HC Deb 23 July 1980 vol 989 cc665-99

11.7 pm

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. Michael Alison)

I beg to move,

That the Social Security (Northern Ireland) Order 1980 (S.I., 1980, No. 870), a copy of which was laid before this House on 2 July, be approved.

By reason of urgency, the order has already been made under the Northern Ireland Act 1974 without a draft having been approved by a resolution of the House. If it is to continue to have effect, it must now receive approval. Its essential purpose is to maintain parity with Great Britain in the cash social services.

The order, which has 16 articles and four schedules, is best described under two main headings. First, it includes provisions corresponding to those recently enacted for the rest of the United Kingdom in the Social Security Act 1980, which, among other matters, provided for the restructuring of the supplementary benefit scheme, for similar treatment for men and women in social security, and a wide range of miscellaneous amendments affecting many aspects of the social security system.

As right hon. and hon. Members are no doubt familiar with the contents of that Act, which was so recently debated in this House, I do not propose to give lengthy explanations of the articles and schedules falling under the first heading but rather to remind the House of the main purpose behind this wide-ranging enactment.

Secondly, the order contains provisions additional to those contained in the Act. They are amendments and repeals of a minor or technical nature and I shall touch on them briefly.

Before I deal with the detailed provisions in the order I should explain why amendments relating to the review and uprating of benefits provided for by section 1 of the Act do not appear in the order. The omission of corresponding provision in the order does not mean that Northern Ireland will be out of step with the rest of the United Kingdom. The explanation lies in the principle of parity with Great Britain in the cash social services to which I have already referred. This operates to ensure a virtually uniform system of social security throughout the United Kingdom, and provision already exists in the Social Security (Northern Ireland) Act 1975 for the Department of Health and Social Services in Northern Ireland simply to make an uprating order corresponding to any such order made for Great Britain. It follows that the effect of the amendments in section 1 of the Act will be reflected in future up-ratings of benefit in Northern Ireland without any change in the present Northern Ireland law.

Mr. James Kilfedder (Down, North)

The Minister talks of parity in social benefits. Does he not recognise, as I have often put to him, that people in Northern Ireland, especially pensioners and those in a similar position, are less well off than their compatriots in Great Britain because they face a higher cost of living and other difficulties not experienced by people in Great Britain? Should they not therefore receive more benefit than people in Great Britain? Why has no provision been made for a twice-yearly review of pensions?

Mr. Alison

The hon. Gentleman will recall from the debate that he no doubt attended on the main Social Security Act 1980 that the Act is designed to reform the operations of the social services provisions—supplementary benefits, and so on—on what was then described by the Secretary of State for Social Services as a nil-cost basis. At issue is not the level of benefits but the structure for providing the benefits. It would not be appropriate on this occasion to step outside the ambit of the nil-cost approach to discuss particular variations that may or may not be appropriate in the level of benefits. The principle of parity is assumed both in the main Act and in the order that now applies the main Act to Northern Ireland.

I should like to refer to the new Social Security Advisory Committee provided for in the Social Security Act, and in particular to its relationship to Northern Ireland. This body will have a United Kingdom remit and will include one member drawn from Northern Ireland. It seems to me to follow logically from the principle of parity in the cash social services that this important advisory committee should have within its purview the social security system in Northern Ireland as well as in Great Britain. The committee will therefore be in a position to advise the Northern Ireland Department of Health and Social Services on matters relating to supplementary benefits, family income supplement, child benefit and national insurance benefits, other than those for industrial injuries and diseases.

Additionally, the Department will be required to seek the views of the committee on proposals for regulations on any of the matters for which the committee has an advisory responsibility. I am sure that the fact that one member of the committee will be appointed from Northern Ireland will be welcomed, and I was pleased to note that on Second Reading debate of the Social Security Bill the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), to give an example, welcomed the introduction of one advisory body for the whole of the United Kingdom.

The Social Security Advisory Committee will assume the advisory responsibilities of the Northern Ireland Supplementary Benefits Commission, and since provision is made in the order for its executive functions to be taken over by the Department of Health and Social Services, the commission, like its Great Britain counterpart, is to be abolished. I take this opportunity to pay tribute to the outstanding service which the chairman and members of the Northern Ireland commission, past and present, have rendered, especially during the last 10 difficult years. My predecessors and I owe them a great and real debt of gratitude. In their concern for, and response to, the complex problems of poverty and deprivation in Northern Ireland they have made a most important contribution to the development of public policy.

I turn now to the substance of the order and to its main objective, which is the introduction of an important package of reforms of the supplementary benefits scheme. These reforms are provided for in article 7 and schedule 2.

The pressures on the supplementary benefit scheme in Great Britain, which gave rise to the report "Social Assistance" and led in turn to the publication of the White Paper "The Reform of the Supplementary Benefits Scheme" exist in Northern Ireland as much as in any other part of the United Kingdom. The Government's proposals for reform in the White Paper are therefore as urgently needed in Northern Ireland as in Great Britain.

The keynote of the reforms is simplification. A new legal and administrative framework provided under the order will ensure that the emphasis of the scheme is shifted from discretionary payments to payments under clear rules of entitlement. This framework will set out a claimant's entitlement and obligations in full in the form of regulations. The regulations will be explained in simple language in a new version of the supplementary benefit handbook to be published by the Department of Health and Social Services for Northern Ireland.

Other changes include provision for the determination of individual benefit claims, now exercised by the Supplementary Benefits Commission, to be exercised in future by "benefit officers", whose decision.'; will be subject to a right of appeal to a supplementary benefit appeal tribunal, and from that tribunal, on points of law only, to a social security commissioner. The main benefit changes will consist of the alignment of long-term supplementary benefit scale rates with corresponding national insurance rates, the reduction of the present two years qualifying period for the long-term scale rates to one year, and the reduction of the present five scale rates for children to three.

The alignment of long-term scale rates will not take place until the general up-rating of benefits in November, and will mean that for some people the uprating will be marginally less than it would otherwise have been. However, the reduction in the long-term scale rate qualifying period from two years to one year will benefit some 8,000 claimants in Northern Ireland, 20 per cent. of whom are single parents. The reduction of the present five scale rates for children to three will benefit about 20,000 families in Northern Ireland, with 28,000 children in the existing age bands—under 5, and 11 to 12. These families will qualify for up to an extra. £ 3.20 weekly for each child within these age bands.

The order also makes provision for meeting the EEC directive on equal treatment for men and women in social security. In compliance with this directive, a married woman will be able, from November 1983, to claim an increase in short-term benefits for her husband and any dependent children if the husband's earnings are less than the increase of benefit being claimed for him. As a further step in implementation, married women will be able, from November 1984, to claim for children irrespective of the husband's earnings.

