HC Deb 15 July 1970 vol 803 cc1645-50

Question again proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

Mr. Houghton

As I was saying, we on this side of the House welcome the improvements in the Bill. We thank the Secretary of State and his Under-Secretaries of State for the help and patience they have shown. The persuasive manner of the right hon. Gentleman and his Under-Secretaries on one or two occasions almost overcame our instinct for Opposition. But we overcame the temptation to give way.

We welcome the Bill. It is a sign of the social advance we hope we will get from the new Administration. We look forward eagerly to what they will bring forward next time.

10.1 p.m.

Dame Irene Ward

I wish to ask my right hon. Friend one question about the memorandum in the Bill, which sets out the number of additional civil servants that will be needed to undertake the necessary preparations for the introduction of the Bill. I am sure nobody will take exception since the numbers involved appear to be reasonable. However, I congratulate my right hon. Friend for stating the number of civil servants that will need to be recruited for this purpose since it is satisfactory that the House should know what is to happen. Since we are to abolish the Land Commission, I am wondering why we could not use some of those deposed civil servants in the implementation—

Mr. Speaker

Order. We are on the Third Reading of this Bill. With all the good will in the world, I cannot see that the Land Commission comes into this Bill.

Dame Irene Ward

I am very sorry, Mr. Speaker. I did not hear what you said because everybody was laughing.

Mr. Speaker

I must repeat it since it is important. With all the good will in the world, I would point out that we are now on Third Reading of the Bill. On the Third Reading of the Bill the House discusses what is in the Bill. The Land Commission and its abolition are not in the Bill.

Dame Irene Ward

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. As a matter of fact there is quite a lot in the Bill about the civil servants who are to implement it. All I was asking was why we cannot use some of the displaced civil servants from the Land Commission instead of having to engage new ones? I cannot think that this is outside the scope of the Bill and I should like the right hon. Gentleman to tell me how he intends to organise this matter.

10.3 p.m.

Sir B. Rhys Williams

On the Second Reading of the Bill I said that the National Insurance system was rotten and that this Bill represented a nail in its coffin. During Committee stage we had useful discussion about the relationship between benefits and contributions. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State denied that so far as the Bill introduces pensions for the over-80s it breaches the contributory principle. That perhaps is a somewhat controversial matter, but I do not wish to take issue with him on that point.

I am sure the whole House welcomes the introduction of the constant attendance allowance, which is free from any relationship with the contributory principle. It is in some ways a most important departure from the underlying concepts of National Insurance since the introduction of family allowances in 1945.

Many of us who are deeply concerned about the evolution of the Welfare State must welcome this departure and feel that it represents a landmark in our thinking about the way in which the relationship between the individual and the community will express itself in the future.

I want only to say, finally, how glad I am that this is the first Bill that we have introduced, since I believe that it will be seen as an historic event.

10.5 p.m.

Mr. McGuire

In welcoming this Bill, since we can now discuss only those provisions that we have agreed should be included, I want first to express my thanks to the Secretary of State for being present during most of our debates, although he did not take a great part in them, most of the spade work being ably done by his hon. Friend the Under-Secretary. I wish to pay them the tribute that I had occasion to pay to some of my colleagues when we were in Government. As a team, they have an easy way of dealing with our questions. I once said of one of my right hon. Friends and I say of the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friend, that they would make a man comfortable on the scaffold. They do it very nicely.

The fact remains, however, that the Government have stolen some of our political clothes. They have left out some very important parts—namely, the invalidity pension—

Mr. Speaker

Order. What clothes the Government have left out cannot be discussed in this Third Reading debate.

Mr. McGuire

You are quite right, of course, Mr. Speaker. We shall have to pursue the point at Question time. I will leave it there.

Many people voted for the Conservative Party when they read the promise in the Conservative manifesto about giving "some pension". If I may use a pit term, right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite have "worked a flanker" on a lot of the people who voted for them, believing that those with whom this Bill deals would be given a proper and full pension. I do not think that anyone voted for the Conservatives in the belief that the people dealt with in this Bill would get less than a person who has not contributed and who claims supplementary benefit. That is why I say that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite have "worked a flanker" and, when this fact gets home to their supporters, there will be a great deal of wrath in the country. I believe that the electors have been deliberately deceived.

