Family Credit

Oral Answers to Questions — Social Security – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 24th June 1991.

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Photo of Miss Emma Nicholson Miss Emma Nicholson , Torridge and West Devon 12:00 am, 24th June 1991

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what has been the total value of spending on family credit since its introduction.

Photo of Michael Jack Michael Jack , Fylde

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.

Photo of Miss Emma Nicholson Miss Emma Nicholson , Torridge and West Devon

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?

Photo of Michael Jack Michael Jack , Fylde

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.

Photo of Mr Archy Kirkwood Mr Archy Kirkwood , Roxburgh and Berwickshire

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?

Photo of Michael Jack Michael Jack , Fylde

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.

Photo of Peter Bottomley Peter Bottomley , Eltham

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?

Photo of Michael Jack Michael Jack , Fylde

As always, detail is an important element in social security. I made a detailed search of the Opposition's spending proposals for any changes that would benefit the people on family credit, but I could find none.

Photo of Mr Max Madden Mr Max Madden , Bradford West

As family credit is essentially a state subsidy for low pay, will the Minister say by how much family credit spending would have decreased if a national minimum wage had been in place for the past three years?

Photo of Michael Jack Michael Jack , Fylde

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.