Child Benefit

Oral Answers to Questions — Social Services – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 18th June 1985.

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Photo of David Heathcoat-Amory David Heathcoat-Amory , Wells 12:00 am, 18th June 1985

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what is the estimated cost of child benefit in the current year.

Photo of Sir Ray Whitney Sir Ray Whitney , Wycombe

It is estimated that expenditure on child benefit in 1985–86—the current financial year—will be £4·4 billion.

Photo of David Heathcoat-Amory David Heathcoat-Amory , Wells

Will my hon. Friend confirm that most of that huge sum goes to families who are well above the supplementary benefit level? Is it sensible to churn money around the system so indiscriminately?

Photo of Sir Ray Whitney Sir Ray Whitney , Wycombe

My hon. Friend will have noted the examination of that proposition in the Green Paper and the fact that we remain dedicated to the existing structure and basis of child benefit. If child benefit were taxed, the effect on the great majority of working families would be the equivalent of a 30 per cent. reduction in child support.

Photo of Frank Field Frank Field , Birkenhead

What arguments has the Minister found to be the most effective in his attempts to defend the universality of this benefit?

Photo of Sir Ray Whitney Sir Ray Whitney , Wycombe

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the discussion of that point in the Green Paper. I repeat, we have concluded at this stage that we shall retain the structure and basis of child benefit.

Photo of Mr Andrew Bowden Mr Andrew Bowden , Brighton, Kemptown

Will my hon. Friend explain why it is fair and reasonable to pay child benefit to those earning £10,000 or £20,000 a year when he intends to cut housing benefit for pensioners on low incomes?

Photo of Sir Ray Whitney Sir Ray Whitney , Wycombe

This is going over the same ground. The arguments on housing benefit are clearly set out in the Green Paper. Our dedication to child support and the family has been a consistent and reiterated principle of this Administration.

Photo of Mr Dafydd Wigley Mr Dafydd Wigley , Caernarfon

Is the Minister aware that child benefit is usually paid to women and that, if there are changes in the structure, women could suffer unless both the value of the benefit and the means of payment are safeguarded to ensure that it goes to them?

Photo of Sir Ray Whitney Sir Ray Whitney , Wycombe

That point has consistently been taken into account. It takes us into the area of individual responsibility between husband and wife within the family.