HC Deb 10 November 1980 vol 992 cc91-121 6.29 pm
The Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security (Mrs. Lynda Chalker)

I beg to move, That the draft Supplementary Benefit (Aggregation, Requirements and Resources) Amendment Regulations 1980, which were laid before this House on 28 October, be approved. The regulations amend three of the first six sets of supplementary benefit regulations made earlier this year. We have now also laid further eight instruments, and together these constitute the completion of the process of putting the scheme into regulations, the process of conferring an entitlement, set out in law. I know that criticism can be made to the effect that the law is hard to understand. However, it is published for all to see and it will form the basis on which benefit officers, appeal tribunals and commissioners alike will make decisions. This represents a great advance on the inconsistencies of the largely discretionary scheme, which is being replaced.

Hon. Members on both sides of the House share my concern that the new scheme should be comprehensible to claimants. Accordingly, I stress that the standard leaflets on supplementary benefit have been reprinted. There are two special leaflets—one on help with heating costs and another on lump sum payments for special needs. The latter will be used especially where the question of special needs has arisen. It mentions the supplementary benefits handbook as a source of further advice.

Mr. Tim Rathbone (Lewes)

Has any special effort been made in the production of those leaflets to ensure that they are written in terminology that the lay person can understand? Will my hon. Friend give the House an assurance that the leaflet has not been written solely in the language of civil servants—who have put their soul into it—but that it is also intelligible to those who seek information?

Mrs. Chalker


Mr. Cranley Onslow (Woking)

Will the leaflets be available in Welsh?

Mrs. Chalker

Many of the leaflets have been rewritten in order to comply with the law. They have benefited not only because civil servants and politicians have looked at them but because many of those concerned with pressure groups or with special interests have done so. I pay tribute to their sensible contributions and to the way in which they have helped us to put the provisions into language that ordinary people can understand. I hope that I have answered my hon. Friends' questions.

I am pleased to say that the new addition of the supplementary benefit handbook will be published later this week. Hon. Members will recall that from 24 November written notices of assessment will be issued for the first time, which set out how claimants' entitlement has been determined. I can say with some confidence that the new certainty in the regulations will be adequately complemented by easier-to-read guidance.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Stockport, North)

Although we welcome the fact that the handbook is to be published, will a copy be available in each benefit office, so that claimants can look at it? A person should be able to look at the handbook, as opposed to being told about his entitlement by someone on the other side of the counter, who has thumbed through a copy of it.

Mrs. Chalker

I am sure that copies of the handbook could be made available not only in local offices but in local citizens advice bureaux and in many other places to which people go for advice on supplementary benefit. The handbook will be published this Thursday and, as usual, will be posted to every right hon. and hon. Member.

We have had many inquiries about the publication of the chief supplementary benefit officer's guidance to benefit officers. This is a matter for him, as an independent statutory authority. I understand that the chief supplementary benefit officer has decided that he should make public the guidance that he has prepared on the single payments regulations. This will include his interpretation of what constitutes serious damage or serious risk to health or safety in regulation 30, the fall-hack discretionary power.

The chief supplementary benefit officer is preparing guidance on other sets of regulations, and has decided that he will also make that public, where it has a significant bearing on a claimant's entitlement to benefit. I welcome that, and I hope that it will help not only right hon. and hon. Members but claimants. The chief supplementary benefit officer intends to make copies of the published guidance available for inspection at each local office and in the Library. Those who want their own copies will be able to buy them at cost from the DHSS. I understand that copies should be available to the public from 24 November. I assure the House that I shall allow no let-up in my Department as regards building on the work of the regulations, so that those claiming supplementary benefit will know better where they stand in relation to the help available.

I said that we had completed the process of putting the scheme into regulations, and so we have. However, I do not regard that as the end of the job. We have always said that we would watch the operation of the new scheme in practice. We are studying a wide range of research options, and looking at ways of monitoring what is happening in local offices, on appeals, and so on. Equally, we have never said that the regulations would remain unchanged and unchangeable.

