To adjust the National Assistance rates now in force to bring them into the same relationship with the National Insurance rates now in force as they bore at the date selected by the hon. Member would involve no change in the present scale rates for a single person and a reduction by 3s. for married couples. Furthermore, such a comparison ignores entirely the fact that, in the case of National Assistance but not of National Insurance, an addition is made to the scale rates paid to householders in respect of rent. This now averages about £1 a week.
Is not the real answer that for a single person the rate should be increased by 11s. 6d. a week? Why is the rate of National Assistance benefits to be raised by only 3s. 6d. a week, as against 7s. 6d. for pensioners? If the Minister wishes to go back to the beginning of the scheme in 1948, the same argument was applied, which invalidates the reply he gave me last week.
So far from invalidating it, the fact is that if the hon. Gentleman goes back, not to the date he selected, which was the beginning of 1957, but—as I think can be most fairly done—to the beginning of the scheme in 1948, it will appear that not only at present, but also if the House accepts the various proposals now before it, the proportionate percentage increase of the National Assistance scales is somewhat higher than the National Insurance increase.