HC Deb 19 October 1973 vol 861 cc561-613

Considered in Committee.

[Mr. E. L. MALLALIEU in the Chair.]

11.18 a.m.

Mr. Brian O'Malley (Rotherham)

On a point of order, Mr. Mallalieu. The relevant background to my point of order is that yesterday, following discussions and a decision taken through the usual channels, both sensibly and understandably, there was no Second Reading debate on this Bill. It was allowed to go through its Second Reading on the nod and the broader debate which normally would have occurred on Second Reading did not take place.

From the list of selected amendments, which I saw for the first time only a few minutes ago, I notice that Amendments Nos. 1 and 12 have not been selected.

I say at the outset that I respect and accept the Chair's decision on these matters. However, perhaps I might bring to your attention one relevant point to your selection of amendments. The reason why Amendments Nos. 1 and 12 are not selected is that the view has been taken that they are outside the scope of the Money Resolution. However, I suggest that that is not the case. Amend- ment No. 1 seeks to leave out Clause 1 (1)(a) which says has attained pensionable age not later than the end of the relevant week … The intention of the amendment is that categories of pensioners who nevertheless are under the age at which retirement pension becomes payable—60 in the case of women and 65 in the case of men—should be entitled to the £10 Christmas bonus.

As I read the money resolution, it contains no specific limitation on the payment of the £10 bonus to retirement pensioners. Paragraph (1)(a) says that payment shall be made out of moneys provided by Parliament of (a) any sums payable by the Secretary of State under the provisions of that Act relating to pensioners …. It does not say "retirement pensioners". In support of my general thesis I refer you, Mr. Mallalieu, to legislation which was passed in the present Session of Parliament, the National Insurance and Supplementary Benefit Act 1973, where the term "pensioner" is used in a much wider sense than that of retirement pensioners.

For example, in Schedule 1 there is a reference to the invalidity pension. In later schedules concerning industrial injuries the term "pension" is used on a number of occasions. Therefore, I submit that as the money resolution is drafted it does not automatically exclude consideration of amendments regarding payments of the £10 bonus to those receiving pensions under the national insurance system, even though those pensions are not retirement pensions.

I hope that the Chair will feel able to reconsider its present exclusion of Amendments Nos. 1 and 12 so that the House may be given the opportunity of considering the elderly widows, the long-term sick and disabled, the unemployed and those receiving attendance allowances—a million people, in all, who are greatly deserving of the consideration of this House. To that end, Mr. Mallalieu, I believe that you should reconsider the decision to exclude Amendments Nos. 1 and 12 this morning.

The Deputy Chairman (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu)

I understand entirely the point that the hon. Member makes so clearly. However, I cannot alter my opinion on the non-selection of those amendments because they are outside the scope of the Bill. But, if the hon. Member wishes, he would receive considerable sympathy if he discussed the subject on the Question, "That the clause stand part of the Bill", or even on Third Reading. He would then be able to raise the matters covered by the amendments.

Mr. O'Malley

If it were your final decision, Mr. Mallalieu, that these matters could be raised only on the Question, That the clause stand part, that would be helpful to those of us in the Opposition who want to consider them. But it is clearly better that we should be able to discuss the subject on an amendment, if it were possible, to attempt to get the £10 bonus for these very deserving categories. You have said, Mr. Mallalieu, first, that you have not ruled that my submission on the money resolution is inaccurate, and, secondly, you have said that these amendments are outside the scope of the Bill.

With great respect, the Bill is drafted in almost identical terms to the £10 bonus Bill which went through the House at the end of 1972. Amendments on those lines were accepted then as being in order. Therefore, the only grounds on which these amendments could be ruled out of order would be on the basis of the money resolution. On the evidence I have given, these amendments are manifestly not outside the terms of the money resolution.

The Deputy Chairman

Whether or not the hon. Member is right, these amendments are outside the scope of the money resolution, which is not drafted in the same terms as the previous one to which the hon. Member referred.

Mrs. Barbara Castle (Blackburn)

May I support my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. O'Malley) in pressing this matter? As he said, last year we were able not only to discuss these, to us, intolerable exclusions from the scope of the bonus scheme, but to vote on them. When we did that, the Under-Secretary of State, who is here today, in reply to our request that other categories, such as widows, invalidity pensioners under the retirement age and so on, should be included, he accepted that his Bill was "rough and ready" and said that that was the price we had to pay to get the Bill into operation before Christmas.

This year the Government have allowed themselves plenty of time to draft a Bill which includes all those categories. That being so, it is abusing the rights of the House to refuse us the chance to move an amendment and to press the hon. Gentleman on his own argument of last year.

The Deputy Chairman

Again, I understand entirely what the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) is saying. but I must hold to my decision because this time the money resolution is more tightly drafted. That makes all the difference.

Mr. O'Malley

Further to the point of order, Mr. Mallalieu. When one million poor people are involved we are entitled to press the matter. I accept the argument that we must be ruled by the terms of the money resolution. We know that Governments draft money resolutions as tightly as possible to reduce the scope of embarrassing amendments, and I have no doubt that the Government have attempted to do that here. But I am putting my case on the basis of the money resolution.

I have submitted that the term "pensioner" used in the money resolution does not refer to retirement pensioners and, in the technical use of the word "pensioner" within the national insurance system, it does not mean automatically "retirement pensioner". If my interpretation of the money resolution is wrong may we be told why? On what grounds is it argued and has it been decided that the amendments are outside the scope of the money resolution?

Having put that case, I hope that we may have from the Chair the detailed grounds on which that decision was taken. At best it is arguable; at worst, with great respect to the Chair, it is a wrong decision.

The Deputy Chairman

The hon. Member always puts his points courteously. But I must adhere to my decision. I am not entitled to alter the rules. The hon. Member and his friends will have plenty of chance to discuss the matter fully, as I indicated previously.

Mrs. Castle

It is important for future argument of this kind to have the point explained. Is the Chair saying that a person in receipt of an invalidity pension—and the case that I wish to raise does not relate to a retirement pensioner—or a women in receipt of a widow's pension—which is another case that I wish to raise—is not a pensioner? If so, are not the statutes misleading in their terminology?

The Deputy Chairman

The right hon. Lady is attempting to entice me along a path that I must not follow. I have made my ruling. I must not go into the details of the matter.

Mr. O'Malley

Further to that point of order, Mr. Mallalieu. We accept the Chair's ruling—it is the only way that this House can work. But we are unhappy about it. The million people who cannot now be the subject of an amendment to give them the Christmas bonus—the widows, the disabled and the sick—should be aware that as a result of the legal trickery of the Government we cannot discuss the possibility of their having the £10 bonus, and that we cannot change the Bill. It is disgraceful.

Mrs. Castle


  1. Clause 1
    1. cc565-600
  2. Clause 2
    1. cc600-4
  3. Clause 5
    1. cc604-7
  4. Clause 6
    1. cc608-13
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