§ Mr. Joel Barnett (Heywood and Royton)
I beg to move Amendment No. 24, in page 2, line 13, leave out 'except where regulations otherwise provide'.
The right hon. Gentleman was kind enough to accept my first Amendment yesterday and I feel sure, knowing that this is an equally reasonable Amendment, that he will accept this one, too.
The Clause is a vital one, dealing, as it does, with disregards, and the Amendment relates to whether the Minister should have power to include, by regulations, the income of a child. One appreciates that, generally, a Minister needs powers to do things by regulation, but this is rather different because if the Bill is left as it is the Minister will be able to alter the provisions of the Bill and include the income of a child, either in whole or in part.
On what grounds, and in what circumstances, would the Minister wish, by regulation, to include a child's income? If there are only very few instances in which a child's income should be aggregated for this purpose, the right hon. Gentleman does not need the power given to him by the regulations. If this power is to be used only occasionally, there is all the more reason why the right hon. Gentleman should come back to the House to seek the powers that he would need to include a particular type of child's income. The right hon. Gentleman owes it to the House to explain in some detail why he would need to aggregate a child's income in those circumstances.
Everyone must be aware of the great difficulties that could arise if a child's income were aggregated for F.I.S. purposes. A child could be earning a small sum, but that amount could nevertheless, be sufficient to exclude that family from 1288 F.I.S. and that could have the effect of driving that youngster out of the house. Surely that is not what the Minister and the Committee have in mind. Surely the Minister would not want to include a child's investment income, or income resulting from compensation for injuries, or income from a small amount of savings, or money received from a grandparent? I am sure that neither the Minister nor the Committee would want to aggregate the income of a child under those circumstances.
It is interesting to note the approach of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, now that they are the Government, to the poorer sections of the community, compared with their attitude when they were the Opposition and expressed their opinion about the aggregation of a child's income for income tax purposes. There were some interesting debates in the Committee on the Finance Bill in 1968 when we discussed the question of aggregating a child's income with that of a family paying surtax.
I shall not bore the House with quotations at length, but it is interesting to recall some of the remarks made at that time, because they are particularly relevant to this whole question of the aggregation of a child's income. It is interesting to compare the attitude of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite today with their attitude in 1968. On 15th May, 1968 the late Iain Macleod said:It is not only full of anomalies, but it is an attack upon savings, an attack, perhaps in particular, upon those in the middle income groups, and some of its consequences will be disastrous and tragic.…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee A, 15th May, 1968: c. 849.]I did not believe that the right hon. Gentleman was right.
Many families to whom the Bill is intended to apply will suffer considerably if it contains a provision that some types of children's income can be aggregated. Many more tragic circumstances were brought to our notice during those debates in 1968. We were told about 1289 thalidomide children who had some income which could be aggregated for surtax purposes. Could that income be aggregated by the Minister under the proposed regulations? I suppose it could. I am not suggesting that the right hon. Gentleman would do that, but it could be done under the regulations.
Some strong words were used in 1968 by some right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who are now Members of the Government. The right hon. Gentleman who is now the Minister for Transport Industries used words which we expected from him. He told us how cruel it was to deal in that way with the children of families in this category, and let us bear in mind that we were talking about families who were trying, under the law as it stood, to avoid particular levels of surtax. That is not quite the same as the kind of family that we are dealing with here. If right hon. Gentlemen felt so strongly about aggregation in those circumstances, I should have thought that it was incumbent upon them now that they are the Government, to accept the Amendment and show that they feel at least as strongly about families and children at the lower end of the scale.
If, as we have been told repeatedly, the idea is to make this provision as simple as possible so that not only we in the House understand it, but that it is understood by those who will be involved in making claims, the Minister should accept the Amendment. After all, the Government will spend tens of thousands of pounds on trying to make this provision clear to ordinary people.
§ Mr. Barnett
Is the right hon. Gentleman suggesting that the Government are not going to spend tens of thousands of pounds on making the position clear?
§ Mr. Barnett
The right hon. Gentleman may need to spend that much money to make the meaning of the Bill clear to the people who will be eligible to claim under it. The Preamble to the Bill tells us that the entitlement will be based on a simple test. If that is so, and if the Minister wants to make provision easily understood he should accept the 1290 Amendment and make it clear that no income of a child will be included for the purposes of aggregation. If, at some future date, the right hon. Gentleman wants to bring in a particular type of child's income because there is some kind of evasion, it will be possible for him to do that. To leave in this provision with the possibility of amendment by regulation runs directly counter to the right hon. Gentleman's whole idea of making the whole thing simple for the people involved to understand.
The impression that one gets from subsection (1) is that those who are to claim can generally disregard a child's income. If the regulations are intended to alter that, the least the Minister should do is to tell us in what circumstances he will make a change in this provision. If this is not a deliberate attempt to hide behind the Regulations, the Committee ought to be told. If we do not get a proper answer from the right hon. Gentleman, I feel that we should press the matter to a Division.
§ [Mr. BRYANT GODMAN IRVINE in the Chair]
§ Mr. James Dempsey (Coatbridge and Airdrie)
I want the Minister to address himself to certain anomalies that seem likely to arise if he is bent on this course. To aggregate certain incomes would be rather mean on the part of the right hon. Gentleman's Department. We are talking here about young people. Has the right hon. Gentleman considered the case of young persons who reach the acceptable age and are responsible for the delivery of milk before going to school in the mornings? I should like to know whether their incomes will be aggregated for this purpose or whether the Minister can say that income of that nature will be disregarded. That question ought to be cleared up before we dispose of the Amendment.
Further, there are young persons who serve the community in other ways during the permitted hours. In my part of the world, at least, these young persons deliver morning rolls. Their work is part-time, but they receive weekly earnings. Is it the intention to aggregate that form of earnings in applying the scale? The right hon. Gentleman must give thought to that question.
1291 There is the whole question of seasonal employment. I do not know what happens in the south, but in the north we make a special appeal, through the schools, for young people of the approved age to assist in potato harvesting. Without their assistance it would be extraordinarily difficult to bring in the potato harvest. For their work these young people receive a certain amount of money, and I should like to know whether that element would be aggregated. If so, in many cases—especially in the case of those eligible for F.I.S.—it would be a decided disincentive for these young people to give such a service. It is not easy work; in fact, it is a back-breaking job. If the Bill is to operate properly the Minister must come clean and tell us whether such earnings will be aggregated.
Other activities that I want to mention include berry picking. That is a seasonal operation which attracts young people, including those of the permitted school age. In that case, too, young people are unlikely to take part in such activities if the result is a reduction of their entitlement to F.I.S.
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman and his Department must have given some thought to these matters. I should like an explanation from the right hon. Gentleman so that we know where he stands on them. It would appear obvious to all that to take account of this type of income and not to disregard it would be not only mean but miserable. I hope that when the right hon. Gentleman explains the real intention of this part of the Bill he will answer the questions that I have raised. It is extremely difficult to interpret some aspects of the Bill, and the one with which I am now dealing is one with which I have found myself at cross purposes. I am completely unclear about the intention of these provisions.
If income of this nature is not to be disregarded I do not see how anybody can support this legislation. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will therefore have regard to my arguments and will study closely the implications of what I have said. I hope that when he replies he will be able to tell the Committee whether my fears are well-grounded.
§ Mr. Hugh D. Brown
I do not want to detain the right hon. Gentleman from making what will obviously be a very sympathetic reply. He has not had much opportunity to do so until now. I want to add briefly to the categories of case that my hon. Friend has outlined—the case of young people who may still be at school, receiving full-time education, but who work on Saturdays. Sometimes the contribution made by such young people is not significant in terms of the total income of the family; the work is done to enable the young persons to participate in extra-school activity, or to have a holiday, or to do something that is extremely desirable. Taking up part-time work is the only way in which such young people, if they are members of a low-wage-earning family, can benefit in this way.
I am sure that the Minister is bursting to reassure the Committee on the matter. I hope that at the same time he will be able to give us some idea whether he will exclude income of the kind to which I am referring, and, if so, what income he will include.
§ Sir K. Joseph
I am grateful to hon. Members opposite for sympathising with my desire to call off the bombardment, if I can. The Government have no intention whatsoever of using regulations to bring into account any of the sorts of income or earnings of children, to which hon. Members have referred. The only reason for keeping the power to make regulations is to cover the situation if we find that there is abuse. A situation might arise in which parents deliberately arranged that some of the income due to them was put into the name of one of their children. If that happened we should have to take it seriously, because it would be inequitable as between one household that did not do it and another that did.
It is simply in order to protect the public purse against abuse of that or a similar sort that I wish to keep this regulating power in the Bill. I hope that that will give some satisfaction to hon. Members.
§ Mr. McNamara
I appreciate the sympathy with which the right hon. Gentleman has met us on this point. Nevertheless, there are two points which 1293 do not arise under the category of case that has been mentioned. The first concerns boarding-out allowances for foster children. In certain cases the allowance that comes in in respect of foster children could take the family income beyond the level of F.I.S. As that money is paid for the upkeep of a child, would it be regarded as income for the child or income for the foster parents, which might therefore take them out of F.I.S.?
My other point concerns money paid into a household by way of maintenance allowance to children whose parents have been divorced or have separated and are living in different households. The money is paid for the maintenance of the children, but there may be other children in the household and the money coming in may take the family beyond the limit. I agree that it can be argued that in these cases the money is paid to the parent, but it is paid specifically for the maintenance of children. Therefore, it takes them out of the F.I.S. limit. With regard to the limitation that we have already laid down for six children, these could be important points.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Meacher
May I revert to the last remark of the Secretary of State, when he mentioned possible abuse? It is significant that he used the word "abuse" to describe a situation in which income coming to the parent was deliberately put into the account of the child.
§ Sir K. Joseph
No, where money earned by the parent was treated as earned by the child. We are not talking of a donation, if that is the right word, from a parent to a child. It is where a stream of income earned by the parent is put into the child's name, purely because the child's income is disregarded.
§ Mr. Meacher
Is that entirely compatible with the intention as revealed in an answer I had yesterday, to do away with the parent-child aggregation whereby money is quite deliberately fed to the child in order to escape a much higher rate of income tax, either for the grandparent or the parent, which is used particularly by rich parents to secure a taxpayer-granted education for their child at a public school?
