§ 8. Sir Michael Neubert
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many increases in child benefit have been announced in the past two years.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Social Security (Mr. William Hague)
Child benefit has already been increased three times since October 1991 and my right hon. Friend announced on Tuesday a further increase to take effect in April 1994.
§ Sir Michael Neubert
Can my hon. Friend confirm that Government spending on families with children has increased by 50 per cent. since 1979—over and above price increases in that time—and that our child benefit scheme compared favourably with European equivalents? Does my hon. Friend accept, however, that it is wise not to exclude the possibility of any change in the scheme in the future, given the Government's strategy of targeting assistance on those most in need?
§ Mr. Hague
My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to the large increase on spending on families with children —a 50 per cent. increase since 1979, compared with an 8 per cent. reduction between 1974 and 1979, which Opposition Members should remember. On the question of future policy, I should say to my hon. Friend that the manifesto commitment remains absolutely clear: child benefit remains the cornerstone of our policies for families and children, helping mothers who remain at home as well as those who work.