In addition to these matters, the order makes a number of minor, technical and tidying up changes in social security law. For example, amendments to the Social Security (Northern Ireland) Act 1975 will result in maternity grant becoming a non-contributory benefit, subject only to satisfaction of conditions as to residence and presence in Northern Ireland. In order to reduce frivolous or vexatious appeals to a social security commissioner from decisions of a local tribunal, provision has been made that no appeal shall lie to a commissioner from a unanimous decision of a local tribunal except with the leave of a tribunal chairman or a commissioner.

Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)

The hon. Gentleman speaks about permission from the chairman or a commissioner. Is that only on a point of law?

Mr. Alison

That is on a point of law.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Down, South)

The hon. Gentleman will no doubt confirm that the prescribed conditions as to residence and presence in Northern Ireland should be reciprocal with the corresponding requirements in the mainland. He will be aware that a number of cases from time to time come to his attention, as they do to that of hon. Members, where there is extreme difficulty for persons moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, or vice versa, to make good the total qualification in whichever part of the Kingdom they will draw the benefit. I hope that the Minister will be able to refer to that, at any rate later in the debate.

Mr. Alison

I shall reflect on that as the debate proceeds and certainly attempt to comment on it at the conclusion.

I come now to the second main heading—the changes that are required for Northern Ireland only. There are six such amendments, and while they are all of a minor nature I think that hon. Members are entitled to an explanation why these arise in what is essentially parity legislation. Articles (6) provides for the insertion of a provision in schedule 1 to the Child Benefit (Northern Ireland) Order 1975 to the effect that in paragraph 1 of the schedule to that order a reference to a child in the care of the DHSS includes a reference to a child in the care of a health and social services board.

The background to this technical amendment is that in the course of a recent child benefit decision the Northern Ireland commissioner commented that he would find it difficult to construe the existing of schedule 1 (1) (f)—which refers to a child in the care of the Department—as if it applied to a child who had been committed to the care of a health and social services board. This amendment puts beyond all doubt that, in the context of child benefit, a child within the care of the Department includes a reference to a child within the care of a health and social services board, which in this as in other respects acts as an agent of the Department under delegated authority.

The second of these amendments deals with medical appeal tribunals established under the Social Security (Northern Ireland) Act 1975, to hear appeals arising under the industrial injuries scheme. Provision is made that the Department of Health and Social Services can arrange with any other Government Department that a medical appeal tribunal appointed or recoginsed by that other Department, and consisting of a chairman and two medical practitioners, shall be a medical appeal tribunal for the purposes of the Social Security (Northern Ireland) Act 1975.

The background to this amendment is that there is a right of appeal or reference to a medical appeal tribunal appointed by the Department of Health and Social Services against a decision of a medical board on any question of diagnosis in respect of pneumoconiosis, byssinosis or diffuse mesothelioma, but as the incidence of these diseases in Northern Ireland is relatively slight, the medical appeal tribunals there do not include among their members specialists with the necessary expertise in those fields. The main aim of this amendment is therefore to enable medical appeal tribunals established by the Department of Health and Social Security in Great Britain to decide questions in respect of those diseases on behalf of the Northern Ireland Department of Health and Social Services.

The third of these amendments clarifies the situation where rent rebate or allowance is adjusted to take account of supplementary benefit already paid. This amendment will put beyond doubt that rent rebate or allowance should be reduced by the amount that a benefit officer determines would not have been paid if the award of supplementary benefit had taken the rebate or allowance into account. The effect of the amendment will be to ensure that there is no duplication of payments from public funds.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

May I press the Minister on the question of the medical appeal tribunals that are set up under the relevant section having two doctors and a chairman who is usually a lawyer? Am I right in saying that the Minister said that because the new diseases that have been scheduled—pneumoconiosis, byssinosis, and so on—are relatively rare in Northern Ireland these provisions would not operate in Northern Ireland? How would I represent someone at a medical appeal tribunal in Northern Ireland?

Mr. Alison

I merely said that in order to ensure that any claimant or appellant who suffered from these diseases and who had his claim turned down by a tribunal should appeal to a body that had on it medical practitioners who were competent and expert in these diseases. This is very much to the advantage of the appellant. As these diseases do not occur much in Northern Ireland there are unlikely to be the medical practitioners there to give his appeal the thorough medical assessment that it would receive from doctors who are familiar with handling these diseases. We therefore make quite certain that a man's appeal is heard by competent medical people—and there are such people in Britain, as the hon. Gentleman will know because the diseases are prevalent over here—who will assess fairly and scrupulously, with expert knowledge, the validity of the claim. It is very much to the ad- vantage of the appellant that we should do it that way.

Fourthly, amendment is made to section 9 of the Friendly Societies Act (Northern Ireland) 1957, where reference is made to repealed social security legislation and to the now defunct Ministry of Labour and National Insurance. Those references are updated in schedule 3 to the order to reflect current social security legislation and to refer to the Department of Health and Social Services.

The fifth of those amendments concerns the Mental Health Act (Northern Ireland) 1961 wherein reference is made to the Northern Ireland Hospitals Authority, a body that ceased to exist when the health services in Northern Ireland were reorganised in 1973. That reference is now being changed to the Department of Health and Social Services.

Lastly, provision is made for the repeal of sections 1 (4), 1 (5), 11 (5) and 11 (6) of the Payments for Debt (Emergency Provisions) Act (Northern Ireland) 1971. Those provisions relate to the discretionary power for exceptional needs payments to be made to debtors by the Supplementary Benefits Commission. Their repeal is in anticipation of the forthcoming abolition of the commission, to which I referred earlier. The provisions are, moreover, spent in the light of present policy and practice. In recent years the commission has, in its discretion, applied the same procedure for assessing entitlement to an exceptional needs payment to all supplementary benefit claimants.

Apart from those six amendments, the order enacts legislation for Northern Ireland corresponding or complementary to that very recently enacted for Great Britain. It maintains the principle of parity between the cash social services in Northern Ireland and those in Great Britain. On that basis, I commend the order to the House.

11.27 pm
Mr. Brynmor John (Pontypridd)

As the Minister reminded us, this is a debate in which some of the main provisions of the Social Security Act 1980—the No. 1 Bill that was overtaken in mid-course by the No. 2 Bill—are being enacted in relation to Northern Ireland. There are some provisions in the regulations to which we do not object, such as the measures that give equality of treatment to men and women—for example, for family income supplement—and the reduction from two years to one year for qualification for long-term benefit.

The House will not need to be reminded too closely of those parts of the measure that have already been applied to Northern Ireland. The Minister boasted of a parity of treatment. It was an equality of misery. The Acts severed the linkage, which meant that for many people there was a reduction in their standard of living and an increase in their misery. As the hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder) said, the cost of living is 2 per cent. higher, on average, in Northern Ireland. For pensioners' items it is even greater, with fuel costs about 25 per cent. higher. Although that is not an argument for special treatment, it means that the severance of the linkage will cause an increasing number of people in Northern Ireland to be pushed back into the poverty and disadvantage that they were in for too long.