§ Mr. Barnett
I found the right hon. Gentleman's reply far from satisfactory. 1294 He did not reply at all to the points of my hon. Friends. He just said that he accepted all they said but would not intend to use the regulations to do what they had in mind. Then, with the whole paraphernalia of the Government at his disposal, the only example of abuse that he could give as his reason for refusing the Amendment was one whereby parents would allow some of their income to be treated as the income of their child.
This tells us a great deal about the right hon. Gentleman's thinking. If he imagines that this type of person has the sort of income which he can somehow or other divert and call his child's, I am afraid that he is still thinking of the surtax payer to whom my hon. Friend referred. It is surprising that the only abuse that he could unearth was this one. If he has more, I should be pleased to hear them. But if this is the only example, if he accepted the Amendment and there were then many cases in which this abuse applied, it would be simple for him to come to the House and ask for regulations. Without that sort of evidence, he has not satisfield the Committee, and I would certainly press my hon. and right hon. Friends to vote for the Amendment.
§ Sir K. Joseph
The hon. Member is determined to have a battle here, but it was he, the hon. Member for Heywood and Royton (Mr. Barnett), who instanced a situation in which the child might have some investment income. I never conceived of such a possibility for an F.I.S. family. I am postulating a situation in which a parent does an item of work and says, "Make the pay ment to my child for the work." That could conceivably happen. If it happened systematically, we should have to take it into account. That is the sort of possibility that I have in mind in retaining the regulating power.
§ Mr. J. R. Kinsey (Birmingham, Perry Barr)
What would be the position in the case which frequently happens—that of a child star or model paying his mother as a secretary?
§ Sir K. Joseph
Then we should be outside the FIS galaxy; that is all I can say.
If the hon. Member for Heywood and Royton and his hon. Friends wish to have a battle—fine, but not because we on this side believe that F.I.S. families 1295 will have large dividend income to divert to any member of the family they wish.
§ Mr. Barnett
I was only saying that we will bear the right hon. Gentleman's argument in mind when we come to consider aggregation for surtax purposes which the Chancellor suggests he will abolish.
§ Meanwhile, I will certainly ask my right hon. and hon. Friends to press this to a Division.
§ Question put, That the Amendment be made:—
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 139. Noes 183.1297
|Division No. 28.||AYES||[6.35 p.m.|
|Albu, Austen||Griffiths, Will (Exchange)||O'Malley, Brian|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Oram, Bert|
|Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis)||Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)||Orbach, Maurice|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Hamling, William||Oswald, Thomas|
|Ashton, Joe||Hannan, William (G'gow, Maryhill)||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred|
|Atkinson, Norman||Hardy, Peter||Pentland, Norman|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Harper, Joseph||Perry, Ernest G.|
|Barnett, Joel||Harrison, Walter (Wakefleld)||Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.|
|Beaney, Alan||Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis||Prescott, John|
|Bennett, James (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Heffer, Eric S.||Probert, Arthur|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Horam, John||Rankin, John|
|Boardman, H. (Leigh)||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Reed, D. (Sedgefield)|
|Booth, Albert||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Rhodes, Geoffrey|
|Bradley, Tom||Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Broughton, Sir Alfred||Hughes, Dr. Mark (Durham)||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Buchan, Norman||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Roderick, Caerwyn E. (Br'c'n & R'dnor)|
|Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Roper, John|
|Carmichael, Neil||Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)||Rose, Paul|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles)||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)|
|Clark, David (Colne Valley)||Jones, Barry (Flint, East)||Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)|
|Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.)||Kaufman, Gerald||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Cohen, Stanley||Kerr, Russell||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Concannon, J. D.||Lambie, David||Sillars, James|
|Conlan, Bernard||Lamond, James||Skinner Dennis|
|Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, Central)||Lawson, George||Small, William|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Leadbitter, Ted||Smith, John (Lanarkshire, North)|
|Cunningham, G. (Islington, S. W.)||Lestor, Miss Joan||Spearing, Nigel|
|Cunningham, Dr. J. A. (Whitehaven)||Lever, Rt. Hn. Harold||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham N.)||Stoddart, David (Swindon)|
|Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund||Lomas, Kenneth||Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley|
|Dempsey, James||Lyon, Alexander W. (York)||Taverne, Dick|
|Doig, Peter||McBride, Neil||Tomney, Frank|
|Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.)||McCann, John||Tuck, Raphael|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||McCartney, Hugh||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Dunnett, Jack||McElhone, Frank||Wallace, George|
|Eadie, Alex||Mackenzie, Gregor||Wellbeloved, James|
|Edwards, William (Merioneth)||Mackie, John||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|English, Michael||Mackintosh, John P.||White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)|
|Faulds, Andrew||McManus, Frank||Whitehead, Philip|
|Fisher, Mrs. Doris (B'ham, Ladywood)||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||McNamara, J. Kevin||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Foley, Maurice||MacPherson, Malcolm||Wilson, William (Coventry)|
|Foot, Michael||Marks, Kenneth||Woof, Robert|
|Freeson, Reginald||Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy|
|Galpern, Sir Myer||Meacher, Michael||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Gourlay, Harry||Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert||Mr. Alan Fitch and|
|Grant, George (Morpeth)||Morris, Alfred (Wythtnshawe)||Mr. John Golding.|
|Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)||Murray, Ronald King|
|Adley, Robert||Bullus, Sir Eric||Crowder, F. P.|
|Astor, John||Burden, F. A.||Dalkeith, Earl of|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Campbell, Rt. Hn. G. (Moray & Nairn)||d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry|
|Awdry, Daniel||Chichester-Clark, R.||d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Maj.-Gen. Jack|
|Baker, W. H. K. (Banff)||Churchill, W. S.||Dean, Paul|
|Batsford, Brian||Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F.|
|Benyon, W.||Clegg, Walter||Dixon, Piers|
|Biffen, John||Cockeram, Eric||Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Cooke, Robert||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)|
|Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S. W.)||Coombs, Derek||Eyre, Reginald|
|Boscawen, R. T.||Cooper, A. E.||Farr, John|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Cordle, John||Fell, Anthony|
|Braine, Bernard||Cormack, Patrick||Fenner, Mrs. Peggy|
|Brewis, John||Costain, A. P.||Fidler, Michael|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Critchley, Julian||Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead)|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N & M)||Crouch, David||Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton)|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Kinsey, J. R.||Redmond, Robert|
|Fortescue, Tim||Knight, Mrs. Jill||Reed, Laurence (Bolton, East)|
|Foster, Sir John||Knox, David||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David|
|Fowler, Norman||Lam, David||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas|
|Fry, Peter||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Galbraith, Hn. T. G.||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, North)|
|Gardner, Edward||Le Marchant, Spencer||Rost, Peter|
|Gibson-Watt, David||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'n C'dfield)||Scott, Nicholas|
|Glyn, Dr. Alan||Loveridge, John||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)|
|Gorst, John||MacArthur, Ian||Shetton, William (Clapham)|
|Gower, Raymond||McCrindle, R. A.||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Gray, Hamish||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Soref, Harold|
|Green, Alan||McMaster, Stanley||Speed, Keith|
|Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)||Spence, John|
|Gummer, Selwyn||McNair-Wilson, Michael||Sproat, Iain|
|Gurden, Harold||Madel, David||Stainton, Keith|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Marten, Neil||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Mawby, Ray||Stodart, Anhony (Edinburgh, W.)|
|Hannam, John (Exeter)||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.|
|Haselhurst, Alan||Meyer, Sir Anthony||Stuttaford, Dr. Tom|
|Hastings, Stephen||Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Sutcliffe, John|
|Havers, Michael||Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)||Tapsell, Peter|
|Hawkins, Paul||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Hayhoe, Barney||Moate, Roger||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Hicks, Robert||Molyneaux, James||Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N. W.)|
|Hill, James (Southampton, Test)||Money, Ernie||Tebbit, Norman|
|Holland, Philip||Monks, Mrs. Connie||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Holt, Miss Mary||Mornro, Hector||Tugendhat, Christopher|
|Hordern, Peter||Montgomery, Fergus||Turton, Rt Hn. R. H.|
|Hornby, Richard||More, Jasper||Waddington, David|
|Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.||Walder, David (Clitheroe)|
|Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame Patricia||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, North)||Mudd, David||Warren, Kenneth|
|Hutchison, Michael Clark||Neave, Airey||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Iremonger, T. L.||Nicholls, Sir Harmar||White, Roger (Gravesend)|
|Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William|
|Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Normanton, Tom||Wilkinson, John|
|Jessel, Toby||Onslow, Cranley||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Jopling, Michael||Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith||Owen, Idris (Stockport, North)||Wylie, Rt. Hn. N. R.|
|Kaberry, Sir Donald||Page, Graham (Crosby)||Younger, Hn. George|
|Kerby, Capt. Henry||Percival, Ian|
|Kershaw, Anthony||Pike, Miss Mervyn||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Kilfedder, James||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch||Mr. Victor Goodhew and|
|King, Evelyn (Dorset, South)||Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis||Mr. Hugh Rossi.|
|King, Tom (Bridgwater)||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James|
§ Mr. Taverne
I beg to move Amendment No. 25, in page 2, line 14, at end insert:'or other member of the said family under the age of eighteen'.Before we come to the batch of big Amendments, as it were, this is one on which I intend to speak briefly. It is of a somewhat exploratory nature. The purpose of the Amendment in the first place was to cover the position of those in full-time education. From the answer which the right hon. Gentleman gave to a question from his hon. Friend the Member for Rochester and Chatham (Mrs. Fenner) on Friday, I gather that this will be covered. I should like reassurance on that.
The other problem with which the Amendment is concerned is one which the Supplementary Benefits Commission has already come across. It is the problem that by taking into account the earnings of boys and girls who have just left school 1298 there are cases in which the effect of it is to drive the boys and girls in question away from home. They go and live with their grandmother, or somewhere else. To drive a family apart at a time when the children still need the care of the parents is not the result which we wish to achieve.
I realise that if there is a total disregard of earnings, however high, this might raise difficulties within the scheme as a whole. Therefore, this Amendment should be read together with Amendment No. 30, which mentions a figure of £2. This is a serious problem. The F.I.S. scheme will make it worse. I should appreciate the right hon. Gentleman's comments on the particular problem with which the Amendment is concerned and also reassurance on the first point.
