Oral Answers to Questions — Means-testing

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 2nd April 2001.

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Photo of Graham Brady Graham Brady Shadow Spokesperson (Work and Pensions) 12:00 am, 2nd April 2001

If he will make a statement on the means-testing of benefits. [154866]

Photo of Hugh Bayley Hugh Bayley Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Social Security), NATO Parliamentary Assembly UK Delegation

Investment in income-related benefits such as the minimum income guarantee and the disability income guarantee has provided the most effective and immediate way of tackling poverty.

Photo of Graham Brady Graham Brady Shadow Spokesperson (Work and Pensions)

I am grateful to the Minister. Can he confirm that under the pension credit proposals, a person who has saved £75,000 in a pension fund will be just £6 a week better off than somebody who has saved nothing at all?

Photo of Hugh Bayley Hugh Bayley Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Social Security), NATO Parliamentary Assembly UK Delegation

That comes badly from a party that never proposed introducing pension credit, that never proposed rewarding savings and that is happy that people who pay into pension schemes and save capital should get no benefit from the state at all. We do not share the view of the Conservative party; that is why we made our proposals for pension credit—so that those who save to provide for themselves in old age see a real benefit from doing so.

Photo of Paul Goggins Paul Goggins Labour, Wythenshawe and Sale East

Will my hon. Friend please ignore the comments of the Opposition and their allegations about increasing means-testing? He will be aware that, since the last general election, the number of people in households forced to depend on income support and jobseeker's allowance has fallen by more than 1 million. That total includes 400,000 children. Is not that a sign that the Government are tackling poverty and that the Opposition's claims are wrong?

Photo of Hugh Bayley Hugh Bayley Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Social Security), NATO Parliamentary Assembly UK Delegation

One of the real indictments of the previous Government was that the number of children living in poverty trebled. One of the things that the Labour Government will be remembered for is that our policies—not least the welfare-to-work policies, but a whole range of fiscal and benefit policies too—have meant that 1.2 million children, who under the Conservatives were living in poverty, have been removed from living in poverty. That is as a result of the work of the Government.

Photo of Mr Andrew Rowe Mr Andrew Rowe Conservative, Faversham and Mid Kent

I get quite a lot of real people with real addresses in my surgeries. One of the things that they complain most bitterly about is that whenever they come into contact with the social security system, not only do their letters get lost but they have to deal with a different person each time they go back into the system. Are there any plans to improve the system so that people can relate to the same person each time they have a problem?

Photo of Hugh Bayley Hugh Bayley Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Social Security), NATO Parliamentary Assembly UK Delegation

Yes, indeed there are—changes that the Conservatives did not make when they were in government. We are creating a working age agency to provide just such a service for clients: not just dumping them on benefits and leaving them in a labyrinthine system that provides no support, but providing personal advisers who will help clients both to deal with their benefit problems and to get back to work.