It means that after the first ten minutes I have been able to impress the noble Earl. Now I look forward to his being a women's champion; I am sure with that smile he cannot fail us. After the next ten years I shall be able to say: "The noble Earl, Lord Dundee, and the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe".

Would not the noble Earl agree with me that a wise Government should not be considering how to filch this money from the housewife but how to give her, in her own right, a generous increase? I say that for this reason: we are told that the trade union negotiations are concerned with how to put money into the pockets of the lower income group. I quite understand that. They say that so many incomes are so high to-day that it would be a waste of money to increase those particular incomes. How can they direct money into the proper channels so that it will finally reach the poorest children in the country? I suggest that instead of telling the hard-working women of the country to "shop around" for cheap cuts of meat the Government should put more money directly into the housewife's purse and economise in other directions. I am not saying this lightly; if the Government double or treble the family allowance the woman, who is the exchequer of the family, a careful manager who rarely lets the family go bankrupt, would be the person who would see that the very poorest—the poor children of the country—are adequately fed, housed and clothed. That is what the Government are striving to do. But they ask: "How should we direct it?" Surely not only should we say "No" to removing the family allowance, but that if the Government were wise they would increase it and say "Very well, let this money be distributed in the way that we think fit, and that is by giving it to the poorest."

I have talked about the woman's common sense and ability to manage and this is not simply because I am a feminist. I think the House will agree that the common sense and the ability to manage of the average woman will do more to raise the family's standard of living than a dozen Government committees. We have these Government committees all the time; I am tired of mentioning them in this House. They may have the statutory woman on them; but often they are all-male committees with no women on them at all. This is quite common. The House will recall that the last one was the bail Committee, which considered the conditions of the poor women in Holloway. I mulled this over and said "Is this all-male?" The Government had forgotten that women existed! The Minister made a half apology and I am pleased to say that he telephoned to the Governor of Holloway and said that he would be pleased to hear from her. There is a curious blind spot about these matters, which was demonstrated again to-day. Immediately this debate was called three-quarters of the House—male—rose up and left the Chamber. Here we have a wonderful demonstration of a male-dominated Government.

So my concluding word is this, because I am appealing to the common sense of the noble Earl: I think the Government should be warned that they cannot fool women by telling them that this action is necessary in order to manipulate taxation. I know the Civil Service well enough and if it wants to do something it will find a way to do it. I have been a Minister in two tough Departments and I know perfectly well that we have all those brilliant men—and a few women; and I tried to increase the number—and one would say to them: "I think this should be done". Always, within a few hours, they would come back and say: "We have thought out a way"; and it is done, and precisely. There is no question of the Government having to say to the country "In order that we may arrange this new method of taxation we have to take the family allowance away from the woman". My final sentence is that I believe the Government only dare to contemplate this step in the mistaken belief that the housewives of the country are unorganised and unable to resist.

3.10 p.m.


My Lords, my noble friend Lady Elliot and the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, have more than adequately, emotionally and intellectually, pleaded for family allowances to be paid to the mother of the children. However, as we are discussing the proposals in the Green Paper on tax credits, there are other matters which deeply affect women and their position in regard to taxation and which, incidentally, also affect family allowances, and I feel that we should at this stage of the debate discuss these matters. The proposals contained are more than welcome to a certain extent, in that they meet a long-felt need, and that is to put money into the hands of poorer families at regular weekly intervals without the need—and this is particularly important—of a means test, other than the normal one of income tax to which everyone must submit, and without the necessity of having to make a specific application. This removes the necessity for a measure which I personally never favoured, the family income supplement, in that it required both a personal application and a means test. It also does away with some of the more complicated aspects of personal taxation; and this, too, is most welcome.

We have been looking for some time at a system which would take in the benefits paid by the D.H.S.S. as incoming cash and the outgoings of the Inland Revenue on the other side. The problem has been to find a system which unites those two in one operation. The proposals in the Green Paper go a long way to meet that need and I am sure that the principle is right. We must, nevertheless, confess to a certain disappointment that even in a Consultative Document, which is all that this claims to be—and I appreciate that it has not crystallised into Government policy—an extraordinary and what without discourtesy I can only call an antedeluvian attitude is taken about women. I should be grateful if my right honourable friend would consider the points that are being raised, bearing in mind the number of women's organisations of all Parties and the number of women in those organisations who are interested in this matter.