I remind the House that 14 per cent. of the population in Northern Ireland is to some extent dependent upon supplementary benefits of one sort or another. That may appeal to the Official Unionist Party, to judge by the intervention of the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) in yesterday's debate, but it does not appeal to many other people in Northern Ireland.

My second point is that the disadvantage and the difficulty in Northern Ireland is compounded by the Government's steadfast refusal to make unemployment a long-term benefit for payment purposes. Tuesday's figures of 84,700 unemployed in Northern Ireland—or 14.7 per cent. of the insured population—are truly horrifying. It is even more horrifying that more than one-third of the men have been unemployed for more than a year and nearly one-quarter for more than two years. If that is not worthy of long-term benefit I do not know what is.

The problem is accentuated when one considers the ages of the long-term unemployed. In the age group 35 to 49, 49 per cent. of the males have been unemployed for more than a year and 37½ per cent. of them have been unemployed for more than two years. Whatever else may be said about the unemployment situation, it is, to put it mildly, in the highest degree unlikely that with increasing unemployment and declining job vacancies there will be a vast improvement in the position. In fact, all the indications are that it will get very much worse. For many people unemployment is likely to mean long-term misery, without long-term benefit rates to compensate for it, and that is unfair.

Our chief ground of concern about the order, and why we shall divide the House on it, centres on the decision to abolish the Supplementary Benefits Commission for Northern Ireland.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell

Will the hon. Gentleman make it clear—it was not clear to me from his remarks—whether he supports the principle of parity of benefits and conditions of benefits between the Province and the rest of the Kingdom? He appeared at one point to be suggesting that the benefits and conditions in Northern Ireland ought to be different from those in the rest of the Kingdom.

Mr. John

I have made it clear. This does, of course, bear on the question of discretion. There ought to be parity in discretionary payments in kind, but they ought to be on a very much more generous scale for the whole of the United Kingdom. Added to that, as the hon. Member for Down, North said, there is the fact that the abolition of the discretion that now exists will mean that the insurance officers in Northern Ireland will be less able than they are at present to take into account factors such as higher fuel costs.

Perhaps I may revert to the question of the abolition of the SBC. The Minister said that this proposal was similar to what had happened in Great Britain. It may be argued that for the sake of consistency Northern Ireland should be similarly treated, but the fact that one mistake has been made does not mean that two mistakes ought to be made just to be consistent in the wrong course that has been adopted. I believe that the abolition of the commission is a mistake.

The commission has two functions. One is policy making, and it has had a great deal of flexibility and discretion in the way in which it has performed that task. There has been criticism of the commission's way of doing things, but we are now, we are told, to replace it with entitlement under regulations that I understand are to be debated next week. They will need to be fairly special regulations if they are to foresee most of the problems that society can throw up, without leaving a wide discretion to the officer concerned. They will lead to rigidity of the sort to which discretion does not give rise, and I shall be interested to see how the Government will tackle this problem and what the effect will be on the people of Northern Ireland.

The SBC brought a measure of independence to its decisions. Furthermore, it produced annual reports by which its work could be judged. Despite all the noises about ministerial accountability, I doubt very much whether the recipients of benefit will have as sensitive treatment from the new regime as they had from the old. Appeals for money will henceforth be decided not by the commission but by people described as benefit officers, with the rights of appeal that the Minister mentioned.

I have never hidden my concern about the way in which our administrative tribunals work. They often constitute an apparent denial of justice to the applicant, because, although the system was intended to be comprehensible to the lay applicant, it has become so hidebound by the doctrine of precedents and the quotation of cases to which only the insurance officer and the tribunal have access that the person who appears before them for a benefit—I cite, for example, medical tribunals—is bewildered by the procedure. It often appears to such a person that what is taking place is a cosy chat between the insurance officer and the tribunal, and that he is a mere spectator.

I believe that without further improvement in the system the order will not live up to the objects enshrined in the explanatory note—that of simplifying the social security system. To many it will merely mean that the provisions are more complicated and more bewildering, and that the persons affected are less able to make representations.

As the Supplementary Benefits Commission report for Northern Ireland showed on the last occasion, much of the value of fixed entitlement—the Minister made great point of the question that, instead of discretion, we now have fixed and certain entitlement—depends on the scales fixed and on the concept that the rates should more realistically reflect people's living expenses. Without that, I believe that the new system will engender at least as much dissatisfaction as the present one. We know already from the two Acts that the House has passed that the Government are making the gap between benefit payments and the actual costs of a person's day-to-day living more unrealistic than it ever has been, certainly in the last decade.

Then we have the advisory function of the Supplementary Benefits Commission. It was in this that its independent function was seen to have the greatest advantage. Now an advisory committee is to be set up for the whole of the United Kingdom on which there will be only one representative for Northern Ireland. Clearly, those needs and shortcomings that are special to Northern Ireland will be submerged in that new body, on which there will be only one representative, instead of there being an advisory council. I believe that the Government, who so fondly embrace devolution in other contexts for Northern Ireland, have been singularly illogical in proposing that the Supplementary Benefits Commission for Northern Ireland should be abolished and that the advisory function for Northern Ireland should be abolished.

Lord Elton, who has attracted more than his share of criticism for his deeds in recent days, said in the debate in the other place last week that we were not to worry, because the new United Kingdom body might devise a framework and a method of procedure suitable to cater for Northern Ireland's needs. Viewed in another way, it might not. The whole climate for advisory bodies has changed. The Minister says that they will have an advisory function. I remind the Minister of what happened to the last two recommendations of the Supplementary Benefits Commission. It advised that benefit rates should be index-linked. We know what the Government said about that. It advised also that the sort of no-cost review that we are discussing tonight was a sham and should not be embarked upon. We know what the Government thought about that.

So what climate is there for a realistic advisory committee in the present framework? There is a large body of opinion in Northern Ireland that is very worried about the change. How on earth can one person represent the needs of the whole committee? I put it even more directly. How can one person of the type likely to be appointed by the Government to a body such as this reflect the needs and aspirations of the poor and their need for extra diet, extra heating and extra clothing, when in all probability he or she will have no more than a remote idea of the needs and pressures upon those in need? Two or three persons might find it hard to represent 1½ million people, but at least with two or three there might be a rough cross-section of people with relevant experience.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell

Will the hon.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell

Will the hon. Gentleman—

Mr. John

I will finish this section of my speech and then I will give way to the right hon. Gentleman. I am endeavouring to give other hon. Members an opportunity to take part in the debate, which is limited by time.

With one appointment only, we are placing an impossible burden on that one person who. in all probability, will have no personal experience of the needs of those on whose behalf he is expected to speak and comment intelligently to the advisory committee.

Mr. Powell

I wondered how many representatives from Wales there would be on this body.

Mr. John

I accept that the idea of one advisory body of such a limited nature is wrong. The right hon. Gentleman will know that I am no anti-devolutionist, and if a body is set up to advise the Government I say that it should include a cross-section of the people concerned, who will have a relevant knowledge of the needs of the people concerned, and should not be drawn from the lists of the great and the good, which too often happens.

