In the three years since the introduction of family credit, we have spent approximately £1·3 billion in cash terms, or 1·4 billion at 1990–91 prices, and by the end of the present financial year we expect to have spent £1·8 billion.
Will my hon. Friend confirm that the average expenditure on family credit per family is about £30 per week, whereas average expenditure in today's terms on Labour's family income supplement would have been £11 per week? Does my hon. Friend therefore believe, as I do, that the modern Labour party is utterly hypocritical in its supposed concern for the poor when its Front-Bench spokesmen said that Labour would allow family credit to wither on the vine?
My hon. Friend's last point reminds me of the fact that whereas we have awarded family credit to 2 million people, the Labour party's policy for those on lower wages would mean the loss of 2 million jobs through the minimum wage proposals. My hon. Friend's figures for family credit are correct. In 1979 family income supplement was about £5·26, which is £13·50 in today's terms; 65 per cent. of people on family credit now get £20 per week or more, 30 per cent. get £40 per week, and 17 per cent. get £50 per week.
Will the Minister say a word about the difficulties of the self-employed? As some of my case work substantiates, the bureaucratic application procedures are especially difficult for self-employed people such as farmers and fishermen. I know that the Government are turning their attention to academic studies, but will the Minister say something positive today?
The hon. Gentleman does his self-employed constituents much service in the way he has represented them—especially the share fishermen—on the question of family credit. He will know, however, that nearly 45 per cent. of self-employed people receive £50 or more per week. The Government intend to take careful note of the research commissioned through the social policy research unit at York university, which is examining carefully the way in which family credit works for self-employed people, with a view to improving the delivery of the service to that group.
Does my hon. Friend accept that family credit and other benefits repay detailed consideration, and that even though there are serious differences between, for instance, the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) and the Government, it is one of the issues to which Militant and the far left have nothing to contribute and where they have never shown much interest in the poor?
I do not believe in answering hypothetical questions. The Conservative party has no intention of introducing such a ludicrous system. Family credit enables people to accept lower-paid work in order to get back to work, with the advantage of having their finances supplemented by family credit. That is something to be applauded.