We welcomed the views that many people put to us, including pressure groups, our own staff, and members of appeal tribunals, about points at which the regulations seemed unclear or unduly harsh. Some of the amendments in the instrument before the House today, and in the miscellaneous amendments regulations, represent our response to those criticisms and queries. For example, in the resources regulations, the changes to paragraph (6) of regulation 4 and to paragraph (3) of regulation 11 both concern payments made by liable relatives to, or in respect of, claimants or dependent children. Both of them make the rules for the treatment of payments by liable relatives less stringent in their operation in the exceptional case without detracting from the fundamental principle that it is for the individual and not the State to maintain his or her dependants.

There were points at which we felt that the regulations need clarification. This was because we felt that they did not fully reflect our intentions or because others questioned them. Thus, we have tried to set out more clearly in the resources regulations what we mean by "liable relative", and when payments of income are to be taken into account. In the requirements regulations we have altered the definitions of "boarder", and the criteria for deciding whether a person is a householder, and the circumstances in which an allowance is to be made to a claimant for the cost of repairs and insurance for his home.

Another source of amendment is the additions to the regulations to deal with certain small groups. As is so often the case, the rules for the exceptional cases are complicated, and difficult to sort out. If we had waited to sort them out before making any regulations we should not have been able to lay in July the regulations covering the rules for the majority of claimants and circumstances. These regulations fill in several such gaps. One example is polygamous relationships, of which we estimate that there are about 20 among claimants. The regulations also cover boarders who are for the moment in hospital but who have to pay a retaining fee for their lodgings.

The regulations also provide for the so-called adjustment allowance, which is paid for a limited period to certain couples who live together as husband and wife, where an abrupt reduction of benefit might have damaging results on the relationship and, as a result, on the children involved. There are two rather technical reasons for the regulations. The first concerns the eventual shape of the regulations. Rounding provisions have, as a result, been inserted into both the requirements and the resources regulations, because, as it turns out, there is no general set of regulations into which a single general rounding provision could have been inserted.

Secondly, the Housing Bill was still before Parliament when the earlier regulations were made. We have had to take account of changes that it makes in the mechanism for rent registration by an amendment to regulation 15 of the requirements regulations. In the light of the Housing Act 1980 we have been able to set out rules for the restriction of the amounts allowable for housing costs where a sitting tenant purchases his home.

We have also been looking for further simplication wherever possible, and that remains our aim now and in the longer term. Within the constraints of time and money this year, we have not been able to simplify as much as we should have liked, and there is still a great deal of room for making the rules simpler and easier to understand. We shall continue to refine and simplify the rules wherever possible. The replacement rule for dealing with high irregular earnings in regulation 10(4) of the resources regulations is an example of that. Although still complicated enough, it is a good deal simpler than what it replaces. We have also simplified, by an amendment to regulation 217, the procedure that is to operate in a case where a claimant's housing costs are high.

Inevitably, some of the amendments are necessary to correct oversights and omissions. Some are minor matters, such as wrong references to the substitution of "acquired" for "purchased" in the provision relating to the temporary disregard of the capital value of a property that a claimant intends to make his home, so that those who inherit as well as those who purchase will get the advantage of the disregard.

Similarly, in the requirements regulations we are amending regulations 21 and 22 so that in deciding whether the amount for housing requirements is excessive the determining authority shall look at that amount after it has been reduced by any sub-letting income of deductions for non-dependants' rent contributions.

It is inevitably difficult for me to introduce the regulations. They deal with complicated matters, most of which are of relative detail. In the circumstances I have tried to strike what may have been a somewhat uneasy compromise between three considerations. The first is the content of the regulations. I have tried to show that that is uncontentious. Indeed, I think that the regulations represent that part of the supplementary benefits review—the setting out of the supplementary benefits provisions fully and exactly—which is uncontentious between the major parties. I need hardly add that if, tonight or later, hon. Members wish to raise questions on the content of the regulations, I shall do my best to assist them now or through correspondence.