§ Sir K. Joseph
On the first point, I can give the Committee the assurance required that full-time education up to the ending of the secondary school leaving age will be covered. That is to say, the 1299 adolescent remains a child for the purposes of F.I.S.
I am not quite sure that I have fully grasped the implications of the second point put. I shall have to study it and give an answer to a written Question, if I may, because I cannot give a categorical assurance from the Box now.
§ Mr. Taverne
I am not sure that a Written Answer is a suitable way in which to give an answer. I wonder if, in some way, the right hon. Gentleman could give some sort of answer at Report.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Mr. O'Malley
I beg to move Amendment No. 26, in page 2, line 16, after 'shall', insert:'subject to the following provisions of this section'.
The Temporary Chairman
With this we are to take the following Amendments: Amendment No. 27, in page 2, line 17, leave out from 'manner' to end of line 26 and add:'as is now used by the Inland Revenue'.Amendment No. 28, in line 23, leave out paragraph (c).
Amendment No. 29, in line 26, at end add:(3) For the purposes of this Act money paid by a widower to a person for caring for his children shall be disregarded in calculating his gross income.Amendment No. 30, in line 26, at end add:(3) In the calculation of gross income there shall be disregarded to the extent of the first £2 thereof any earnings (other than such as are excluded by virtue of sub-section 1 of this section) of any member of the said family who is not engaged in full-time remunerative work.Amendment No. 31, in line 26, at end add:(3) In the calculation of gross income there shall be disregarded any sum paid or payable to any member of the said family by way of attendance allowance under section 4 of the National Insurance (Old Persons' and Widows' Pensions and Attendance Allowance) Act 1970.Amendment No. 32, in line 26, at end add:(3) In the calculation of gross income there shall be disregarded a sum equivalent to 1300 such sum (not exceeding £5 per week or such higher sum as may from time to time be provided by Regulations) as is being paid out of the said gross income to any person not being a member of the said family for services which relate to the care of the said household or of any member of the said family requiring such care.Amendment No. 33, in line 26, at end add:( ) In the calculation of gross income there shall be disregarded any sum paid or payable to any member of such family by way of pension in respect of war service.Amendment No. 34, in line 26, at end add:( ) In the calculation of gross income there shall be disregarded any sum paid or payable to any member of the said family by way of family allowance in respect of any child or children who is a member of the said family.Amendment No. 35, in line 26, at end add:( ) In the calculation of gross income there shall be disregarded any sum paid or payable to any member of the said family by way of National Insurance benefits in respect of sickness or disability or industrial injury.And Amendment No. 36, in line 26, at end add:( ) In the calculation of gross income there shall be disregarded any sum paid or payable to any member of the said family by virtue of section 1 of the National Insurance (Old Persons' and Widows' Pensions and Attendance Allowance) Act 1970.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Mr. O'Malley
For the convenience of the Committee, we shall make speedier progress if I make some general remarks on the subject of disregards, which are the subject of virtually every Amendment we are discussing. Perhaps later in the debate some of my hon. Friends, both from the Front Benches and the back benches, will seek to catch your eye, Mr. Godman Irvine, to deal with particular Amendments in this group.
First, the Bill provides for some disregards. In Clause 4(2)(b), there is provision as follows:for disregarding the whole or part of the income from any source specified in the regulations.Since that time, however, we have had further guidance on the subject. On Second Reading, the Under-Secretary was speaking about war pensions and war pension disregards, but he ranged wider than that when he said in reply to a query from the right hon. Member for 1301 Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter):As the responsible Minister, I am sorry to tell my right hon. Friend, but I hope that he will appreciate, that if we are to keep the scheme simple, as we must, it is very difficult to introduce any form of disregard."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th November, 1970; Vol. 806, c. 334.]we were given further advice in reply to a Written Question on 13th November when the Secretary of State said:Initially it is not proposed to exercise the powers conferred under Clause 4(2)(b) (disregarding the whole or part of the income from any source specified in the regulations) or (c) (treating capital resources and any income not consisting of money as equivalent to gross income of a specified amount)."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th November, 1970; Vol. 806, c. 285.]On the one hand the Under-Secretary saw no possibility of the introduction of disregards, because he wanted the scheme to be kept simple, and, on the other, we are told that it is not proposed initially to exercise the powers under paragraph (b). Apparently we are now in the situation in which there are to be no disregards whatever in the administration of the scheme.
The purpose of Amendment No. 28 is to leave out the paragraph which deals with capital resources. It was intended as a probing Amendment because we wished to inquire how capital was to be treated. We now understand that capital will not be treated at all. I appreciate that the vast majority, and perhaps all, of those concerned will not have capital resources, but legislation must take account of every conceivable kind of situation and I suppose that for that reason capital was included in the draft of Clause 4. Nevertheless, we should be glad if the right hon. Gentleman would give us some information, both about the short-term treatment of capital that is, before paragraph (c) is brought into operation, and the longer-term treatment of capital once it is brought into operation.
I wish now to turn to the broad subject of disregards. The lowest paid, those who will receive the family income supplement, will sometimes receive an income below, even substantially below, the income which they would receive at supplementary benefit level. This has already been demonstrated. We are now to have a situation in which, because the recipient of supplementary benefit may have a dis- 1302 regarded income, the lowest paid in work will be treated more harshly under one State social security scheme than another individual is treated under another State social security scheme.
Nor is it only the lowest paid who are affected. Even those with incomes somewhat above the lowest paid, but affected by the scheme, will be treated more harshly than, for example, unemployed people on supplementary benefit. I said last night that it is no answer to say that we must keep the scheme simple. It does not seem sensible to say that we know that it is unfair and unjust between one section and another and completely inequitable, but that we have the defence that we want to keep it simple. That is where the Government are falling down. The scheme is not simple, and it would be a much better scheme if the admittedly increased complexity of the assessment of disregards were added.
Anyone who has heard the debates of today and yesterday would find it difficult to say that the scheme was simple. We all admire the capacity of the Secretary of State and it may be a test of the simplicity of the scheme to invite him to say in not more than 50 words how he will put the proposition arising out of Clauses 1, 2 and 3 to the general public. That would be an interesting demonstration of the simplicity of the scheme.
Amendment No. 29 deals with the widower with a number of children who has to pay someone to look after the children while he goes out to work. The Committee will agree that it is better that a man in this kind of situation, without the help which some get from grandmothers and other relatives, should be able to follow his employment and earn his livelihood rather than stay at home himself to look after his children, as sometimes, if rarely, occurs under the supplementary benefit scheme.
Amendment No. 30 is intended to provide the same conditions for the wife of a lowly paid man receiving F.I.S. as are permitted to the wife of a recipient of supplementary benefit. Under the supplementary benefit regulations, a wife may work part time and the first £2 of income are disregarded. Without such a disregard, there would be a strong disincentive against the wife going to work to improve the conditions of the family, 1303 albeit marginally. The woman who wants to buy some Christmas presents for the kids is in precisely the kind of situation we have in mind. The supplementary benefits scheme recognises the need for mitigation by its disregards and there seems to be a substantial case for a similar disregard for the working "mum" in these circumstances.
It is not only the working mother who is affected. What about the young people living in the house and just over 16, the girl who is an apprentice hairdresser, for instance? I have always thought that the wages paid to some of these young girls as apprentice hairdressers were nothing short of scandalous. The supplementary benefit scheme disregards 20s. of this income. We do not want these young people to be in penury and they ought to be allowed at least a limited amount of the enjoyment and entertainment that young people of that age ought to have in the 1970s.
We are on strong ground with Amendment No. 31 which deals with attendance allowances. The Under-Secretary and I took part in long debates about attendance allowances. We were all at one about how desirable it was that they should be completely disregarded in calculating supplementary benefit. We were pleased to have broken new ground and there was no one who took a contrary view. We should feel justified in an angry approach if the Government decided not to do something about this group of people.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Amendment No. 34 deals with the family allowance. In this connection, will the right hon. Gentleman answer one question? If family allowances are increased, and the terms of the Bill are not changed at the same time, it could happen that a family would receive increased family allowances at some stage in the future but they would not gain from the increase because their family income supplement would be reduced. What has he in mind there?
§ Amendment No. 35 deals with national insurance benefits in respect of sickness, disability or industrial injury. Again, disability pensions are disregarded for supplementary benefit purposes to the extent of £2. As regards sickness benefits, 1304 will the right hon. Gentleman explain how the system will work? For example, if someone at work is assessed as entitled to family income supplement for a period of 26 weeks, and during that period he falls sick and starts receiving sickness benefit, how will the two knit together, and how will the scheme be administered?
§ Amendment No. 36 deals with old people in households, with particular reference to those who benefited under the National Insurance (Old Persons' and Widows' Pensions and Attendance Allowance) Act, 1970.
Finally—I deliberately leave it to the last—the question of war pensions. It has always been accepted in this country, and I hope that it will continue to be, that those who receive pensions in respect of injuries, wounds or disabilities sustained in time of war are in a special position. I am sure that this is accepted across the Floor and throughout the country. As recently as 23rd July this year, the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, said in the other place:
Her Majesty's Government acknowledge the unique nature of the war pensions and allowances provided for those whose disablement or widowhood results from service in the Armed Forces, reaffirm their intention to preserve the tradition of giving special treatment to war pensioners and their widows, and undertake to review war pensions and allowances at two-yearly intervals …".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 23rd July, 1970; Vol. 311, c. 1105–6.]
§ The important part of that passage is the reaffirmation that we give war pensioners a very special position. For example, the first £2 of such pensions is disregarded for supplementary benefit purposes, whereas—a recent example about which controversy flared was the miner's pension—only 20s. of other pension or superannuation is disregarded.
§ The sort of payment one has in mind included within the 539,000 pensions in payment at the end of 1969 is the constant attendance allowance. Up to £3 6s. for other ranks may be in payment even if the individual concerned has some employment. There are those who receive some kind of income because of the lowered standard of their occupation on account of a disability arising from war injuries. There are the war widows and children orphaned as a result of one or both parents being killed during war.1305
§ I cannot believe that the Government will complete the Committee stage of the Bill without providing for at least some disregard—we urge total disregard—for these people.
