HC Deb 11 June 1975 vol 893 cc436-60

Motion made, and Question proposed, That it be an Instruction to any Committee to which the Social Security Pensions Bill may be recommitted that they have power to make provision in the Bill for a new noncontributory benefit under Part II of the Social Security Act 1975, payable to and in respect of persons suffering from such physical disablement that they are unable to walk, or virtually unable to do so.—[Mr. O'Malley.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. George Thomas)

I should inform the House that Mr. Speaker as selected the amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. Fowler). I call the hon. Gentleman to move his amendment.

4.42 p.m.

Mr. Norman Fowler (Sutton Coldfield)

I beg to move, as an amendment to the proposed motion, at end add 'and to make provision in the Bill for bringing into force section 36 of the Social Security Act 1975 on 1st January 1976 in respect of the entitlement to a non-contributory invalidity pension of a married woman who is incapable of performing normal household duties'. So far, the Secretary of State has taken a slightly patrician view of the rôle of Members of Parliament. We are concerned about the procedure which has been used here. In effect, the Government have introduced at the eleventh hour what we all agree and all accept to be a major change—the mobility allowance. This has no natural connection with the Social Security Pensions Bill. It was not debated on Second Reading. It was not even mentioned. It was not mentioned in Committee, either.

The Opposition's objection is that, by adopting this procedure, the Government have effectively deprived the House of the right to scrutinise what in effect is a new piece of legislation. The right hon. Lady has told us of the importance of this legislation and of its wide benefits. It is fundamentally important, we agree. However, it should have been allowed to go through the normal processes of legislation. The details of the new allowance appeared on the Order Paper the day before the Whitsun Recess. They appeared literally as hon. Members left to campaign in the referendum. It will not be surprising if some hon. Members have missed the details of it. I am sure that many people outside this House have missed the details and therefore have been deprived of the opportunity to make their views known—although the right hon. Lady spoke earlier in a somewhat derogatory manner about them.

In the normal way, we would have had a Second Reading debate and a Committee stage. The proposal would have been scrutinised properly and, above all, we would have had a proper opportunity to consult not only the national organisations representing the disabled but also the local organisations and people in our constituencies whom we know to take a close interest in these matters. Instead, in effect, we are taking all the stages of this Bill in a couple of hours.

What is the Government's excuse? They say that, unless we debate this tonight, we shall not debate it at all. They say that there is no more room in their legislative timetable. Whose fault is that? It is an argument which simply will not wash. The Government are saying that they have a long list of legislation such as the Industry Bill, the Community Bill and measures of that kind and, therefore, that there is no time to take through Parliament in the proper way the necessary legislation for the mobility allowance. In other words, the Government's long list of undesirable measures is being used as an excuse to keep out one of the few desirable measures which they are introducing.

It seems to me that we are having one of those all-purpose pieces of enabling legislation foreshadowed by the Leader of the House in his famous radio interview. We now see the effect of such a change and how it results in there being insufficient time to scrutinise and insufficient time to consult.

Unhappily, the Secretary of State has left the Chamber. It is always difficult to keep her in her seat for longer than 10 minutes at a time. But I find it strange that it should be the right hon. Lady who is using this device, bearing in mind that she travelled from the Oxford Union to the Brussels branch of Marks and Spencer proclaiming that the Common Market interfered with the right of Parliament to scrutinise and check legislation.

The Opposition argue that because the cause of the disabled is so important, a proposal of this kind should be allowed to go through the proper procedures. Obviously we accept that the Government will have their way. Like the right hon. Lady in another respect, we are realists and we accept that the Government will win the vote. If that is the case, I hope that the Government will at least show consistency by not opposing our amendment to this Instruction on disabled housewives, which is an issue that is felt strongly by disabled people.

Our amendment is nothing like as procedurally wide ranging as the Government's motion. But it is agreed on all sides that it is a fundamentally important amendment. It seeks to give a commencement date for the pension payable to disabled housewives.

The Government have already accepted the case for disabled housewives to be paid benefit, following their defeat in Committee on the Social Security Benefits Bill, and they moved an amendment on Report which the House accepted. However, we still lack a commencement date. The latest Government pronouncement that I have seen suggests that they have in mind to introduce this in the year 1977–78.

We say that this is too late. The purpose of our amendment is to put a commencement date to it. It also allows the Government, if the amendment is accepted, to modify it slightly or to go beyond it if they so wish.

I know that the Under-Secretary of State recognises the strength of feeling that exists on this subject. Disabled housewives in this country—indeed, in all countries—face special difficulties. As the Department's report on the handicapped and the impaired pointed out in 1971, the disabled housewife faces a whole range of problems, such as problems of cooking, housework and shopping. Everyday tasks that ordinary housewives take for granted present special difficulties to the disabled. Their problem is not only real but, in the view of Conservative Members, also urgent.

The hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Carter-Jones) pointed out during the Committee stage of the Social Security Benefits Bill, another of the problems which arise, namely, that the disabled man is frequently looked after by his wife but the disabled housewife is, unfortunately, sometimes neglected.

The new benefit will not solve these problems, but it will certainly help. That is why it is so important that the Government should accept our amendment. They should, at least, accept the right of this House to debate the issues which are involved. It may be that at the end of the day they will reject our proposed date, or they may undertake to bring forward a new commencement date. However, the Government should give the House the opportunity now to debate this related matter.