The second consideration has been to explain the reasons for such amendment regulations being produced shortly before 24 November. The third consideration is that to which I referred first. At least for 24 November, the regulations and the debate represent the topping out of the structure of legislation needed for the review of the supplementary benefits scheme.

Without wishing to inhibit hon. Members from tossing the odd half-brick at me, I believe that we ought to recognise that that is a major legislative achievement. I pay tribute to the work of the hon. Members who have contributed to that, as well as to the civil servants who have worked lengthy hours on it all. I commend the regulations to the House.

6.42 pm
Mr. Reginald Freeson (Brent, East)

Despite the reasonableness of the tone and much of the content of the Under-Secretary's speech, I fear that, at least in some respects, the matter is not as uncontentious as she suggested.

The aggregation, requirements and resources regulations arising out of the Social Security Act 1980, to which the amendments now before us relate, were considered by Parliament as recently as the end of July. The need for the amendment regulations after such a short interlude and before the main regulations have come into force adds weight to the criticism levelled at the Government when the regulations were first debated, which echoed much criticism about the way that the Government were proceeding with the major legislation earlier this year.

I suspect, as, I imagine, do others, that this is only the start of a series of such amendments to follow from legislation that the Government prepared in haste. We must await events to see whether my fears are correct.

I am appalled at the necessity for the amendments and at their complexity and variety. There has been incompetence and we intend to divide the House on that basis, as well as to register our dissatisfaction with certain general aspects of Government policy on social security matters covered, in part, by the subjects dealt with in the regulations.

The amendment regulations raise several general issues which I wish to deal with before putting specific points to the Under-Secretary. The first is the question of consultation. Despite the fact that the Minister made general allusions to what she called pressure groups, I am concerned about the failure of consultation earlier this year.

The Opposition and others, including the pressure groups, repeatedly pressed for more consultation on the detailed contents of the regulations before they were put to Parliament. The Under-Secretary will remember how much time we spent in Committee pressing her and her colleagues on that matter. We were constantly told by her that further consultation was impracticable and that the Government's tight timetable made it impossible.

The unseemly haste with which the regulations were prepared and the speed at which they were pushed through Parliament only a few months ago have resulted in the need for extensive amendments, many of which could probably have been avoided if the Government had taken a more open and less hasty approach, including a great deal more consultation with the groups to whom the hon. Lady referred. Those organisations have made their views known on a variety of matters in connection with the Act.

In the light of the background to the regulations, which the Under-Secretary did not touch on but which I have felt bound to discuss, we are entitled to ask Ministers to explain why there was not more consultation before the original regulations were laid in July and how many of the amendments arose from queries raised with the DHSS by non-Government organisations, as distinct from other Government Departments.

We are also concerned about the complexity of the scheme. The changes in the supplementary benefit scheme have been widely advertised by the Government as a major exercise in simplification, but the amendment regulations mean that those wishing to understand the requirements and resources regulations will have to read two parallel sets of regulations. Perhaps in another four months they will have to read three sets. How many more sets will follow? The fact that we have the amendment regulations before us underlies the point that, far from simpli- Fying matters, the new scheme is developing into one of frightening complexity.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

Will my right hon. Friend press the Government to give an undertaking to the effect that, if they have to bring forward a further set of amendment regulations, these will be a new print of the complete regulations rather than a mere printing another set of amendments?

Mr. Freeson

I shall be coming to that point shortly.

To illustrate the developing complexity of this so-called simplification, I should like to ask for an explanation that lay people or hon. Members can understand of the treatment of maintenance payments under regulation 11 of the resources regulations and regulation 9 of these amending regulations.

I come now to the question just raised by my hon. Friend. The publication of these regulations shows that the formulation and administration of social policy is becoming as difficult to understand by hon. Members and outside organisations as some aspects of the management of the economy, which have helped to drive hundreds of thousands more people into reliance on this part of the social security system.

The difficulties of understanding the regulations are increased by these amendmerits, so it is essential to have publication, even earlier than my hon. Friend suggested, of a consolidated edition of the Act and the regulations. When may we expect such publication?