§ It is worth considering the sort of disregards which are allowed not just for supplementary benefit purposes but for other means-tested benefits. Means-tested benefits generally have disregards of one kind or another. In the assessment of whether a person is entitled to remission of prescription charges, the first £2 of a disability pension is, I understand, disregarded. In the assessment of school maintenance grant, there are allowances for dependent relatives, a housekeeper or help when, for example, the mother is incapacitated. When a person is applying for free school dinners, there are disregards in respect of disability pensions, the first £1 of national insurance industrial injury benefit, and family allowances. There are allowances made in the calculation of rent rebates, too.
§ It seems to us extraordinary that the Government should introduce a new scheme in an attempt to ameliorate family poverty yet not provide for these people who are at work at least similar advantages to those given to people not at work. Their scheme will stand on its own as virtually the only means-tested scheme in the country designed to ameliorate poverty which allows for no disregards whatever.
§ A case can be made for all the Amendments, and I am sure that hon. Members on both sides will wish to make a case for one or other of them. However, after seeing the performance in Committee over the past two days, when reasonable Amendments modest in their financial implications have been rejected, we now envisage—I should not have done so two days ago—that the Government may reject these Amendments. Nevertheless, I cannot believe that even a Conservative Government could resist us on the Amendment dealing with war pensions.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I hope that my right hon. Friend will take the opportunity given by this group of Amendments to tell the Committee about his attitude to the general question of disregards. At present, the position is far from clear. There is a passage in the speech of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State at the end of the 1306 Second Reading debate—it has already been quoted by the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. O'Malley)—which appears to suggest that it is at least highly improbable that any disregard will be allowed:… if we are to keep the scheme simple, as we must, it is very difficult to introduce any form of disregard."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th November, 1970; Vol. 806, c. 334.]On the other hand, the second half of Clause 4 confers on the Government wide powers by regulation in the matter of disregards. I am certain that so consistent a Parliamentarian as my right hon. Friend would not be seeking powers for something which he had not the faintest intention to do. If he asks for these powers, he must have in mind at least the possibility that in certain respects a disregard will be allowed.
I have great sympathy with the point which my hon. Friend put in winding up on Second Reading about the administrative problems once one launches oneself into the disregards. There are real problems there, and I can well understand his desire to keep the scheme simple. But it is not intended to bring the scheme into operation till next August. The resources and high administrative capacity within the Department could, I am certain, if my right hon. Friend wanted it, handle the administrative problems of some disregards in the fairly long period between tonight and August next year. Therefore, I hope that my right hon. Friend will make it clear that in taking power to introduce disregards he has it in mind to use them, at any rate in certain cases.
I come to a point which I raised on Second Reading, to which the hon. Member for Rotherham has just referred, and which produced the answer of my right hon. Friend which has been quoted. I refer to the question of war pensions. The hon. Member for Rotherham is quite right. Under Governments of all parties war pensions have been treated as a distinct and different provision from anything else in our social security system. This derives to some extent from the fact that all Governments have committed themselves to the general proposition of priority for war pensioners, and this priority has been illustrated in many ways—the slightly higher rates of benefit compared with industrial injuries benefit, the priority provision of transport, and so on.
1307 There is one supporting factor which the hon. Gentleman did not mention but which I think is very significant. A war pension, compensation for disability, is completely disregarded for income tax purposes. That is not the case with the war widow. But it has always been the fact—and I believe that it goes back to the instruments after the First World War—that a war pension, together with the allowances going to the pensioner, which are sometimes of considerable value, is completely disregarded for Inland Revenue purposes and is not treated as income.
That indicates that such payments are in a very special category. I hope that my right hon. Friend appreciates the reason for it. The concept is that in giving priority to people injured in the service of their country the compensation which they receive for their injuries should be treated as simply putting them back, as far as is possible—and, of course, it is not completely possible—in the position of an uninjured person. This is not income; it is simply to offset the handicap of the disability. What they earn above that should be subjected to tax, but they should be regarded as starting the race rather further back, and this is required to cancel out the handicap. That is the reasoning which has lain behind what is, from the Inland Revenue point of view, a rare exception.
It is unhappily the fact that, although some of us urged it very strongly on the late Government and were turned down, war pensions are not disregarded for the purposes of rate rebates under the relevant legislation. But it is my clear recollection that the party to which my right hon. Friend and I belong is pledged to put that right, and I very much hope that the Government will do so before long. A very clear commitment was made. That is indicative of the special position of war pensioners. There is also the very good point of the hon. Member for Rotherham that, from the point of view of supplementary benefit, war pensions are treated differently and given a higher disregard than other forms of income.
I hope that, when my right hon. Friend tells us how he proposes to exercise the powers, war pensions will be very much 1308 in his mind and perhaps will be the first of the benefits which he should consider.
§ Mr. O'Malley
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman about the importance of war pensioners. A second vital category is made up of people who will be receiving the attendance allowance.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
My right hon. Friend will recollect that there is one connection between the attendance allowance provision and the provision made for war pensions. When my right hon. Friend announced the very welcome attendance allowance in his admirable piece of legislation last summer, there was some doubt about whether it would be subjected to tax. On reflection, the Government decided that it should be exempted from tax. I think that it was the Under-Secretary of State who made that very welcome announcement. But on parity of reasoning, the considerations which led him, on reflection, to provide that the constant attendance allowance should not be taxable lead irresistibly to the conclusion that there should be a disregard for the purpose of family income supplement.
I wish to raise only one other point. It was put to me by one of the outside organisations which concern themselves with this matter. It is slightly complicated, for which I apologise. What will be the position if in a family in respect of which application is made for family income supplement there is a foster child with a payment made for the foster child in excess of £2 a week? This is a situation which arises in fact; it is not an academic point.
As I understand the Bill—and I hope that this will be confirmed—the foster child is brought into the calculations, being a child within the definition of Clause 1(1)(c). But suppose that the allowance made to the family for the foster child is, as it may well be and very often is, about £3 or £4. Will the receipt of any excess of £2 operate to diminish the amount of family income supplement or deprive the family of it? If that were so, it would be wrong. When an allowance is made for a foster child, it is made on a sober calculation of what it will cost properly to look after the child. It would be wrong if part of the money 1309 coming from public sources for that purpose were to operate to diminish below what it would otherwise be the total income of the family.
I do not know whether my right hon. Friend has considered that point. It was not a point which occurred to me. It was put to me by an authoritative outside commentator. I undertook to put it to my right hon. Friend, and I seize this opportunity of doing so.
§ Mr. McNamara
I should like to follow up the point made by the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter). I tried to put it, although not as ably and eloquently as the right hon. Gentleman, when we were discussing the last Amendment. I support all that the right hon. Gentleman said, and, therefore, I do not wish to pursue the point unduly, but it is of considerable seriousness and could detrimentally affect a lot of children and families and could, to a limited extent, place inhibitions on people who otherwise might be more than willing to take children into their care and give them a normal family life if they felt that their own children would dramatically suffer financially rather than enrich the life of the foster child. I am not suggesting that people do this for profit; I do not think that people go in for the job of foster parents for profit. But their income and their children could be detrimentally affected if the point of the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames is not borne in mind by the Secretary of State as a disregard.
I should like to draw the Secretary of State's attention to the question of maintenance allowances for children in a family. It depends whether we look upon them as money paid as income for the children or as money going to the parents. If they are regarded as money going to the parents, will they be counted as part of the income going into the household as a whole?
§ Sir K. Joseph
I hope to have an opportunity to comment on the powerful point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter), but the Committee should know that, as at present advised, both streams of income—the money received as foster parents and the main- 1310 tenance payment—are family income for the purposes of the Bill.
§ Mr. McNamara
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. That seems to me to be most regrettable. It means that where a family, perhaps a one-parent family, would otherwise benefit by the scheme, it would not do so if maintenance were coming in for, possibly, a later union or when people were living together and bringing two families together. That is simply one aspect of the maintenance matter.
I want to look at another aspect which could, perhaps, be more important. I have talked about maintenance coming in, but what about maintenance going out? I have in mind a situation in which a person is separated from his wife and child and moves into another household, creating, for the purpose of the Bill, a fresh household. Under the terms of the separation, the magistrates may have laid upon that person powerful commitments to his former union and children. He attempts to meet those commitments and a great deal of money goes out from his income.
I am quoting an actual case and I therefore know the situation. That man may go into another household in which there is a woman and a number of children, who would benefit by way of family income supplement, but as he is living with her, they would not benefit by way of the family income supplement if his income, inclusive of the maintenance which he pays out to his former wife or cohabitee, is taken into account.
On the other hand, the money which the woman from whom he is separated and her children are getting for maintenance has already been disregarded for her application for social security benefits. As the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames has just said, that sum of money would, at present, be included as income for the household.
In that complicated and difficult situation which those people have got themselves into—unfortunately, lots of people get themselves into difficult and complicated situations, as we all know from our weekly "surgeries"—family income supplement could be of considerable value. Otherwise, a situation might arise in which subterfuges are adopted The man might be only a lodger. He might simply pay the woman a certain 1311 amount of money and they do not live together; they are not a household. This might give rise to all sorts of dishonesty, which is bad for the State, bad for the situation generally and bad for the children in that kind of atmosphere. I suggest that maintenance which goes to another family unit should be disregarded.
It could be argued that people should not get themselves into that tangle and mess; but they do. Unless we try to cater for the situation, children so placed will suffer for the sins, the peccadilloes or the misfortunes of their parents. We want to avoid that kind of situation.
I am sorry to have taken so much time in putting the point. It is complicated, as the Secretary of State will admit. This is, however, a point of substance. The money paid out has once been disregarded for the person who is separated. Why cannot it be disregarded for the purposes of the Bill?
I should like to underline a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. O'Malley) in moving his Amendment—that is, the position of the widower who pays money either for people to look after his children in the home or for his children to go to a day nursery or to one of the many institutions which have grown up to help people in this situation to keep a family unit going when there is no mother or woman present in the house. If, under the scheme, we create a situation in which we help the fatherless family, on the other side of the coin we should also have a disregard to help the motherless family. This is important.
§ Dame Irene Ward (Tynemouth)
The various points which have been brought forward, particularly on the present series of Amendments, confirm how wise it is of my right hon. Friend to introduce in the first case a simple scheme and to leave all the complicated issues, which are obvious from the speeches which have been made from both sides, until the regulations are laid. I for one want to study in depth all the various angles which have been put forward this afternoon by so many hon. Members.
