HC Deb 15 July 1970 vol 803 cc1636-45

(1) There shall be an additional description of benefit under the principal Act which shall be called an invalidity pension.

(2) Regulations may provide for the making of claims for the payment of an earnings-related invalidity pension and of awards pursuant to such claims.—[Mr. O'Malley.]

Brought up and read the First time.

Mr. O'Malley

I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time.

The Deputy Chairman

It may be for the convenience of the Committee to take with the new Clause Amendment No. 17, in line 10, after 'Board', insert: 'to make provision for invalidity pension'.

Mr. O'Malley

I do not need to move the new Clause with any of the obvious hesitancy of my right hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) in moving new Clause 1. We are all aware of the modesty which my right hon. Friend always shows in introducing his proposals.

As my right hon. Friend said, the death grant was specifically excluded from the Bill which we discussed in the old Parliament, and although there could have been difficulties for us in that respect, they were quickly overcome by my right hon. Friend, who met the charge that could have been made full on. We are in a different position with this proposal because it contains provision which was contained in the National Superannuation and Social Insurance Bill which we discussed at length in the last Parliament.

The concept of an invalidity pension was not something which divided the House in the last Parliament. The parties were at one and agreed that an invalidity pension related long-term to earnings should be implemented as quickly as possible.

We are moving forward modestly with this proposal because we are not trying to lay down all the details. We are not dictating to the Government exactly how they should operate the provision. All we are doing is to set out in broad general terms what we propose while leaving the date of operation and other details to the discretion of the Government, so that in their own good time—one would hope without too much delay—they may bring forward the necessary regulations or minor legislation as quickly as possible to introduce what both sides agreed would be a desirable proposal.

The background of the new Clause is that short-term earnings-related sickness benefit has been a great boon to many people who have been ill for any length of time. It was introduced by a Labour Government. It is payable after the first two weeks of sickness, although not during the first two weeks, and thereafter for the next 26 weeks an earnings-related supplement is payable on top of the flat-rate sickness benefit. As the purpose of such earnings-related supplement is to see that an individual's income does not fall too sharply and shall bear some relation to the income he was receiving when at work, it is not surprising that it was a feature of the legislation of the Labour Administration which was widely welcomed throughout the community. It prevents a short drop in income which occurs when people have only a short-term flat-rate sickness benefit rather than a supplement. The principle of earnings-related payments for sickness has already been firmly established and is working successfully.

We now look at the position of those who are sick for over 28 weeks, beyond the time when earnings-related short-term sickness benefit continues to be payable. It is important that the House should bear in mind that an increasing number of the population is becoming long-term sick; that is sick for more than six months. On the latest figures about 400,000 people have been sick for more than six months.

Taking men, usually the wage earner, the numbers off work because of sickness for more than one year in 1966–67 was 241,000. In 1962–63 it was lower, at 209,000. What emerges from the figures is that there is a changing pattern of sickness in the community with a higher incidence of heart diseases involving longer absences from work. A high proportion of those long-term sick are elderly. The latest figures I have seen show that 73 per cent. were over 50. A substantial number of elderly widows, those over 50 who have taken employment, find themselves in this position.

It is clearly desirable that long-term earnings-related sickness benefit of some kind or another should be introduced as an extension of the principle of short-term earnings-related benefit. It would be helpful to those who have only the flat-rate benefit.

I could make a much more extensive case for the merits of what we call an invalidity pension but I do not think it is necessary as the whole House sees the case for it. It would be possible to introduce such a pension in advance of other legislation. It will, clearly, take the Government some time to get their plans drafted, and it is reasonable, when there is general agreement, that the Government should take an early opportunity of introducing this invalidity pension, which would be welcomed throughout the country, particularly by the long-term, often elderly, sick who are in an unsatisfactory position when they receive only flat-rate benefit. It would be substantially to their advantage if such payments could be made, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will feel able to accept the Amendment or move quickly towards the introduction of an inability pension.

Sir K. Joseph

The hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. O'Malley) is putting on his most ingenious disingenuous act. He knows quite well that the proposals of his Government to introduce an invalidity pension were inextricably involved with the whole earnings-related pension reform which that Government introduced. It cannot be taken out of the whole apparatus in which it was interlinked and just introduced as an act of goodwill by a month-old Government. On the other hand, I agree with the hon. Gentleman and with my hon. Friends who are interested that this is an area which the Government are bound to explore, particularly in connection with the chronic sick and the disabled.

I could have wished that the previous Administration had moved more quickly to do the statistical exploration themselves. It was not until towards the end of 1968, four years after they took office, and four years after the then Chancellor of the Duchy, the right hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton), had taken up his post with that famous desk and those famous two secretaries, with which he was meant to co-ordinate all the social services—I say that with the greatest personal respect for the right hon. Gentleman—that the Government embarked on a survey of the human background against which the chronic sick and the disabled will have to be treated.

The material from that survey is coming forward, and in a few months some of the lessons there will be known to Ministers. It was a very elaborate survey when it was undertaken, and the material will take a lot of processing. When we start getting the lessons we shall be able to start examining the implications of trying to move forward in this field.