I hope that the Government will also accept that inconsistencies will arise if the commencement date is not announced. It will mean, for example, that a single woman who receives the non-contributory invalidity pension will have this benefit taken away when she marries. It will also mean that the disabled single woman living in the same house as her brother will receive the benefit while the married woman living with her husband will not. Therefore this is a natural stage at which to debate this issue.

There are strong feelings on both sides of the House and outside the House about the rights of disabled housewives. Strong feelings have been expressed by groups such as the Disabled Income Group.

The Government have moved to extend the Bill. I hope, therefore, that they will accept our modest extension to the Bill.

4.53 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security (Mr. Alfred Morris)

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. Fowler) for his reference to the policies on which I have been working as the Government's most "desirable measures". In every administration there is great pressure on those who have to manage the legislative timetable. I hope that it will not be suggested that there has been any impropriety in the procedure that we have followed.

There may have been a misunderstanding among Conservative Members, which I shall attempt to correct. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State wrote to the hon. Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke) and other hon. Members of Standing Committee A to explain the procedure which we were following in order to legislate for the mobility allowance at the earliest possible date. Our amendments were tabled before the recess.

I accept the point made by the hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield about the need for the fullest possible exchanges on new legislation. Nevertheless, I hope he will accept that we have been trying to move as quickly as possible and that this was the best available vehicle for legislating on the mobility allowance at the earliest possible moment.

Mr. Norman Fowler

We do not want to make a meal of the consultations. It is fair to point out that not our Chief Whip, and neither myself nor any hon. Members, apart from my hon. Friends on the Committee, were informed of this. In addition, no consultations took place on this point.

Mr. Morris

I know that my right hon. Friend the Minister of State was deeply concerned to be both helpful and courteous. It has not been easy to bring the legislation to the House, even at this date. I have had a great deal of help from my right hon. Friend and I trust that it will be accepted that when he wrote to the hon. Member for Rushcliffe and other hon. Members of Standing Committee A, he was attempting to help them and the House as a whole.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke (Rushcliffe)

Will the Minister accept that the Minister of State wrote to about a dozen hon. Members of Standing Commitee A on the very last day of the last Session? The letter arrived on the Friday when the House was discussing Adjournment motions. Therefore, only a handful of hon. Members were about the House. We had concluded our proceedings and conversations in the Committee the day before. No intimation whatever had been given that the mobility allowance would be added to the Bill, but it must, by that stage, have been the Government's clear intention, because the amendments were tabled as soon as the House, in effect, dispersed, although theoretically it was still sitting. Two of those hon. Members who were discussing occupational pension schemes were on the all-party committee dealing with the disabled.

Is that adequate notice to the House of the intention totally to change the nature of a Bill and to bring in changes on a subject such as the mobility allowance—a subject with which most of the Members of whom I speak were not the slightest bit concerned?

Mr. Morris

The responsibility is mine rather than that of my right hon. Friend. I have been having detailed consultation in order to find a vehicle for this purpose. I have received a great deal of co-operation from my hon. Friends, and I accept responsibility for any difficulty that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen may have in seeking to table amendments. My hon. Friend the Member for Eccles (Mr. Carter-Jones), nothwithstanding any lack of notice, was remarkably productive in tabling amendments. He has argued already that he has tabled far more amendments than it may be possible to discuss.

Mr. Lewis Carter-Jones (Eccles)

I should like to make it perfectly clear that I would rather have this desirable legislation passed by this method than not at all. I welcome it. I was reasonably quick off the mark with my amendments because outside organisations got at me quite quickly and gave me the amendments they wanted tabled. They were accepted. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State was a great help to me in Committee. The Whip to that Committee, another great friend, is here also.

I have one objection to the procedure, namely, that when we tried in Committee to find a way round the cunning of the Treasury, we were able to beat the money resolution. What has happened here is that we have not had time to consult Mr. Peter Large—whom, I hope, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you will not mind my referring to as "the stranger in the House". He helped me on that occasion to find a way around the money resolution. What I am upset about this time is that I have not been given time to find a way of defeating it.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The interruptions are becoming so long that I am forgetting who is addressing the House.

Mr. Morris

My hon. Friend has my admiration for his remarkable industry during the recent recess in tabling so many amendments.

I readily acknowledge the ingenuity of Opposition Members in succeeding, by a novel procedure, in drawing further attention to our entirely new benefit for disabled housewives. The context chosen for this amendment is nothing if not surprising. I hope it will be accepted that the Government have moved with some speed to ensure legislative cover for the new benefit shortly to be debated. The mobility allowance is for many disabled people, including large numbers of disabled housewives.

The provision we are seeking to make follows hard on the heels of legislation for our new non-contributory invalidity pension and our new invalid care allowance. The mobility allowance is to become part and parcel of legislation designed, among other things, to provide earnings-related invalidity pensions. All this is in close proximity to a major up-rating and to the announcement of a still further up-rating in November of this year. Jumping on a good bandwagon is not an unreasonable thing to do, but the bandwagon will not benefit from crowding by everyone who supports the new benefit. It has enormous support.

Announcing in advance a three-year programme of changes necessarily involves the risk of being pressed to squeeze that programme into one or two years. However, the only way in which we can make that advance at all is by making it systematically, and in line with the realities of social security operations. We cannot simply feed a stream of legislation into a computer and thereby put benefits immediately into people's hands. For my part, I much regret that some observers are still ready to be unrealistic about what can be done and to blame recalcitrant officials for failure to do the impossible. The officials with whom I work are as keen as I am to move as quickly as we possibly can to make the new benefits payable.