In a scheme of this kind, which touches so many aspects of social life, it is very wise to allow a period in which all of us who have a deep interest in these 1312 matters can collect our evidence and look at the cases which are brought forward, because quite a number of considerations have been mentioned in this debate. We all need time, not only to look at the points which have been put forward, but, jumping from those points, there are many other circumstances which may crop up and other disregards which ought to have been put in the Bill but which might be left out, because this is a very complicated issue throughout the country. Therefore, my right hon. Friend is very wise to say that the introduction of the scheme will be simple and we shall then have an opportunity on the regulations to deal with all the important points which have been brought forward.
I support the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) about the foster child. Although there are a lot of things that I expect to see in the regulations, I give my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State full warning that, although I support him tonight, I shall expect him to consider in depth all the points of view which are put forward. Even now, there are some of his observations with which I do not agree. I am simply letting him know here and now, because I believe in going into battle as early as possible.
I have known for many years that my right hon. Friend has a very deep interest in all these matters. It is up to those of us in the House of Commons, on both sides, who have knowledge of the detail about how all these matters are dealt with to give him the facts. He certainly is a man who will alter his mind when he thinks it right to do so, and it is up to us to make him alter his mind. That is as I see it.
I am interested in the variety of problems such as were related by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) concerning people who get themselves into muddles. I wish to quote a case which, I know, will be covered by the Bill but about which I felt unhappy at the time.
I remember a young apprentice on the Tyne whose girl friend was having a baby. The apprentice married her, which we would all think was quite the right line to take. Then, however, because he was earning an apprentice's wage, he could not get any consideration for the 1313 baby. Those who were concerned in social work on Tyneside pointed out to me in strong terms that the baby was almost at starvation point. All that was done for the child had to be done—and was done gladly—by the voluntary organisations. It was a really perfectly frightful situation to have arisen in our civilised society, that a young apprentice having very rightly married his girl friend should have been deprived, because he was earning, of provision under supplementary benefit for the baby.
From what I have learned in my "surgery" I can appreciate the very serious and widespread problems which arise, many of which have not been mentioned in the Committee, and I want to emphasise what my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames said about disregard of disability pensions and so on. Of course, everybody in the Committee ought to know that a tradition which has been accepted by all parties here over the years is never broken by the Government—certainly not by the Government of my party; nor, indeed, would it be broken by the Opposition. So I say to myself that if the disregards are not included in the Bill we are going to see them in the regulations. I certainly would not support the Bill if I thought we were not going to get the disregards in the regulations when they come. The fact that they are not provided in the Bill itself is an indication that we are going to be able to get all sorts of things included in the regulations which will make the Bill more human, more in line with what we want for people who have been living below the poverty line. I am quite certain this is in the mind of my right hon. Friend. So I hope that between now and the introduction of the regulations all of us who take such a deep interest in these matters will find many problems for my right hon. Friend to solve.
I do not mind in the least pouring problems on to the head of my right hon. Friend. The more I pour problems on to his head the better am I pleased, because I expect that he will solve them in the way the Commitee and I would like. Even though he may not be surprised at my saying so, he will have this opportunity. Knowing his character, and the work which he has done over many 1314 years, and the interest which he has shown in these matters, I am jolly certain that he will be very human and very humane—and the same applies to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary who has been a tower of strength. All I am saying is that I approve the way my right hon. Friend is handling the matter, but that I do, as I said, give him a warning that I have a lot of things which I want to see done; and also, that I can see some wonderful ways of dealing with the Treasury when the Finance Bill comes along. I think my right hon. Friend is absolutely right, and I say to him, do not get too busy saying—as he has when he has jumped up once or twice—things I do not approve of, because the time will come when we shall expect to have notice taken of what back benchers on both sides of the Committee have said, and on this issue they have very wide knowledge. So my right hon. Friend ought to bear in mind all the points which have been put by hon. Members, and he ought also to bear in mind that those cases vary from one part of the country to another. So I say to him, let him proceed as he wants to, but bear these things in mind.
I do not object to the Opposition making all the points which they have made, because they must be very sorry that they did not introduce this Bill. I am not sorry for them. I think we have been doing a very good job in bringing out this whole matter of family poverty, and I am sure that our measures will be a great success in helping them who require our help. So I shall support my right hon. Friend, but I shall do so hoping that when the regulations come they will deal with many of those defects which constitute injustices to people; because I do not think the House of Commons has removed nearly enough injustices in the 34 years I have been a Member of it. Here is a new opportunity. So good luck to my right hon. Friend. I am sure he is doing the right thing, but he should remember that many of us have a lot of things we want him to deal with by including them in the regulations.
§ Mr. Alfred Morris (Manchester, Wythenshawe)
I am most happy that my first brief speech from this Box should be on a matter of concern to the long-term sick and disabled and more 1315 especially to the families of the disabled.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. O'Malley) has emphasised, this is a very important group of Amendments. They deal with some of the most sensitive problems raised by the provisions of this Bill. I hope very much that the right hon. Gentleman will have taken very seriously the arguments which have been deployed from this side of the Committee and that he wil have received those arguments sympathetically.
I have a very personal interest in saving constant attendance allowance from the erosive effects of this Clause as it now stands. It may be recalled that as it was originally drafted my Private Member's Bill, now the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970, helped to inform the arrangements for constant attendance allowance as provided in the Superannuation Bill promoted by my right hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) in the late Parliament. It was emphasised in our debates on what is now the National Insurance (Old Persons' and Widows' Pensions and Constant Attendance Allowance) Act 1970, that constant attendance allowance is woefully inadequate. By definition of the term "constant attendance" an allowance of £4 must be considered as totally inadequate to meet the costs of those who care constantly for the very severely disabled. My right hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East proposed an invalidity pension which, with the constant attendance allowance, would have made the financial standing of disabled people and their relatives far stronger than it is today. Surely the right hon. Gentleman will agree that we ought not to be reducing the constant attendance allowance in consequence of any provision in this Bill?
Disablement is often another word for poverty. We sometimes forget that most people who are severely disabled are also extremely poor people. I would emphasise that if you want to make certain of a deprived childhood, find a disabled father. I know that the Child Poverty Action Group will agree with me that a great deal of the deep-seated poverty soiling the lives of many children 1316 in this country at the moment is caused by the very low living standards of most disabled people. Even if a disabled person is fortunate enough to be in employment, in most cases he is likely to be in menial and low-paid employment. There are many disabled people who can be very much affected by the provisions of this Bill.
I was refreshed by the speech of the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter). He always speaks with great candour, force and experience on these questions. The argument which he has put today is unquestionably the correct course for his right hon. Friend to follow. In his speech on the National Insurance (Old Persons' and Widows' Pensions and Attendance Allowance) Act, 1970, the right hon. Gentleman argued powerfully and with great sincerity that we should save the constant attendance allowance from the erosive effect of taxation. He was so persuasive that he carried the point. I hope that what he has said today and what has been said on this side of the House will convince the Secretary of State that the constant attendance allowance should be affected by F.I.S. nor F.I.S. by the constant attendance allowance.
I am extremely concerned to support the points that have been made on behalf of the war disabled. The right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames put forward an incontrovertible case, and I hope that the interests of the war disabled will be fully respected by the Secretary of State.
The propositions made by my hon. Friends will cost more money but, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr. Taverne) said, we had the impression that the Government were prepared to spend up to £30 million for the relief of poverty and, more especially, of child poverty. The Child Poverty Action Group certainly expected that amount of money to be available. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Lincoln was the Financial Secretary to the Treasury at an important stage in the passing of the recent legislation for the long-term sick and disabled and the Money Resolution for that Act of Parliament owes a great deal to his constancy and the sincerity of his efforts.
1317 I therefore press strongly Amendment 31 and the Amendments which seek to help the war disabled. I do so because otherwise disabled people will think that "F.I.S." is nothing more than a "Swizz".
Mr. Kenneth Clark (Rushcliffe)
I will briefly address the Committee on Amendment 31. I hope that my right hon. Friend will take the opportunity either by accepting the Amendment or, more probably, by telling us what will run through his mind when he is drawing up the regulations, to assure the Committee that receipt of a constant attendance allowance will not affect entitlement to F.I.S. As the Committee has already been addressed twice on this subject, I do not need to reiterate what has been said about the belief on both sides of the Committee that entitlement to a constant attendance allowance should in no way affect entitlement to any other benefit. F.I.S. clearly falls into that category in view of the special arrangements that have been made for the constant attendance allowance.
I hope to persuade my right hon. Friend that the administrative difficulties which face the other claims for disregards do not apply in the case of constant attendance allowance.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to say that the constant attendance allowance can be disregarded, as this benefit is not yet being paid. His Department is having to contend with the first administrative steps towards making the allowance payable and I understand that it will not become payable until April, 1972, whereas F.I.S. is expected to become payable in August of next year.
I am sure my right hon. Friend will be able to inform the Committee that it is not the intention that people who are expecting to receive a constant attendance allowance of £4 a week in April 1972 and who will also qualify for F.I.S. in August next year will find in April 1972 that the £4 a week Allowance will disentitle them to F.I.S. which they will by then have been receiving for about seven months.
I hope that the Secretary of State will give an assurance of this. This is the second of two important pieces of legislation which the Government have brought forward in this field. The families who will be benefited by both pieces 1318 of legislation will be those with a severely disabled member entitled to an attendance allowance and also having a low wage earner eligible for this benefit and they must be in a very small exceptionally needy category in our society. I hope that he will be able to assure the Committee that these two major steps will be complementary and that the first piece of legislation will in no way exclude entitlement to benefit under this Bill.
§ [Miss HARVIE ANDERSON in the Chair]
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Mr. John Golding (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
I was pleased to hear the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) appeal for disregards on the ground of logic and consistency. The hon. Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) appealed for humane treatment for the disabled and the poor sectors of our community. We were particularly pleased to see the hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Alfred Morris) take his rightful place at the Box to speak for the disabled. No man before reaching the Dispatch Box could have done as much for them as he did.
Logic, consistency, humanity and a passionate appeal are the arguments that have been used in support of this group of Amendments. I do not have the feeling that the Amendments will be taken into account when the regulations are introduced. I am more pessimistic. I want to argue for the Amendments in terms of public expenditure. It is utterly unreasonable not to accept the Amendments dealing with the constant attendance allowance and the allowance for a widower with children. An important argument in favour of the constant attendance allowance was that the demand on the State Health Service was less when families looked after a member who was chronically sick or disabled. It is better for the patient and also for the family, although in many cases it is more inconvenient for the family. The saving to the State is far in excess of the small constant attendance allowance.
