HL Deb 27 April 1989 vol 506 cc1368-9

3.19 p.m.

Lord Carter asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many people have, as a result of the transitional protection arrangements, received either no increase in social security benefits this year or an increase lower than the rate of inflation.

Lord Henley

My Lords, an estimated 3.2 million income support recipients received a full increase at this year's uprating. An estimated 1.2 million received no increase or a partial one.

Lord Carter

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that reply, but is he aware that last year 2.2 million claimants did not receive a full uprating in line with inflation and that 1 million in fact lost money? As he said, this year, over 1.2 million have received either no increase or an increase lower than the rate of inflation. Will he explain to the House the purpose of a system of social security under which the 1.2 million people who are the worst off in society, and many of whom are disabled, become worse off each year?

Lord Henley

My Lords, as the noble Lord and other noble Lords will know, there were massive changes in the social security system last year. Those changes also produced far greater simplicity in the system and greater fairness between claimants in similar circumstances. It is not possible to make such changes without there being some hard cases. That is why we brought in the transitional payments to ease the problem.

Baroness Jeger

My Lords, surely those transitional payments were given because the people concerned were in need and had to have transitional payments. How can the Government now say that they do not need them any longer at a time when inflation is going up? Surely, after all we heard in the House yesterday about the plenitude of the economic strength and resources of the Government, there is no reason why anyone should be worse off under the Social Security Bill.

Lord Henley

My Lords, yes, but income support was brought in because it is simpler. Obviously, as those people who lost and received transitional payments catch up with their new figures, those transitional payments will go. To preserve the transitional payments, as the noble Baroness seems to suggest, would preserve those inequalities. If the party of the noble Baroness, of which she is such an ornament, were still in power, there would be much less chance of it paying.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that he is to be congratulated on using the word "changes" rather than the word "reforms" in his answer to the question? By the use of that word, he has moved a little nearer to the truth than other government spokesmen because the word "changes" embraces the possibility of a change for the worse, which in most cases is what has occurred.

Lord Henley

My Lords, that is a very interesting semantic distinction, although I do not accept it.