The totality of the debate is that although there are some valuable proposals in the order, its central core is bad. It incorporates an attack on the United Kingdom as a welfare State at the very time that the Government are mounting a massive attack on Britain as an industrial State. That is why we shall oppose the order in the Lobbies tonight.

11.42 pm
Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)

Northern Ireland is different from the rest of the United Kingdom, although part of that kingdom, just as there is a difference between parts of Scotland and other parts of Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom, and in the same way as Scotland is different from Wales.

Northern Ireland is passing through a difficult time in terms of employment. Any sensible person looking at Northern Ireland today knows very well that in the coming months thousands more people will join the ever-increasing dole queues. Northern Ireland has become almost an economic wasteland. I think of my constituency, which once had less unemployment than any other part of the United Kingdom and now has over 15 per cent. unemployed. In Cookstown and Strabane, 27 per cent. of the people are unemployed.

There are exceptional needs in Northern Ireland, and if we destroy the discretionary power we shall deny help to people who need it. The worst part of this order is the destruction of the right of discretion. Some hon. Members attend tribunals, speak for their constituents, and seek to help those who have been blighted with this cancer of unemployment. In every society there will be layabouts and people who want to milk the social service schemes, but they are a small percentage of the vast number of people who would like to be employed.

About a year ago I attended a tribunal at which the chairman had the audacity to say to a woman for whom I was pleading for a special needs grant "Eight pounds a week is enough for you to live on". How can anyone live on £ 8 a week? If we destroy the right of discretion the people of Northern Ireland will be placed in difficult circumstances.

I noted what the Minister said about the Supplementary Benefits Commission. He said that it had done a great job, but deserved an obituary notice. The Minister did not come here simply to bury the Supplementary Benefits Commission. He came both to praise it and to bury it. If it has done the job that it was supposed to do why when we are entering an even bleaker period in Northern Ireland, should we destroy something that has been proved to do a good job? The Minister must face that question this evening.

The position in Northern Ireland has no relevance to that in Wales. It has no relevance to that in Scotland. The employment position in Northern Ireland today is entirely different. In all parts of the United Kingdom there is access by land to raw materials. Northern Ireland has no raw materials. There is a stretch of water dividing Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom and the raw materials must be brought in. The finished product must be got out.

In the terrible state of affairs that we have at present, how business is able to keep competitive I do not know. Indeed, both workers and management should be greatly praised for the way in which they have been able to keep their heads above water in these difficult days.

Mr. Stephen Ross (Isle of Wight)

I remind the hon. Gentleman that there are other parts of the United Kingdom that are separated by sea from the mainland. I happen to represent one such constituency. I fully recognise all the problems that exist in the Province and that we do not have all the problems of the high level of unemployment there, but we are paying considerably more for our petrol. We are paying £ 1.45 for four-star petrol, whereas people in Northern Ireland are paying £ 1.37, or thereabouts.

Rev. Ian Paisley

The little stretch of water that divides the hon. Member's constituency from the rest of the United Kingdom is nothing. What utter nonsense to make such a comparison. I might as well argue tonight that Rathlin Island, which I also represent in the House, is removed from the rest of the United Kingdom. [Interruption.] If the only Liberal contribution to the debate is the one that we heard earlier it shows the utter bankruptcy of the Liberal Party in regard to Northern Ireland. It shows that the Liberals are in utter ignorance of what is happening at the present time in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)

My geography is a bit weak, but does Tory Island fall within the hon. Gentleman's constituency?

Rev. Ian Paisley

No, it does not fall within my constituency, thank God; Rathlin Island does.

It is evident now that the exceptional needs grants are to be abolished, because there will only be entitlement grants. I should like the Minister to consider the exceptional needs grants. He knows Northern Ireland. He should bear in mind the price of energy in Northern Ireland and the price of heating and lighting.

The hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross) talks about paying more for petrol in the Isle of Wight than we have to pay in Northern Ireland. What about electricity costs? What about gas costs, which are three times higher than they are in the rest of the United Kingdom? We have no benefit from the natural gas that is supplied to the rest of the United Kingdom. It should be remembered also that the person who is receiving benefits has to pay just as much as anyone else for these items.

I should like the Minister to tell us a little more about the appeals system. If a local tribunal finds against a person, there has always been the right of appeal, but it now seems that that right of appeal is to be completely abolished, except on a point of law. That is a serious matter. If the tribunal is unanimous, there is no appeal except on a point of law. That means that the case cannot be reheard. Therefore, it is a final appeal to the local tribunal.

Is that what will happen? Will there be only one appeal, the rest being on a point of law if there is a unanimous decision? This is an important matter.

How many people have lost their cases before the local tribunal but on appeal have won them? Those would be very interesting figures and relevant to the debate.

I regret that because of the way in which legislation for Northern Ireland is controlled we have only one and a half hours to discuss this matter. Many Northern Ireland Members want to speak in the debate. I should like to develop other points, but other Members are entitled to be heard.

We cannot amend the order. Some matters in the order are good. There is only one course for us to follow. I shall have no option but to vote against the order.

11.51 pm
Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Down, South)

The order completes the application to Northern Ireland of the changed system that was embodied in what is now the Social Security Act 1980. That measure was passed on a Division. The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) voted against the Second Reading of the Bill, as did many other hon. Members.

The question that has to be faced immediately we apply that Act to Northern Ireland is the question that I raised with the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Mr. John), namely, the question of parity; whether we believe that the same benefits, rules and principles of application should apply throughout the United Kingdom just as the same taxes and systems of tax levies apply throughout the United Kingdom.

It has already been suggested that parity takes no account of the different circumstances of the different parts of the kingdom. It certainly does not. Parity means that the rates that are fixed for benefits, burdens and duties throughout the kingdom take no account of differing circumstances.

Reference has been made to the differing circumstances of Northern Ireland compared with the mainland. We have the figures for Northern Ireland because Northern Ireland is measured separately in those respects. The hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross) reminded the House—I am not sure that he realised that this was the point that he was making—that there is no cost of living index for the Isle of Wight, just as there is no cost of living index for London, the North-East or any other part of the United Kingdom, but we have parity in Great Britain, despite the different circumstances in one part of the mainland compared with another. Parity for Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom means acceptance of parity in that sense.

Mr. John

Surely the right hon. Gentleman will recognise our consistency. On the passage of the Act we, too, criticised the removal of the element of discretion. There are two elements in payments—first, the parity that is statutorily laid down and, secondly, the discretion that takes account of special needs. A major part of the attack on the order is the removal of the discretion and, therefore, of the ability to compensate for differing costs of living, and so on.

Mr. Powell

This is a matter that I hope the Minister will clarify when he intervenes again. What is being done is not, as I understand it, the elimination of discretion in the sense in which the hon. Gentleman was speaking of it; it is the substitution of a known and published system of rules for assessment of the special payments whereas previously there was widespread complaint that no one knew and no one could be sure of the consistency of the rules that were being applied by officials in different parts of the country.

