Family Allowances (Unmarried Parents)

Oral Answers to Questions — Social Services – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 6th November 1973.

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Photo of Mr Tom Driberg Mr Tom Driberg , Barking 12:00 am, 6th November 1973

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will reconsider his decision not to issue family allowances from the date of birth in respect of children born to unmarried parents, such children having been maintained since birth as members of the existing family of either parent.

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Somerset North

No, Sir. In most of these cases full family allowances are already payable. It is only where there is a mixed family, with some of the children issue of the man only and others issue of the woman, that family allowances are payable for one less child. This situation stems from the basic rules for family allowances which are founded on blood ties; moral considerations are not involved.

Photo of Mr Tom Driberg Mr Tom Driberg , Barking

Since the Under-Secretary of State says that they are founded only on blood ties, why is it that adoptive parents can draw family allowances? If there are only relatively few cases of this kind, why should illegitimacy, as it is called, be penalised in a scheme designed to help all children except the first child? If it is necessary, can the law be amended?

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Somerset North

I know that the hon. Gentleman has an interest in a particular case which has now been resolved, and family allowance is being paid for the child concerned.

Photo of Mr Tom Driberg Mr Tom Driberg , Barking

Why not to the birth date?

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Somerset North

The main reason is that were we to have different arrangements it would involve delicate inquiries having to be made, whereas the value of the present arrangements is that they are extremely simple, and the millions of families who draw family allowances have only the minimum of questions to answer in drawing these allowances. This matter will be completely resolved under the tax credit arrangements, because child credits will be payable for every child.

Photo of Hon. John Silkin Hon. John Silkin , Deptford

Will the hon. Gentleman consider dealing with what is a very difficult problem in the interval of time before any tax credit scheme may or may not come into existence? The total number of illegitimate births as a percentage of total births, as the hon. Gentleman knows, is about 7 per cent. We are dealing with an extremely small fraction of that 7 per cent. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is aware that a great deal of miscarriage of justice—if one takes it that way—can be caused on this basis. Should it not be possible, therefore, for mothers to claim? That would avoid the kind of delicate question about which the hon. Gentleman is rightly worried.

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Somerset North

I shall certainly consider the point raised by the right hon. Gentleman. However, it would be difficult to adopt the sort of suggestion that he has made, because it would almost certainly mean that in the case of every family applying for family allowances we should have to ask a great many more questions than we have to at present.