Thus, while one agrees with the general principles, it is necessary to look at the application of those principles. There appears to be the continuation into the 'seventies of the 19th century idea that two people can live more cheaply than one. I have always paid the same bus fare as my husband and have eaten as much as he has. As his wife, I use about the same amount of electricity. Yet the value of a wife is rated at £2, which is precisely the same as a baby of six months or a child of five. The single man's allowance is £4, the married man's £6—which is £2 for a wife, the same as £2 for a dependent child. This seems by any standard to be an extraordinary calculation. Each adult, male or female, should have the same tax credit allocated. According to the Green Paper, the figure suggested is £4 a week. I do not want at this stage to go into the merits of that figure of £4 and whether it should be £3, but the fact remains that the principle should be that the woman should have the same amount allocated to her as to a man.

Another consideration which absolutely amazes me is that of the working married woman. Many of us work, although some of us may not earn, but why should there be any difference? Five and a half million people are to be treated differently on a separate taxation system. Since one of the two main platforms of the scheme are simplicity and uniformity—both ideals which in themselves are not necessarily justified—why are 5½ million people to be taxed and assessed separately from other people? It gives more work to the employer and causes injustice. If we are to pursue the matter of principle further, I am sure Lady Summerskill will agree that if the Anti-Discrimination Bill is passed, then even this little Document may be considered to be illegal and perhaps against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which, as members of the United Nations, we are meant to support. Yet the reference to this issue in paragraph 20 of this Document says that the scheme will apply to 90 per cent. of the adult population and their dependants; and paragraph 92 goes further and says that it will apply to nine out of ten people. Are married women who work not people? If not, what are they? It is astounding that a Government who have done so much to improve the legal position of women by removing discriminatory legislation should be even associated with this kind of proposal—reducing married women once more to the level of infants, if not of lunatics.

It is even retrogressive in regard to the Government's own legislation in the Finance Act 1971, which gave married women the possibility to be taxed as single persons and not assessed or aggregated with their husbands, at the same rate and with the same relief as for single persons. Thus, I suggest here again that the working married woman should be taxed at the 30 per cent. rate, with a tax credit of £4, just like a single person, though I do not propose to go into the details and mechanics of the matter now. Nevertheless, the principle should be recognised that a woman—working or not, married or not—should be taxed at the same rate and in the same way as a man. This would enormously simplify the work of employers, who would not even have to inquire whether a woman was married; they would be able to employ the same system as for men.

Women do not demand special treatment, but they do demand equal treatment where equality is seen to be fair. Working married women are no longer dependants; they are joint bread-winners, pooling their resources. The Matrimonial Proceedings and Property Act 1970 is based on the principle of joint contributions to the home, and equal partnership, and one of the difficulties in the division of property after divorce is to calculate the incidence of taxation paid by the parties on income and capital during their married life. The woman with unearned income will be taxed at 30 per cent. without receiving any tax credit, while the relief or credit is given to the husband. The non-working wife with no income should also be entitled to a tax credit, as a dependant, but she will not in fact see it. This again would make for simplicity and would also support the argument in those cases where the wife stayed at home to look after the children that, as the Green Paper states, they tend to be less affluent than married couples where both husband and wife work.

There are two other areas where the proposals I suggest need further consideration. One is the removal of the additional personal allowance at a higher rate for the single person maintaining an elderly relative. The noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, referred to the hard-won battles which women, and especially herself, have been fighting for years to be recognised as people, let alone anything else. Again, the small, miserable concession which was given to single women looking after dependants, giving them a higher additional personal allowance, is to be removed, so that even the recognition that by keeping a relative at home vast expense is saved the State is to count for less. By not having that elderly relative in a home she is saving the State a cost of, perhaps, £30 to £40 a week.

The grounds given in the Green Paper are that as the elderly relative will—or may, because not all are eligible—be getting the tax credit, there will be no need for the maintainer to have any extra. I can only say that those who wrote the Green Paper have not much knowledge of the psychology of those who have to sacrifice, albeit willingly, their careers to stay at home, or have not had the chance of looking after the elderly to see what happens when an elderly person gets a little extra money. Obviously when someone gets £1.98 extra a week he or she will not easily give it away. I therefore ask that this matter is also considered afresh.

