To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what was the cost of income-related benefits paid to lone parents and their children in the latest year for which information is available and in 1978–79
Between 1978–79 and 1989–90, the amount of income-related benefits paid to lone parents and their families increased from just under £650 million to nearly £3,000 million
Does my right hon. Friend agree that from any point of view that represents a massive increase? Can he confirm that only three in 10 lone parents currently receive regular maintenance payments from their partners? Does not that indicate that the Government's new proposals for securing more effective maintenance of children should be implemented with the utmost urgency?
I can confirm that only about one third of caring parents receive regular maintenance payments. The proposals in the White Paper, "Children Come First", are directed at increasing that proportion as a matter of urgency
Will the Secretary of State confirm that many lone parents have been widowed or are in families where there has been long-term sickness? Does he agree that next year, one quarter of a million of families will be denied the full value of the extra £1 benefit for the first born? Those families will suffer a net cut in their allowances of 4·7 per cent. by April 1991 compared with April this year. Will not the right hon. Gentleman confess that the changes in child benefit were a cynical attempt by the Government to buy back maximum political benefit at minimum cost? Will he also confess his shame at having cut that money from families most in need—those that have suffered as a result of long-term sickness or bereavement?
I cannot accept phrases such as "a cynical attempt" and "minimum cost" when we are talking about additional expenditure of public money to the extent of well over £250 million. As to the interaction between an increase in child benefit and other benefits, be they national insurance or, more notably, income-related benefits, the policy being pursued is in line with that which has been followed for many years
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Opposition should speak in support of child benefit rather than disparagingly about the increases that are secured?