I need no reminding whatever of the importance of our new non-contributory invalidity pension for housewives. It will be one of the most significant and novel improvements in our social security system. It will be a novelty that by no means all advanced countries share. Moreover, it must be one that is carefully planned and sensibly fitted into what is overall a massive programme of changes.

My officials have had preliminary discussions with the Disablement Income Group. I know that the hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield will be especially pleased that we have been in consultation with DIG. We are also in touch with a number of other countries which have ventured into this area ahead of us. A doctor and a lay member of my staff have just returned from Switzerland after a detailed fact-finding visit. Further discussions with DIG will follow.

I am not committing myself to a definite timetable now. To be definite the timetable must be capable of achievement. As soon as it is clear what is the earliest possible date for this benefit for housewives, we shall announce the date. All I can say definitely at this stage is that with an uprating for over 11 million beneficiaries, changes in supplementary benefits disregards affecting 800,000 beneficiaries, the main non-contributory invalidity pension to be implemented, the mobility allowance to be implemented, and the interim child benefit scheme to be introduced, all at the end of this year and in the early part of next year, there is no possibility of taking on the housewives' benefit in January 1976.

Nothing could be worse than introducing a half-baked scheme which imposed intolerable injustices on those intended to benefit from it and imposed intolerable strains on those intended to operate it. There have been some instances of this in other countries. That is a mess which at all costs I should like to avoid here.

What I shall gladly do, if some of my hon. Friends or Opposition Members would welcome this, is to arrange for a meeting at which they could explain how they see more rapid progress being made, and my officials could fill out with me the technical details of the broad picture of the challenge they are tackling.

I have said to hon. Members previously that if they want to know the pressures on the staff of my Department, they will find that many of their constituents work for the Department and that it can be most instructive for right hon. and hon. Members occasionally to consult their constituents who work in this field and who know at first hand the pressures of which I am speaking. We shall do the job as quickly and as well as it can be done.

The proposal embodied in the amendment is not possible of achievement if we are to proceed without injustices and avoidable strains. I hope that on reflection, and having made their point, the hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield and his supporters of the amendment will be willing to withdraw it. If not, I must ask the House to vote against it.

5.6 p.m.

Mrs. Lynda Chalker (Wallasey)

I thank the Minister for his offer of a meeting between those of us interested in the problem of assessing the non-capability of the disabled housewife, which is, as I understand it, the problem that is holding up his Department—let alone all the other many things it is trying to do. This offer will be much welcomed. I am sure that we can at the time look at the readily available information from other countries on how they assess the inability of disabled housewives to perform normal household tasks.

However, I remind the Minister that we shall fall into a very difficult situation in regard to some single disabled women. We have always spoken of making the situation equal. There will be some young single disabled women who will postpone their marriage because of the inability to bring in the benefit for the disabled housewife at the same time as it is introduced for other people. They may be few in number, but this matter should be considered.

I hope that we shall have the meeting about which the Minister spoke very soon, because I for one feel that the disabled housewife should have exactly the same consideration as any other disabled person entitled to the non-contributory invalidity pension.

5.7 p.m.

Mr. Lewis Carter-Jones (Eccles)

The Minister has taken up an offer made by three hon. Members at the last sitting of the Committee, when we said that we would love to discuss with him how the disabled housewife benefit could be introduced rapidly. If this is now a firm offer, I gladly accept it.

5.8 p.m.

Mr. Robert Boscawen (Wells)

I have some sympathy for what the Minister has said. However, I should not like this occasion to pass without reminding the House of the strength of feeling that has existed on all sides that the disabled housewife should be included in this legislation at the earliest opportunity, and that the disabled housewife was the kernel of the problem. These are the people we really wanted to help. That is why the House reversed the legislation first introduced by the Labour Government last autumn. It is also why we have continued to press for it on every possible occasion and why my hon. Friends on the Opposition Front Bench, with their ingenuity, have been so active in trying to remind the House again by introducing their amendment that we really mean business and want this done as soon as possible.

We know that there are great difficulties and drawbacks and that it is still difficult to assess a married woman's incapacity for work. We accept that. But the will of the House is that something should be done on the earliest possible occasion for this needy group of people.

5.9 p.m.

Mr. Thomas Torney (Bradford, South)

Having listened to the debate, I cannot help feeling that the whole range of help for disabled people generally would not be available today if the Prime Minister, in his wisdom—although some of us may very much disagree with some of his choices of Ministers, and so on—had not decided to appoint a separate Minister responsible for the disabled. The Prime Minister did a very good job indeed when he did that, and disabled people are benefiting greatly.

There is a far greater amount of help coming forward. We can appreciate from our constituency dealings with the Department that the disabled are now getting more help. We are obtaining more help. The Opposition might like to think of that when they are being critical of small details. There is a great deal more help coming forward generally for the disabled because there is now a separate Department. I think that that is to be applauded.

I do not think that we should waste time splitting hairs. Progress is being made in the cause of the disabled, including the disabled housewife. I am sure that a great deal more progress will be made now that a Ministry has been set up to do the job.