One of our major and constant criticisms of the Government's handling of the timetable for the supplementary benefits scheme changes is that far too little time has been given for parliamentary scrutiny. We dealt at great length in Committee with accountability and parliamentary scrutiny. It is disgraceful that only half a day was allowed for a debate on rules which affect the lives of millions of poor people. The fact that amendments have been found necessary even before the new scheme comes into operation means that further changes will probably be necessary soon after 24 November, when the changes take effect. This is not really the "topping out" process that the hon. Lady described. If the Government are not careful, "simplification" will become a dirty word.

Parliament must play an active role in monitoring the new scheme—by which I mean Parliament as a body, not just hon. Members approaching the Minister, who is admittedly always very helpful. The Secretary of State should account regularly to us for the working of the new scheme. We are entitled to an assurance that a procedure will be found for regular reports.

The amendment in regulation 9 relates to treatment of maintenance payments by liable relatives, and underlines both the complexity of the regulations and the possible anomalies. The effect of these amending regulations is that lump sum maintenance payments will be treated as income or as a capital resource, depending on who receives them.

Because of the complexity of the regulations, some groups of claimants will be in an anomalous position, if only because it will be difficult for the lay person, and even for anyone administering the regulations, to understand them. I must repeat my invitation to the Minister to explain the regulations and say whether the Government forsee any difficulties in their operation.

The Ministers should also clarify paragraph 13 of the schedule, which provides that tenants with security of tenure who increase their housing costs by buying their homes will not have their interest payments fully met. It seems that their housing assistance will be restricted to the rent allowances level previously received and, if a working member of the family shares in house purchase, the supplementary beneficiary will not be helped as part owner.

Leaving aside arguments against compulsory sale of council houses under the Housing Act 1980, it seems contradictory that one Government Department, the Department of the Environment, should be giving tenants the right to purchase while another, the DHSS, is penalising those who do.

Will sitting tenants really not be fully helped with interest payments, as are other owner-occupiers on supplementary benefit, even when interest rates rise? Will their assistance be held to existing rent allowance levels within the supplementary benefit allowance, even when such allowances increase generally to match rising rents—in the local authority sector, for example?

Mr. Frank Field (Birkenhead)

I have also tried to read the draft schedule and have interpreted it slightly differently from my right hon. Friend. I thought that the Government were changing all the rules now for those who would be moving to mortgage repayments and that a general mortgage stop was coming which would affect not only those buying council houses.

Mr. Freeson

We shall have to await the Minister's response on this complex area. That shows that this is not really the way to probe these matters: other procedures should be adopted. I have spent a great deal of time suggesting how this sort of examination could be fitted into the cut and thrust of the new Select Committee system, which is the best way of probing in detail.

However, my understanding is that the draft regulations implement, with one variation, the practice up to now of DHSS officers. But by making it a formal regulation, we are blocking the possibility of discretionary authority, which was influenced in the past by hon. Members approaching Ministers and the then chairman of the SBC. That flexibility and potential for change will be prevented by the imposition of regulations.

The variation relates to the restriction which will be placed on people moving into joint ownership. That has arisen from the implementation of the Housing Act 1980. It is an attempt to prevent those on supplementary benefit from obtaining the help of a working member of his family in the joint purchase of a house. We are entitled to probe this matter and to seek answers from the Minister.

Before my hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) intervened, I was explaining my interpretation of the draft regulations and attempting to put it in the form of specific questions. To be sure that I have not lost the thread of my argument, perhaps I may be allowed to reiterate the question.

I asked the Minister whether it was really the case that sitting tenants who bought their houses would not be helped fully with interest payments because their entitlement would be based on the rent element in their supplementary benefit allowance which could well be below the interest payments. Then I asked whether this was so despite increases in interest rates which could follow, and whether it was really the case that their assistance would be held to their existing rent allowances when the rent allowances were generally increased; so that they would be in a position where, had they stayed as tenants, they would have been in receipt of a larger rent allowance as rents rose whereas, by coming into home ownership, they would be frozen at the rent allowance level which, as it were, they had left behind them. That is my reading of the regulations.

