The operation of these regulations is an area of policy that is kept under constant review. [Interruption.] The Opposition seem very ambivalent about what they want in these matters. As the hon. Member knows from my reply to him on 13 July, this is also an area in which the Social Security Advisory Committee is taking a particular interest this year, as part of its monitoring of the supplementary benefit scheme. I await its conclusions with interest. After consultation with the committee, a number of specific changes were made to the single payment regulations earlier this year. I hope to have the report of the Social Security Policy Inspectorate on single payments within the next month or so. Revised guidance on the interpretation of regulations 9 and 10, dealing with grants for furniture, was issued by the chief supplementary benefit officer in August this year.
Is it not ludicrous that the elimination of discretion to local officers pursuant to the 1980 changes in the regulations has come at a time when the Government have deliberately kept the scale rates of benefit low? Does the Minister agree that it is absolutely wrong that a young unemployed man claiming supplementary benefit should be refused payment for a pair of trousers when the zip has broken, on the ground that that is normal wear and tear and the Government will not allow local officers to give grants for normal wear and tear?
The Government have increased supplementary benefit rates in line with inflation and the rates include an allowance for clothing. I believe that it is entirely sensible that normal wear and tear should be deemed to be covered by those rates.