HC Deb 08 May 1973 vol 856 cc363-89

(1) A person shall be entitled to an invalid care allowance if he satisfies prescribed conditions as to residence or presence in Great Britain and has been obliged to give UD his employment and continues to be unable to take up employment because he has to care for an elderly or infirm person with whom he resides at the time of giving up employment and has so resided for a minimum uninterrupted period of six months immediately preceding giving up employment; and the weekly rate of the invalid care allowance shall be at the curent basic rate payable as unemployment benefit so long as he satisfies the pre scribed conditions.

(2) Schedule 7 Part III which relates to the powers of the Attendance Allowance Board with regard to determination of ques- tions arising in connection with claims for the attendance allowance and to reviews of determination and appeals therefrom shall apply with regard to claims for the invalid care allowance.

(3) During such period as the invalid care allowance is payable to a person he shall be credited with Class 1 contributions.—[Mrs. Joyce Butler.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mrs. Joyce Butler (Wood Green)

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

Although the clause is fairly long, it is straightforward and does not need very much explanation. Its aim is to base what is called an invalid care allowance largely on the lines of the attendance allowance for the severely disabled. It is aimed at providing some security for those who give up employment to care for elderly or infirm relatives. Those who do so are usually women, though not always, and very often they are single women who are totally dependent on outside employment for their livelihood.

I stress that my concern is not confined to women. There are some men who have to do this in order to care for elderly or infirm relatives. I shall concentrate my remarks almost entirely upon the position of women, but I hope that some of my hon. Friends will cover the wider area.

Too often, women are the forgotten people of the community. The estimate is that there are well over 300,000 single women who have elderly or infirm dependants at home. Many of these women can and do continue to work outside the home for a considerable time, although their position becomes increasingly strained as they try to do the double job of caring for their elderly or infirm dependents and doing their jobs outside the home. But the position becomes quite impossible when, as so often happens, the elderly relative gets progressively worse and the single woman is forced to give up employment to care properly for that elderly relative.

The period of having to leave paid employment in order to do this may go for a long time. It may be as much as 20 or 30 years, and it is a great sacrifice on the part of the person concerned. At present, there is no kind of benefit which she can claim as of right to replace the earnings that she gives up. She may be able to claim means-tested benefit. In 1970 about 8,000 single women with old or sick relatives received supplementary benefit in this way. The numbers are not large, and we have to remember that everyone who benefits from the allowance provided in the clause automatically relieves the community of the expense of caring in some other way for the infirm or elderly relative.

11.0 p.m.

Many people who look after infirm or elderly relatives are the most deserving people in the community. That is why I am grateful, as a newcomer to the debates on the Bill, to have this opportunity of putting their case to the House. These people practise the compassion and care which we so often talk about. They are saving the community a vast amount of money, and they are shabbily treated. One of them wrote to the National Council for the Single Woman and her Dependants in these terms: For some long time I have said my piece about the unfairness to daughters who give up careers to care for parents especially when they have to pay the full rate for national health insurance stamps and are taxed on the money saved and now on their pensions. I gave up my career and did just this for 30 years, by which time I was too old to return to a full-time job, but I would do exactly the same again for the joy of knowing my parents were happy in their ageing years. I support your efforts in the hope that any daughter caring for her dependants in future will be free of money worries, if only for the amount she saves the country in hospitalisation and the joy of knowing the old are happy. Many people would echo those sentiments, but what are we doing about it in a practical way?

Those who undertake this service should have a monetary payment as of right, and that is the object of subsection (1). Not only does the immediate financial problem of women in this situation need to be covered, but there is the fact that their retirement may be in jeopardy.

I understand that assurances have been given to the National Council for the Single Woman and her Dependants that the cost of the class III insurance stamp will continue to be claimable as an additional discretionary supplementary benefit. The maintenance of these payments gives an entitlement only to the flat-rate State retirement pension. To many single women savings are particularly important. They often have a little nest egg and cannot claim supplementary benefit because their savings are too large to be disregarded for benefit. When that happens they cease to make insurance contributions because they cannot afford to do so. So their entitlement to the flat-rate State pension is at risk if they have not achieved enough contributions to qualify.

I have here a letter from a single woman of 43 who had to give up work nearly 15 years ago to care for her mother. She was exempted from insurance contributions and was told that this would be all right so long as she started paying again 10 years before her pension was due. She has now learned otherwise and has been informed that she will lose a lot of benefit through not making insurance contributions for all these years. She is living on social security of £6.50 a week and her mother's pension of £8.15. She writes: I am afraid I do not feel I can afford a stamp each week out of this income. So this lady is one of the people who will lose out because she cannot keep up her insurance contributions. Another lady retired last December. She has only £5.45 pension plus whatever social security will allow her because she lost several years' contributions when she gave up work to care for her elderly father.

These are typical of a whole host of cases of this kind where women have been suffering in this way. We also have to bear in mind that, by giving up work, the single woman's contributions to the occupational scheme, if there is such a scheme, where she worked, or to the reserve scheme, will cease, so that again her expectations of pension may be substantially reduced, if not entirely lost.

