HL Deb 29 November 1989 vol 513 cc422-3

2.55 p.m.

Lord Gridley asked Her Majesty's Government:

How the level of spending on the long-term sick and disabled has changed over the last 10 years.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Social Security (Lord Henley)

My Lords, expenditure on benefits for long-term sick and disabled people has increased in cash terms from £1.8 billion in 1978–79 to £8.3 billion in 1989–90. In real terms that is an increase of £4 billion.

Lord Gridley

Yes, my Lords, but is it not a fact that the social services budget now stands at some £51 billion and that a sum of £52 billion was earmarked for special expenditure by Her Majesty's Government for next year? Does that not represent greater investment by Her Majesty's Government in that connection than has been made on previous occasions? Should that fact not be noted and agreed with?

Lord Henley

My Lords, I fully agree with what my noble friend has said. Spending on the long-term sick and disabled has increased over the years by £4 billion in real terms. The average annual real increase between 1978–79 and 1989–90, in 1989ߝ90 prices, has been £370 million.

Lord Carter

My Lords, is the Minister aware that 90 per cent. of the increase in the level of spending has been due to an increase in the number of claimants and that only 10 per cent. is due to an increase in the level of benefits? Does he agree that that is hardly surprising since virtually all social security benefits, with the exception of the mobility allowance, have been frozen in real terms for the last 10 years and in fact the level of the sickness benefit has declined in real terms? Since we have all been sharing in an economic miracle, is it not rather unfair that those who receive social security benefits have not benefited from that miracle?

Lord Henley

My Lords, surely not even the noble Lord claims that there has been an increase in the number of disabled as a result of 10 years of Conservative government. What we have seen is an increase in provision for the disabled. It may be that there are more claimants but there has certainly been a dramatic increase in provision for the disabled, which amounts almost to a doubling.