HC Deb 18 November 1970 vol 806 cc1377-9

10.45 p.m.

Mr. Taverne

I beg to move Amendment No. 62, in page 7, line 11, at end insert: 'Not being later than the fifth day of April 1971'. The previous Amendment might have been phrased that the last shall be first and the first shall be last, but I come now to the question of the commencement date, and I must press the right hon. Gentleman about this.

The right hon. Gentleman will have to admit that there is a most unfortunate contrast between the urgency of the tax cut of about £300 million which goes mainly to the better off, and takes effect in early April, and the £7 million for the poorest, who must wait until August. In one case there is special provision which anticipates the Budget, and to some extent ties the Chancellor's hands. In the other case they must wait for the extra expense that will be incurred in the meantime. They will have to pay higher fares as a result of the withdrawal of grants. They will have to pay higher prices as prices rise. They will probably be faced with the introduction and extension of fair rent provisions to council housing as well. It is intolerable that the worst off should be the ones who have to wait the longest. What is more, if the alternative methods which have been suggested from this side of the House had been accepted, such as, for example, the suggestion of Professor Abel-Smith, not only could a larger sum have been allotted but it could have taken effect from 1st April.

The right hon. Gentleman has pleaded administrative impossibility. When he was in Opposition he was impatient of administrative impossibility. I could, but I shall not, cite what the right hon. Gentleman said in 1964 about supplementary benefits. When the right hon. Gentleman was Minister for Housing and Local Government he speeded up certain procedures. I think that he should show the sense of urgency that he showed in Opposition, and to some extent in office, and move the date forward, and not allow this intolerable position to arise.

Mr. Dean

The hon. and learned Gentleman has sought to persuade my right hon. Friend that the date should be brought forward. My right hon. Friend said on Second Reading that he regretted as much as anyone else in the House that it was not possible to introduce this scheme until next August. One reason why this is so is that no plans were being prepared to deal with family poverty when we took office. That is one reason why it was necessary to start from scratch.

Mr. O'Malley


Mr. Dean

In a moment. It was necessary to start from scratch to produce this scheme, and that is one reason why we are not able to introduce it before next August.

Mr. O'Malley

The hon. Gentleman should not distort the facts. The truth is that any Government coming into office after the July Election could have brought in increased family allowances next April instead of waiting until August.

Mr. Dean

What I am saying is that we have produced this scheme in a very short time, and that we are introducing it as early as we possibly can. My right hon. Friend would have preferred to introduce it earlier, but a whole series of preparations has to take place, material has to be prepared, the staff has to be recruited, the take-up campaign has to be carried out, and eventually the claims have to be assessed. All this inevitably takes time.

My right hon. Friend and I have gone extremely carefully into the point of the date of introduction. If we compare this with the family allowances scheme, introduced many years ago, we find that there is a distinct contrast in the matter of timing. In that period it took about 18 months from the time when the Bill was introduced into Parliament to the time when the scheme was put into operation; on this occasion the scheme is being introduced in about eight months, so the Committee can see the contrast, and the way in which it has been possible to speed up the procedures.

It is not through want of good will. The work being done on this is being done at the greatest possible speed and with the greatest possible urgency. The good will is there. It is just not physically possible to introduce a scheme at the date suggested in the Amendment. My right hon. Friend has said that it is his firm intention that if it is possible to do the necessary preparatory work before the target date of 1st August that will be done.

Mr. Taverne

In view of the time, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 16 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 17 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Forward to