Again, her entitlement to sickness and unemployment benefit—particularly important to the single woman—will cease if she stays at home for long periods and ceases to make class I contributions. So subsection (3) of the new clause provides for anyone receiving the proposed invalid care allowance to be credited with class I contributions in order to preserve her entitlement to the fullest possible benefits. Amendment No. 146 is consequential.

The National Council for the Single Woman and her Dependants, which has been campaigning strongly on behalf of these women for a considerable time, has received shoals of letters and many personal calls from women who are worried sick about their present financial position and what is going to happen to them in the future.

I think we are a nation of hypocrites in our attitude to the home care of the elderly. We continually bemoan the fact that younger people do not shoulder the burden of caring for elderly parents at home—and it can be a considerable burden—but when they do it we leave them to struggle with what are sometimes nearly intolerable conditions with a very sick person, without giving them the security to which what they are doing entitles them.

Then, on top of all that, when perhaps the parent has died and the single woman is left on her own and becomes elderly in turn, she suffers in the amount of pension she can draw, because again we have not provided adequately for her pension requirements.

New Clause 9 is an attempt to meet that need—to give these women a very small amount of security while they are caring for the invalid, and some better security when they themselves retire. Because of this, and because they are such a small and such a deserving group, I hope that the House will support new Clause 9.

Mr. Marcus Worsley (Chelsea)

I wish to support what the hon. Lady the Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Joyce Butler) said. The case she has outlined constitutes one of the major gaps in our social provision. In subsequent debates on Report we shall no doubt cover others. The hon. Lady did right to bring this case forward and to speak of the work done by the organisation she mentioned.

Like the other gaps in our social provision, the difficulty is that people in this situation are so often forced on to supplementary benefit and therefore have to give up work. A single person— usually it is a single woman who is concerned—ought to be helped if possible to continue at least in part-time employment to help the finances of the family. It is just as important to help her to get out into the community to see a bit of life and keep her self-respect and her ability to earn her living when the relative she has been helping dies.

Often she can work part time because the relative can go to a day centre. The one in my constituency does a first-class job, helping the younger relative to get out not only to do shopping but to do part-time work. In the present position it is extraordinarily difficult for the single woman to do a part-time job. It will not provide a full living and she is likely to be forced on to supplementary benefit. Then she is unable to work because of the rule about earnings.

Some payment is needed to enable her to keep the household going with her elderly relative in it and which will not be taken from her if she does part-time work. The change in the rules for contributions to the National Insurance Scheme help because, if the contribution is graduated then even on a low income a claim can be made, but that is not so on the flat rate. The new system is a very considerable help, but it does not go far enough. We must look for a method of paying to a woman in these circumstances an income such as the hon. Lady has suggested but which will not be taken away when the person concerned does part-time work.

Mr. Alec Jones

I support my hon. Friend the Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Joyce Butler) on this new clause and Amendment No. 146. The idea of an invalid care allowance has been advocated by many people for a long time. The idea is that it should be a similar type of benefit as unemployment benefit and roughly equivalent to it. That seems a reasonable way of dealing with these people who are doing society's work for society. Most of them are giving up their prospects to look after the elderly and infirm.

In most cases they are single daughters of elderly parents, but they are not the only ones. In my constituency there are examples of other relatives, including men, who have been forced to give up work so that they can look after invalid and infirm members of their families. In one case, which is carrying charity to considerable lengths, a friend of an invalid has given up work to look after that person.

These people do this for a variety of reasons and they perform a most valuable social service on our behalf. On purely economic grounds we should look favourably on this proposal, for these people save considerable sums of public money. If they were not doing this work the only solution would be for the elderly and infirm to go into hospitals or other institutions. In some cases the service these people perform is better than the type of service provided in the public sector because it is more personal and fits in better with the requirements of the elderly or infirm person.

11.15 p.m.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wood Green was right to emphasise that these people make considerable sacrifices, not only now but for the future. It is not only a question of giving up current income, which can be a great burden, but in many cases they give up any future career prospects they might have. Under present regulations they give up almost completely any hope of an adequate retirement pension. It also means that, because they are not making contributions to our national insurance scheme, at some later date they lose their entitlement to unemployment or sickness benefit.

Because of the service they have given to elderly people over 20 or more years these are the very people most likely to go down with sickness. We shall probably be told that there is great sympathy and understanding for these people. I am not disparaging the Minister. He will undoubtedly remind us that they can apply for supplementary benefit. This is missing the point. Such benefit is means-tested whereas these people deserve help as of right. Supplementary benefit is not granted in many cases. It can be disallowed for a variety of reasons.

The attendance allowance has helped in some cases. I am sure that everyone is aware of many cases which deserve some sort of attendance allowance but which, because of present regulations, cannot get it. I know of one case where a daughter gave up work to look after her invalid mother. Supplementary benefit was refused because the father is considered to earn sufficient to maintain the 26-year-old daughter. This means that the daughter, who has given up not only her income but her career prospects, has to go to the father for every penny she requires for personal use. This treatment leads to deception.

