Means-tested Benefits

Oral Answers to Questions — Social Security – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 17th November 1997.

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Photo of Peter Viggers Peter Viggers Conservative, Gosport 12:00 am, 17th November 1997

What is the comparative administrative cost of distributing (a) means—tested benefits and (b) benefits which are not means-tested. [14642]

Photo of Frank Field Frank Field Minister (Department of Social Security) (Welfare Reform)

The administrative cost of income-related benefits is 7 per cent. of benefit expenditure. The administrative cost of all other benefits is 2.5 per cent. of benefit expenditure.

Photo of Peter Viggers Peter Viggers Conservative, Gosport

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that, superficially, means-tested benefits are attractive because, from a Treasury point of view, globally, they cost less money? However, there is a trap within every means-tested benefit as there is no incentive for the individual to escape from that means test. Does he agree that, in the longer term, it would be good to phase out as many means-tested benefits as possible?