There are two remaining categories where there is discrimination. First, take the case of the working wife who for some reason receives National Insurance benefit, sickness benefit or unemployment on her own contributions. Here again she will be taxed at 30 per cent. but will not be eligible for the tax credit because it will be given to her husband. So the argument that the more favourable the treatment of the working wife the greater the burden that must fall on other taxpayers is quite extraordinary. The more fairly the treatment of everyone, the more will be earned and the more revenue will be earned by the nation as a whole. The argument that a greater burden falls because a working wife is given her proper share of the tax credit is beyond belief.

Then we come to the problem of the recurrent case of the wife who has a husband who is totally incapacitated. She is not to get the dependant's allowance, whereas a special case is made in the Green Paper for the man who has a totally incapacitated wife. It is right that a man with a totally incapacitated wife should have an extra allowance and that it should be taken into account, and nobody quarrels with that. But for precisely the same reasons, the same should apply to a wife whose husband is totally incapacitated and who goes out to work and has all the same household expenses. She, too, should be considered as a special case.

I have dwelt particularly on these aspects because I have not heard them raised before. The question of family allowances has been raised, as I have said, extremely ably and fully by other noble Baronesses, but I should just like to contribute one or two words on this matter which is the particular subject of the debate. I absolutely support that they have been the mainstay of literally thousands of families, either because of low wages, mean husbands, deserting or absconding fathers, or even through sickness. There may be no cash in the home other than the family allowance. It brings security and the knowledge that at least food can be bought, a bus fare paid, or a telephone call made. I would remind your Lordships, and possibly it is difficult for us in this House to conceive it, that you have only to cross the river half a mile away to realise that a family allowance can mean all the difference between wealth on the one hand and a completely empty purse on the other. This was emphasised in our studies when giving evidence to the Finer Committee on one-parent families. I would add that I never ceased to be amazed at the number of women of different financial levels who at some stage or another have to rely on family allowances as their only immediate cash source; and regrettably, whether we like it or not, we have to take cognisance of the increasing separations and consequent poverty of the parent left with children, albeit even for a short period. It would be a retrogressive step, socially, financially and morally, if the Government were to support any proposal to pay any of the tax credits to the father rather than to the mother.

In this context the Child Poverty Action Group recently had an opinion poll taken of which they have very kindly sent me the details. That poll covered all financial areas of the population as well as age groups, and 77 per cent. of the men absolutely agreed that family allowances should he paid to the mother, and 86 per cent. of the women agreed that these allowances should be paid to the mother. It is natural, of course, that more women than men should support this issue; nevertheless, 77 per cent. of the men agreed that this was the right course. Yet in this Green Paper we are constantly reminded that this would be against public opinion. I have a feeling (although I personally do not particularly like opinion polls) that the authors of the Green Paper might be prepared to study some of these opinion polls before any decisions are taken.

The arguments in paragraph 85 in favour of paying the allowances to the father are again completely divorced from reality. In the first, in line with his entitlement: but it is not in line with the fact that despite his entitlement the wife still gets the family allowance. All the arguments in paragraph 85 are very fine intellectually but they have been taken out of the context that the woman is in fact now getting the famiy allowance; so I cannot see that any of the arguments outlined in that paragraph hold water.

Finally—and this was one of the points also raised by the noble Baroness—administrative savings are mentioned. This should be the ultimate consideration. What is administration for if not to serve the needs of the people? We do not have administration for the sake of administration; it is there to serve us, and if we decide that family allowances should be paid to women and their children then the administrative costs are the absolute ultimate consideration that we should pay to the matter. And the final argument, that it would take weeks, would not he so if the fixed tax credit were paid regularly to the mother, and all that would be necessary would be a tax adjustment co the husband's income. Again, if the tax credit is always paid to the wife and children the husband's tax system can be sorted out by the employer. The office which pays out the tax credits has never stopped functioning. They continue to be paid regardless of the income of the husband.