There is another way round. Instead of the daughter giving up work the father could do so. This is what tends to happen. The father gives up work to look after his wife and makes a claim for sickness or unemployment benefit which we pay out for himself and his wife. I do not believe that this type of deception is desirable. We should as of right provide adequate recompense for these people who willingly perform this service to the elderly and infirm on our behalf, thereby saving us a good deal of money.

Dame Irene Ward (Tynemouth)

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Joyce Butler) for tabling this new clause. I suggest to the Secretary of State and his hon. Friends that it is an important one which needs careful examination for a number of reasons. The clause is designed to fill a gap which has long existed in our social service system.

For many years I have supported the National Council for the Single Woman and her Dependants. It was started a long time ago by the Rev. Mary Webster. Many hon. Members on both sides have supported this organisation in the belief that sooner or later we would be able to deal with this situation. The moment has now arrived, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and the other Ministers must not look at the new clause in any other way than with that fact in mind. We have been grateful to my right hon. Friend who has been helpful over the years because he has recognised the importance of this problem.

There is no reason why we should talk about supplementary benefit or anything like it, because the point has been recognised by my party and by the Opposition and we have all waited for a long time in the belief that when the time came we should be able to deal with the matter properly. The time has now arrived, and it would be most upsetting if we could not now arrive at a means of helping the National Council for the Single Woman and her Dependants to fill this gap.

The council has been growing for a long time. I remember listening to the Rev. Mary Webster. She spoke to the nursing profession, who know of this need and supported her ideas. There is also the Red Cross, and in my part of the world new organisations are being formed to support the National Council. We have worked and argued, and now the time has come for us to hear from the Ministers, in whom I have great faith.

We all have experiences and knowledge in talking about this problem. The Secretary of State has always encouraged us, and I am a politician who believes that when something has had all-party support at a high level and the time comes, action is expected. The hon. Lady the Member for Wood Green and my hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea (Mr. Worsley) are right. For a long time there has not been a Government Department which has been particularly interested in the problem. I have said many times that when young women and perhaps middle-aged women stay at home to look after relatives, local authorities, when they allocate houses, should ensure that persons looking after an elderly relative at least have a single room of their own. Housing authorities have not been interested. The pattern is set by the way houses are allocated by the local authority.

Sometimes one can talk until one is blue in the face because authorities will not alter that pattern. The same applies with supplementary benefit. One can talk until one is blue in the face, but supplementary benefit people have their own ideas—and are entitled to them. They have never understood this problem. That was why the Rev. Mary Webster took this up and the hon. Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Hamling) supported her case. The organisation has had Government support, because the Government knew perfectly well that the gap existed. It would sometimes be difficult for any Secretary of State to alter the attitude of duly-elected councillors or those concerned with supplementary benefit, but now the Government have the opportunity to set their seal on what they think is proper.

I do not know the possible cost. I do not think that my right hon. Friend has ever asked, in spite of all the help he has given, for which we have always been very grateful. Plenty of Members of the other place have also supported the organisation. I do not think that there is a proper appreciation of what is necessary or the assessment of what the cost will be has ever been called for or presented. It may well be that the Department has all the facts. I hope that it has, and that it is prepared to act on them generously.

Something must be done. If my right hon. Friend cannot give a satisfactory answer tonight, I beg him to say that he accepts the basic position stated by the hon. Lady. I am expecting a good answer. If we cannot have one that is cut and dried, I hope that my right hon. Friend will go into the matter in great detail so that it can be dealt with in another place.

There are some things that I do not agree with in the Bill, but I know that in this big world there are many difficulties to be faced, and I say to myself that I do not know enough about some matters. I have confidence in my Government, and therefore I vote for them on those questions. But I think that I know, and those that have spoken know, something about this matter. We know that the gap exists, as does my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, and if he wants to argue with the Treasury I do not believe that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor would disagree, because I am certain that his wife would support the national council.

I wrote to the council to ask it to let me know whether there was anything it particularly wanted to have raised. In spite of the pressures that are exerted, quite rightly, on all sort of other aspects of the Bill, I had a simple letter back saying that the council's requirements were known and that it would be very grateful for anything we could do. It is very nice that the hon. Lady has produced the new clause.

I do not need to encourage my right hon. Friend, because I know how much he minds about the matter. I hope that in answering the debate Ministers will realise that they are dealing with something on which we have all wanted action for a long time. Let us not miss opportunities. If they are missed, they often do not recur.

I will not tell the House everything that has been done by my right hon. Friend to help us, but he has done a great deal. Therefore, it must be a great pleasure to him to know that the council has worked all these years. The country knows the work that is done. I hope for a satisfactory reply, and I am sure that my right hon. Friend will not let us down.

11.30 a.m.

Mr. Arthur Blenkinsop (South Shields)

I rise to add my support to the proposition put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Joyce Butler). What we all welcome so much is that this is an effort to put forward a practical proposal for helping in what, for a long time, has been a real and distressing problem. It has always been difficult to formulate a proposal in reasonably satis- factory terms, but I think that this is a sensible and practical proposal which stands up to examination.