When she replies to the debate, I hope that the Minister will refer in part to the three lines at the top of page 9 of the amendment regulations. This is the first specific matter that I wish to put to her. We read there that the special provision for claimants with security of tenure who buy their houses will not apply if its application becomes inappropriate. I am afraid that this is typical of far too much of the generalised and imprecise nature of many of the regulations which leave discretion to the benefit officer. I ask the Minister to explain the circumstances envisaged in which the words that I have quoted will be applied. The provision states quite clearly that if the application of the rules that I have just been summarising becomes inappropriate they will no longer apply.

It is important to return to accountability, to which I referred earlier, in the context of the prospect of yet more amendment regulations being put before the House shortly and the possible content of those regulations in terms of the operation of the supplementary benefit scheme.

During the past few days Whitehall and Fleet Street have been buzzing with reports to the effect that the Government intend to repeat the 5 per cent. cut in the value of short-term national insurance benefits for the sick and disabled and of child benefits, and that they will even make cuts in supplementary benefits. In many places there is talk of the serious threat to the social security budget, especially the supplementary benefit scheme budget, in the present round of public expenditure cuts being discussed by the Cabinet.

At a time of mounting unemployment, it is hardly credible that the Government should be even contemplating going further down the road which caused so much bitterness and social dissension half a century ago, in the 1930s. In the past 18 months we have gone far enough down that road already. It is hardly credible that the Government should be considering going further down it.

We have the promises of the Secretary of State, who assured us repeatedly that the Government intended to maintain the real value of the supplementary benefit safety net. On the other hand, the right hon. Gentleman also promised that child benefit would be protected against inflation, and look what happened to that.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

What about the disabled?

Mr. Freeson

The unemployed, the ill-housed, the disabled, the sick and others on social security in their millions already are bearing the brunt of the economic slump and the Government's calamitous mismanagement of the economy. It is unacceptable that the Government should even contemplate reducing still further the incomes of those on or near the poverty line. If they insist on contemplating it, let them do so here in the House of Commons, to which they are accountable. Let them not do so in Fleet Street or in the nooks and crannies of Whitehall. Let them do it in the House of Commons, and let them do it tonight.

I seek three specific assurances from the Minister. The first is that it is not the Government's intention to cut the real value of national insurance benefits again. The second is that it is not the intention of the Government to cut the real value of child benefit again. The third is that it is not the intention of the Government to cut the real value of the supplementary benefit budget. If the hon. Lady cannot, on behalf of the Government, give assurances about those three vital matters, she and her colleagues should resign.

7.5 pm

Mr. Frank Field (Birkenhead)

I must begin by apologising to the Minister, since I missed her opening statement. One of my hon. Friends has been kind enough to fill me in with the gist of what she said, and I am sure that the hon. Lady will put me right if I have her wrong.

Had the news at 6 o'clock been not so good I should have been very tempted to say that some of us told the Minister so. When we debated, sometimes in all-night sittings, the outline of the new social security scheme, we made a plea that consultation on the forthcoming regulations should be as wide as possible. We made that plea not with a view to interrupting or hindering business but because we wanted the business to be carried out as expeditiously as possible. We asked for the consultations to be fitted in with the timetable which the Government themselves wished to meet.

Our request was ignored by the Minister. The regulations were published and were approved by the House. But already we have another set of regulations, which are largely amendments, priced at £1.40. That itself is a worrying development. But, when I arrived in the Chamber, I did not hear the Minister press the point which she pressed so ably and with such enthusiasm when we last debated the regulations. It may be that she did it at the beginning of her speech.

The message then was that here was a major act of opening up government and of explaining to claimants their rights. Here we were doing away with some of the secret codes and publishing them in regulations in a form which people could understand. My right hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East (Mr. Freeson) challenged the Minister to explain one part of the regulations. I wish her to explain one other part in simple English.

