HL Deb 13 May 1974 vol 351 cc797-9

6.7 p.m.

LORD WELLS-PESTELL rose to move, That the Draft Supplementary Benefit (Determination of Requirements) Regulations 1974, laid before the House on April 30, be approved. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move that the Supplementary Benefit (Determination of Requirements) Regulations 1974, a draft of which was laid before this House on April 30, be approved. Your Lordships will know that reference was made to them when the National Insurance Bill received its Second Reading on April 30. These Regulations provide for increases in the supplementary benefit scale rates laid down by the Supplementary Benefit Act 1966 for normal requirements. As your Lordships will know, these rates, together with an allowance for rent, make up the guaranteed levels to which the income of retired people and others not in full-time work can be brought up by means of supplementary benefits. The proposed increases broadly match those for national insurance benefits contained in the National Insurance Bill, to which your Lordships gave a Third Reading this afternoon.

My Lords, the main supplementary benefit increases are provided for by Regulation 2. First, as to the increases in the scale rates themselves, it is proposed that the long-term rates, which are payable to supplementary pensioners and to people, other than the unemployed, who have received a supplementary allowance continuously for two years, shall be increased by £2.25 to £10.40 for a person living alone, and by £3.50 to £16.35 for a married couple. The ordinary scale rates, which apply to the unemployed and to people other than pensioners who have received a supplementary allowance for less than two years, are to be increased by £1.25 to £8.40 for a person living alone, and by £2 to £13.65 for a married couple. Regulation 2 also provides for increases in the amounts allowed for attendance requirements in the supplementary benefit schemes. These apply to supplementary beneficiaries who receive the National Insurance attendance allowance. Increases in attendance requirements are the same as those made to the attendance allowance itself; the higher rate will become £8 and the lower rate £5.35. A beneficiary who is not a householder receives a standard weekly addition for rent and it is proposed that this shall be increased by 10p to 90p per week.

My Lords, these proposals will bring very much needed help to people who are particularly vulnerable to price inflation. The Government are confident that these increases will not only maintain the value of supplementary benefits, but will provide a real improvement for supplementary beneficiaries who must by definition be among those needing the most help. Your Lordships will be pleased to learn that the Supplementary Benefits Commission have decided to increase the standard additions awarded for extra heating needs where there is ill health or poor accommodation. Heating additions will be increased by one third to 40p, 80p and £1.20 per week respectively. Allowances for special diets will also go up, from 40p and 92p to 50p and £1.12 per week respectively. These increases are not dealt with in the regulations because they are made under the Commission's discretionary powers.

The Government have given the highest priority to the introduction of the new social security benefit rates. All the increases I have outlined will come into operation in the week beginning July 22, at the same time as the increases in national insurance benefits. I must explain to your Lordships that not everyone will receive their increase by that date, but I would reassure your Lordships that no one will lose by this because arrears will eventually be paid in full. Although this situation is far from ideal, it has come about because of the Government's wish to bring the increases into operation as quickly as possible. Expenditure on supplementary benefits will increase by about £81 million in a full year as a result of the proposals in these regulations. The increases will help about 2¾ million people and their dependants including some 1.8 million pensioner claimants, many thousands of the sick, widows and the unemployed. As I have said, the increases will provide a real increase in purchasing power for these people. 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 1974 laid before the House on April 30 be approved.—(Lord Wells-Pestell.)


My Lords, we on this side of the House are entirely in sympathy with the purposes of these Regulations, and I am grateful to the Minister for explaining the way in which they will operate.

On Question, Motion agreed to.