I am sure that among our constituents we all have examples of the kind of problem raised by my hon. Friend. I have in my constituency examples of the more common situation of the young woman who has taken on the responsibility of caring for her parents and over the years has gradually aged herself in helping to look after them. In one case the daughter has done as the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) suggested. She has been able both to help her parents at a new centre that has been established and to help many others. It has all been voluntary work. She has undoubtedly derived a great deal of joy from that, but she has also sought to campaign for others and in a sense help rescue them from the difficulties that can so clearly arise.

I have in mind another case of a rather different character, where the husband has given up work in order to take over the responsibility of caring for his wife. After his daughter married, he considerately and properly tried to ensure that her life was not impeded in any way. He has made a considerable sacrifice in giving up his work earlier than he would normally have done, and he has sacrificed other rights which he would have obtained. One sees, therefore, that there are also men who undertake this duty, as they undoubtedly and properly feel it to be.

There are plenty of difficulties in trying to work out a scheme of this sort, and this modest proposal is to be commended. It seems to meet the problems which arise in a large number of cases, and I therefore join others in hoping that the Minister will accede to this request and agree to work out this scheme, or something very like it.

Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

I support the new clause introduced by the hon. Lady the Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Joyce Butler). In fact, I made almost the same point as reported at columns 312 and 313 of the Second Reading debate on behalf of the National Council for the Single Woman and her Dependants. There is a tremendous strain on those who look after elderly relatives, however much one loves them, even where adequate resources are available.

I remember vividly what happened when a day centre was opened in my constituency. The matron rang a daughter who had been looking after her mother for 14 years and asked, "What are you doing with your half-day off?", to which the daughter replied "I am just sitting here and doing absolutely nothing".

If one adds to the strain of looking after a relative the strain of the lack of funds—not only at the time but the prospective lack of funds when the loved one has passed on—one realises that it is too much of a burden to ask any woman—or man, as the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Blenkinsop) said—to bear. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea (Mr. Worsley), I think that it is important that such women should be able to keep up outside contacts and an outside job. Many of them feel that it is a little frivolous to keep up outside friends and engagements but they would not hesitate, if they could do so, to keep up a part-time job and the contacts that would go with it. However, they can do that only if their part-time earnings are supplemented by an allowance of the kind which we are discussing.

I hope that the Minister will consider the matter carefully and introduce amendments accordingly at a later stage.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell (Southampton, Itchen)

I support my hon. Friend the Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Joyce Butler). Purely by coincidence I put down a Question on the Order Paper today asking about this matter. Unfortunately it was not reached. In fact, I was referred to two Questions which had been asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mrs. Lena Jeger) and the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Woodhouse) on 30th March. On that day the Secretary of State replied: I have no proposals on these points. That seemed fairly definite. I hope that he will tell us tonight that since 30th March he has developed a few proposals. The right hon. Gentleman then said: Under existing arrangements, the attendant may of course qualify for supplementary benefit, and in the case of a single woman this can cover the cost of her (non-employed) contribution for retirement pension purposes. Of course, it is by no means certain that quite a lot of these people will qualify for supplementary benefit. That is the position for a variety of reasons. It is also by no means certain that if they qualify for supplementary benefit they will automatically have paid their supplementary benefit class III contributions. That happens on the majority of occasions but it is not automatic.

All hon. Members can bring individual cases to mind. There have been several in my constituency—teachers in particular, although not exclusively—who have given up 20 years' of their lives, often the best years of their lives, to look after aged parents. As my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda, West (Mr. Alec Jones) said, such people save the country an awful lot of money. Many parents would otherwise have to be put in local authority homes or would have to occupy valuable geriatric beds in hospitals. Therefore, these people do valuable social work in keeping down costs.

Many of the things which have been said so far apply to men. I know of two or three cases where men in their 50s have had to give up their employment to look after a sick wife. I know of the tragic case of a man who had reason to give up his job at the age of 51 to look after his sick wife. He felt that it was his duty to do so. There were no relatives, no children and no one else who could help. He did that for two years. During that time he lost a lot of his pension entitlement. At the end of the two years his wife unfortunately died. At the age of 52 he then had to try to find a job. That is difficult enough, but he found that he had lost a lot of benefits. He was forced to apply for supplementary benefit and has had to continue to receive such benefit.

I have always held the view that supplementary benefit should be used only to deal with those who could not be dealt with in other ways. There are many people in this category. Many men and women give up their jobs—very often good jobs such as teachers—to look after their aged and infirm parents. The Minister replied on 30th March: The number of people who have had to give up work to act as attendants is uncertain, and no reliable estimate can be made of the cost of the changes suggested. Inquiries have recently been made to find out who are the disabled in our community. It should not be difficult to find out how many people have given up their jobs to look after aged relatives and what the cost would be. To put it in crude economic terms, I suspect that it would be cheaper to pay a regular allowance and to continue with the class I contributions during the period when such people are looking after aged parents or relatives than to allow those elderly people to go into homes or, not having continued with contributions and therefore not being entitled to full pensions, make it necessary for those who have been looking after aged relatives to apply for supplementary benefit.

This process rolls on. Those who have been looking after aged relatives, when they reach 60 years of age and retire, will often find that their pensions are smaller than normal pensions, so they in turn will have to apply for supplementary benefit. It is a self-inducing process which goes on and on.

