I assume that my hon. Friend is referring to the rule whereby the first £1 a week of any part-time earnings is disregarded. My right hon. Friend has no proposals for altering it at present.
Will my hon. Friend take into account the fact that there is a great deal of abuse through people drawing supplementary benefit when they are receiving cash payments for part-time work? Will he look into this abuse and see that his investigation team tightens up the regulations and the operation of the system?
There is a committee looking at the abuse, but I am sure my hon. Friend will realise that this is largely a question of priorities. This year my right hon. Friend thought it right to place first priority on introducing new allowances for the over-80s, chronic sick. widows and low-income families.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the biggest abuse is the Government's economic policy which has made such large numbers of people unemployed? On the point of disregards, will he bear in mind that it is some years since the present level was set, and as the cost of living has risen substantially, particularly during the period of Tory administration, is it not time that this level was looked into?
I said that my right hon. Friend was perfectly prepared to look at disregards but that it was a question of priorities and that it was felt that on this occasion the priorities were right. As to what the hon. Gentleman said about the economic situation, he must accept a measure of responsibility for this as a member of the previous Administration.