5.11 p.m.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke (Rushcliffe)

If the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Torney) attended more of our debates on the disabled, he would find that the splitting of hairs and the study of details occurred to enable the House to discover—despite the Minister's protestations of what has been done in this sphere—that there are serious deficiencies in many aspects of the Government's programme. That is what legislation, the Committee stage and parliamentary discussion are all about. We wish to make sure that the Government's protestations of good intentions, their campaigning and other noises are matched in detail in performance, and that the details of that provision bring the desired benefit to all those affected so that we do not again find the anomalies, to which hon. Members on both sides have objected, between disabled housewives and others.

That takes me back to the subject of the role of discussion and the need to go into detail. That is what this House is meant to be about.

I congratulate the Under-Secretary on the charming and disarming way in which he dealt with this novel procedure. He explained that there must be an instruction because he had found no other way of getting his legislation on the statute book. He did not refer any further to discussion, to parliamentary procedure, and to the role of Members of the House of Commons. He was very sorry but there was no other way in which it could be done.

The Under-Secretary discussed briefly the mobility allowance and the NCIP for disabled housewives. He pointed out that he wrote to two Members of Parliament who were known to have an interest in the subject, pointing out that he intended to adopt this procedure so that they could put down amendments. We all know of the interest taken in the subject by the hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Carter-Jones), who is a leading parliamentary figure in this matter, as is my hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Mrs. Chalker). However, there may have been other hon. Members who might have wanted to know that this legislation was coming along so that they could take part in the proceedings.

Mr. Alfred Morris

I do not wish to detain the House unduly. However, the Minister of State also wrote to the hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Hannam) as the secretary of the all-party Disablement Group.

Mr. Clarke

I am sorry. I was 50 per cent. wrong in my allegation. Three hon. Members with a known interest in the subject were informed on the day before the House rose for the recess, during which most hon. Members participated in the referendum campaign, that this legislation would be introduced three days after the House resumed.

The Minister put the case in this way. He said it was absurd for him as Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security, with responsibility for the disabled, to try to explain the wider aspects of the matter. However, he is talking about parliamentary problems. The root of what he is saying is that the Government's legislative timetable is in a total mess and that it is overcrowded. The Government led hon. Members on both sides to expect the introduction of a mobility allowance. He was no doubt informed by the Government managers of parliamentary affairs that there was no time for a mobility allowance Bill, and that other vital Bills were in the pipeline. I refer to the Industry Bill, the Community Land Bill, the Hare Coursing Bill, and the Road Traffic (Seat Belts) Bill. He was probably told that other vital matters were coming before Parliament. We know that when it comes to the arrangement of the legislative timetable, anything that might upset the Tribune Group could not be removed from its place. The Minister was probably told that there was no legislative time for a separate mobility allowance Bill.

Since there was no time for the Bill, the Minister turned to this ingenious procedure, which involved giving no notice to the House. The procedure of proper notice involves a First Reading. The Bill must then be put down on the Order Paper for a Second Reading. That allows all hon. Members who take an interest to do so. The device of sending out letters was resorted to. However, notice was given to those members of the Committee with an interest in occupational pensions, many of whom had no interest in the mobility allowance. Notice was only given to three other hon. Members.

I must also protest about the way in which that letter was sent out on the last possible day. The amendments to this Bill were tabled on the last possible day before the House rose when, according to practice, most hon. Members were away in their constituencies. That was a cynical use of this ingenious device. The Government must have decided before the Friday prior to the recess that they intended to do this. There was only one purpose in sending out the letter on the Thursday to reach those few hon. Members on the Friday—which was that the fewest possible Members of Parliament should realise that this course was to be taken so that there should be the minimum opportunity of getting up a head of steam to protest about the procedure being followed.

Mr. Carter-Jones

If that is the point being made by the hon. Gentleman, if 12 letters were sent out they would have been sent out to the 12 hon. Members who were least interested.

Mr. Clarke

About 12 letters were sent to hon. Members with no interest in the matter. In this case, three hon. Members out of 625 were chosen for their special interest in the subject. My hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey points out that she, as Vice-President of the Disablement Income Group, was not sent one of those letters. Therefore we are back to two letters. The letters were held back until the last day before the recess. That was done so that there should be no consultation between hon. Members, so that they should not have the opportunity of taking part.

The Minister now comes along with this separate subject, which has no bearing on the pension scheme, which was being discussed on 14 occasions in Committee. This new subject is, as it were, tagged on as a trailer to the Bill.

Mr. Alfred Morris

One Opposition spokesman said that this was one of the best features of the Government policy. Why should the Government wish to hide from anybody one of the best features of our policy?

Mr. Clarke

We must not confuse the issues. I trust that the House will say this to any Minister who tries to do this. We must not reach a situation where it is argued that a proposal which concerns a good cause, which is not likely to be opposed, provides an excuse for not having a proper parliamentary discussion on the matter. This is what is being urged. We are being told that we should abandon our procedural objections because the mobility allowance is desirable in principle. The Opposition accept that the mobility allowance is exceedingly desirable in principle. However, both sides of the House must stick to the principle that we have a right to consider, to discuss and to be given proper notice of the details of the Government's programme, so that there can be a Commit- tee stage and so that interested groups outside can advise hon. Members who are considering the matter. We must not allow Ministers to say that this good cause is being obstructed on procedural grounds to the disadvantage of the disabled, and to produce that as an excuse to avoid proper parliamentary scrutiny.

Let me make this clear. The Opposition will vote against this Instruction. We are not voting against the mobility allowance. We would not vote against a mobility allowance Bill if it were introduced. We would not divide against it on Second Reading. If the Minister introduces a mobility allowance Bill tomorrow, we shall not divide against it.

