§ Mrs. Renée Short
asked the Prime Minister what action she intends to take to seek to reduce the numbers of the poor in Britain.
§ The Prime Minister
The way to combat poverty is to develop a competitive and thriving economy, to reduce the burden of taxation on the low paid, and to target help on those in need.
Since 1979 the burden of taxation has been significantly reduced. Lower income tax has benefited the 18 million people on below average male earnings who pay 42 per cent. of the tax yield, and the 40 per cent. of pensioners 4W who pay tax. Real take home pay for a family with two children on three-quarters of average earnings has in fact gone up by 16 per cent. since 1979.
We will also continue to build on our excellent record of protecting and improving the position of those most in need. Spending on social security has never been at a higher level, both in cash and real terms. It is currently running at some £44 billion a year—about one third of total Government expenditure—costing working families an average of £55 per week each. Since we came to office, supplementary benefits, benefits for long-term sick and disabled people, retirement pensions and prescribed levels of family income supplement had, at the date of the July uprating, increased ahead of inflation, and the uprating in April 1987 alone will cost an extra £700 million.
The Social Security Act 1986 will direct resources more effectively to those who need help most. Nearly twice as many low-income working families with children will get extra help under the new family credit scheme. The new income support scheme will direct specific help to groups such as disabled people, lone parents, families with children and pensioners.
Ultimately, however, adequate provision for the poor depends upon policies which protect the value of incomes through the control of inflation. This is what our policies have been designed to achieve and it will continue to be our objective.