These regulations are of great importance to a group of people who will be affected by them. Regulation 9(4) adds a paragraph which should be read in one breath, since it contains no full stop. It says: (3A) Paragraph (3) shall not apply to a lump sum in any case in which the liable relative is making to or in respect of the member of the assessment unit to or in respect of whom it is paid periodical payments at a rate of an amount equal to or exceeding that specified in paragraph (3)(a), but excluding for this purpose the sum of £2.00 there mentioned, or paragraph (3)(b) as appropriate ("the specified rate"); and in any case where he ceases to make such payments or is making them only at a lower rate (whether initially, or because the specified rate has increased and the periodical payments have not correspondingly increased, or because the periodical payments have been reduced), paragraph (3)", and so it goes on.

I may have some difficulty with reading, as hon. Members will have noticed, but this is an exercise in explaining to poor people, who may not have had the benefit of a university education—although with unemployment increasing there may be a growing number of university students in the dole queues—what are their rights. I make this not as a point of jest but as one of substance. Who can understand regulations like the one that I have just quoted? Arising from this, I wish to pos questions to the Minister about the availability of information and where it can be obtained. I should like to refer to the price of the regulations. If my memory serves me correctly, there has been about a 25 per cent. price rise between the last draft regulations and the actual regulations. Can we have something more like the 6 per cent. rise this time?

Will the Minister give a commitment that all the regulations and the amendments will be available, like national insurance regulations, in supplementary benefit offices? I was pleased to hear that the supplementary benefit handbook will be published in time for the new scheme.

Mrs. Chalker

On Thursday.

Mr. Field

I wonder if a commitment can be given that copies will be available for claimants to consult in local offices. We are privileged in that we can get HMSO publications free. Claimants are not so privileged.

It would be good if the Minister were able to answer questions about parts of the draft regulations. I turn to regulation 9, of which I tried to read part but gave up reading entirely to the House. Is it right to assume that this complicated provision concerns lump sum payments, lump sum payments paid from husbands, and how those lump sum payments are to be converted into income for supplementary benefit requirement purposes? If my understanding of draft regulation 9 is correct, I should like two undertakings from the Minister. Will she give a guarantee that any agreement now operating will be held under the new scheme? Is it the case that regulation 9, if we could only understand it, is not retrospective, and that arrangements for payment that are currently in operation will be honoured in the new scheme?

Will the Minister give an undertaking that, as a result of the sale of matrimonial homes, that part of the sale which comes usually to the wife will not be regarded as a lump sum payment should be regarded as in draft regulation 9? Those are points I should like to put concerning regulation 9. Given the difficulties in comprehending that simple piece of the Queen's English, I could be wrong.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

It is a difficult procedure putting these points to the Minister. Many hon. Members felt that the Select Committee would look at the regulations. Will my hon. Friend, as a member of the Select Committee, give an assurance that he will do his best to make sure that the Select Committee looks at the regulations soon so that Ministers can be questioned and perhaps more important, so that the benefit officer can be questioned on his interpretation?

Mr. Field

I will give that guarantee as just one member of the Select Committee. We all have votes. It is one man, one vote in the Select Committee when deciding our programme of work. That point has been notified to the chairman. It is on the agenda for discussion.

A more serious point at stake is whether a Minister should come to the House with regulations that affect the livelihood and well-being of the 5 million people in this country who are the poorest without really understanding them. I believe I have a right to expect the Minister to reply to my questions. I hope that she will reply as competently as she does on most matters. That does not invalidate the point of my right hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East that the most careful scrutiny of the regulations needs to be undertaken by the Select Committee or some similar body.

I now turn to regulation 6. I refer to subsection (2). Since the House has already had an example of my inability to read terribly well, I shall not read out another quotation. I assume that most hon. Members are looking at it. This subsection, on the surface, worries me very much. It appears that the Government are swiping at one of those groups that they paraded before the election as one of the most deserving groups. I refer to those women, often single, looking after aged or sick relatives. According to my understanding of the old regulations as they operate at the moment, the corn-mission could assume that the income was being paid for the care that the old person was receiving from the relative. In making that decision, regard would be paid to the income of the old, frail person.

