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Family Allowances (Increase)

Volume 887: debated on Tuesday 25 February 1975

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14.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if she will take steps to raise social security entitlements so that parents receiving supplementary allowances are enabled to benefit from the increase in family allowances which is due in April.

No, Sir. It is the aim of this Government to replace means-tested benefits by benefits as of right wherever possible, and that is one of the purposes we have in mind in increasing family allowance.

Does not my right hon. Friend accept that for those families which are receiving means-tested bene- fits and which are actually on supplementary benefit her words will seem very pious indeed? Of course we would prefer the replacement of means-tested benefits. But the increase in family allowances will not improve the situation of the poorest families unless my right hon. Friend takes the steps suggested in my Question. On behalf of the poorest in our society, including the one-parent families, many of whom are on supplementary benefit, I ask her urgently to reconsider this matter if the increase in family allowances is to be more than a hollow joke for many poor families.

I cannot agree that my hon. Friend's approach is the right one. We shall never get rid of means-tested benefits if every time we increase the benefits as of right we then say that we are going to increase the means-tested benefits on top. The correct way to deal with the problems of the families to which she refers is through proper and regular upratings of supplementary benefits. This is what we did in July. Those benefits will be uprated again this April and again later in the year. I assure my hon. Friend that she is—I am sure with the best motives in the word—leading us up a dangerous blind alley by saying that every time the family allowance rises this must be disregarded for supplementary benefit.

If the right hon. Lady really cares about family poverty, why does she refuse even to produce a Green Paper on family endowment? Is she aware that in the five-year forecasts of Government expenditure which have been referred to already this afternoon there is no provision for an increase in family allowances?

A Green Paper is not necessary. The Government's proposals will be announced very shortly.