Family Circumstances (Inquiry)

Oral Answers to Questions — Social Security – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 23rd January 1967.

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Photo of Mr Edward Leadbitter Mr Edward Leadbitter , Hartlepools, The 12:00 am, 23rd January 1967

asked the Minister of Social Security what progress has been made with her family circumstances inquiry; and if she will make a statement.

Photo of Mr Philip Holland Mr Philip Holland , Carlton

asked the Minister of Social Security what is the average number of children in families where the family income is below the minimum standard laid down in the Ministry of Social Security Act, 1966.

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Somerset North

asked the Minister of Social Security how many families there are whose income is below the minimum standard laid down in the Ministry of Social Security Act, 1966.

Photo of Miss Peggy Herbison Miss Peggy Herbison , Lanarkshire North

The detailed results of the inquiry are being studied and a report on them is being prepared for publication, I hope, in May or June next. As my hon. Friend, the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, told the House on 21st December, the findings suggest that, after allowing for the increased provision now made by the Supplementary Benefits Commission, and adding something on for one-child families, there are probably about 160,000 families, with 500,000 children in them, whose incomes are below the supplementary benefit standard, and cannot be brought up to that standard because the fathers are in full-time work or wage-stopped.

Photo of Mr Edward Leadbitter Mr Edward Leadbitter , Hartlepools, The

I thank my right hon. Friend for that useful information. The House will certainly be pleased to learn of the early date of publication of the report. May I ask whether in addition to the financial, accommodation and working condition considerations of the inquiry, account has been taken of widows with children who need special help, and whether arising from this she is able to advise the Secretary of State for Education and Science on the further provision of nursery schools and nursery school services?

Photo of Miss Peggy Herbison Miss Peggy Herbison , Lanarkshire North

The Secretary of State for Education and Science is responsible for the provision of nursery accommodation, but in this whole question, apart from finance, family endowment can cover a very wide field indeed, and all the questions are being considered.

Photo of Mr Philip Holland Mr Philip Holland , Carlton

Would not the Minister agree that the problem of children in the low-income families can probably better be solved by concentrating such aid as is available on the distressed families and those most in need rather than trying to deal with the problem by an across-the-board system of general increases of, say, family allowances?

Photo of Miss Peggy Herbison Miss Peggy Herbison , Lanarkshire North

I have told the House on a number of occasions that we are examining very many ways by which we can help particularly the distressed families.

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Somerset North

Can the right hon. Lady give an assurance that in giving more help to low-income families, something which I am sure we all want to see, the family man paying Income Tax will not be penalised by a reduction of the Income Tax allowances?

Photo of Miss Peggy Herbison Miss Peggy Herbison , Lanarkshire North

I would advise the hon. Gentleman to await whatever report comes from the work which we are doing.

Photo of Dr David Owen Dr David Owen , Plymouth, Sutton

I am sure that my right hon. Friend's personal concern is beyond doubt, but is she aware that many of us are concerned to read newspaper reports of a possible 12 months' delay before there are any increases in family allowances? Is she aware that this is an urgent problem, and we hope that the Government will act, and act speedily?

Photo of Miss Peggy Herbison Miss Peggy Herbison , Lanarkshire North

I am sure we are all aware that this is an urgent problem, but I can accept no responsibility for what is reported in the Press.

Photo of Mr Frank Allaun Mr Frank Allaun , Salford East

We welcome my right hon. Friend's objectives, but will she convey to the other Ministers concerned that there would be the strongest possible objection from hon. Members on this side of the House if attempts to pay for them are made by increasing the cost of school meals and milk?

Photo of Miss Peggy Herbison Miss Peggy Herbison , Lanarkshire North

I have said that this whole question of family endowment, every aspect of it, has to be examined so that we can find the best way to help those families who are really deprived at the present time.