HL Deb 30 July 1985 vol 467 cc153-4

2.47 p.m.

Viscount Mountgarret

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether supplementary benefits and family income supplements could be paid direct to the wife or mother of the claimant provided the claimant is made aware of the amount of any such payment.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, claims to family income supplement are made jointly by couples, and the woman is generally the payee, with the man as alternative payee. Supplementary benefit is usually paid to the claimant, but in certain circumstances it can be paid to a third party on the claimant's behalf.

Viscount Mountgarret

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for that reply. I am sure that the Government will therefore agree that she who pays the piper should have the cash with which to do so. Will the Government also not agree that a great deal of unnecessary suffering can sometimes occur when those who collect their supplementary benefits and family income supplements very often spend the money instead of handing it over to the person who is responsible for bringing up the family?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I hope that the House will agree that, in the case of family income supplement, where it refers to a husband and wife they should both be responsible for bringing up the family.

Viscount Massereene and Ferrard

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that a few years ago I raised this matter? Is he further aware that there are a considerable number of cases where the male claimant spends the supplementary benefits in betting shops and pubs? Is my noble friend also aware that that causes hardship to the family and that in those cases it would be far better if the mother or wife received the supplementary benefit?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I am aware that there are some worries on this front; but I think it is fair to say that, with regard to supplementary benefit, it is the claimant and the person who therefore qualifies for supplementary benefit who should receive the money.

Lord Stallard

My Lords, will the noble Lord the Minister agree that supplementary benefit and social security are very complicated areas and cannot, as it were, be dealt with on one's feet in the form that this Question suggests? We cannot have any more panic legislation introduced on the basis of wild allegations or headlines. Therefore, would the Minister agree that if this is a serious suggestion it ought to be referred to the bodies looking at the reviews, and then they can come forward with something that is properly thought out?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Stallard, is indeed right when he says that social security is a complex area. As he says, we have brought out a Green Paper which is the subject of discussion, and we would welcome any comments for discussion and consultation.

Lord Leatherland

My Lords, does the Minister think that there is any need to get worried about this problem? If the wife draws supplementary benefit, the husband is always free to cut down her housekeeping allowance.