Select Committee on Social Security Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 320 - 322)



  320.  What about regional diversity? Mr Dismore has a constituency in Hendon. I have a constituency in south-east Scotland. Housing costs could be in different continents in terms of the disparity. How does a standard have any continued meaning when it is in different contexts as extreme as Mr Dismore's constituency and my own?
  (Professor Veit-Wilson)  I think that is a very difficult question to answer, because of course one's mentality in asking it is: how does this relate to income support or, in other words, raising the incomes to a comparable level of living standard, when housing is such a large variable? A minimum income standard in a more general sense could be said to exclude that large variable of housing costs, as I believe in some countries (but I would have to look up again if the pension used is the pension excluding housing costs). You could go about it like that. I am reminded of the Unemployment Assistance Board in the 1930s, which was the first attempt to set a national standard of any kind in this country, where they had a terrible problem with what they called "rural differentiation". It was the same problem, but the problem then was, "it is so much cheaper to live in the country for the working classes, because they could grow their own food, that we ought to have a lower level of unemployment support for the unemployed in rural areas than in urban ones". Now we would argue that it is the other way round.

  321.  Moving quickly from that idea, as a final question from me, and you have been talking eloquently about the system in the round and in general terms: is there anything specific or special about children and children's support? Really at the end of the day your evidence is very valuable in helping us understand adequacy questions, but is there anything in your work that is special about provisional support for children, as opposed to some of those other things which we have been talking about, that you feel the Committee should be conscious of and take account of?
  (Professor Veit-Wilson)  I do not think there is anything in my Minimum Income Standards work specifically about children. I think the point about ensuring that no child grows up in poverty is not only the human rights aspect of it, the human dignity aspect, but also the on-costs for future politicians like yourselves, of failing to ensure the on-costs in all the health and physiological aspects as well as the on-costs in human performance, the lack of education, unemployment and so on. There are a great many reasons in human rights and in future economics why one should ensure that no child grows up in poverty.

  322.  Our enquiry is nearing its conclusion. Is there anything else that you want to tell us in terms of trying to make recommendations to the Government about the deployment of new plans for Integrated Child Credits?
  (Professor Veit-Wilson)  If you have not yet asked Professor Bradshaw and the team of people who have been working on it—and they finished their work last year on the current survey and have reported initially at the end of the year for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation publication10—I think you should.

10 David Gordon et al (10 other co-authors including Jonathan Bradshaw), Poverty and Social Exclusion in Britain, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, York, 1-85935-059-3, p 101.

  Your earlier question reminded me of an argument which took place between William Beveridge and Seebohm Rowntree on the question of setting the National Insurance recommendations in 1942. Rowntree went on and on: if you put in a standard sum of ten shillings a week as working class rent, you are going to be giving too much money to some people. Beveridge continued to say that the whole point is to have a standard for everybody which is the same; if their housing costs are more than that ten shillings, then they can apply for National Assistance. A standard may not be precise in that sense but it is one which generally is about right, and that is what I hope we shall achieve.

  Chairman: Professor Veit-Wilson, thank you very much for your evidence. That has been extremely helpful.

previous page contents

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 27 February 2001