If the Amendments are not accepted a bizarre situation will arise. Families will have a financial incentive to exclude the chronically sick or disabled person from their family and put that person 1319 into an institution. The Minister looks aghast; but people on this level of poverty must take into account every penny, and where there are differences between a man and wife as to whether an old person should be cared for at home this can certainly come into consideration. There should be no financial penalty on the family for caring for a chronically sick or disabled person at home. The Health Service cannot adequately provide for the geriatric patient or the young chronic sick. This argument applies equally to the widower who decides to keep his young family together. It is utterly absurd to provide in the Bill a financial disincentive to a person who wants to keep his family together.
If the pension of a war pensioner is not disregarded a great feeling of injustice will be created. We all know that rent rebates because they have disregarded the war pension have caused a feeling of injustice. The man who was injured in the war will be no better off after the means test is applied than the man who has not been injured in the war. Most people feel that the men who have been injured should be better off and that there should be an element of compensation. For these reasons I ask the Government to accept the Amendments.
§ Mr. Lewis Carter-Jones (Eccles)
When I hear the hon. Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) speak, I sometimes think that I should address her as "my hon. Friend". With some of her ideas she should be on this side of the House.
I think the right hon. Gentleman will be almost bound to accept Amendment No. 29 because it goes to the heart of the matter in terms of applying value analysis. If a widower can be encouraged to look after his children and not put them in a home, this will in the long run save money. It is morally right and would have the virtue of being economically sound.
Amendment No. 30 mentions the figure of £2. That magical figure is always cropping up in my constituency mail and in my work with disabled people. It is a measure of the despair and difficulty in which these people find themselves. They are frequently exploited. It is known that they have a maximum earnings ceiling and frequently they have to 1320 work very hard as out-workers—and this applies both to the disabled and to women working in their own homes. Therefore, this magical figure imposes a hardship and if the £2 is taken into account this hardship will be increased. Perhaps at some stage the right hon. Gentleman will consider raising the minimum earnings rule and will accept the terms of the Amendment.
I speak with some feeling on Amendment No. 31. My hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Alfred Morris) and I were grateful for the support of the right hon. Gentleman in the legislation mentioned in the Amendment, but its application from April, 1972, has caused anxiety. One of my constituents, a lady, has been affected by this matter, and the way things are going she will not have the benefit of the £4 constant attendance allowance if we have to wait another 18 months or so for implementation.
On the other hand, I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman because, although he has not conceded our point that there should be disabled members of the board, he has taken our advice and appointed Miss Mary Grieves to the board. Perhaps I am straying from the terms of the Amendment and I conclude by saying that I hope the Government will accept Amendment No. 31.
I also wish to commend Amendment No. 33 to the Committee. People drawing pensions as a result of war injuries or disability are often the sort of people who try to do work. I have had correspondence with the right hon. Gentleman's Department about one particular case. I feel that the general practice of disregarding pension in respect of war service will be another way of showing compassion. Therefore, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to accept all these Amendments, but particularly Nos. 29, 30, 31 and 33.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Sir K. Joseph
This has been a valuable debate. I should like to distribute prizes, as the Committee will remember Alice did after the tortoise race, to all the runners because so many participants in the discussion have put a powerful case. But I must put the situation to the Committee that the aim of the Bill is to help the poorest of the poor and to help them as quickly as we can, and we are up against some time problems.
1321 I ask the Committee to accept that at the first stage we shall not be able to deal with the exceptional cases which hon. Members have legitimately raised and also to keep to the date of 1st August for putting the supplement into payment. I shall not therefore be able to encourage hon. Members to think that the first batch of regulations will make the range of disregards that hon. Members feel will be justified. That is not to say that once we have the scheme in operation we shall not be able to introduce the more complex administrative arrangements involved in disregards.
I will not take the general philosophical point that disregards have no logical place in means-tested schemes because we all know that we do not strain logic to that extent. We are all aware that the supplementary benefits system embodies a number of disregards. It may be that at a later stage after this scheme is in operation the family incomes supplement scheme will have to have some disregards.
I say to my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) that there is no disregard the Government would wish to introduce in preference to or before a disregard for the war pensioner. But I ask the Committee to be sympathetic in the administrative problem that faces the Government. The Bill has to go through several more stages both here and in another place and once, as I hope will happen, it receives the Royal Assent there must then be a mass of preparatory work to get the benefit tout simple into payment.
I was challenged to devise a simple presentation of the theme of this Bill, and I designed a 38-word description which I will not quote to the Committee. But I can assure the Committee that the moment disregards are introduced there must be qualifying clauses in the description of the supplement in the manual of instructions, and then there will be a large administrative task in sorting out those who are not entitled.
I say to my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward), who told me that she had to leave these discussions and who offered me a sort of armed warning with guns loaded but not actually fired, that disregards as justified will be considered for the second stage 1322 if we feel that arguments by hon. Members are right.
I hope that the Committee will sympathise with my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames and other hon. Members who supported him in saying that the war pensioner has a unique position. Both parties have honoured that position in every single benefit except, as was pointed out, by the recent Government in its rate rebate scheme. I hope that at a later stage we shall be able to carry forward that treatment, though I cannot at this stage give an absolute commitment.
§ Mr. McNamara
The right hon. Gentleman spoke in terms of stage 1 and stage 2. Could he give some idea of the time scale when we might have, for example, a second batch of regulations dealing with disregards?
§ Sir K. Joseph
I would have thought not before a year after the supplement comes into operation. I do not want to give an exaggerated impression to the Committee, but I hope that it will be about then. We would then have enough experience and the machine would be operating smoothly enough to enable us to prepare to introduce the second stage.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
Perhaps my right hon. Friend will be able to help some of us who will have to come to a decision shortly. Will he say whether the fact that he has put a disregard provision in the Bill indicates that it is his present intention to have at some stage a system of disregards; and in the light of what he said about war pensions that they would be the first in that batch?
§ Sir K. Joseph
I know that my right hon. Friend is trying to help me as well as the Committee, but I am in this difficulty. I am being asked to look ahead to a time not too far away when earnings, prices, taxes and, therefore, the numbers involved in the poorest of the poor may have changed. I do not know whether the number will increase or reduce, but I have to consider the equity of the matter in distinguishing between a family whose income is above the prescribed amount because of an ingredient which is disregarded and is still helped by the supplement, and another family whose income solely from earnings is the same but which will not get a supplement. I ask my right hon. Friend to 1323 give the Government liberty to make an assessment about that matter in the light of the then volume of poverty without asking me to give a final commitment. If the number remains something like it is now, I would have thought that it made good sense to introduce a moderate range of disregards, but I would not like to be absolutely committed to that proposition since so many factors may alter in the meantime.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
My right hon. Friend posed the problem of the poorest of the poor and of disregarding one source of income for one family rather than for another. When making his final decision, will he reflect that in dealing with the very poorest of the poor, those on supplementary benefit, it has been accepted policy for many years to give a substantial extended disregard to the war pensioner?
§ Mr. Barnett
Before the right hon. Gentleman answers his right hon. Friend, could he confirm that he is not prepared to give a firm commitment to have a disregard for war pensioners?
§ Sir K. Joseph
To answer both points, I accept that the supplementary benefits scheme does not help the poorest of the poor in the section we are now discussing, because the people we are now discussing are poorer than those on supplementary benefit.
§ Sir K. Joseph
I mean in terms of gross income. I would love to be able to tell the Committee that there will be disregards for the war pensioner. I want to reserve a small liberty of manoeuvre by saying that there may be changes. It must be remembered that with this Bill we are sailing into unknown territory. We are trying to bring a new form of help to a group of people whom we all hope will before long be eliminated by the movement of earnings as against the movement of prices. We hope that the people concerned will be enabled to improve their standards of living in real terms sufficiently to escape from the FIS bracket.
§ Mr. Meacher
Does the right hon. Gentleman's last statement imply that 1324 the Government, even at this stage, do not intend to raise FIS at all in line with average earnings and to increase it at very much less than the rate of increase in the average earnings? That would seem to be the import of his statement.
§ Sir K. Joseph
No. I have already told the Committee at an earlier stage of the Bill that the Government will look again at the latest level of earnings known to us at the last possible date in making regulations to affect the prescribed amount before the Bill comes into force. There was no such implication or inference to be drawn by the hon. Gentleman from what I said.
I want to help the Committee. I cannot envisage circumstances at the moment in which it would not be right for the Government at one stage after the supplement has been in payment for something of the order of a year to introduce a disregard for war pensioners. It is because no Government can yet envisage all the relevant circumstances, that I wish to avoid making an absolute commitment on this matter.
I now move on to the other elements in the questions that were asked.
§ Mr. Alfred Morris
On the matter of disregards, would it be possible for the right hon. Gentleman to make a more considered statement at a later stage in the Bill?
§ Sir K. Joseph
Yes. The hon. Gentleman is being very helpful. I may be able after reflection on various considerations to go further on Report. I undertake to make a statement. I cannot undertake that that will be a guaranteed, copper-bottomed reassurance, but I shall reconsider the arguments and make a statement on Report. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Alfred Morris).
This has been a valuable debate, and I have a number of other questions to deal with. First, there is an Amendment to disregard family allowances. That Amendment is misconceived, because the prescribed amount already takes family allowances into account, so that the ceiling for supplement already builds in the family allowance.
§ Mrs. Shirley Williams
Does the right hon. Gentleman recall an earlier Amendment moved from this side of the Committee suggesting that there should be a reduction in the allowance for children in order to allow family allowances to be paid, having been disregarded? This Amendment complements that earlier Amendment, its object being that any future increase in family allowances shall go to families across the board, including those which benefit from F.I.S.
§ Sir K. Joseph
I can reassure the hon. Lady that any future increase in family allowances would need to be reflected in the prescribed amount under the Bill.
The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) made a valuable point when he raised the question of a payment for a foster child in excess of the normal amount. I need to look again at the whole position of the foster child in the light of what the hon. Gentleman said. He posed a situation for which I do not have an immediate answer. I undertake to look at the implications of the Bill for fostering. The last thing we want to do is to inhibit a local authority from fostering a child with one of these families if it is otherwise suitable. I shall give the House a considered view on Report.
