HC Deb 18 November 1970 vol 806 cc1379-84

  1. (1) Within a period of one month from the passing of this Act the Secretary of State shall appoint a Family Income Supplements Advisory Committee consisting of a Chairman and not less than ten other members.
  2. (2) Before any regulations are made by virtue of any of the provisions of this Act the Secretary of State shall consult the Family Income Supplements Advisory Committee thereon.
  3. (3) The Family Income Supplements Advisory Committee shall at intervals not less frequent that once yearly report to Parliament upon the operation of this Act and for the said purpose the Secretary of State shall supply 1380 to the said Committee such information as it may require of him.
  4. (4) Each such report as is in the preceding sub-section referred to shall in particular estimate the proportion of families entitled to benefit under the provisions of this Act which has in fact received such benefit.—[Mrs. Shirley Williams.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mrs. Shirley Williams

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

In view of the lateness of the hour I shall move the new Clause extremely briefly. There are two main points to make. The purpose is, first, to set up an advisory committee to which the Secretary of State can turn in the administration of the Bill. We have had long debates about the Bill, in the course of which it has emerged that many things are not known. In the Second Reading debate the Secretary of State himself said that the Bill would give him contact with the poorest working households, and he went on to say that far too little is known about them.

We very strongly urge the Minister to set up an advisory committee, thus bringing the Bill into line with the position under the National Insurance Acts—there is a National Insurance Advisory Committee—and the Industrial Injuries Act—there is an Industrial Injuries Advisory Committee. The Supplementary Benefits Commission acts as an advisory committee, too. There is also the War Pensions Central Advisory Committee. In the case of all these bodies, which closely parallel the attempt being made in this scheme, there are discussions with interested bodies—employers' organisations and trade unions—and an opportunity for them to consider matters arising under those Acts. Yet all those Acts are clearer and involve less dependence on regulations, and less dependence on a divided system of responsibility, than the present scheme. If ever a Bill cried out for an advisory committee this Bill does. We hope that the Secretary of State will see that there are powerful arguments for an advisory committee in a field about which too little is known.

The second point—to which I believe the Government are to some extent morally bound—is dealt with by subsections (3) and (4), which together require that there should be an annual report which should indicate the uptake of the scheme. In the Second Reading debate the right hon. Gentleman said: We will do our very best, by the most elaborate take-up campaign … to reach all the households we possibly can … The finances presume that we shall have an 85 per cent. take up. I will do my best to do that, and better."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th November, 1970; Vol. 806, c. 227–8.] We are sure he will, but we want to know whether or not he has succeeded. Therefore, the argument for having an annual report indicating the extent of his success is in our eyes crucial to the right hon. Gentleman's good faith and to the effort that he is attempting to make in the Bill to reach those poor families. I therefore press this new Clause upon the right hon. Gentleman, and very much hope that he will accept it. It is seen by us as being crucial to the improvement of the Bill.

Sir K. Joseph

I well understand the case of the hon. Lady the Member for Hitchin (Mr. Shirley Williams). It makes good sense, if this supplement is to be a permanent feature of our social security arrangements, to have some system of surveillance. But we do not yet know how permanent this supplement will need to be. Some, I believe all, of us hope that the economy itself will eliminate the need of the poorest of the poor, because they will cease to be in such poverty.

It would not be wise of the Committee to saddle the country with another advisory committee at this first stage. There is also a time problem. I have explained, and the Committee, I think, grudgingly accepts, that we will have to hasten extremely with the regulations. We would not have time to put them to a new advisory committee.

But I can assure the hon. Lady and the whole Committee that the Government will be anxious to lay before the House and the country all the relevant information that we get from the operation of this Bill when it becomes an Act. We shall not be coy about the information. By Parliamentary Question, by statement, by any other mechanism which seems appropriate, we shall lay before the country the information—and it may be very valuable information—about people for whose standard of living we are all very much concerned.

In the light of that assurance, I hope that the hon. Lady will not press the new Clause. But I know that the Opposition take it very seriously, and if it is pressed, I must, in the light of the considerations that I have mentioned, ask my right hon. and hon. Friends to resist it.

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

The Committee divided: Ayes 118, Noes 168.