But of course, as the hon. Gentleman knows, this Bill, with its close attachment to three separate and limited improvements of treatment, is not the vehicle with which to embark upon this great new field of which he speaks. However, the manifesto with which my party fought the election commits us to moving forward to help the seriously ill or disabled, as well as to introduce the attendance allowance for the most severely disabled which is in this Bill.

So we can, on this side, accept that the subject of the Amendment is one which the Government must study. The hon. Member will accept that this is not the Bill with which to try to start, even if his Government had given us the information to tackle this huge field. Therefore, I hope that in the light of this explanation he will not press the Amendment. If he does, I must ask my hon. Friends to recognise that it is a very tongue-in-the-cheek Amendment, which must be resisted.

Mr. O'Malley

The Secretary of State must think that I am simpler than I look. He said that I knew that the invalidity proposals were inextricably tied up with the rest of a complex scheme and could not be taken out. He knows that I was not taking it out. In that previous Bill, there were details of how this invalidity pension were to be paid, and it was to be linked with the 60–25 per cent. principle which ran through the whole of the Bill. We did not try to impose that on him. We left him with a Clause which left the whole subject open to his discretion. Since we already have short-term earnings-related sickness benefits without any new detailed proposals I would have thought that we could have longer-term earnings-related sickness benefits.

What is more disappointing is that after hon. Members on both sides of the House, and people outside, had thought that there was general agreement on the principle that longer-term earnings-related sickness payments should be made the Government have ratted on it—because we have been told that they are bound to explore the situation, and to study it. The country will be interested to know that the Conservative Administration have no intention of moving forward, as the Labour Government had, towards longer-term earnings-related sickness benefits—[Interruption.] That is what the right hon. Gentleman implied. On that basis I have no hesitation in recommending my hon. Friends to go

with a will into the Lobby and to vote for the new Clause.

Question put, That the Clause be read Second time:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 126, Noes 178.