I hope that we shall hear from the Minister more than what was said on 30th March: I have no proposals on these points."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th March 1973; Vol. 853, c. 423.] If he does not give a sympathetic reply, I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Wood Green will press the new clause to a division.

Mr. Alfred Morris (Manchester, Wythenshawe)

This debate has been distinguished by the fact that there has been no criticism of the new clause from either side of the House. Hon. Members opposite have been as fulsome as my hon. Friends in their support for the principle at stake here.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Joyce Butler) on the content as well as the manner of her submission in support of this important new clause. She always speaks with great authority on these matters, her authority being based on a keen personal commitment to people in special need, and she has put forward a powerful argument for the new clause.

The hon. Member for Chelsea (Mr. Worsley), like his hon. Friends, recognises that there is a compelling argument in favour of this proposal. The hon. Gentleman knows the importance of the principle argued by my hon. Friend to single women who are looking after elderly, usually disabled, parents and that we cannot begin to cost this proposition.

The Under-Secretary of State may say that that is the weakness of the proposition and that we ought to know how much the new clause would cost to public funds.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell

It would save money.

Mr. Morris

Indeed, there are many who would argue that acceptance of the new clause would save money. Many organisations, not least the women's organisations, would rejoice if the new clause were accepted and enacted. Many organisations representing disabled people would be glad if the Undersecretary accepted my hon. Friend's proposition.

The new clause says A person shall be entitled to an invalid care allowance if he … has been obliged to give up his employment … to care for an elderly or infirm person with whom he resides at the time of giving up employment. 11.45 p.m.

I direct the Under-Secretary's attention to a very important case that has been put to me recently. Two disabled people, Gerald and Kathleen Turner, live together. Both of them are spastics. Mrs. Turner puts their problem like this: Gerald and I may share the same table, but we cannot share each other's shoes. Life is certainly a struggle for the Turners. They have to struggle against disability, bureaucracy and extreme poverty. Gerald Turner, aged 41, is severely disabled. Kathleen, his wife, aged 42, is a much less severely disabled spastic. They live on the thirteenth floor of a block of high-rise flats in London.

Before she was married, Kathleen used to earn £19.20 a week as the supervisor in a dress firm's cutting rooms. She qualified for £3.75 earnings-related supplement. She says that because of trade union activity her husband used to receive a 35p allowance for shoe leather because of his disability. Last December Kathleen gave up work to look after the home and her husband. Now they live on £10.90 national insurance benefit, made up to £14.65 with earnings-related supplement. The 35p for shoe leather stopped when Kathleen stopped work.

Gerald has qualified for no income at all since he left the institution where he was living before he married Kathleen. Kathleen says, This was a great blow because we thought he would get something. After all, it would cost £1,000 a year if he was in a home I do not think £5 a week would have been unreasonable. The income of this couple is £14 a week. They are living in central London. They are saving the community a great deal of money because one of them who used to live in an institution is now receiving home care.

This case demonstrates the failure of central Government to carry out the kind of studies of cost-effectiveness that ought to be undertaken if we are to have meaningful discussions about the cost of accepting changes such a that proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Wood Green. She has spoken of those who save the public money by allowing their elderly relatives the dignified care which can be provided by living at home.

It was an hon. Member on the Government side of the House who nodded when my hon. Friend said that many are hypocrites in these debates. They ask for community care as against institutional care, but they fail to put their money where their sentiments lie. The Government will advance the possibilities of home care if they will look sympathetically at new clauses such as this.

I acknowledge the powerful sincerity of those Conservative Members who have spoken for the new clause. There will be no objection from this side of the House if the Minister accepts the new clause. In fact, many hon. Members on both sides will feel an obligation to support it in the Lobby.

Mrs. Joyce Butler

Perhaps that will not be necessary.

Mr. Morris

I hope that my hon. Friend is right, in which case we shall congratulate the Minister. I hope that he will respond sympathetically to the arguments. There will be no opposition from this side if, in a spirit of generosity and, I would say, of sound business sense, he accepts the new clause.

Mr. Dean

A debate on a subject like this is bound to strike a chord with every hon. Member, and I am sure that we are all very grateful to the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Joyce Butler) for drawing attention to it. We all recognise the enormous care and devotion which many single people—usually women, but sometimes men—give to their elderly relatives. What is involved is not only devotion and care but the personal sacrifice which they willingly make—which can be financial, in their jobs, and, for want of a better word, can affect their "status" through being so tied down.

This sacrifice does not obtain only while they are looking after their relatives, but continues throughout the rest of their lives. It can create problems for the men and women themselves when they reach retirement age.

I am glad, too, that tribute has been paid to the work which has been done by the National Council for the Single Woman and her Dependants in drawing attention to this problem and putting practical proposals before us.

We have made a slow start in this country in regard to those who are disabled themselves and those who look after them. In recent years, on a non-party political basis, we have been trying to make up for that slow start, but because of it many gaps remain to be filled. My hon. Friends the Members for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) and Chelsea (Mr. Worsley) have referred to the problem of the single woman looking after aged dependants and to the absence of an allowance for her as one of the major gaps in our social security arrangements. The hon. Member for Rhondda, West (Mr. Alec Jones) has spoken of the valuable social services being provided by these people for their relatives, and all of us know from our constituency experience how enormously valuable these services are. When we talk about social services we so often think about services provided by the State, by the local authority or by voluntary organisations. But much of the social services, indeed, probably the largest part, are provided within families by members of those families and this is one good example of it.