Division No. 31.] AYES [10.57 p.m.
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Eadie, Alex Lamond, James
Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis) Edelman, Maurice Latham, Arthur
Armstrong, Ernest Edwards, William (Merioneth) Lawson, George
Ashton, Joe English, Michael Leadbitter, Ted
Atkinson, Norman Fisher, Mrs. Doris (B'ham, Ladywood) Lestor, Miss Joan
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Lomas, Kenneth
Bennett, James (Glasgow, Bridgeton) Foley, Maurice McBride, Neil
Bidwell, Sydney Foot, Michael McCann, John
Blenkinsop, Arthur Galpern, Sir Myer McCartney, Hugh
Booth, Albert Golding, John McElhone, Frank
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Gourlay, Harry Mackenzie, Gregor
Buchan, Norman Grant, George (Morpeth) Mackie, John
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Grant, John D. (Islington, E.) Mackintosh, John P.
Carmichael, Neil Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside) McManus, Frank
Clark, David (Colno Valley) Hamilton, James (Bothwell) McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)
Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.) Hardy, Peter McNamara, J. Kevin
Cohen, Stanley Harper, Joseph Marks, Kenneth
Concannon, J. D. Horam, John Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy
Conlan, Bernard Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Meacher, Michael
Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, Central) Huckfield, Leslie Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert
Crawshaw, Richard Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey) Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)
Cunningham, Dr. J. A. (Whitehaven) Hughes, Dr. Mark (Durham) Murray, Ronald King
Davidson, Arthur Hughes, Roy (Newport) O'Malley, Brian
Davis, Clinton (Hackney, Central) Janner, Greville Orbach, Maurice
Deakins, Eric Jones, Dan (Burnley) Oswald, Thomas
Dempsey, James Jones, Barry (Flint, East) Pendry, Tom
Doig, Peter Kaufman, Gerald Pentland, Norman
Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.) Kerr, Russell Perry, Ernest G.
Duffy, A. E. P. Kinnock, Neil Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg
Dunnett, Jack Lambie, David Prescott, John
Probert, Arthur Smith, John (Lanarkshire, North) White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)
Reed, D. (Sedgefield) Spriggs, Leslie Whitehead, Phillip
Rhodes, Geoffrey Stallard, A. W. Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Roderick, Caerwyn E. (Br'c'n & R'dnor) Stewart, Donald (Western Isles) Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Roper, John Stoddart, David (Swindon) Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Rose, Paul B. Strang, Gavin Woof, Robert
Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock) Taverne, Dick
Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney) Urwin, T. W. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford) Wainwright, Edwin Mr. William Hamling and
Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich) Walker, Harold (Doncaster) Mr. Alan Fitch.
Sillars, James Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Adley, Robert Gummer, Selwyn Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Morrison, Charles (Devizes)
Atkins, Humphrey Hannam, John (Exeter) Mudd, David
Awdry, Daniel Haselhurst, Alan Neave, Airey
Baker, w. H. K. (Banff) Hastings, Stephen Nicholls, Sir Harmar
Benyon, W. Havers, Michael Normanton, Tom
Biffen, John Hawkins, Paul Nott, John
Biggs-Davison, John Hayhoe, Barney Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S. W.) Hicks, Robert Owen, Idris (Stockport, North)
Boscawen, R. T. Hill, James (Southampton, Test) Page, Graham (Crosby)
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John Holland, Philip Percival, Ian
Braine, Bernard Holt, Miss Mary Pike, Miss Mervyn
Bray, Ronald Hordern, Peter Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Hornby, Richard Pym, Rt. Hon. Francis
Brown, Ronald (Shoreditch & F'bury) Hornsby-Smith. Rt. Hn. Dame Patricia Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James
Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N & M) Howell, Ralph (Norfok, North) Redmond, Robert
Burden, F. A. Hutchison, Michael Clark Reed, Laurance (Bolton, East)
Carlisle, Mark Iremonger, T. L. Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David
Chichester-Clark, R. James, David Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, North)
Churchill, W. S. Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford) Rost, Peter
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Scott, Nicholas
Clegg, Walter Jessel, Toby Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)
Cockeram, Eric Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith Shelton, William (Clapham)
Cooke, Robert Kaberry, Sir Donald Sinclair, Sir George
Coombs, Derek Kellett, Mrs. Elaine Soref, Harold
Cooper, A. E. Kerby, Capt. Henry Spence, John
Cormack, Patrick Kilfedder, James Sproat, Iain
Critchley, Julian King, Evelyn (Dorset, South) Stainton, Keith
Crouch, David King, Tom (Bridgwater) Stanbrook, Ivor
Crowder, F. P. Kinsey, J. R. Stewart-Smith, D. G. (Belper)
Curran, Charles Knight, Mrs. Jill Stodart, Anthony (Edinburgh, W.)
Dalkeith, Earl of Knox, David Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Lambton, Antony Stuttaford, Dr. Tom
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Maj.-Gen. Jack Lane, David Sutcliffe, John
Dean, Paul Langford-Holt, Sir John Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N. W.)
Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) Le Merchant, Spencer Tebbit, Norman
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Loveridge, John Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)
Eyre, Reginald MacArthur, Ian Trafford, Dr. Anthony
Fell, Anthony McCrindle, R. A. Trew, Peter
Fenner, Mrs. Peggy McLaren, Martin Tugendhat, Christopher
Fidler, Michael Maclean, Sir Fitzroy Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.
Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead) McMaster, Stanley Waddington, David
Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham) Walder, David (Clitheroc)
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Madel, David Ward, Dame Irene
Fookes, Miss Janet Mawby, Ray Warren, Kenneth
Fortescue, Tim Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Weatherill, Bernard
Fowler, Norman Meyer, Sir Anthony White, Roger (Gravesend)
Fox, Marcus Mills, Peter (Torrington) Wilkinson, John
Gibson-Watt, David Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.) Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.) Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher
Goodhew, Victor Moate, Roger Woodnutt, Mark
Gorst, John Molyneaux, James Wylie, Rt. Hn. N. R.
Gower, Raymond Money, Ernie Younger, Hn. George
Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.) Monks, Mrs. Connie
Gray, Hamish Monro, Hector TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Green, Alan Montgomery, Fergus Mr. Keith Speed and
Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) More, Jasper Mr. Hugh Rossi.
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