For years I listened to complaints, not least from the Opposition Benches, that there were no published rules to which claimants could resort that showed on what basis the special payments were to be made. That demand has been met and principles and rules upon which the discretion is to be exercised will be published. The publication of the rules does not oust discretion. The hon. Gentleman misconceives the point, as have others, in assuming that discretionary payments will be eliminated. I hope that that will be confirmed and made clear by the Minister when he replies.

The other matter of complaint is the substitution of one United Kingdom social services advisory committee for the advisory functions of the two previous Supplementary Benefits Commissions. If we are to have parity—if we are to have the same principles applied throughout the United Kingdom—it seems to me and my hon. Friends to follow—this is why we voted for the relevant Bill on Second Reading—that it is only logical and correct to have a single advisory body that considers together the circumstances of the whole of the kingdom. Northern Ireland is represented by one member on that committee, and its existence and separate circumstances are recognised while the equally special circumstances of other parts of the kingdom are not recognised in the same way.

The application of this new system to Northern Ireland raises several constitutional issues. I touched upon them on Second Reading on 20 January, but I think it right briefly to mention them again.

We hear a good deal about the importance of having a corpus of legislation preserved intact for Northern Ireland—a Northern Ireland statute book. Here, there has been part enactment by a United Kingdom statute, and the other part is now being enacted by a Northern Ireland Order in Council. There is no question of a Northern Ireland statute for supplementary benefit. If anyone wishes to ascertain what the law is on supplementary benefit in Northern Ireland he will have to look in two places instead of one. He will have to read the Social Security Act 1980 and the order. This is a refutation, out of the mouth of the Northern Ireland Office, of its claim that there is a sacrosanct Northern Ireland statute book that it has to maintain through thick and thin whatever the deficiencies in the legislative process that that may involve.

I turn to two of the deficiencies. First, we are not able to have the same procedures following the recommendations of the social services advisory committee as apply in the rest of the kingdom. The reason for that is that we are persisting in legislating for Northern Ireland upon the basis of the 1973 constitution, which no one imagines is ever going to be operated again.

We persist in doing that. We do that in these rules. We did that in the 1980 Act. The consequence is that there is not parity of treatment. There is not the same legislative opportunity in handling the subordinate instruments that will be made under the order as is enjoyed in the rest of the kingdom. I appreciate that the Government went some way towards remedying that. They undertook that the recommendations of the advisory committee—in so far as they referred to specifically Northern Ireland—would be published and available, as if that were a statutory requirement. Indeed it should be a statutory requirement, just as it is in the rest of the United Kingdom.

The ultimate anomaly is that legislation that could and should be 100 per cent. United Kingdom legislation is enacted by a different method for Northern Ireland. The Social Security Act 1980 has been debated by both Houses of Parliament at every stage. The arguments have been fully traversed Those who represent constituencies in Great Britain may wonder why they have to be in the Chamber between the hours of 12 am and I am if they are to vote only on exactly the same issues, affecting a part of the United Kingdom to which the same rules will apply. I shall tell hon. Members why that is so. In particular, I direct my information at the Patronage Secretary and his assistants. The Government persist in denying Northern Ireland—although it is part of the United Kingdom—the privilege of being legislated for in the same way as the rest of the United Kingdom, and in the same statutes, although the same rules will apply.

Recently, the nation was led to believe that a legislature would soon be elected in Northern Ireland that would take this burden away from the House of Commons. That delusion cannot have survived the Government's attempt to delineate a constitution. The time has come for the Government and the House to face the fact that as long as Northern Ireland is an integral part of the United Kingdom—as it is declared to be—the law for that part must be made in exactly the same way as it is made for other parts of the United Kingdom. The absurdity of the situation in which we find ourselves can only reinforce what I have said.

Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)

Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that he would like to see a solution for Northern Ireland that is similar to the arrangements between the Principality of Wales and the rest of Great Britain?

Mr. Powell

In the context of the Bill, I am arguing that if law is to apply uniformly throughout the United Kingdom, that law should be made for the United Kingdom, by one United Kingdom Act of Parliament.

12.3 am

Mr. James Kilfedder (Down, North)

As other hon. Members wish to speak, I shall be brief. In response to the hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), I make no apology for having voted against the Social Security Bill whenever I had the opportunity to do so. I resent the Government's refusal to enable pensioners to keep pace with wages and prices. They say that pensioners must be satisfied with the minimum pension. They speak glowingly about the hope of improving that pension. Despite everything that they said at the time, pensioners, particularly those in Northern Ireland, will suffer severely during the coming months and years.

Pensioners and other deprived people in Northern Ireland suffer because of the high cost of food and fuel and the high cost of living generally. Greater concern should be shown for the elderly who, after giving years of hard work to the community, are entitled to something at the end of their days.

I regret that the Government refuse to accept twice-yearly uprating of pensions. Whenever a pension increase is proposed inflation wipes out the increase before it is made. That causes great hardship, particularly in Northern Ireland.

On Tuesday we heard a statement about unemployment. Nearly 85,000 people in Northern Ireland are unemployed. The figure is already out of date. Many people have become unemployed since the figures were compiled over a week ago. Thousands of workers are under threat of redundancy. A far worse figure will apply shortly. At this grave time for Northern Ireland greater consideration should be given to dealing with benefits for people in need.

I regret that the discretionary element has been taken away. It will add to difficulties in the Province. I regret that the Supplementary Benefits Commission is to be replaced by what is described as designated supplementary benefit officers. They will carry out the Government policy of making cuts and keeping benefits to the minimum. I have often had to write to the Supplementary Benefits Commission. I was glad to rely on its support in obtaining benefit for my constituents who were in need. I shall join the official Opposition in voting against the order.

12.8 am

Mr. Gerard Fitt (Belfast, West)

I cannot claim to speak for other Northern Ireland Members, but I am increasingly frustrated at the way in which Northern Ireland business is conducted in the House. The order is of prime importance to Northern Ireland, whether there are 85,000 or 100,000 unemployed. The social security Acts are an attack on the Welfare State. We need more than one and a half hours to debate such an attack.

Something must be done to extend our debates.

The legislation is totally unacceptable. The Minister has given no justification for the abolition of the Supplementary Benefits Commission in Northern Ireland. The Minister and Lord Elton in another place praised to the high heavens the wonderful job that it did in difficult circumstances. They say that it is so good that we can do without it now. That is a slur on the integrity of the personnel who gave signal service to the people of Northern Ireland. Replacing them with a single individual who will sit on an overall United Kingdom body will in no way fulfil the needs of the people in Northern Ireland.

Discretionary power should not be removed. When a person claims a social security benefit in future he will be shown the rule book and told by the officer that he has to abide by the rules. The Welfare State was built on humanity and compassion for the underprivileged and weak. It is not merely a set of regulations. It is a vicious attack on the concept of the Welfare State to remove humanity and compassion from the system.