My hon. Friends the Members for Chelsea and Lancaster (Mrs. Kellett-Bowman) also drew attention to the importance of employment, possibly of part-time employment, for people who are caring for their relatives so that they can maintain contact with the outside world and all that goes with it. The message which has come so clearly from the debate is not whether we should be doing something, but how we should do it. The Government recognise that and share that feeling.

The national council has helped us in trying to assess the size of the problem, but it is not easy to assess just how many people we are talking about. There are some 300,000 single women living with parents of pensionable age, and a rather larger number of single men in this position. In most of these cases, fortunately, the parents are in good health and are able to play their part in the household. The children are therefore able to take full-time employment.

A better definition of the numbers involved is probably the Supplementary Benefits Commission's record to show that about 14,000 people are receiving supplementary allowance because they are caring for a relative. About 10,000 of these are single women. What is being done to help them? Here again it is difficult to be precise because we are dealing with a great variety of cases such as married men with sick or disabled wives, wives with sick husbands, single parents with children needing care, and others. The circumstances differ greatly, both of those who are in need of care and those who are actually caring.

The supporting services provided by local authorities are an important aspect of this and they are being substantially improved with direct help from the Government. The new attendance allowance is bringing valuable help to many people who are receiving care and attention of the kind we are discussing. About 90,000 allowances are now in payment and the allowance is being extended to a further group of people who will probably number a quarter of a million or so.

It can be seen that in many of these hard-pressed households there is now an additional allowance, helping with the household expenses, which was not available previously. Help is available in some cases from supplementary benefits. The hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. R. C. Mitchell) drew attention to that. Not only financial help can be made available here. In some cases, though not all, the single woman can have included in her allowance the cost of the non-employed national insurance contribution, which enables her to preserve entitlement to the retirement pension.

The Bill also gives some additional help, though no more than a modest addition, to people in this category. My hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea referred to the somewhat easier contribution conditions for benefits in the basic scheme, especially for the retirement pension. The fact that those who are on a comparatively low level of earnings will pay less in earnings-related contributions than now is a help. The fact that the contribution conditions enable people to have a gap in their contribution records under the new arrangements without losing entitlement to the full rate of pension will be of considerable help to quite a number of women in the categories of which we are speaking. There is also the extension of occupational pension cover and the compulsory preservation of occupational pension rights.

All these will help the woman who has to give up employment before the retirement age both to maintain her contribution record for a full pension in the basic scheme and also to be able to maintain the rights which she has built up for a second pension in her occupational scheme and which will be preserved for her. These are all ways in which there is modest additional help under the Bill.

12 midnight.

My hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea made a special plea for greater help for those who wish to continue in part-time work. He made the point that the supplementary benefit arrangements are not satisfactory because the amount which can be earned without loss of benefit does not fill the need. I assure my hon. Friend that this is one of many aspects that we are now considering. As we study the experience of some European countries we see there is little doubt that they have managed in a way in which so far we have not to combine a social security benefit which caters for part of the subsistence needs of a person with part-time earnings which cater for the other part. They have managed to combine the two without running into the difficulties and disadvantages which exist in our present arrangements. This is an area which we are actively considering what has been done in Europe and ways in which we may be able to develop.

Mr. John Wells (Maidstone)

As I understand it, one of the biggest problems of the would-be part-time earner is getting part-time employment. The willing employer finds the overheads of providing such employment quite ridiculous. Cannot my hon. Friend look far more closely at continental patterns? Our present system is a complete bugbear to the willing employer and the willing employee. The jobs are there and the employees are there, but the two do not marry up because of the stamp and the overheads.

Mr. Dean

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that. It reminds me that I should have said a little more about the help that the new scheme will provide. One of the difficulties which have discouraged employers from providing part-time employment under existing arrangements is that they have to pay full national insurance contributions, and they are reluctant to do so in the circumstances. Under the new arrangements the contribution that an employer will pay will be directly related to the earnings of the person concerned. Therefore the employer of someone on a low level of earnings will have to pay a comparatively modest level of contribution. My hon. Friend has made a valuable comment in pointing out that one discouragement in the present system will be to some extent removed or diminished under the proposals in the Bill.

Mr. Ronald Brown (Shoreditch and Finsbury)

Is the hon. Gentleman saying that the part-time earner will get the same benefits on retirement as those who pay the full contribution even though the employer has made a smaller contribution?

Mr. Dean

That is broadly it. The contributions of the employer and the employee will be based on the earnings of the person concerned. Provided that he has fulfilled the contribution condi- tions, when he retires or comes on to short-term benefit he will be entitled to the full rate of benefit irrespective of the amount paid.

I do not want to pick holes in the new clause because I realise that the hon. Member for Wood Green primarily wished to debate the subject she raised. She will realise that the awkward question of precisely who should qualify for the allowance is left either to be prescribed in regulations or to be administered by the Attendance Allowance Board. It is these difficulties of definition that tend to hold up progress.