But I ask the Committee to realise that up to the prescribed amount all the streams of income that have been discussed by hon. Members are already disregarded up to 50 per cent., up to the prescribed amount. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Hitchin (Mrs. Shirley Williams) takes the point. It is a general acceptance of disregards for all streams of income within the Bill up to the prescribed amount.
I was asked about Amendment No. 28, about what we intended to do by way of disregards for capital. At present we have no intention of making regulations about capital, largely because we do not expect that many of these families will pose a capital problem. But as we are moving into an unknown field, we thought it right to take power in the Bill to make regulations about how capital should be treated if a number of families prove to have capital assets.
§ Mr. O'Malley
I trust that when the inquiries are made on which the assessment will be based, there will be no 1326 inquiries as to any capital such families have.
§ Sir K. Joseph
That is correct. The only relevance of capital about which any inquiry as such will be made will be if it is producing a stream of income, if dividends or Post Office interest are coming into the family income.
§ Mr. O'Malley
What I fear is the situation where a family might have very limited money, for example, in a Post Office. We should want an assurance that no officer of the Department would say, "You have a few hundred pounds there. While you have that, you are not entitled to family income supplement." In the absence of regulations defining the situation, could not that kind of thing happen?
§ Sir K. Joseph
No. I do not think that there would be any entitlement for an officer to do that in the absence of regulations, because he will be concerned with the income coming into the household. But if we find that enough of such families have significant amounts of capital we shall have to bring regulations before the House.
I come now to the attendance allowance, which comes into payment, I hope, in April 1972. There is a strong feeling in the Committee that it should be disregarded. But I must point out to hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Kenneth Clarke) and the hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe, that if the man in the F.I.S. household is in receipt of constant attendance allowance it cannot really be a F.I.S. household, because he will be on supplementary benefit.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Sir K. Joseph
If the wife is in receipt of the constant attendance allowance for the very severely disabled it will be a very exceptional case. I am perfectly prepared to take it into account at stage 2 and consider whether there is a case for disregards, but I do not want to complicate the instructions to the officers concerned by writing in a disregard for that very limited case in the first stage. I undertake that we shall watch out, particularly during the first months when the supplement is in payment, to see whether any of these cases are involved, and if 1327 they are—or even if they are not, but there is evidence that they might be—we shall introduce regulations to disregard them.
But the allowance is not payable until April, 1972, and we have time in the intervening months to introduce regulations to cause it to be disregarded if that seems necessary.
§ Mr. Golding
Will the right hon. Gentleman inquire of the families whether there are members of them who are disabled? Very often it is not the father that is disabled. It may be the mother or very often the father or mother of one of the parents, or a child.
§ Sir K. Joseph
I shall not quarrel with the hon. Gentleman about the technicalities of his point. Certainly we shall know if one of the parents or the substitute parent is in receipt of attendance allowance, because requiring both to make the claim jointly will ensure that the officers know the income that either and both receive.
I come to the whole range of Amendments dealing not so much with disregards as with deductions. Several hon. Members have made the point that single women, widowers and motherless households are often involved in costs in arranging care for the child or children. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North, who specialises in difficult cases—very helpfully, made the point about maintenance going out of one household and into another FIS household. Here again I must ask the Committee to be understanding. To allow deductions for costs would involve a great increase in checking. We could not always rely on an individual saying, "I must pay out £4 a week" for this or that arrangement. It could be collusive in many cases. There would need to be checking, and once we introduce checking our chance of having a 1st August, 1971, start to payment will be in danger.
Anyway, I am not sure that we can begin to take account of deductions. Our object is to raise the income of the poorest of the poor wage-earning households. We are not trying to erect a parallel supplementary benefit scheme for those in work. Our object is to get their earnings up, by increased productivity, 1328 and until they are up to help them in this way.
I can give the Committee a categorical reassurance about the interaction of sickness benefit and F.I.S. If a F.I.S. payment is arranged for 26 weeks, or any shorter period, and during the period covered by the F.I.S. commitment the parent falls sick, the F.I.S. continues for that period. There is no attempt to reclaim it in the weeks after sickness began, and the sickness benefit, which is a contributory benefit, comes into payment as if F.I.S. were not in payment—that is, irrespective of F.I.S. I hope that that at least is one solid reassurance.
I am sorry that I have had to give less than a total reassurance to right hon. and hon. Members who feel strongly about these various Amendments, but I assure them that at stage two we shall seriously take into account all their arguments, and I will make a further statement on Report on the war pensions disregard point and on the foster-child household point.
§ Mrs. Shirley Williams
I have no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman has attempted to be helpful and has recognised that this is a debate about which many right hon. and hon. Members on both sides feel deeply. I am sorry, therefore, to press him further, but press him I must. Occasionally it is the job of Parliament to make the life of the Executive more difficult or to make the life of the Civil Service more inconvenient, because Parliament, in its wisdom, believes that justice must be done.
There are about six or seven right hon. and hon. Members present who have been Ministers, all of whom know better than I that frequently a Minister is advised that if he accepts a particular Amendment it will complicate his life and that of his Department, and it is only when the Minister decides that the feeling in Parliament is so strong that he must give way that he in fact does. I suspect that this is such a situation: that the right hon. Gentleman is not without sympathy for the points which have been argued by his right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) and others, but that he feels that the Amendment would complicate the Bill. We are not persuaded that the Amendment would complicate the 1329 Bill past the possibility of bringing it in at the date which the right hon. Gentleman has in mind. If there is a will, we suspect that a way will be found.
On the basis of that broad presentation which I put to the right hon. Gentleman, I wish to raise several crucial points. At the beginning of his speech, the right hon. Gentleman said that there might be a stage two and that, when his scheme became more sophisticated, it might then be possible to include certain disregards. The right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that by the end of his speech the stage two which seemed potential at the beginning had got rather close to actuality. We must press him to make sure that it is actual and to attach a date to it. But, more than that, we must press the right hon. Gentleman to look again at whether stages one and two cannot coincide.
The right hon. Gentleman pointed out that the constant attendance allowance will come into operation in 1972 or, more precisely, his hon. Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Kenneth Clarke) pointed that out. That means that it would be possible to operate that disregard in the Bill, because administratively it could be coped with by 1972. It would be an earnest of his good intentions to amend the Bill in that way.
It would not be all that difficult to do the same for war pensions. I will explain why in a moment. Nor would it be all that difficult for the right hon. Gentleman to do it in another case which would completely meet his worry about foster parents. I refer to the point about the £2 disregard for the earnings or income—I accept that the drafting would have been better as "income"—of other members of the family.
In this situation the right hon. Gentleman must look again at the crucial question of disincentives. In many instances a wife, or other member of the family, who is going out to work parttime—in most cases it would be a wife—will have to stop work if there is no disregard should her husband's income increase by a pound or two unless the entire family is to lose as a result. The right hon. Gentleman must look into this matter because it is realistic that this will happen. We ask the right hon. Gentleman, therefore, not to produce a disincentive which is severe in some 1330 spheres with which he is concerned. Women who take lowly paid jobs often work, for example, as school dinner helpers, as assistants in wards for the mentally handicapped, and as nursing assistants. Their work is often important to these services. The right hon. Gentleman will not assist that work to continue by refusing a disregard for a wife's income.
I should like now to go back to the points about war pensions, the disregard for wives, and the constant attendance allowance. The right hon. Gentleman in his statement on Second Reading—in many ways it was an encouraging statement—said that he would wish to seek to find a single passport—by which he meant a single means test—for a whole range of means tested benefits. Part of the logic of the right hon. Gentleman's position, though not that of the Opposition, is that he should seek to do this. If the right hon. Gentleman's philosophy is to stand, he must have the simplest possible means testing arrangements over the whole range of means tests.
I have about 25 copies of means tests. Nine or 10 are national ones; the other 10 or 11 are local authority ones. Those schemes are complex, but almost every one includes certain disregards. Above all, they include—not in every case, but in most cases—specific disregards for war pensions and for the income of a working wife. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman is taking a step not towards simplicity, but, in the end, towards complexity by accepting a scheme without disregards and trying to relate it to a set of means tests with disregards. This is a serious and real point which the right hon. Gentleman must consider.
The right hon. Gentleman in his speech—I hope that he will forgive me saying this, but I must—presented a rather disingenuous argument when he said that all kinds of income were taken into account so that it could be called a kind of general disregard. But that is not what we are trying to do. What we, the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames, and the hon. Member for Rushcliffe, are trying to indicate is that certain categories of people deserve a little better of the community, because, like the disabled, the expenses that they cannot avoid are particularly high. This is the reason for the constant attendance 1331 allowance. For example, a family with a disabled mother meets expenses which the rest of us do not begin to understand or even contemplate.
The same is true in a different way of war pensioners. It has always been accepted in the House that the war pensioner deserves not the same treatment as everbody else, but something a little better. We are not just talking about the average war pensioners; we are talking about war pensioners who, by definition, are on very low incomes and who, in a sense, the community have let down. So in this case, of all cases, it is essential that this additional privilege should be allowed. I therefore ask the right hon. Gentleman to look at this point again.
I cannot accept the right hon. Gentleman's assurance, which was rather lightly given, that he would at least come forward with a statement on Report but could not commit himself to what that statement might contain. It is far too vague an assurance for us to accept. Therefore, we must press for Divisions on certain of these Amendments.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I am sorry that the hon. Lady took the line that she did in her concluding sentences. The Committee will agree that we have had a very good debate, and it seemed to me to culminate in my right hon. Friend's assurance that on Report he would make a further statement with particular reference to the matters about which the whole Committee is concerned, those of war pensions and constant attendance allowance.
It is my view that my right hon. Friend should be given that opportunity. The hon. Lady has been in Government. She knows that when a Minister encounters, as my right hon. Friend has, considerable resistance on one point in Committee, if he is a responsible Minister he will want to go back and have an opportunity to discuss in his Department what it may be possible to do to meet the wishes of the Committee.
I have complete personal confidence in my right hon. Friend that he did not make that statement without at least contemplating the possibility that he may be able to go a little further on Report. I am 1332 satisfied with that assurance, and I am glad that he has given it. I think that the hon. Lady would strengthen the general all-party demand on my right hon. Friend that he should do that if she would reserve her judgment until that occasion. It would be perfectly easy to table an appropriate Amendment—indeed, it would be sensible to do so—to give my right hon. Friend an opportunity to make his statement on Report.