In Northern Ireland we have the Payments for Debt (Emergency Provisions) Act (Northern Ireland) 1971 which does not exist in any other part of the United Kingdom. Electricity bills in Northern Ireland are three times as great as those in the remainder of the United Kingdom. Gas bills are two and a half times greater. Coal is dearer than elsewhere in the United Kingdom. People in Northern Ireland are therefore getting increasingly into debt. If people get into debt, under that Act the benefit allocation branch deducts money from benefits. The weekly benefit paid to the claimant is then far below what is regarded by the Supplementary Benefits Commission as the poverty line. There is, therefore, extreme poverty and social deprivation in Northern Ireland.

I am delighted to see that there is to be an attempt to abolish the FIS restrictions placed on cohabitees to bring the system into line with that which appertains in other parts of the United Kingdom.

Mr. Skinner

It is only a sprat.

Mr. Fitt

I recognise that it is only a gloss. The Government had to take that step because of EEC regulations. Without them, they would probably not have made even that slight improvement.

In answer to questions from my noble Friend Lord Blease, Lord Elton could give no justification for abolishing the commission in Northern Ireland and introducing new regulations. Lord Elton said that he had the idea that it might not work: if experience of the new arrangements suggests the need for a separate body, we will re-examine it. We shall try it. If it does not come up to expectations, then we shall look at it again. And the noble Lord is invited to give his views then."—[Official Report. House of Lords. 17 July 1980; Vol. 411 c 2023.] The noble Lord does not have to think about the new system. We know that the Supplementary Benefits Commission in Northern Ireland has fulfilled a useful function and should not be abolished.

I find the order completely unacceptable. We have 85,000 people unemployed. What justification is there for not giving long-term benefits to the long-term unemployed in Northern Ireland? The Minister should go back to his Department and find out how many people in Northern Ireland have been unemployed for five, 10, 20 or 30 years. In answer to a parliamentary question I learnt that one person in Northern Ireland had been on the unemployment register for 39 years, and there are hundreds of others who have been unemployed for many years. People in Northern Ireland are reporting to the unemployment register only quarterly, because there is no possibility of finding employment, certainly under this Government. Between last month and this there has been an increase in unemployment of 11,000. The figure has jumped from 74,000 to 85,000. When the next figures are published, they will be even higher.

Northern Ireland is different. It has levels of poverty and social deprivation that are unknown in any other part of the United Kingdom or Western Europe. The people of Northern Ireland do not deserve to be hit in the face with legislation such as this.

12.15 am
Mr. A. W. Stallard (St. Pancras, North)

I shall not take long, but I wish to refer to the question of parity. It would seem from what the Minister and the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) said that the debate is about parity. They seemed to imply that as long as we could establish parity between Great Britain and Northern Ireland we should not discuss the principle or the amounts involved.

This debate involves the same arguments that we had on the social security Bills. If parity means that pensioners must have a 54-week year and have to wait an extra two weeks for their pensions, we oppose it. It is not good enough to say that as long as there is parity we should not argue about the details. We must spell out to the people of Northern Ireland and to the people of the rest of the United Kingdom what is involved in the legislation.

The right hon. Member for Down, South seems to see everything on a constitutional basis, but we are not arguing about the constitution and we are not pre-empting the discussions that are taking place on constitutional questions. We are discussing a particularly nasty and evil attack on social and welfare benefits in Britain and the Six Counties.

A number of matters ought to be drawn to the attention of those in Northern Ireland. I know from my contacts with Age Concern in this country and in Northern Ireland and with other voluntary bodies that there is deep concern in Northern Ireland, which is the most deprived part of the United Kingdom. The Government's legislation will make that deprivation and poverty even worse. It is not good enough to say that that is all right, because we have parity and everyone is getting the same. Unless we can argue the principles involved and discuss the amounts there is little point in debates such as this.

The treatment of the long-term unemployed, both here and in Northern Ireland, is a disgrace. They should be entitled to extra benefits. The position is even more stark in the light of the figures given by my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Mr. John). The long-term unemployed and their families are to be made to suffer from the dogmatic attack by the Government on the Welfare State. We oppose that, whether it involves parity or not.

Pensioners have been told that they will have to wait another two weeks for their pensions and that in spite of the increase in the cost of living the shortfall will not be made up. They have also been told that in spite of a manifesto commitment, clearly argued on every Tory platform in this country as well as in the Six Counties, there will be no change in the earnings rule for pensioners.

There has also been an attack on occupational pensioners.

Mr. Fitt

Does my hon. Friend realise that Unionist Members are running true to form? Every Unionist Member voted against the inception of the Welfare State in 1947.

Mr. Stallard

I spoke at length in Committee on the question of discretion. The abolition of the SBC takes away the element of discretion that has been inherent in the operation of the system so far. I can do no better than to quote the director of Age Concern in England, Mr. David Hobman. He said: Without a significant increase in supplementary benefit levels this attempt to simplify the system and reduce the amount of discretion local social security officers have to take account of individual claimants' circumstances its bound to result in rough justice. Rough justice means that a lot of people suffer. Mr. Hobman went on to say: For instance, over 7,000 pensioners will lose their supplementary benefit because they have more than the required amount of capital. Supplementary benefit recipients on occupational pensions will lose £ 52 per year. Single payments for replacing 'naturally' outworn clothing, footwear and small household goods will be stopped. Supplementary benefit help with payment for local authority home helps will be stopped, and qualifications for many extra allowances will be tightened. That is right. This is the fear of voluntary organisations, here and there, about the abolition of the Supplementary Benefits Commission and the loss of discretion that will ensue. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd that we should oppose this proposal as fiercely as we opposed it when it was introduced for this part of the United Kingdom.

12.23 am
Mr. Dalyell

One of the troubles with these debates is that Ministers have insufficient time to reply to the questions that have been put. I would like to elicit some facts about the total cost of benefit involved. If the figure of unemployed in Northern Ireland is to be not 85,000 but, one suspects, 100,000, I should like an estimate, albeit a rough one, of the cost.

I have only half a minute in which to speak, but I cannot restrain myself from saying to my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) that, although Northern Ireland probably has the worst poverty in the United Kingdom, the patience of many people on this side of the water is growing very thin and sympathy is becoming very short. Hon. Members have problems in their own constituencies. What many people are now saying—this will doubtless be reflected at the Labour Party conference, and Irish Members should be under no misapprehension about the strong feelings that exist—is "A plague on all your houses. We have our own problems." There should be no misunderstanding. Unless we bring an end to this nonsense, which many Irish leaders seem to enjoy and revel in, great resentment will continue to boil up on this side of the water.

12.24 am
Mr. Alison

The hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) started his short intervention with the daunting assertion that I would not have sufficient time to answer any of the questions that have been raised. The hon. Gentleman is right in respect of the last question that he put. I cannot produce instantly the figure for which he asked. If he cares to table a written question we shall see that he gets the information.

