HC Deb 18 November 1970 vol 806 cc1367-75
Sir K. Joseph

I beg to move Amendment No. 67, in page 4, line 22, leave out 'having, or as not having, to provide' and insert: 'providing or as not providing'. This Amendment is consequential on an Opposition Amendment which the Committee, on the Government's advice, accepted.

Amendment agreed to.

Sir K. Joseph

I beg to move Amendment No. 68, in page 5, line 8, at end insert: (2A) Regulations may make different provision for different classes of case and otherwise for different circumstances. This is a point which is to be inserted in the Bill by both Government and Opposition perception, that we might need powers to provide in the regulations different treatment for different classes of claimant. I do not think that, after all this probing of the variety of circumstances in which claimants might find themselves, the Committee will need me now to argue the need for the powers involved.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. S. C. Silkin

I beg to move, Amendment No. 56, in page 5, line 11, leave out 'section 2 or section 3'and insert 'sections 2, 3, 4 and 5'.

The Deputy Chairman (Miss Harvie Anderson)

With this Amendment, if it is convenient to the Committee, we can take also Amendment No. 57, in page 5, line 14, leave out 'section 2 or section 3' and insert 'sections 2, 3, 4 or 5'.

Mr. Silkin

During the discussions on various Clauses it has become quite apparent that matters of very great substance are going to be dealt with by regulations. When one compares this Bill with the Ministry of Social Security Act, to which reference is made in one or two places in this Bill, and with which comparisons have been made, one finds that here there is far less definition of what is proposed in this Bill than there was definition in that Act. That Act is far more specific about the various questions it is to cover than anything we find in the Bill, as it stands, is specific of what this Bill is to do, and a tremendous amount is left to be dealt with by regulations.

We understand that this Bill may have been produced in some haste, and that that may be the reason why the regulations are to deal with so much. We understand what the right hon. Gentleman and the Under-Secretary of State have said, that on many question relating to this area of poverty they feel that their information at the moment is not sufficient for them to put forward positive proposals. I think that we on this side of the Committee are probably better informed.

What concerns us is that the procedure which enables Parliament to debate a regulation before it is made is confined at the moment to those regulations made under Clauses 2 and 3. When I heard the Secretary of State reply to the criticisms which were made about Clause 4, for example, when he said that regulations to be made would be such as to prevent abuses, that fortified me in the view which we have on this side of the Committee that a good deal more should be subject to the affirmative procedure than is at present proposed in the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman will remember that he said, for example, that the sort of situation which was envisaged was that where, somehow or another, earned income of a parent would be diverted to the child. We should want to know what sort of cases he has in mind and to study them carefully before we approved that kind of regulation.

This is a matter that could be developed at some length. The more that we on this side of the House have heard of the intentions of the Government with regard to regulations, particularly their intentions about laying down the policy and leaving the Supplementary Benefits Commission simply to act as a mechanical body for putting the policy into effect, the more we feel that we have been unduly moderate in suggesting that only regulations under Clauses 4 and 5 should be subject to the affirmative procedure as well as those under Clauses 2 and 3. It may be that we shall want to return to this matter at a later stage, but for the moment we are content to ask the Committee that those two Clauses should be added.

Sir K. Joseph

I confess straight away that there are a lot of regulation powers in the Bill, and we shall be laying regulations. The main reason is the need for speed in getting the supplement into payment. I do not blame the Opposition for at least probing the possibility of making more of the regulations subject to the affirmative procedure. The difficulty is that, if we are to get the supplement into payment at the beginning of August, we shall have to move very fast after the Royal Assent. We shall want to lay regulations covering Clauses 4 and 5 as soon as possible after the Royal Assent. If we switch from negative to affirmative procedure we shall not be able to lay those regulations probably until the end of January. Not until we have laid the regulations can we get on with the printing of the forms and the distribution of the detailed manual of instruction which will have to be studied by the staff we shall be recruiting for the payment of the supplement.

The Committee will be aware that the substance of Clause 4, namely, the resources to be taken into account, has been fairly fully debated today, and that I have made undertakings to come back on Report on a number of points where there was doubt. As for Clause 5, I do not think there has been any criticism about the method of making the claim, although I have been out of the Chamber for about an hour and I am not myself dealing with that Clause. Both these subjects have been discussed to the extent that the Committee wished. I ask the hon. and learned Gentleman to take into account our need to lay these regulations as soon as possible after Royal Assent and not to press the Amendment.