The Minister could introduce a mobility allowance Bill. The problem has nothing to do with our attitude to the allowance or to the disabled. The problem is that the Government have so crowded their legislative timetable that they cannot find room for a Bill which would have an unopposed passage in the House and Committee.

Mr. Carter-Jones

What will happen if the Opposition win the Division?

Mr. Clarke

If we win, the mobility allowance Bill can be reintroduced at such time as the Minister thinks fit. I shall discuss the procedural points with the hon. Member for Brigg and Scunthorpe (Mr. Ellis) after the debate if he does not choose to take part in it. My understanding is that the Government could intoduce a mobility allowance Bill tomorrow or the day after, and that the Bill could be read a Second time.

Mr. David Weitzman (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington)

The hon. Gentleman wants only one thing—delay.

Mr. Clarke

No delay is involved. It is entirely within the choice of the Government which legislation is important and which is not and in what order they bring it forward in the legislative timetable. There need be no more than two or three days' delay before a Second Reading.

I congratulate the Minister on his ingenuity in hooking on to this Bill a totally separate subject matter. But it is wrong that he should do this and be left, as usual, by the Secretary of State to explain what is being done. I can only assume that he got the idea, if his right hon. Friend did not give it to him, from the Leader of the House, who has been trying to persuade us that this kind of innovation should be made more often. Many of us heard the interview given by the Leader of the House in which he gave the impression—it is an impression often given by those who have spent too long dealing with the mechanics of the House and not enough with the principles of politics—that the House was delaying too much legislation and business and that the time had come to have more Hybrid Bills.

This Bill, which is not a hybrid, is being transformed into a multi-purpose Bill. Its subject matter is being widened from pensions to a Pensions and Mobility Allowance Bill at a very late stage.

I have no doubt that we shall find, as we found on the Pensions Bill and other Social Security Bills, that the other idea of the Leader of the House will occur in the mobility allowance part of the Bill—that there should be much wider regulation-making power and a little less parliamentary discussion of matters in detail. The idea is that the Minister should be allowed to do all good things and not have to consider them with Members like me who want to discuss procedural points and, in Committee, what the Minister is doing.

That is what lies behind the motion. It is absurd that this Bill should be used as a first excursion into trying to see whether the House will wear broadening Bills into multi-purpose Bills so that the Department of Health and Social Security can take up less of our parliamentary timetable and be squeezed somewhat, leaving more time for political Bills from other Departments which are getting into difficulties.

Mr. Torney

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, however much he tries to excuse the delay, the elector in the constituency who will benefit from what we are trying to do this afternoon—the disabled housewife—will remember the Tory Party not for the legislative mistakes of which he is accusing the Government but for delaying this legislation corning into operation? He knows that it would be a delay of not two or three days but considerably longer.

Mr. Clarke

The Minister has had the best point made for him so far. One of his hon. Friends has revealed that he still does not know what we are talking about. The hon. Gentleman believes that we are talking about legislation to help the disabled housewife. The hon. Gentleman, who takes his instructions from the hon. Member for Brigg and Scunthorpe, is about to vote against an Opposition amendment which would speed up the benefit to the disabled housewife. I can only urge the hon. Gentleman to read his Order Paper very carefully, because he is about to vote against speeding up the benefit to the disabled housewife—the Minister is moving a mobility allowance for the disabled—but there are hon. Members who follow these matters very closely.

I should like to give a further explanation why I am so pained about the Government's procedure as one who took part and will be taking part later tonight in the pensions part of this Bill. This measure, which has been chosen as a vehicle for the mobility allowance, has not in any sense been impeded by the Opposition. Because of the arguments about the desirability of certainty and a quick decision or, the pensions provision, we have throughout been co-operative on the proceedings on the Bill. We have not sought to raise any amendments in Committee which went outside the scope of the pensions provision. We agreed, through the usual channels, to complete the Committee stage by the Whitsun Recess. The Opposition got into a slight mess with their timetable, but, to facilitate the Government, they asked for afternoon sittings to keep to their commitment. As a result, the Bill came out of Standing Committee on time. We have also accepted the Report stage a little earlier than we would have wished, but again we are not proposing to obstruct that. Therefore, the Opposition have been particularly co-operative. We have accepted arguments about public interest and that our main interest should be in the wellbeing of the pensions policy that we are considering. But the Government have now decided to use this Bill as a vehicle to get them out of trouble and to make more time for politically controversial Bills which are being held up along the Committee corridor.

I hope that the hon. Member for Bradford, South will follow this next point very closely. It may be difficult, but it is important. Our amendment, which will be the first of the two votes in which the hon. Gentleman will be taking part in a few minutes, has been dismissed by the Minister. The Government are adding totally different subject matter to the Bill and we are seeking to bring in a discussion on the disabled housewife. The Government have stuck to a timetable of bringing in the non-contributory invalidity pension for all beneficiaries at some undetermined time before bringing it in for the disabled housewife. The Minister knows about the strong objections to the anomaly that that creates between the disabled housewife and others, which will continue for so long as this is unchanged.

The Minister has given us his Department's brief for the Standing Committee and deployed arguments which were used by his colleagues on the Social Security Benefits Bill: "We are sorry. It is administratively impossible to get round this problem. We will at some undetermined time bring in the disabled housewife later." The Minister will recall that the Government used that argument in Standing Committee and that it was rejected by the Committee. The Government were defeated. They tried to exclude the disabled housewife altogether, but an all-party vote in that Committee defeated them and brought in the disabled housewife. The hon. Gentleman will know—I am sure that he has studied those Committee proceedings—that the burden of the argument was that the disabled housewife should be brought in at the same time.

