Examination of Witness (Questions 320
WEDNESDAY 17 JANUARY 2001
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 itand 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 publication10I think you
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.