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Income Support

Volume 114: debated on Tuesday 7 April 1987

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9.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he intends to include in the rates of income support to be proposed a sum to compensate for any rate contribution demanded from those on income support; and if he will make a statement.

The illustrative figures published in the technical annex to our White Paper "Reform of Social Security" (Cmnd. 9691) make no assumption about increasing the income support rates to compensate specifically for an average minimum contribution. Final decisions about the level of income support rates have not yet been taken, but the hon. Gentleman may be reassured to know that the illustrative figures showed that the majority of people on income support would not experience any reduction in disposable income overall.

Has the Minister noticed that the recent report of the Social Security Advisory Committee suggested that the proposal, which will make the poorest pay 20 per cent. of their rates, will cause real hardship, and that any switch to a community charge would make the scheme unworkable? Will he therefore scrap the proposition?

I am afraid that I cannot take the action that the hon. Gentleman proposes. As he will know, when spouses and non-householders are taken into account, in many authorities more than half the adult population do not pay for half the services that they enjoy. That cannot be right.

Will not the income support scheme, which has been the result of intensive and widespread negotiation, be designed to ensure that adequate resources are available to everyone to maintain a decent and reasonable living standard? Against that background, is it not unthinkable that a rise in costs should not be matched by a rise in means?

The first part of my hon. Friend's point is entirely accurate. However, the essence is that the illustrative figures set out in the White Paper alone show that the majority of people on income support would not experience a reduction in disposable income overall.

Surely that is quite wrong. During the proceedings of the Abolition of Domestic Rates (elc.) (Scotland) Bill it was admitted that those in receipt of supplementary benefit—presumably going on to income support—would still have to pay 20 per cent. of a rate bill for which they are not now liable. When will the Government make a decision on that? It is under social security legislation.

The illustrative figures set out in the technical annex take account of the 20 per cent. rate contribution.

Does my hon. Friend think that, when the new system comes into operation, more or fewer people will receive state support?

A whole series of different intangibles must be fed into the equation. I should be unwise if I were drawn into giving a specific answer.

Will the Minister clarify the point at which the interface is reached between rate contribution and income support? Is he saying that his Department and the Scottish Office are at one?

How can the Minister justify the statement that he has just made, that the illustrative figures in the White Paper show that no one will lose? Clearly, an increased rate charge of 20 per cent. is intended, and the illustrative figures for the unemployed show no increase m income. The facts do not bear out the Minister's answer.

I fear that the hon. Lady, uncharacteristically, is wrong. The facts do bear it out. The illustrative figures published with the White Paper clearly show that the majority of people on income support will not suffer any loss in disposable income.