We are not proceduralists. The Government have had to accept the letter of that amendment. But, as the Secretary of State made clear in a speech when she accepted, supposedly, her defeat, on Report they could get around it. We had not properly amended the commencement clause, so the spirit of that defeat has been avoided by the Government. They will not change their arguments from the first stage when they were deployed in the House. In those circumstances, it seems to us that it is time that the whole House had the opportunity to take a clear decision, to emphasise that this administrative argument is nonsense, to emphasise that it is absurd to bring in this benefit in this way, and that the Government should have got their timetable sorted out in the first place.

We cannot have a situation where a single girl receives a non-contributory invalidity pension, when it is brought in, but then, if she marries or cohabits with a boy friend, loses it.

The Government have made an administrative mess of the way in which they timetabled the introduction of the new benefits. As they have avoided the consequences of one defeat in Standing Committee, we are trying to get another opportunity for the House to consider the matter in order to bring home to the Government that it is no use Ministers coming here with hearts on sleeves and being full of good intentions aimed at the electorate and anybody else who cares to listen. The details of their performance show woefully inadequate administrative skills, incompetence and often deficiencies. Therefore, we must press the amendment to a Division.

Question put, That the amendment be made:

The House divided: Ayes 160, Noes 174.

Division No. 225.] AYES [5.30 p.m.
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne) Chalker, Mrs Lynda Dunlop, John
Bain, Mrs Margaret Churchill, W. S. Eden, Rt Hon Sir John
Beith, A. J. Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton) Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen)
Bell, Ronald Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Ewing, Mrs Winifred (Moray)
Berry, Hon Anthony Cockcroft, John Fairgrieve, Russell
Biff en, John Cooke, Robert (Bristol W) Fell, Anthony
Biggs-Davison, John Cope, John Fisher, Sir Nigel
Boscawen, Hon Robert Corrie, John Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N)
Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent) Costain, A. P. Fletcher-Cooke, Charles
Brittan, Leon Crawford, Douglas Fookes, Miss Janet
Brotherton, Michael Crouch, David Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd)
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Dean, Paul (N Somerset) Galbraith, Hon T. G. D.
Buchanan-Smith, Alick Dodsworth, Geoffrey Goodhew, Victor
Bulmer, Esmond Drayson, Burnaby Goodlad, Alastair
Gow, Ian (Eastbourne) MacGregor, John Shepherd, Colin
Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry) Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham) Shersby, Michael
Gray, Hamlsh Marten, Nell Silvester, Fred
Grieve, Percy Mather, Carol Sims, Roger
Grimond, Rt Hon J. Maude, Angus Skeet, T. H. H.
Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Maudling, Rt Hon Reginald Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Speed, Keith
Hannam, John Molyneaux, James Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)
Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss Montgomery, Fergus Sproat, Iain
Hastings, Stephen Morrison, Charles (Devizes) Stainton, Keith
Hawkins, Paul Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester) Stanley, John
Hayhoe, Barney Mudd, David Steel, David (Roxburgh)
Henderson, Douglas Neave, Airey Steen, Anthony (Wavertree)
Holland, Philip Nelson, Anthony Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)
Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Neubert, Michael Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Howell, David (Guildford) Normanton, Tom Stradling, Thomas, J.
Howells, Geraint (Cardigan) Osborn, John Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)
Hunt, John Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby) Tebbit, Norman
Hurd, Douglas Pardoe, John Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Parkinson, Cecil Thompson, George
Jenkin, Rt Hon P (Wanst'd&W'df'd) Penhaligon, David Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Devon)
Jones, Arthur (Daventry) Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch Townsend, Cyril D.
Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine Prior, Rt Hon James van Straubenzee, W. R.
Kershaw, Anthony Pym, Rt Hon Francis Viggers, Peter
Kimball, Marcus Raison, Timothy Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)
King, Evelyn (South Dorset) Rathbone, Tim Walker, Rt Hon P. (Worcester)
King, Tom (Bridgwater) Rees-Davies, W. R. Walters, Dennis
Kitson, Sir Timothy Reid, George Warren, Kenneth
Knight, Mrs Jill Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex) Watt, Hamish
Knox, David Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon Weatherill, Bernard
Lamont, Norman Ridsdale, Julian Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
Lane, David Rifkind, Malcolm Wigley, Dafydd
Lawrence, Ivan Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)
Lawson, Nigel Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW) Winterton, Nicholas
Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks) Wood, Rt Hon Richard
Luce, Richard Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight) Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)
McAdden, Sir Stephen Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)
MacCormick, Iain Scott, Nicholas TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
McCrindle, Robert Scott-Hopkins, James Mr. Adam Butler and
McCusker, H. Shaw, Michael (Scarborough) Mr. Spencer Le Marchant.
Macfarlane, Neil Shelton, William (Streatham)
Allaun, Frank Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE) Kerr, Russell
Anderson, Donald English, Michael Kilroy-Silk, Robert
Archer, Peter Evans, Ioan (Aberdare) Kinnock, Neil
Armstrong, Ernest Evans, John (Newton) Lambie, David
Ashley, Jack Ewing, Harry (Stirling) Lamond, James
Ashton, Joe Faulds, Andrew Leadbitter, Ted
Atkinson, Norman Fernyhough, Rt Hon E. Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Litterick, Tom
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood) Foot, Rt Hon Michael Lomas, Kenneth
Bates, Alf Ford, Ben Loyden, Eddie
Bidwell, Sydney Freeson, Reginald Lyon, Alexander (York)
Booth, Albert Garrett, John (Norwich S) Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)
Boothroyd, Miss Betty George, Bruce Mabon, Dr J. Dickson
Boyden, James (Bishop Auck) Gilbert, Dr John McElhone, Frank
Bray, Dr Jeremy Ginsburg, David MacFarquhar, Roderick
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Golding, John Mackintosh, John P.
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) Gourlay, Harry McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)
Canavan, Dennis Graham, Ted McNamara, Kevin
Cant, R. B. Grant, George (Morpeth) Madden, Max
Carter-Jones, Lewis Grocott, Bruce Marks, Kenneth
Cartwright, John Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Marquand, David
Castle, Rt Hon Barbara Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife) Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)
Clemitson, Ivor Harper, Joseph Meacher, Michael
Cocks, Michael (Bristol S) Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Mellish, Rt Hon Robert
Corbett, Robin Hatton, Frank Mendelson, John
Craigen, J. M. (Maryhill) Hayman, Mrs Helene Mikardo, Ian
Cryer, Bob Heffer, Eric S. Millan, Bruce
Cunningham, G. (Islington S) Huckfield, Les Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)
Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh) Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey) Mitchell, R. C. (Solon, Itchen)
Dalyell, Tarn Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N) Molloy, William
Davies, Bryan (Enfield N) Hughes, Roy (Newport) Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Hunter, Adam Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King
Delargy, Hugh Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln) Newens, Stanley
Dernpsey, James Janner, Greville Noble, Mike
Doig, Peter Jay, Rt Hon Douglas Oakes, Gordon
Dormand, J. D. Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) O'Halloran, Michael
Douglas-Mann, Bruce Johnson, Walter (Derby S) O'Malley, Rt Hon Brian
Duffy, A. E. P. Jones, Alec (Rhondda) Orbach, Maurice
Dunn, James A. Jones, Barry (East Flint) Ovenden, John
Dunnett, Jack Jones, Dan (Burnley) Owen, Dr David
Palmer, Arthur Sillars, James Weetch, Ken
Pendry, Tom Silverman, Julius Wellbeloved, James
Perry, Ernest Skinner, Dennis Weltzman, David
Phipps, Dr Colin Small, William White, Frank R. (Bury)
Radice, Giles Spearing, Nigel Whitlock, William
Richardson, Miss Jo Spriggs, Leslie Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Stallard, A. W. Williams, Alan (Swansea W)
Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock) Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham) Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)
Rodgers, George (Chorley) Strang, Gavin Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Rooker, J. W. Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W) Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Roper, John Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E) Wise, Mrs Audrey
Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock) Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW) Woodall, Alec
Ryman, John Thome, Stan (Preston South) Wool, Robert
Sandelson, Neville Tomney, Frank Young, David (Bolton E)
Sedgemore, Brian Torney, Tom
Selby, Harry Tuck, Raphael TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Shaw, Arnold (llford South) Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V) Mr. John Ellis and
Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-u-Lyne) Walker, Terry (Kingswood) Mr. David Stoddart.
Short, Rt Hon E. (Newcastle C) Ward, Michael
Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich) Watkinson, John