I shall try to disprove the hon. Member's assertion that there will be insufficient time to reply to the debate by answering as many questions as possible, although my time is limited. The hon. Member for Pontypridd (Mr. John) made his main point the broad question of parity. I thought that the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) expounded fully and convincingly the value and logic of the principle of parity as applied to Northern Ireland and as reflected in the order that we are debating. Although I recognise that Northern Ireland is a particularly poor part of the United Kingdom, which has suffered badly from the relative economic decline of the country, it would not be acceptable for the Government to make an exception in the case of Northern Ireland and to maintain benefit there at a higher level than in the rest of the United Kingdom.

As the right hon. Member for Down, South pointed out, there are many other areas throughout the United Kingdom where there are poverty, deprivation and economic decline. It would not be right to single out one area from all the rest and to give the people of that one area special privileges not accorded to anyone else in the United Kingdom. How would the Government be able to justify that action to the rest of the country?

Mr. John

The hon. Gentleman cannot get away with that. He will know that we criticised that when it came up for the rest of the United Kingdom. What we are criticising is what he says in his own explanatory document: The emphasis will thus move from discretion to entitlement. That will mean a great deal of hardship to many people.

Mr. Alison

I shall say something later about the discretionary aspect, which was raised by the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley).

The fact is that social security policy is decided on a United Kingdom basis. In the process, the needs of each region, including Northern Ireland, are taken into account, but the end result is a system of cash benefits that applies evenly throughout the United Kingdom.

The hon. Member for Pontypridd also made some general criticisms about the abolition of the Supplementary Benefits Commission, particularly that for Northern Ireland, and the setting up in its place of the Social Security Advisory Committee. There have been representations that Northern Ireland should have its own social security advisory committee corresponding to its own independent Supplementary Benefits Commission, which is now superseded. However, the Government are firmly of the opinion that this is not the best approach; as the social security system in Great Britain and Northern Ireland is on parity principles in all major respects identical it seems sensible that the new advisory committee should have a United Kingdom remit.

As I have said, a place on the committee will be filled by a representative from Northern Ireland, thus giving the Province a voice in the centre. The Northern Ireland member will be free to seek assistance from official and other appropriate sources, so that he can make a full contribution to the committee's work. I readily acknowledge that if the constitutional position changes, or if the experience of the operation of the proposed arrangements suggests that they are inadequate, the situation will be reexamined.

The hon. Gentleman spoke rather scathingly of how little one person on the new committee could do, but the minimum figure for the new committee is eight individuals. One person from Northern Ireland will therefore have the job of representing the needs of 1½ million people. The average numbers represented by the eight members for all 55 million people of the United Kingdom will be 7 million, so the one representative for Northern Ireland will have much less of a burden to carry than the other individual commissioners, on a strictly pro rata basis.

The hon. Gentleman also referred to the serious unemployment in Northern Ireland. His misgivings were reflected by the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt), who spoke of some very long-term unemployed people there. I share the concern that we must all feel about the high level of unemployment in Northern Ireland. However, it is impossible for the Province to escape the consequences of the deepening recession, which is affecting all industrial economies. These figures reflect the results of the trends that have been evident throughout not only Britain but the world in recent months.

It is worthwhile keeping in mind that the latest figures are considerably swollen by the large number of young people registering for work for the first time. Previous evidence indicates that many of them will return to education and others will find employment after the holiday period.

The maintenance of the determined and sustained efforts to encourage the creation of new jobs continues to bear fruit. In the first six months of this year over 3,400 new jobs in manufacturing industry in the Province were successfully negotiated. In addition, our concern about unemployment is clearly shown in the wide range of counter-unemployment schemes, which, together with other grants from the Department of Manpower Services designed to encourage the creation of additional jobs, are presently helping to support 22,000 jobs, there.

Our deep concern for youth unemployment is shown by the youth opportunities programme, which is specifically geared to unemployed young people. This year we have increased the YOP by over 20 per cent., which means that over 7,000 places are now available in the programme, which costs over £ 16 million a year.

The counter-unemployment measures include the temporary short-time working compensation scheme, which is currently protecting over 5,000 jobs. This scheme offers generous assistance to firms that use short-time working as an alternative to redundancy, and was due to end in March. However, my right hon. Friend extended it beyond that date. The measures also include the job release scheme, which gives a grant to people who retire early and through which 1,400 jobs are being filled by previously unemployed people.

I heard the hon. Member for Pontypridd saying, sotto voce—perhaps I should say "muttering under his breath"—something about the long-term unemployed. It is true that the qualifying period for the long-term scale rate is being reduced from two years to one year, excluding the unemployed. Unfortunately, because of financial constraints it has not been possible to extend this improvement to the long-term unemployed. I remind the hon. Gentleman that his Government, who left office only 15 months ago, did not extend the long-term scale rate to the unemployed claimant. The reason was the same as that affecting this Government: the resources were simply not available to do it.

The hon. Member for Antrim, North criticised the discretionary element that he discerned in the operations of the outgoing Supplementary Benefits Commission. I thought that the right hon. Member for Down, South made a fair counterpoint when he referred to the improve- ment that arises from the removal at the same time of wide variations and many dissimiliarities. The hon. Gentleman will know that one of the most demoralising effects of discretionary payments is that two people quite close to each other with apparently similar circumstances get different benefits as a result of the various needs facilities.

I dispute, however, that the change will mean a worse deal, which is what the hon. Member for Antrim, North was arguing. The expenses for which exceptional needs payment will be made will be specified in regulations, as will the circumstances in which grants may be awarded. The new regulations will be broadly in line with the policy of the Supplementary Benefits Commission, so in that sense there will be very little variation, but it will be crystallised and clarified. The regulations were published on 17 July, so the hon. Gentleman can examine them thoroughly. I do not think that his fears about the disappearance of the discretionary element will be justified but there will be a great improvement in the appearance of parity, intelligibility and certainty. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will reflect on and take some courage from that.

The hon. Gentleman made a number of observations about his dissatisfaction with the appeals facilities that we are introducing. He asked how many people had lost their cases and subsequently won them on appeal. The only figures that I have been able to find for him in the short time available—although I shall let him have some more—are for 1978, in which in just over 3,000 appeals against supplementary benefits decisions 30 per cent. of the appeals led to decisions in the claimants' favour. There has therefore been some benefit in appealing in the past. I am sure that there will be in the future.

The right hon. Member for Down, South asked earlier whether I could throw some light on the movement of people from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, and vice versa. Article 39 of the Supplementary Benefits (Northern Ireland) Order 1977 provides for the making of reciprocal arrangements for co-ordinating the operation of the supplementary benefits scheme in Northern Ireland and Great Britain. No such arrangements are in operation at the moment, but if the right hon. Gentleman has particular cases in mind which have presented difficulties perhaps he will let me have details. We may be able to throw a lever to put the facilities into operation.

