asked the Secretary of State for Social Services, further to his reply, Official Report, 2nd May 1977, cols. 31 and 32, if he will indicate the basis of his estimate that the cost of extending entitlement to dependency increases to a wife on the same terms as now apply to a male benefit claimant would rise over a period of years to about £50 million at current benefit rates.
The bulk of the cost would arise from payments made to married women during periods of incapacity or unemployment in respect of their children. The estimate is based on the average length of claims for sickness, invalidity, injury and unemployment benefit currently being made by married women, and the average number of child-rent of economically active women, derived from census data. The estimate ignores the cost of paying dependency increases to retired women in respect of their under-65 husbands. The cost increases as the present option to pay reduced rate contributions, which do not give title to benefit, ceases to be available to married women who start employment after April 1978, or who cease to be employed for a period of two complete tax years or more after that date. It is not possible to estimate the extent to which married women would choose to pay full contributions if increased benefit for dependants became available; to the extent that they did so, the effect would be to shorten the period before the full cost accrued.