Mr. Booth

I do not think that the Secretary of State's explanation is good enough. He should at least explain to the Committee why it takes longer to deal with regulations made under the affirmative procedure than it does under the negative procedure. In both cases the regulations have to lie before Parliament for a certain number of days. If the regulations are laid under the negative procedure and there is a debate after that number of days it makes no difference to the Instrument and the debate becomes a hypothetical exercise.

Mr. S. C. Silkin

We have listened to what the right hon. Gentleman has said, but we are not satisfied. He has had the whole of the long hot summer in which to make preparation. We feel that this is a matter of important principle and that the House of Commons should have the opportunity of considering the regulations before they come into effect. In those circumstances, we have no option but to ask the Committee to divide.

Question put, That the Amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 124, Noes 168.

Division No. 30.] AYES [10.30 p.m.
Albu, Austen Booth, Albert Conlan, Bernard
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, Central)
Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis) Buchan, Norman Crawshaw, Richard
Armstrong, Ernest Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'bum) Cunningham, Dr. J. A. (Whitehaven)
Ashton, Joe Carmichael, Neil Davidson, Arthur
Atkinson, Norman Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles) Davis, Clinton (Hackney, Central)
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Clark, David (Colne Valley) Deakins, Eric
Bennett, James (Glasgow, Bridgeton) Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.) Dempsey, James
Bidwell, Sydney Cohen, Stanley Doig, Peter
Blenkinsop, Arthur Concannon, J. D. Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.)
Duffy, A. E. P. Lambie, David Reed, D. (Sedgefield)
Dunnett, Jack Lamond, James Rhodes, Geoffrey
Eadie, Alex Latham, Arthur Roderick, Caerwyn E.(Br'c'n & R'dnor)
Edelman, Maurice Lawson, George Roper, John
Edwards, William (Merioneth) Leadbitter, Ted Rose, Paul B.
English, Michael Lestor, Miss Joan Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)
Fisher, Mrs. Doris (B'ham, Ladywood) Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.) Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)
Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Lomas, Kenneth Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) McBride, Neil Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)
Foley, Maurice McCann, John Sillars, James
Foot, Michael McCartney, Hugh Skinner, Dennis
Galpern, Sir Myer McElhone, Frank Smith, John (Lanarkshire, North)
Golding, John Mackenzie, Gregor Spriggs, Leslie
Gourlay, Harry Mackie, John Stallard, A. W.
Grant, George (Morpeth) Mackintosh, John P. Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)
Grant, John D. (Islington, East) McManus, Frank Stoddart, David (Swindon)
Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside) McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.) Strang, Gavin
Hamilton, James (Bothwell) McNamara, J. Kevin Taverne, Dick
Hamilton, William (Fife, W.) Marks, Kenneth Urwin, T. W.
Hardy, Peter Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy Wainwright, Edwin
Horam, John Meacher, Michael Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Huckfield, Leslie Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)
Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey) Murray, Ronald King Whitehead, Phillip
Hughes, Dr. Mark (Durham) O'Malley, Brian Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Hughes, Roy (Newport) Orbach, Maurice Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Janner, Greville Oswald, Thomas Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford) Pendry, Tom Woof, Robert
Jones, Dan (Burnley) Pentland, Norman
Jones, Barry (Flint, East) Perry, Ernest G. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Kaufman, Gerald Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg. Mr. Joseph Harper and
Kerr, Russell Prescott, John Ml. William Hamling.
Kinnock, Neil Probert, Arthur
Adley, Robert Gibson-Watt, David McCrindle, R. A.
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.) McLaren, Martin
Astor, John Goodhew, Victor Maclean, Sir Fitzroy
Atkins, Humphrey Gorst, John McMaster, Stanley
Awdrey, Daniel Gower, Raymond Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)
Baker, W. H. K. (Banff) Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.) Madel, David
Benyon, W. Gray, Hamish Mawby, Ray
Biffen, John Green, Alan Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.
Biggs-Davison, John Gummer, Selwyn Meyer, Sir Anthony
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S. W.) Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Mills, Peter (Torrington)
Boscawen, R. T. Hannam, John (Exeter) Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John Haselhurst, Alan Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)
Bray, Ronald Hastings, Stephen Moate, Roger
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Havers, Michael Molyneaux, James
Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N & M) Hawkins, Paul Money, Ernie
Bullus, Sir Eric Hayhoe, Barney Monks, Mrs. Connie
Burden, F. A. Hicks, Robert Monro, Hector
Carlisle, Mark Hill, James (Southampton, Test) Montgomery, Fergus
Chichester-Clark, R. Holland, Philip More, Jasper
Churchill, W. S. Holt, Miss Mary Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Hordern, Peter Morrison, Charles (Devizes)
Cockeram, Eric Hornby, Richard Mudd, David
Cooke, Robert Hornsby-Smith. Rt. Hn. Dame Patricia Neave, Airey
Cooper, A. E. Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, North) Nicholls. Sir Harmar
Cormack, Patrick Hutchison, Michael Clark Normanton, Tom
Costain, A. P. Iremonger, T. L. Nott, John
Critchley, Julian James, David Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally
Crouch, David Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford) Owen, Idris (Stockport, North)
Crowder, F. P. Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Page, Graham (Crosby)
Curran, Charles Jessel, Toby Percival, Ian
Dalkeith, Earl of Joseph, Rt. Hon. Sir Keith Pike, Miss Mervyn
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Kaberry, Sir Donald Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Maj.-Gen. Jack Kellett, Mrs. Elaine Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis
Dean Paul Kerby, Capt. Henry Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. Kilfedder, James Redmond, Robert
Dixon, Piers Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)
Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) King, Evelyn (Dorset, South) Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) King, Tom (Bridgwater) Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, North)
Eyre, Reginald Kinsey, J. R. Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Fell, Anthony Knight, Mrs. Jill Rost, Peter
Fenner, Mrs. Peggy Knox, David Scott, Nicholas
Fidler, Michael Lambton, Antony Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)
Lane, David Shelton, William (Clapham)
Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead) Langford-Holt, Sir John Sinclair, Sir George
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Soref, Harold
Fookes, Miss Janet Le Marchant, Spencer Speed, Keith
Fowler, Norman Loveridge, John Spence, John
Fox, Marcus MacArthur, Ian Sproat, Iain
Stainton, Keith Trafford, Dr. Anthony Wilkinson, John
Stanbrook, Ivor Trew, Peter Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Stewart-Smith D. C. (Belper) Tugendhat, Christopher Woodhouse, Hn, Christopher
Stodart, Anthony (Edinburgh, W.) Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H. Woodnutt, Mark
Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M. Waddington, David Wylie, Rt. Hn. N. R.
Stuttaford, Dr. Tom Walder, David (Clitheroe) Younger, Hon. George
Sutcliffe, John Ward, Dame Irene
Taylor, Frank (Moss Side) Warren, Kenneth THE TELLERS FOR NOES:
Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N. W.) Weatherill, Bernard Mr. Walter Clegg and
Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.) White, Roger (Gravesend) Mr. Tim Fortescue.