Question accordingly negatived.

Main Question put:

Division No. 226.] AYES [5.42 p.m.
Allaun, Frank Ginsburg, David Mitchell, R. C. (Solon, lichen)
Anderson, Donald Golding, John Molloy, William
Archer, Peter Gourlay, Harry Molyneaux, James
Armstrong, Ernest Graham, Ted Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)
Ashley, Jack Grant, George (Morpeth) Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King
Ashton, Joe Grimond, Rt Hon J. Newens, Stanley
Atkinson, Norman Grocott, Bruce Noble, Mike
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Oakes, Gordon
Bain, Mrs Margaret Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife) O'Halloran, Michael
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Harper, Joseph O'Malley, Rt Hon Brian
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood) Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Orbach, Maurice
Bates, Alt Hatton, Frank Ovenden, John
Beith, A. J. Hayman, Mrs Helene Owen, Dr David
Bidwell, Sydney Heffer, Eric S. Palmer, Arthur
Booth, Albert Henderson, Douglas Pardoe, John
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Howells, Geraint (Cardigan) Pavitt, Laurie
Boyden, James (Bish Auck) Hoyle, Doug (Nelson) Pendry, Tom
Bray Dr Jeremy Huckfield, Les Penhaligon, David
Callaghan, Jim (Mlddleton & P) Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey) Perry, Ernest
Canavan, Dennis Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Phipps, Dr Colin
Cant, R. B. Hughes, Roy (Newport) Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch
Carter-Jones, Lewis Hunter, Adam Radice, Giles
Cartwright, John Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln) Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S)
Castle, Rt Hon Barbara Janner, Greville Reid, George
Clemitson, Ivor Jay, Rt Hon Douglas Richardson, Miss Jo
Cocks, Michael (Bristol S) Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Corbett, Robin Johnson, Walter (Derby S) Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)
Craigen, J. M. (Maryhill) Jones, Alec (Rhondda) Rodgers, George (Chorley)
Crawford, Douglas Jones, Barry (East Flint) Rooker, J. W.
Cryer, Bob Jones, Dan (Burnley) Roper, John
Cunningham, G. (Islington S) Kerr, Russell Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)
Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh) Kilroy-Silk, Robert Ryman, John
Dalyell, Tarn Lambie, David Sandelson, Neville
Davies, Bryan (Enfield N) Lamond, James Sedgemore, Brian
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Leadbitter, Ted Selby, Herry
Delargy, Hugh Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)
Dempsey, James Litterick, Tom Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-u-Lyne)
Dolg, Peter Lomas, Kenneth Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
Douglas-Mann, Bruce Loyden, Eddie Sillars, James
Duffy, A. E. P. Lyon, Alexander (York) Silverman, Julius
Duniop, John Lyons, Edward (Bradford W) Skinner, Dennis
Dunn, James A. Mabon, Dr J. Dickson Small, William
Dunnett, Jack MacCormick, Iain Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE) McCusker, H. Spearing, Nigel
English, Michael McElhone, Frank Spriggs, Leslie
Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen) MacFarquhar, Roderick Stallard, A. W.
Evans, Ioan (Aberdare) Mackintosh, John P. Steel, David (Roxburgh)
Evans, John (Newton) McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C) Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)
Ewing, Harry (Stirling) McNamara, Kevin Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)
Ewing, Mrs Winifred (Moray) Madden, Max Stoddart, David
Fernyhough, Rt Hon E. Marks, Kenneth Strang, Gavin
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Marquand, David Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole) Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Ford, Ben Mellish, Rt Hon Robert Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)
Freeson, Reginald Mikardo, Ian Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)
Garrett, John (Norwich S) Millan, Bruce Thompson, George
Gilbert, Dr John Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride) Thorne, Stan (Preston South)

