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Benefits (Uprating)

Volume 931: debated on Tuesday 10 May 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services when the social security uprating announcement will be made.

Does the right hon. Gentleman regard the review that he carried out in the previous financial year as a State secret? If so, why?

Although my right hon. Friend must get fed up with the double standards of Opposition Members who advocate savage cuts in public expenditure on the one hand and increases on the other, will he bear in mind that the proposed increases in the charges for meals will hit some families extremely hard? Surely this should be taken into account when considering whether he is able to increase the child benefit allowances.

I can assure my hon. Friend that in taking what must be a difficult decision on what should be the level of uprating to take place from November, I must take into account all the different changes in prices, including the price of food and the retail price index. I can assure the House that the uprating will be sufficient to restore the value of benefits that were introduced in November 1976.

As we were told by the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) on 29th April that the latest date to start an orderly implementation was last week if the increases were to be paid by November, why is the Secretary of State waiting? Will he give an absolute, categorical denial that there is no question of using the size of the uprating as a bargaining counter with the TUC?

I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that I shall be making my announcement very soon. It will be based entirely on a decision taken by the Government. It will not be part of any bargaining counter. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that he is wrong about the date. The latest date for announcing a mid-November uprating would be early in June. That would be inconvenient in view of what is likely to be the recess. I hope, therefore, that the announcement will be made before the end of the month.