Social Security Reform

Oral Answers to Questions — Social Services – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 12th July 1988.

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Photo of Mr Graham Riddick Mr Graham Riddick , Colne Valley 12:00 am, 12th July 1988

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Services what effect the social security reforms have had on the unemployment and poverty traps.

Photo of Mr Michael Portillo Mr Michael Portillo , Enfield, Southgate

When family credit replaced family income supplement, about twice as many working families with children became eligible for help and the payments became more generous. Nearly all working families can now be better off in work. We ended the absurd situation in which a person on family income supplement whose pay went could be left worse off than before.

Photo of Mr Graham Riddick Mr Graham Riddick , Colne Valley

That is an encouraging reply. Is not one of the major but little publicised advantages of the changes of last April the fact that it no longer pays to stay on the dole rather than to take a job? The Government are giving individuals the incentive to take a job. Does that not contrast starkly with the attitude of the Opposition, who clearly believe in blanket benefit and would prefer people to become more, rather than less, dependent on state handouts?

Photo of Mr Michael Portillo Mr Michael Portillo , Enfield, Southgate

My hon. Friend is right. There are now few families who would be better off out of work than in work. We ended the circumstances in which people could lose more benefit as their pay rose. Under family income supplement a family with three children who earned £75 could be £5·50 a week worse off if their pay rose to £130 a week.

Photo of Mr Calum MacDonald Mr Calum MacDonald , Na h-Eileanan an Iar

Will the Minister say something about the impact of the loss of income support on self-employed Harris tweed weavers? He will know something about that, because I have written to the Department about it. He will know of the great fear among these people that the loss of income support will act as a disincentive to others to join the Harris tweed industry and become weavers. Will he concede that the industry is unique and requires special measures, and will he undertake to review the impact of the loss of income support upon it?

Photo of Mr Michael Portillo Mr Michael Portillo , Enfield, Southgate

I shall be happy to consider the hon. Gentleman's letters and reply to them in due course. There is now a clear division between income support, under which the claimant must work 24 hours a week or less, and family credit., under which the claimant will work 24 hours a week or more. That division has simplified the system and is generally advantageous.

Photo of Mr Cecil Franks Mr Cecil Franks , Barrow and Furness

Is my hon. Friend aware that the apprentices in the shipyards of Barrow, whose places were formerly funded under the youth training scheme, have been laid off as a result of the industrial dispute and are being denied income support or unemployment benefit of any kind? Will my hon. Friend look into that as a matter of urgency and issue local instructions that unemployment benefit is to be paid?

Photo of Mr Michael Portillo Mr Michael Portillo , Enfield, Southgate

I cannot do exactly what my hon. Friend wishes, because these are matters for an adjudication officer. If a person is involved in a trade dispute, he is not eligible for unemployment benefit or income support for himself, although payments can be made to his dependants. It is for the adjudication officer to decide whether a person is involved in a trade dispute. I hope that that decision will be reached as expeditiously as possible.