The House division: Ayes 196,Nose 135.

Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Devon) Weitzman, David Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)
Tomney, Frank Wellbeloved, James Wise, Mrs Audrey
Torney, Tom White, Frank R. (Bury) Woodall, Alec
Tuck, Raphael Whitlock, William Woof, Robert
Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V) Wigley, Dafydd Young, David (Bolton E)
Wainwright, Richard (Colne V) Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Ward, Michael Williams, Alan (Swansea W) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Watkinson, John Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch) Mr. J. D, Dormand and
Watt, Hamish Williams, W. T. (Warrington) Mr. John Ellis.
Weetch, Ken Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne) Hastings, Stephen Raison, Timothy
Bell, Ronald Hawkins, Paul Rathbone, Tim
Berry, Hon Anthony Hayhoe, Barney Rees-Davies, W. R.
Biffen, John Holland, Philip Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)
Biggs-Davison, John Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Boscawen, Hon Robert Howell, David (Guildford) Ridsdale, Julian
Boyson, Or Rhodes (Brent) Hunt, John Rifkind, Malcolm
Brittan, Leon Hurd, Douglas Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Brotherton, Michael Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd & W'df'd) Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)
Buchanan-Smith, Alick Jones, Arthur (Daventry) Rost, Peler (SE Derbyshire)
Bulmer, Esmond Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine Scott, Nicholas
Butler, Adam (Bosworth) Kershaw, Anthony Scott-Hopkins, James
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Kimball, Marcus Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Churchill, W. s. King, Evelyn (South Dorset) Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)
Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton) King, Tom (Bridgwater) Shelton, William (Streatham)
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Kitson, Sir Timothy Shepherd, Colin
Cockcroft, John Knight, Mrs Jill Shersby, Michael
Cooke, Robert (Bristol W) Knox, David Skeet, T. H. H.
Cope, John Lane, David Speed, Keith
Corrie, John Lawrence, Ivan Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)
Costain, A. P. Lawson, Nigel Sproat, Iain
Crouch, David Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Stainton, Keith
Dean, Paul (N Somerset) Luce, Richard Stanley, John
Dodsworth, Geoffrey McAdden, Sir Stephen Steen, Anthony (Wavertree)
Drayson, Burnaby McCrindle, Robert Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
du Cann, Rt Hon Edward Macfarlane, Neil Stradling Thomas, J.
Eden, Rt Hon Sir John MacGregor, John Taylor, R. (Croydon NW)
Fairgrieve, Russell Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham) Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)
Fell, Anthony Marten, Neil Tebbit, Norman
Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N) Mather, Carol Townsend, Cyril D.
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Maude, Angus van Straubenzee, W. R.
Fookes, Miss Janet Maudling, Rt Hon Reginald Viggers, Peter
Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd) Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Walker, Rt Hon P. (Worcester)
Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D. Montgomery, Fergus Walters, Dennis
Glyn, Dr Alan Morrison, Charles (Devizes) Warren, Kenneth
Goodhew, Victor Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester) Weatherill, Bernard
Goodlad, Alastair Mudd, David Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
Gow, Ian (Eastbourne) Neave, Airey Winterton, Nicholas
Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry) Nelson, Anthony Wood, Rt Hon Richard
Gray, Hamish Neubert, Michael Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)
Grieve, Percy Normanton, Tom
Griffiths, Eldon Osborn, John TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby) Mr. Fred Silvester and
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Parkinson, Cecil Mr. Spencer Le Marchant.
Hannam, John Prior, Rt Hon James
Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss Pym, Rt Hon Francis

Question accordingly agreed to.

Ordered, That it be Instruction to any Committee to which the Social Security Pensions Bill may be recommitted that they have power to make provision in the Bill for a new non-contributory benefit under Part II of the Social Security suffering from such physical disablement that they are unable to walk, or virtually unable to do so.