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Social Security Systems

Volume 181: debated on Monday 19 November 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what lessons he estimates may be learned from a study of other countries' systems of social security; and if he will make a statement

We can learn a great deal from a study of each other's systems, but we need to remember that they are set in different societies with different traditions and different economic backgrounds. In the European Community Social Security Ministers have agreed that the exchange of information and discussion of problems should be encouraged. In the wider context, Ministers maintain contacts with many countries—for example, recently my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State visited the United States of America to look at child support arrangements

Has my hon. Friend had an opportunity to study the Swiss system with its much greater emphasis on individual, family and local community responsibility for welfare? May I recommend that she reads "Cradle to Grave" by Ralph Segalman and David Marsland?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his kind suggestion. I am not very familiar with the features of the Swiss system that he describes, but comparisons between the British social security system and those of other countries of the European Community conclude with a flattering picture of the United Kingdom

What possible justification can there be for our present social security system, under which those with a small income, in some cases no more than £54 a week to live on, are expected to pay more than £10 a week in rent because of changes in Government regulations? Is not that absolutely disgraceful? I have notified the Minister of many such cases involving my constituents. Is it a wonder that so many pensioners cannot give a damn whether the Prime Minister or the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) wins? What they want is the defeat of the Tory Government and a Labour Government in office

That is possibly the most ingenious question that we have heard so far this afternoon. Well done to the hon. Gentleman. The safety net that is provided by income support, and which is also supported by housing benefit and community charge benefit, together with the state pension, provides an excellent system of support for pensioners.