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Volume 168: debated on Monday 5 March 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many people live on incomes below the appropriate benefit level for their circumstances.

Estimates of eligible non-recipients of income-related benefits are contained in the technical notes on take-up, copies of which are available in the Library. These notes contain analyses for 1985, the latest year for which information is available.

Is not the Minister's answer that, in effect, the relevant figures indicative of the Government's attitude to poorer people have been phased out? As the Minister said, the latest figures available are those for 1985. Does she think that by abolishing the figures that reflect poverty, she is abolishing poverty?

No. In reply to earlier questions, I said that the series of income analyses, based on the households with below average income, are designed to provide an appropriate and accurate measure of people's differing living standards. They are the result of a technical review conducted by officials in the Department. They will focus on the incidence of incomes below the average, and we believe that they will give a more realistic picture.

Of those living just above benefit level, many are pensioners, a high proportion of whom are living on fixed incomes. All these people are hit hard by increases in standard charges, whether for heating, electricity or the community charge. Should not we keep material evidence on that group, to assess how those in it are coping? Will my hon. Friend look at that problem again?

I understand my hon. Friend's concern. One of the problems with a social security system is that one has to draw lines somewhere. As I have already said, those lines, and levels, will be reviewed as part of this year's exercise.