Below is the text of Mr Major’s response to the Economic Deprivation debate held on 12th November 1985.
Mr. Stan Thorne asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what action he intends to take in regard to alleviating poorer people’s economic deprivation in the near future.
Mr. Major The Government are pledged to protect the retirement pension and associated long-term benefits against rising prices, and have successfully done so. Ultimately, however, improvements in living standards depend upon economic growth and the control of inflation.
Mr. Thorne Does not imposing additional charges, partly through rates and mortgages, on those in receipt of supplementary benefit create further hardship for those who are already deprived?
Mr. Major We believe that ultimately the best way to deal with these matters is to put money in people’s pockets so that they may meet the charges. The hon. Gentleman picks a curious time to raise that criticism. He will be aware that a substantial uprating of benefits of around 7 per cent. is taking effect later this month.
Mr. Forth Does my hon. Friend agree that the object of the review of social security is to ensure that benefits go to those most in need, and that the success of the review will be judged against that criterion?
Mr. Major My hon. Friend is right. The White Paper which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will introduce shortly will set out the system which, we believe, will direct resources to those who most need them. I think that that will be a welcome innovation.
Mr. Alfred Morris The Secretary of State was studiedly uncommunicative yesterday, as he has been today, about his detailed intentions for the future of SERPS. Can the Minister give a categorical assurance that there is no intention of amending SERPS so as to drop the rule under which every individual’s pension is based on his or her best 20 years’ earnings? Is he aware of the importance of that rule to very large numbers of severely disabled people and of the concern about its future among the organisations of the disabled?
Mr. Major The right hon. Gentleman says that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was uncommunicative yesterday. That may or may not have been so, but I have nothing to add to what he said.