On the possibility of the board being able to administer the new allowances and to adjudicate who is entitled to it, at the moment the board is working flat out—and will be for some months ahead —on getting into payment the attendance allowances which are now being made available to the working age group and will shortly be available to children and then to the elderly. We cannot expect the board to take on an additional load without holding up the extension of the attendance allowance.

Apart from that, there is a great deal of difference between dealing with medical questions of need for attendance, which is primarily the board's job, and dealing with social or personal questions of the range of people which should be providing the attendance and the impact of it on those people. We should have to find another way of making the assessments, and that would not be easy.

We recognise the powerful plea which has been made for progress towards what is described in the clause as an invalid care allowance. A great deal of progress has been made in the last three years in dealing with the problems of the disabled, but the Government have always said that there is a great deal more to be done. We are anxious to proceed as far as we can in as many directions as possible to meet priority needs. The focus at present is on the disabled, but we cannot divorce the disabled from those who care for them.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell

The Minister referred to the contributions paid by part-timers. Surely people earning less than £8 a week—as would be most single women in part-time employment who look after dependants—do not qualify for all the benefits under class I contributions?

Mr. Dean

The hon. Gentleman is right. There is a lower limit, and there always has been, at which contributions become compulsory. On the other hand, if people wish to pay on a voluntary basis, if able to do so, it is possible for them to do so. Of course, many of the people working part time are above the level and therefore contribute.

A great deal has been done in recent times, but we recognise that a great deal remains to be done. We intend to press on with our plans. We intend to continue to seek the experience of the European countries which, in some ways, are in advance of ourselves. In other words, our ears and our minds are open to all proposals, and we shall consider carefully the powerful arguments put tonight.

Mr. Meacher

In view of what the hon. Gentleman said about the Government's intention to promote the aim at least of the new clause, would not he agree that it is hardly conducive to that aim that women who have these responsibilities will be excluded from the tax credit scheme and that the existing personal tax allowance which they get will be eradicated if the tax credit proposals now being put forward are implemented? Is that assisting the aim in the rather glib way in which the hon. Gentleman is saying it?

Mr. Dean

The hon. Gentleman is prejudging a very important issue. One of the purposes of the Select Committee considering the tax credit proposals is to consider matters such as that. When it reports, the Government will consider its recommendations along with the thoughts and discussions going on at present. The hon. Gentleman is prejudging both the consideration of the Government and the consideration of the Select Committee by automatically assuming that there is to be no help through the tax credit proposals for the

people we are concerned with in the new clause.

I hope the House will feel, in view of what I have said, and, I hope, the sympathetic and open-minded way in which I have approached the new clause, that a real problem of definitions and seeing our way forward exists—a problem, which, as I think the hon. Lady freely admits, is not solved in the new clause. I hope the House will accept that the Government are genuine in what they say about their desire to progress in provision not only for those who are disabled but for those who care for them, and that our record over the last three years will carry force when we speak about the progress we firmly intend to make in future.

Mrs. Butler

The hon. Gentleman has been so very sympathetic that it is difficult to resist his blandishments. I am impressed by two things. First, during the debate all those who took part supported the principle of the new clause and of an invalid care allowance, and did so knowing of the improvements in the Bill and in the other ways to which the hon. Gentleman has drawn attention. Therefore, I do not feel, although he has put his case in such a sympathetic and understanding way, that he has added to our knowledge of the subject or has changed the attitude of those of us who have supported the case for an invalid care allowance.

The important point is not whether the new clause is drafted as it should be—it would have been better, no doubt, if it had been drafted perfectly—but the principle it enshrines. I would like to see the principle added to the Bill at this stage so that, at a later stage, the new clause could be refined and improved and made more workable. I would still like to support the new clause and I hope that some of my hon. Friends will join me in doing so.

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

The House divided: Ayes 124, Noes 151.