Question proposed, That Clause 11, as amended, stand part of the Bill.

Mr. Booth

I hesitate to delay the Committee at this hour, but the Clause should not pass without the Secretary of State indicating whether he considers that it will be necessary for him to make a regulation under it to deal with the position of the seasonal worker, or one who is deemed to be a seasonal worker under our National Insurance rules for the purposes of unemployment benefit.

I understand that if a person establishes a pattern of work over a period of three years during which he is in and out of work for the same months in each of the three years, he is deemed for National Insurance purposes to be a seasonal worker and therefore does not have an unemployment benefit entitlement.

It seems to follow that if a person has passed into work from a period when he has been out of work which was considered to be seasonal, he would not be able to claim family income supplement on the basis of his earnings for the preceding five weeks, because he would not have been earning or getting unemployment benefit in the preceding five weeks. Therefore, as I read the Bill, there is no provision enabling the seasonal worker to claim family income supplement when he is in work. I should be grateful, therefore, if the right hon. Gentleman would answer this question.

Sir K. Joseph

I think that I can reassure the hon. Gentleman. The five-weeks rule for evidence of earnings is only a guideline. In such a situation the man would go along with, or would send, evidence of his first week's earnings. If those earnings justified family income supplement, it would be paid to him for a limited period of, say, six weeks. At the end of five weeks he would be able to show five weeks' evidence of earnings, which would then give him an entitlement to renewal for 26 weeks.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 11, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 12 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

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