The right hon. Gentleman made some comments that are now familiar to me—even in the short time that I have been in the Northern Ireland Office—about his dissatisfaction with the constitutional position. I am glad that he at least acknowledged that we have taken one step towards helping him by the provision of section 10 of the Social Security Act 1980, which cannot be implemented during direct rule. On the question of the laying of a copy of the report of the new Social Services Advisory Committee, due to the absence of a Northern Ireland Assembly or equivalent body, I confirm that arrangements have been made to forward copies of the reports on Northern Ireland regulations, together with the relevant regulations, direct to Northern Ireland Members simultaneously with their being placed in the Library. In effect, they will be publicly available.

The right hon. Gentleman said that there was no justification for the variations that we are making. He said that we have to consult both the Act and the order to obtain a clear view of what is entailed for Northern Ireland. He argued that there is total similarity and identity between the two procedures in the two parts of the kingdom. It is not as easy as that. There are circumstances in

Division No. 428] AYES [12.37 pm
Alison, Michael Hawksley, Warren Nelson, Anthony
Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset) Henderson, Barry Newton, Tony
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Hogg, Hon Douglas (Grantham) Normanton, Tom
Bendall, Vivian Hooson, Tom Page, Richard (SW Hertfordshire)
Berry, Hon Anthony Hunt, David (Wirral) Parris, Matthew
Best, Keith Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch (S Down)
Blackburn, John Hurd, Hon Douglas Rathbone, Tim
Boscawen, Hon Robert Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Renton, Tim
Bradford, Rev. R. Kershaw, Anthony Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)
Bright, Graham Le Marchant, Spencer Ross. Wm. (Londonderry)
Brinton, Tim Lester, Jim (Beeston) Rossi, Hugh
Brooke, Hon Peter Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Sc'thorpe) Lyell, Nicholas Scott, Nicholas
Cadbury, Jocelyn MacGregor, John Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Carlisle, John (Luton West) McNair-Wilson, Michael (Newbury) Speller, Tony
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Major, John Spicer, Jim (West Dorset)
Carlisle, Rt Hon Mark (Runcorn) Marlow, Tony Stainton, Keith
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Stanbrook, Ivor
Cope, John Mills, lain (Meriden) Steen, Anthony
Corrie, John Miscampbell, Norman Stevens, Martin
Cranborne, Viscount Molyneaux, James Stewart, Allan (East Renfrewshire)
Dunn, Robert (Dartford) Morris, Michael (Northampton, Sth) Strading Thomas, J.
Fenner, Mrs Peggy Morrison, Hon Peter (City of Chester) Tebbit, Norman
Garel-Jones, Tristan Mudd, David Thompson, Donald
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Murphy, Christopher Thorne, Neil (Ilford South)
Grist, Ian Needham, Richard Viggers, Peter

which Northern Ireland regulations must differ from Great Britain regulations. A case in point would be circumstances arising from the fact that the Province has a common land border with the Irish Republic. There may be occasions to make regulations to prevent the abuse of unemployment benefit by claimants residing in border areas. There would be no need for similar regulations in Great Britain.

In my opening speech I referred to the effect of a decision by a High Court judge in respect of uncertainty in earlier Northern Ireland statutes. I am afraid that we are now landed with the effect of an earlier code of law relating to the days of Stormont. The right hon. Gentleman knows, whether or not he approves of it, that we are trying to make some constitutional change leading to devolved government for the Province. Until we know about the future we are bound to proceed on the basis on which we have managed so far.

I hope that the hon. Member for West Lothian feels that I have attempted to answer most, or some, of the points raised. In the light of the debate I beg that the order be approved.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Keighley)


It being one and half hours after the commencement of proceedings on the motion, Mr. Deputy Speaker put the Question, pursuant to Standing Order No. 3 (Exempted Business):—

The House divided, Ayes 86, Noes 37.

Division No. 428] AYES [12.37 pm
Alison, Michael Hawksley, Warren Nelson, Anthony
Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset) Henderson, Barry Newton, Tony
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Hogg, Hon Douglas (Grantham) Normanton, Tom
Bendall, Vivian Hooson, Tom Page, Richard (SW Hertfordshire)
Berry, Hon Anthony Hunt, David (Wirral) Parris, Matthew
Best, Keith Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch (S Down)
Blackburn, John Hurd, Hon Douglas Rathbone, Tim
Boscawen, Hon Robert Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Renton, Tim
Bradford, Rev. R. Kershaw, Anthony Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)
Bright, Graham Le Marchant, Spencer Ross. Wm. (Londonderry)
Brinton, Tim Lester, Jim (Beeston) Rossi, Hugh
Brooke, Hon Peter Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Sc'thorpe) Lyell, Nicholas Scott, Nicholas
Cadbury, Jocelyn MacGregor, John Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Carlisle, John (Luton West) McNair-Wilson, Michael (Newbury) Speller, Tony
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Major, John Spicer, Jim (West Dorset)
Carlisle, Rt Hon Mark (Runcorn) Marlow, Tony Stainton, Keith
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Stanbrook, Ivor
Cope, John Mills, lain (Meriden) Steen, Anthony
Corrie, John Miscampbell, Norman Stevens, Martin
Cranborne, Viscount Molyneaux, James Stewart, Allan (East Renfrewshire)
Dunn, Robert (Dartford) Morris, Michael (Northampton, Sth) Strading Thomas, J.
Fenner, Mrs Peggy Morrison, Hon Peter (City of Chester) Tebbit, Norman
Garel-Jones, Tristan Mudd, David Thompson, Donald
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Murphy, Christopher Thorne, Neil (Ilford South)
Grist, Ian Needham, Richard Viggers, Peter
Waddington, David Ward, John TELLERS FOR THE AYES
Wakeham, John Watson, John Mr. Carol Mather and
Waldegrave, Hon William Wickenden, Keith Lord James Dogulas-Hamilton.
Walker, Bill (Perth & E Perthshire) Younger, Rt Hon George
Atkinson, Norman (H'gey, Tott'ham) Grant, John (Islington C) Robinson, Peter (Befast East)
Beith, A. J. Hardy, Peter Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Brown, Ronald W. (Hackney S) Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Skinner, Dennis
Campbell-Savours, Date Haynes, Frank Soley, Clive
Clark, Dr David (South Shields) Home Robertson, John Stallard, A. W.
Concannon, Rt Hon J. D. John, Brynmor Tinn, James
Cryer, Bob Kilfedder, James A. Welsh, Michael
Dalyell, Tam Lyons, Edward (Bradford West) Woodall, Alec
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) McCartney, Hugh Young, David (Bolton East)
Dixon, Donald McKay, Allen (Penistone)
Dormand, Jack McNally, Thomas TELLERS FOR THE NOES
Douglas, Dick Paisley, Rev Ian Mr. George Morton and
Evans, John (Newton) Penhaligon, David Mr. Terry Davis.
Fitt, Gerard Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Question accordingly agreed to. Resolved,
That the Social Security (Northern Ireland") Order 1980 (S.I., 1980, No. 870), a copy of which was laid before this House on 2 July, be approved.
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