The hon. Lady might get far more support if my right hon. Friend's statement were then unsatisfactory than she is likely to get tonight. I think, too, that she will give my right hon. Friend a greater encouragement to go a little further to meet us if she does not press the matter to a Division tonight. For my part, I am satisfied, for the time being, with my right hon. Friend's assurance.
§ Mrs. Shirley Williams
The right hon. Gentleman is extremely persuasive, but I must put a direct question to his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. If the answer is satisfactory, we shall not press the matter to a Division.
Will the right hon. Gentleman consider making a statement on Report, first, about whether war pensions and constant attendance allowance can be exempted, and exempted at an earlier stage than some hypothetical Stage 2? We want a specific statement that these will be exempted at the earliest possible date that he can conceivably administratively achieve.
Second, will the right hon. Gentleman assure us that he will give serious consideration to, and make a statement about the disregard of £2 for a wife and other people's earnings? I put that less powerfully because the right hon. Gentleman has not made that a specific part of his plea.
§ Sir K. Joseph
I thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) for putting my position perfectly. I have undertaken to make a statement on Report, and I have considered the possibility that I may be able to move further than I have felt free to move today. That is with particular reference to war pensions and constant attendance allowance. I should not like to be quite as strong about the £2 earning disregard.
§ Amendment negatived.1333
The Deputy Chairman
With respect, there was not. If I may continue, perhaps I can clarify the position. If I understand it correctly, the position is that, on the following Amendments which have been discussed, the Committee wishes to divide on Amendments Nos. 30, 31 and 33, and if it is for the convenience of the Committee I shall proceed to put Amendment No. 30 separately.
§ Mrs. Williams
On a point of order, Miss Harvie Anderson. In view of the statement that the right hon. Gentleman has just made, we would wish to divide the Committee on Amendment No. 30. I apologise if I was deep in thought trying to work out the Amendments on which we were to divide. As I understand it, Amendment No. 30 would not make a great deal of sense unless the Committee was permitted to divide on Amendment No. 26. That is why I am afraid we rather belatedly shouted "Aye".
The Deputy Chairman
I think that there has been a slight misunderstanding. I clearly put the Question on Amendment No. 26. I collected the voices and there was no response from the Opposition. The Clerk at my side and I were
§ taking particular care to listen to the response because I had anticipated that as the hon. Lady had not withdrawn her Amendment she would wish me to put the matter to a Division. It was in the absence of a response that I moved as I did.
§ I do not want to embarrass the Committee in any way, but I assure the hon. Lady that it was in my mind that she would wish to divide the Committee on Amendments Nos. 30, 31 and 33 and that this would be appropriate, and I shall do that if that would be for the convenience of the Committee.
§ Sir K. Joseph
May I see whether I can help the hon. Lady, because I agree that although the Opposition intended to divide they did not make a noise about it. If the Opposition succeed in winning a Division on Amendment No. 30 we shall help by introducing a technical Amendment at a later stage in order that Amendment No. 30 shall make sense.
Amendment proposed: No. 30, in page 2, line 26, at end add:
(3) In the calculation of gross income there shall be disregarded to the extent of the first £2 thereof any earnings (other than such as are excluded by virtue of sub-section 1 of this section) of any member of the said family who is not engaged in full-time remunerative work.—[Mrs. Shirley Williams.]
§ Question put, That the Amendment be made:—
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 137, Noes 177.1337
|Division No. 29.||AYES||[8.35 p.m.|
|Albu, Austen||Cronin, John||Garrett, W. E.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Cunningham, C. (Islington, S. W.)||Gourlay, Harry|
|Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis)||Cunningham, Dr. J. A. (Whitehaven)||Grant, George (Morpeth)|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Davidson, Arthur||Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)|
|Ashton, Joe||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Griffiths, Will (Exchange)|
|Atkinson, Norman||Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund||Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)|
|Bagier, Cordon A. T.||Dempsey, James||Hamling, William|
|Bennett, James (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Doig, Peter||Hannan, William (G'gow, Maryhill)|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.)||Hardy, Peter|
|Boardman, H. (Leigh)||Duffy, A. E. P.||Harper, Joseph|
|Broughton, Sir Alfred||Dunnett, Jack||Heffer, Eric S.|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Eadie, Alex||Horam, John|
|Buchan, Norman||Edelman, Maurice||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas|
|Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Edwards, William (Merioneth)||Huckfield, Leslie|
|Carmichael, Neil||English, Michael||Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles)||Faulds, Andrew||Hughes, Dr. Mark (Durham)|
|Clark, David (Colne Valley)||Fisher, Mrs. Doris (B'ham, Ladywood)||Hughes, Roy (Newport)|
|Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.)||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)|
|Cohen, Stanley||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)|
|Concannon, J. D.||Foley, Maurice||Jones, Dan (Burnley)|
|Conlan, Bernard||Foot, Michael||Jones, Barry (Flint, E.)|
|Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, Central)||Freeson, Reginald||Kaufman, Gerald|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Galpern, Sir Myer||Kerr, Russell|
|Lambie, David||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Smith, John (Lanarkshire, North)|
|Lamond, James||Murray, Ronald King||Spearing, Nigel|
|Latham, Arthur||O'Malley, Brian||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Lawson, George||Orbach, Maurice||Stoddart, David (Swindon)|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Pardoe, John||Strang, Gavin|
|Lestor, Miss Joan||Pendry, Tom||Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley|
|Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham N.)||Pentland, Norman||Taverne, Dick|
|Lomas, Kenneth||Perry, Ernest G.||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)|
|Lyon, Alexander W. (York)||Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.||Tomney, Frank|
|McBride, Neil||Prescott, John||Urwin, T. W.|
|McCann, John||Probert, Arthur||Wainwright, Edwin|
|McCartney, Hugh||Rankin, John||Wallace, George|
|McElhone, Frank||Reed, D. (Sedgefield)||Wellbeloved, James|
|Mackenzie, Gregor||Rhodes, Geoffrey||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Mackie, John||Robertson, John (Paisley)||White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)|
|Mackintosh, John P.||Roderick, Caerwyn E. (Br'c'n & R'dnor)||Whitehead, Philip|
|McManus, Frank||Roper, John||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Rose, Paul B.||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|McNamara, J. Kevin||Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|MacPherson, Malcolm||Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)||Woof, Robert|
|Marks, Kenneth||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptord)|
|Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Meacher, Michael||Sillars, James||Mr. John Golding and|
|Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert||Skinner, Dennis||Mr. James Hamilton.|
|Adley, Robert||Gorst, John||Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Gower, Raymond||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)|
|Astor, John||Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.)||Moate, Roger|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Gray, Hamish||Molyneaux, James|
|Awdry, Daniel||Green, Alan||Money, Ernle|
|Baker, W. H. K. (Banff)||Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Monks, Mrs. Connie|
|Benyon, W.||Gummer, Selwyn||Monro, Hector|
|Biffen, John||Gurden, Harold||Montgomery, Fergus|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Hall, John (Wycombe)||More, Jasper|
|Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S. W.)||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.|
|Boscawen, R. T.||Hannam, John (Exeter)||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Haselhurst, Alan||Mudd, David|
|Braine, Bernard||Hastings, Stephen||Neave, Airey|
|Bray, Ronald||Havers, Michael||Nicholls, Sir Harmar|
|Brewis, John||Hawkins, Paul||Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Hayhoe, Barney||Normanton, Tom|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N & M)||Hicks, Robert||Nott, John|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Hill, James (Southampton, Test)||Onslow, Cranley|
|Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally|
|Burden, F. A.||Holland, Philip||Owen, Idris (Stockport, Norh)|
|Campbell, Rt. Hn. G. (Moray & Nairn)||Holt, Miss Mary||Page, Graham (Crosby)|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Hordern, Peter||Percival, Ian|
|Churchill, W. S.||Hornby, Richard||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame Patricia||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch|
|Cockeram, Eric||Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.)||Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis|
|Cooke, Robert||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James|
|Coombs, Derek||Iremonger, T. L.||Redmond, Robert|
|Cooper, A. E.||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||Reed, Laurance (Bolton, East)|
|Cormack, Patrick||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David|
|Costain, A. P.||Jessel, Toby||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas|
|Critchley, Julian||Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith||Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, North)|
|Crouch, David||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Crowder, F. P.||Kerby, Capt. Henry||Rost, Peter|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Kershaw, Anthony||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Kilfedder, James||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Maj.-Gen. Jack||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Shelton, William (Clapham)|
|Dean, Paul||King, Tom (Bridgwater)||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F.||Kinsey, J. R.||Soref, Harold|
|Dixon, Piers||Knight, Mrs. Jill||Spence, John|
|Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Knox, David||Sproat, Iain|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Lambton, Antony||Stainton, Keith|
|Eyre, Reginald||Lane, David||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Fell, Anthony||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Stewart-Smith, D. G. (Belper)|
|Fenner, Mrs. Peggy||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Stodart, Anthony (Edinburgh, W.)|
|Fidler, Michael||Le Marchant, Spencer||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.|
|Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead)||Loveridge, John||Stuttaford, Dr. Tom|
|Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton)||MacArthur, Ian||Sutcliffe, John|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||McCrindle, R. A.||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Fortescue, Tim||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Fowler, Norman||McMaster, Stanley||Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N. W.)|
|Fox, Marcus||Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)||Tebbit, Norman|
|Fry, Peter||Madel, David||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Gardner, Edward||Mawby, Ray||Trew, Peter|
|Gibson-Watt, David||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Tugendhat, Christopher|
|Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)||Meyer, Sir Anthony||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Goodhew, Victor||Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Waddington, David|
|Walder, David (Clitheroe)||Wilkinson, John||Younger, Hn. George|
|Ward, Dame Irene||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Warren, Kenneth||Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Weatherill, Bernard||Woodnutt, Mark||Mr. Walter Clegg and|
|White, Roger (Gravesend)||Wylie, Rt. Hn. N. R.||Mr. Keith Speed.|
The Deputy Chairman
As I understand the Committee is satisfied that it is not necessary to divide on Amendments Nos. 31 and 33, I think it would be the wish of the Committee to move on to the Question, That the Clause stand part of the Bill.
§ Question, That the Clause stand part of the Bill, put and agreed to.
§ Clause 4 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ [Sir ROBERT GRANT-FERRIS in the Chair]