Division No. 6.] AYES [9.46 p.m.
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Goodhart, Philip Murray, Hn. Ronald King
Allen, Scholefield Gourlay, Harry Ogden, Eric
Ashton, Joe Grant, George (Morpeth) O'Halloran, Michael
Bennett, James (Glasgow, Bridgeton) Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside) O'Malley, Brian
Booth, Albert Hamilton, William (Fife, W.) Palmer, Arthur
Broughton, Sir Alfred Hamling, William Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Hardy, Peter Parry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange)
Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.) Harper, Joseph Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred
Buchan, Norman Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Pendry, Tom
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Hattersley, Roy Pentland, Norman
Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James Heffer, Eric S. Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.
Carter, Ray (Birmingh'm, Northfield) Hooson, Emlyn Prescott, John
Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles) Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
Clark, David (Colne Valley) Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, North) Reed, D. (Sedgefield)
Cocks, Michael Hunter, Adam Roderick, Caerwyn E. (Br'c'n & R'dnor)
Cohen, Stanley Janner, Greville Rodgers, William (Stockton-on-Tees)
Concannon, J. D. Jeger, Mrs. Lena (H'b'n & St. P'cras, S.) Rose, Paul B.
Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, Central) Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford) Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)
Crawshaw, Richard John, Brynmor Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)
Cunningham, Dr. J. A. (Whitehaven) Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.) Sillars, James
Davidson, Arthur Jones, Dan (Burnley) Silverman, Julius
Davies, Denzil (Llanelly) Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West) Skinner, Dennis
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Judd, Frank Smith, John (Lanarkshire, North)
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Kaufman, Gerald Spriggs, Leslie
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr Tydvil) Kerr, Russell Stallard, A. W.
Deakins, Eric Kinnock, Neil Steel, David
Dempsey, James Lambie, David Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael (Fulham)
Doig, Peter Lawson, George Stoddart, David (Swindon)
Dormand, J. D. Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick Strang, Gavin
Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.) Lomas, Kenneth Swain, Thomas
Douglas-Mann, Bruce McCann, John Torney, Thomas
Duffy, A. E. P. McCartney, Hugh Wallace, George
Eadie, Alex McGuire, Michael Watkins, David
Ellis, Tom Mackenzie, Gregor Wellbeloved, James
Evans, Fred Maclennan, Robert Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston) Marks, Kenneth Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Ford, Ben Meacher, Michael Woof, Robert
Forrester, John Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert
Fraser, John (Norwood) Millan, Bruce TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Freeson, Reginald Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire) Mr. Ernest Chapman and
Gilbert, Dr. John Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Mr. Donald Coleman.
Golding, John Morris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon)
Adley, Robert Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Fortescue, Tim
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Clegg, Walter Fowler, Norman
Archer, Jeffrey (Louth) Cockeram, Eric Fox, Marcus
Atkins, Humphrey Coombs, Derek Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone)
Awdry, Daniel Cooper, A. E. Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)
Baker, W. H. K. Cormack, Patrick Goodhart, Philip
Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony Curran, Charles Gorst, John
Benyon, W. Dance, James Gower, Raymond
Biffen, John Dean, Paul Green, Alan
Biggs-Davison, John Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. Gummer, Selwyn
Blaker, Peter Dixon, Piers Gurden, Harold
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.) Dykes, Hugh Hall, Miss Joan (Keighley)
Boscawen, R. T. Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) Hall, John (Wycombe)
Bowden, Andrew Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.) Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John Eyre, Reginald Hannam, John (Exeter)
Braine, Bernard Farr, John Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)
Bray, Ronald Fell, Anthony Haselhurst, Alan
Brinton, Sir Tatton Fenner, Mrs. Peggy Havers, Michael
Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher Fidler, Michael Hawkins, Paul
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead) Hayhoe, Barney
Butler, Adam (Bosworth) Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton) Hicks, Robert
Carlisle, Mark Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Higgins, Terence L.
Chapman, Sydney Fookes, Miss Janet Hiley, Joseph
Hill, J. E. B. (Norfolk, S.) Montgomery, Fergus Simeons, Charles
Hill, James (Southampton, Test) Morgan, Ceraint (Denbigh) Skeet, T. H. H.
Holland, Philip Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm. Soref, Harold
Holt, Miss Mary Morrison, Charles (Devizes) Speed, Keith
Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame Patricia Mudd, David Spence, John
Howell, David (Guildford) Murton, Oscar Sproat, Iain
Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, North) Nabarro, Sir Gerald Stanbrook, Ivor
Hunt, John Normanton, Tom Stewart-Smith, D. G. (Belper)
Hutchison, Michael Clark Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.
James, David Osborn, John Stokes, John
Jessel, Toby Owen, Idris (Stockport, North) Sutcliffe, John
Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith Page, Graham (Crosby) Taylor, Edward M.(G'gow, Cathcart)
Kellett, Mrs. Elaine Peel, John Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N.W.)
Kilfedder, James Percival, Ian Tebbit, Norman
King, Evelyn (Dorset, South) Pike, Miss Mervyn Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret
Kinsey, Joseph Pink, R. Bonner Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)
Kirk, Peter Pounder, Rafton Tilney, John
Knight, Mrs. Jill Prior, Rt. Hn. J. M. L. Trafford, Dr. Anthony
Knox, David Proudfoot, Wilfred van Straubenzee, W. R.
Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis Vaughan, Dr. Gerard
Longden, Gilbert Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James Vickers, Dame Joan
Loveridge, John Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter Waddington, David
McAdden, Sir Stephen Redmond, Robert Ward, Dame Irene
McMaster, Stanley Reed, Laurance (Bolton, East) Warren, Kenneth
Madel, David Rees, Hn. Peter (Dover) Weatherill, Bernard
Maginnis, John E. Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David Wells, John (Maidstone)
Mather, Carol Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Maude, Angus Ridsdale, Julian Wiggin, Jerry
Mawby, Ray Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, North) Wilkinson, John
Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Roberts, Wyn (Conway) Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Mills, Peter (Torrington) Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks) Worsley, Marcus
Miscampbell, Norman Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey) Wylie, Rt. Hn. N. R.
Mitchell, Lt.-Col. C. (Aberdeenhire, W) Rost, Peter Younger, Hon. George
Moate, Roger St. John-Stevas, Norman
Molyneaux, James Scott-Hopkins, James TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Money, Ernie D. Sharpies, Richard Mr. Jasper More and
Monks, Mrs. Connie Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby) Mr. Victor Goodhew.
Monro, Hector Shelton, William (Clapham)

Schedules 1 and 2 agreed to.

Bill reported, with an admendment; as amended, considered.

9.56 p.m.

Sir K. Joseph

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

There are only three things for me to do at this stage. The first is to thank both sides of the House for the very constructive, though vigorous, debate. I would like to thank my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State, all my hon. Friends, many of whom have taken part in the debate, the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. O'Malley), his right hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) and their formidable colleagues who have contributed so helpfully to the debate.

In contrast, I have to confess to the House a small error. In asking the hon. Member for Rhondda, West (Mr. Alec Jones) to withdraw an Amendment, I undertook to meet the substance of his case by introducing a Government Amendment. That was a technical error. We shall meet the substance of his case, but in the regulations that we shall lay as a result of the Bill. I wish to put on record that we shall honour our obligations by the regulations and not by an Amendment.

Finally, the common factor of the three groups of people whom the Bill seeks to benefit—the very elderly leftouts, the younger widows and the very severely disabled—is that each in its different way presents a problem of identification. We have to find many of the people who will benefit under the Bill. I undertake to the House that if the Bill passes into law we shall with the utmost speed bring the benefits into payment. I hope that the House, after today's debate, will be content to give the Bill a Third Reading.

9.58 p.m.

Mr. Houghton

This is the first Bill of the new Parliament and the new Administration. We on this side of the House thought that it would be ungracious to allow the Third Reading to pass without a few words of appreciation of what is contained in the Bill. It will be welcomed by those who will receive benefit from it, and certain sections of the community who have not received benefit before and whose positions will be improved will also welcome it.

We have tried to pack more into the Bill than the Secretary of State would allow. We understand that, but he for his part understands the function of opposition. We are getting used to opposition again; we will have to get used to it. I hope that we will learn as we go along.

It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.