The hon. Member for Kensington, South (Sir B. Rhys Williams) says that the Government have breached the contributory principle. However, they have done so only in the most minute fashion. What has prevented them from giving more than the proposed £3 is the contributory principle.

To the extent that the Bill gives a pension to these elderly people, I welcome it, though it would not have been very high in my own list of priorities. To the extent that it establishes a board which is to concern itself with constant attendance allowances. I welcome it, too, for giving some benefit to widows aged between 40 and 50, though, again, I would not give it too high a priority.

We look forward to the Government's further measures. We shall welcome them when they are introduced, including, it is to be hoped, one creating Labour's proposed invalidity pension.

10.9 p.m.

Mr. Hugh D. Brown

In case right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite think that we on this side are in complete agreement with the Bill, I ought to make it clear that, though we are not opposing it, that is quite different from saying that we support it enthusiastically.

I have a suspicion that some hon. Members opposite believe that revolutionary changes are contained in the Bill and that it is due entirely to Conservative Party thinking. However, there has not been any thinking in the Conservative Party—

Mr. McGuire

They have stolen our clothes.

Mr. Brown

If hon. Members opposite understand what the hon. Member for Kensington, South (Sir B. Rhys Williams) is talking about, I will be surprised. We do not, and we have had longer to listen to him. I know that he accepts the spirit of that demand.

Two-thirds of this Bill is ours. One-third comes from the Government, and it is a very bad third. Whether or not hon. Gentlemen opposite like it, the philosophy here is giving pensions to people who have no proven need. That is the spirit, such as it is, behind the Bill.

The apostle of private enterprise, of people looking after themselves and of protecting the small business man, the Secretary of State, is producing a first Measure which is, of course, contrary to his philosophy and to that of the Conservative Party. I do not regard this increase in public expenditure as a priority, even in social service terms. I believe that hon. Gentlemen opposite will live to regret thinking that there is some kudos in introducing this as their first piece of legislation.

10.11 p.m.

Mr. Patrick Cormack (Cannock)

It is a pity that recent speakers on the benches opposite have introduced such a discordant note, after the fine and just remarks of the right hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) about the Bill.

People throughout the country will welcome this Measure, particularly as it is the first Bill to be introduced by the new Conservative Government. The electorate will accept that this is a Government that is beginning to implement its election pledges. Indeed, it is a Bill which is in sharp contrast to the first Measure which was introduced by the last Labour Government.

In my constituency many hundreds of people will benefit from the various provisions of this Bill. They will feel that the Government have put first things first by making this their first Bill.

10.12 p.m.

Mr. Robert Adley (Bristol, North-East)

Hon Gentlemen opposite have indicated on a number of occasions that, in their view, there is no need for this Measure. They must be aware, however, that the Bill is particularly welcome because it gives, as of right, benefits to people who in the past have not wanted to take advantage of certain benefits to which they were entitled. This is one of the main reasons why we welcome the Bill.

10.14 p.m.

Sir K. Joseph

With the leave of the House, I will comment briefly on some of the points that have been made.

I thank the right hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) for his kind words, and my hon. Friend the Member for Kensington, South (Sir B. Rhys Williams), the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. McGuire), the hon. Member for Cannock (Mr. Cormack) and the hon. Member for Bristol, North-East (Mr. Adley) for their encouraging remarks.

In answer to the hon. Member for Ince, who mixed some kind words with sharp comments, I insist that we only promised the people of this country some pension for the over-80s, and we have interpreted that obligation scrupulously.

Although you ruled, Mr. Speaker, that the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) were out of order, I am sure that a number of her comments will appear in the OFFICIAL REPORT. Likewise, I assure her that my right hon. Friends concerned will take note of them.

Though the hon. Member for Glasgow, Provan (Mr. Hugh D. Brown) is right—we have never denied this—that two-thirds of the Bill is bipartisan material, I remind him that the £17 million that pays for that two-thirds comes from a Tory Treasury and will be paid with great pleasure to deserving people in this country.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third Time and passed.