Oral Answers to Questions — Means-tested Benefits (Take-up)

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

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr John Wilkinson Mr John Wilkinson Conservative, Ruislip - Northwood 12:00 am, 2nd April 2001

What measures he proposes to introduce to increase the take-up by those eligible for means-tested welfare benefits.[154869]

Photo of Angela Eagle Angela Eagle Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Social Security)

We actively encourage people to claim the benefits to which they are entitled.

Photo of Mr John Wilkinson Mr John Wilkinson Conservative, Ruislip - Northwood

Why was it then that the Minister of State gave such a disingenuous answer to the hon. Member for Pendle (Mr. Prentice), when he said that his Department did not have final figures on minimum income guarantee take-up? Is it not the case that such figures were made available in an answer given to my hon. Friend the shadow Secretary of State on 5 March, which showed that out of the 840,000 people who made inquiries, only 82,000 were eligible and took up benefits? There was a cost of about £15 million. Is it not clear that that is a gross waste of taxpayers' money? Could not the system operate more effectively?

Photo of Angela Eagle Angela Eagle Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Social Security)

I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman thinks that making 82,000 people, on average, £20 a week better off—after being left in poverty as a result of the neglect of the previous Conservative Government—is not worth celebrating. Since the campaign is not yet over, the figures that we have given so far will not be the final figures. Next week, we will double the capital limit, which will ensure that more people are eligible for the minimum income guarantee. That stands in contrast with the Conservatives, who froze the capital limits for a decade when they were in office.