The Rt. Hon. Sir John Major KG CH

Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1990-1997

1979-1983 Parliament

Mr Major’s Written Question on Child Benefit – 22 January 1981

The text of Mr Major’s Parliamentary written question on Child Benefit, published on 22nd January 1981.

Mr. Major Asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether his Department has completed its review of the take-up of child benefit increase; and if he will make a statement.

Mrs. Chalker Based on the latest available figures (November 1979), it is estimated that take-up remains at about 60 per cent. of those who stand to gain by claiming child benefit increase – the premium, worth £3 per week, paid to one-parent families.

This is a disappointing conclusion, since a wide variety of measures are taken to bring CB(I) to the attention of lone parents including a number introduced during the last year. Nevertheless, on 26 November 1980 there were 438,000 recipients of CB(I), with some 10,000 new claims a month over recent months. This compares with 377,000 recipients on 28 November 1979 and 306,000 on 1 December 1978. I hope that the increase in numbers indicates that publicity measures are increasingly effective.

Having reviewed the position, my right hon. Friend has decided that a change of name should be made to bring CB(I) to the attention of potential beneficiaries. We propose, therefore, to change the name from “Child Benefit Increase” to “One Parent Benefit”. The change will take place in April 1981 by which time the necessary changes to forms, leaflets and order books etc. should have been made. I hope this change will make it clear that the extra £3 per week is for lone parents, and that they will realise more readily that they may be entitled to the benefit, and should claim it.

A further stimulus will be provided by the recently published Green Paper on the taxation of husband and wife, which is expected to give rise to much public discussion. Chapter 9 of the Green Paper discusses the question of whether the additional personal tax allowance (APA) for lone parents should be converted into a cash benefit in the form of a higher rate of child benefit increase. This will naturally help to focus additional attention on child benefit increase.

I shall keep the take-up of CB(I) under review. Any further initiatives, to publicise the benefit will be considered in the light of the response to the Green Paper discussion and of the subsequent decision as to whether or not to convert the APA into a cash benefit.