Division No. 126.] AYES [12.15 p.m.
Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis) Brown, Ronald(Shoreditch & F'bury) Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara
Ashlon, Joe Buchan, Norman Clark, David (Colne Valley)
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Cohen, Stanley
Bishop, E. S. Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Coleman, Donald
Blenkinsop, Arthur Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire, W.) Concannon, J. D.
Boardman, H. (Leigh) Cant, R. B. Conlan, Bernard
Brown, Robert C. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne,W.) Carmichael, Neil Cunningham, G. (Islington, S.W.)
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Carter-Jones. Lewis (Eccies) Cunningham, Dr. J. A. (Whilehaven)
Dalyell, Tam Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen) Pavitt, Laurie
Davidson, Arthur Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.) Peart, Rt. Hn, Fred
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Judd, Frank Perry, Earnest G.
Davies, Terry (Bromsgrove) Kaufman, Gerald Prescott, John
Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund Kinnock, Neil Rees, Meriyn (Leeds, S.)
Doig, Peter Lamond, James Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Douglas, Dick (Stirligshire, E.) Lawson, George Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Duffy, A.E.P. Leonard, Dick Robertson, John (Paisley)
Dunnett, Jack Lestor, Miss Joan Roderick, Caerwyn E. (Brc'n&R'ndor)
Eadie, Alex Lipton, Marcus Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)
Edwards, William (Merioneth) Loughlin, Charles Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Ellis, Tom Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Silverman, Julius
English, Michael Lyons, Edward (Bardford, E.)
Skinner, Dennis Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.) Small, William
Ewing, Harry Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson
Fernyhough, Rt. Hn. E. McBride, Neil Spearing, Nigel
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) McElhoe, Frank Sprigs, Leslie
Foot, Michael McGuire, Michael Strang, Gavin
Ford, Ben Machin, George Thomas, Rt. Hn. George (Cardiff, W.)
Forrester, John McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.) Tinn, James
Galpern, Sir Myer Mcnamara, J. Kevin Torney, Tom
Gilbert, Dr. John Marks, Kenneth Varley, Eric G.
Grant, George (Morpeth) Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy Wainwright, Edwin
Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside) Meacher, Michael Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert Watkins, David
Hardly, Peter Mendelson, John Wellbeloved, James
Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Millam, Bruce
Horam, John Mitchell, R.C. (S'hampton, Itchen)
Huckfield, Leslie Molloy, William Whitehead, Philip
Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire) Wilson, Wlexande (Hamilton)
Hughes, Mark (Durham) Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire) Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N.) Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Woof, Robert
Hunter, Adam Oakes, Gordon
Janner, Greville O'Halloran, Michael TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
John, Brynmor O'Malley, Brain Mr. James AS. Dunn and
Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.) Palmer, Arthur Mr. Joseph Harper
Jones, Barry (Flint, E.) Parry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange)
Adley, Robert Fry, Peter Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Gibson-Watt, David Molyneaux, James
Aliason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Goodhew, Victor Money, Ernie
Atkins, Humphrey Gower, Raymond Monks, Mrs. Connis
Awdry, Daniel Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.) Monro, Hector
Baker, W.H.K. (Banff) Gray, Hamish Montgomery, Fergus
Balniel, Rt. Hn. Lord Green, Alan More, Jasper
Bannett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport) Griffiths, Eldon (Burry St. Edmunds) Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.
Benyon, W. Grylls, Michael Morrison, Charles
Berry, Hn. Anthony Gummer, J. Selwyn Mudd, David
Biffen, John Hall, Miss Joan (Keighley) Murton, Oscar
Biggs-Davison, John Hall, John (Wycombe) Neave, Airey
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.) Hannam, John (Exeter) Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally
Boscawen, Hn. Robert Havers, Michael
Bossom, Sir Clive Hiley, Joseph Page, Rt. Hn. Graham (Crosby)
Bowden, Andrew Horden, Peter Page, John (Harrow, W.)
Bruce-Gardyne, J. Hornby, Richard Parkinson, Cecil
Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N&M) Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame Patricia Percival, lan
Buck, Antony Hunt, John Pink, R. Bonner
Butler, Adam (Bosworth) Hutchison, Michael Clark Price, David (Eastleigh)
Campbell, Rt. Hn. G. (Moray & Bairn) Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Proudfoot, Wilfred
Carlisle, Mark James, David Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis
Campman, Sydney
Chatway, Rt. Hn. Christopher Jopling, Michael Redmond, Robert
Christopher-Clark, R. Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)
Churchill, W.S.
Cooke, Robert Kaberry, Sir Donald Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David
Cordle, John Kershaw, Anthony Rhys Williams, Sir Barndon
Cormack, Patrick King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.) Ronerts, Michael (Cardiff, N.)
Critchley, Julian King, Tom (Bridgwater) Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Crowder, F.P. Kinsey, J.R. Rost, Peter
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Maj.-Gen.Jack Royle, Anthony
Lamont, Norman Russell, Sir Ronald
Dean, Paul Lane, David Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gn & Whitby)
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. Landford-Holt, Sir John Skeet, T. H. H.
Digby, Simon Wingfield Loveridge, John Soref, Harold
Dykes, Hugh MacArthur, lan Speed, Keith
Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) McLaren, Martin Sproat, lain
Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) Mclaren, Martin Sproat, lain
Elliott, R.W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.) Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Maurice (Farnham) Stewart-Smith, Geoffery (Belper)
Eyre, Riginal McNair-Wilson, Michael Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.
Fisher, Reginald McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest) Stuttaford, Dr. Tom
Fletcjer-Cooke, Charles Madel, David Sutcliffe, John
Fortescue, Tim Maude, Angus Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcard)
Foster, Sir John Mawby, Ray
Fowler, Norman Meyer, Sir Anthony Tebbit, Norman
Fox, Marcus Miscampbell, Norman Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)
Fraer, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford &Stone) Mitchell, LT.-Col.C. (Aberdeenshire, W) Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)
Tugendhat, Christopher Weatherill, Bernard Woodnutt, Mark
Turton, Rt. Hn. Sir Robin Wells, John (Maidstone) Younger, Hn. George
Waddington, David Wiggin, Jerry
Walder, David (Clitheroe) Wilkinson, John TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Walker, Rt. Hn. Peter (Worcester) Winterton, Nicholas Mr. Kenneth Clarke and
Wall, Patrick Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick Mr. Paul Hawkins.

Question accordingly negatived.

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