Finally, I draw attention to the rate at which the child credit has been fixed. I am not quite in agreement with my noble friend Lady Elliot of Harwood when she said how pleased she was that £2 was the right figure, although I have always been in favour of as high a figure as conceivably can be paid to children, because ultimately they are the ones who suffer. It is right to recognise that the cost of a very small child cannot conceivably be the same as that of an older child and in our evidence given before the Finer Committee we did suggest—and this was endorsed by the Women's National Advisory Committee of the Conservative Party—that different rates should be paid for children according to the age of the child and whether they were the first, second or third child. It means, roughly, that the first child gets a higher rate and the second and subsequent children get a slightly lower rate. If we are told that this is administratively a difficult matter, I should like to ask your Lordships why on earth we have computers, because if we cannot calculate these things ourselves, surely that is precisely what computers are for. Since they are based on an immutable fact, the date of birth of a child, I cannot see that it would require a very great brain to programme a kind of payment of this level.

I think that I have raised the main points on tax credit. This is of course in no way a criticism of the Green Paper because I realise that these are only proposals that have been put forward but I should personally be most grateful if my right honourable friend would give very serious consideration to the matters that I have raised. Knowing that the support of all the women of the country will be behind us, we hope that he will give a favourable report on our views.

3.25 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to join in thanking my noble friend Lady Elliot of Harwood for giving us the opportunity for this debate. I rise with slight trepidation, sandwiched as I am between noble Ladies of very great experience and very great eloquence. Nevertheless, I do so perhaps in part in order to show that this debate is not some kind of feminist ramp nor any exercise in newfangled liberation.

I should like to give a very warm welcome to the Green Paper because it has great social merits, as my noble friend Lady Elles mentioned. It will be a real help to low income families with children; it will increase their net income and do just a little to diminish the "poverty trap" and to reduce disincentives—the more you earn the less you keep. These proposals will be of great assistance also to the single parent families and particularly to those who are earning, or who will be enabled to go out to work because of it. The proposals will also assist non-earners in that a rather smaller number of people will suffer the "wage stop". Pensioners are another class that will benefit very greatly. It is estimated that 1 million pensioners will cease to need supplementary pensions. That is a great step forward, and I notice in passing that it will be possible to wind up that small, ugly but useful scheme known as the "option mortgage".

Having said those things, I should like to address three questions to Her Majesty's Government on points where the proposals could perhaps be made even better. The first concerns the one-parent family, which the Finer Committee mentioned in paragraphs 83 and 108 of the Green Paper. I understand that this Committee will not report until late 1973 but that it will disclose its thoughts (either privately or publicly) to the Select Committee on Tax Payments in another place, which is much to be welcomed. I would ask the Government whether they will provide sufficient resources, particularly of personnel, so that there is no danger at all of the Finer Committee's report being later than it already is. Do the Government appreciate how great a matter of concern is the content of this report, not only to the single parent families themselves but also to all who are concerned with social service whether statutory or voluntary?

Next I would ask a rather more long-range question. Will the tax-credit system be so designed as not to prevent National Insurance contributions and benefits, and also such things as rent rebates and allowances, from eventually in the long term being brought into one comprehensive system? My third question concerns coverage. The Green Paper says that 90 per cent. of the population of the country will be covered by its proposals. Will the Government try to ensure that every single child in the country stands to receive its credit and that that credit should be in cash where necessary? Are the Government fully aware that self-employed persons, if these proposals go through unchanged, will be deprived of family allowances while not being compensated by tax credits?

I turn now to the question whether credits should be paid to the father or mother—and here I am very much indebted to recent articles in The Times by Sir John Walley and also by Mrs. Meacher, together with an occasional paper called No Allowance for the Mother by Mrs. Bottomley. When we look at this particular point, whether the payment should be to the father or the mother, we must start from the present position of family allowances. As was pointed out by my noble friend Lady Elles, family allowances are paid to the mother; they are a reliable, continuous source of income. They are paid every Tuesday. Something which has not been mentioned and which is of very great importance is that Tuesday is the middle of the week, half way between one pay day and another. Furthermore, family allowances are easily saved by the simple process of not cashing them but just keeping them until they have mounted up.

Having pointed out the advantages of the present system, I am delighted to see in paragraphs 83 and 91 that the Government, as my noble friend has said, have a completely open mind on the question of payments. In order to avoid perhaps slightly sterile controversy, would it not he much better if we could look upon the credits as belonging as of right to the child? Surely parents could nominate which one of them is to receive the cash. If they are unable to agree, then I would most strongly suggest that it should be the mother who should always receive it. If arrangements of this sort can be combined with 100 per cent. coverage of children, this may be somewhat more expensive, but I suggest that it would be infinitely more satisfactory, not only for the poorest families but throughout all classes of society.