According to my understanding of regulation 6, an income will be assumed irrespective of the income of the aged parent or parents, or relative, who is being cared for. If my interpretation is correct and the regulation goes through without amendment or without any undertaking by the Government to bring forward further amendments, it means that one group with almost no provision in the social security system other than supplementary benefit will be penalised in a fairly horrendous way.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East has already touched upon the last point that I should like to raise. He referred to the difficulties in understanding the regulations to this draft statutory instrument. I hope that the Minister, before coming to the House, read carefully the statutory instrument published by her colleagues in the Department of the Environment. I refer to Statutory Instrument No. 1423 entitled"Housing, England and Wales. The Housing (Right to Buy) (Mortgage Limit) Regulations 1980". This shows what the Government really think about poor people in this country. The noose is tightened in the schedule to the regulations we are now debating.

As some hon. Members know, my views about council house sales are not yet widely shared by my colleagues on the Opposition side of the House. They will share them one day. I believe, to paraphrase Bacon, that wealth is like muck; it is no good unless it is spread around.

The Government, during the general election campaign and in pushing the Housing Bill through the House, talked of the benefits of owner-occupation. According to the housing regulations, in Britain owner-occupation is extending to all groups of claimants—provided they are not on supplementary benefits. As my right hon. Friend explained, any chance of their being helped with the buying of a house as a party to a mortgage agreement is vetoed in the regulations before us.

Let it be known throughout the land that the Government believe that owner-occupation is good, provided one is not poor. One can have capital grants, help with interest and the like from the Government, provided one owns private industry. But woe betide the poor. It would appear from the two sets of regulations, particularly the set that we are debating, that the Government believe one is not fit to own one's house if one is on supplementary benefit.

Why did the Secretary of State take so long to reply to my letters when I wrote immediately after the Housing Bill had completed its passage through the House? I said that there was no problem in bringing the poor into the sale of council houses, because the Government could meet not only interest payments but capital repayments, if they really believed in a property-owning democracy. We shall not achieve that. The Government will not even allow the poor to contribute their share to the interest charges on a shared mortgage.

Mr. Freeson

Under the Labour Government, when the concept of a universal housing allowance was being studied in detail between Departments, the idea of extending supplementary benefit payment to cover the capital cost as well as interest charges for owner-occupiers was accepted. We look to the day when the present Government, who parade themselves as supporting home-ownership, will implement that which we had already accepted as a principle.

Mr. Field

I do not share my hon. Friend's optimism. It will be left to the next Labour Government to implement that proposal. It is good to know that it is on the stocks.

The schedule tells us more about what the Tory Party really thinks about the poor than anything we have seen in this Parliament so far—and there have been some horrendous measures.

Mr. Peter Bottomley (Woolwich, West)

Will the hon. Gentleman spell out which part of the schedule has that effect? If he is right, it is a subject to which the House will need to return. It is worth putting the matter on the record so that more hon. Members than are present now can study it.

Mr. Field

As I understand it, most of the schedule after paragraph 9 is relevant to the housing costs. In particular, paragraph 13 is important for our consideration tonight. I stress that it must be read in conjunction with The Housing (Right to Buy) (Mortgage Limit) Regulations, which the Minister's colleagues have already laid before the House, because that excludes income from supplementary benefit from being taken into account in determining the income of those who wish to buy their council houses. The noose is made in the housing regulations; it is tightened in the supplementary benefit regulations before us.

I hope that we shall have three undertakings about official information provided for the poor. First, I hope that there will be a freeze on the price that the public pay for the regulations. I hope that there will not be a steep rise between the draft stage and the completed stage.

Secondly, I hope that all the regulations and amendments—incomprehensible as they are to me, and no doubt to many other hon. Members—will be available in every social security office, just as national insurance regulations are.

Thirdly, I hope that the supplementary benefit handbooks will be avaliable. I am not saying that we need to go as far as the idea of chaining them to the wall, as medieval bibles were chained. But no doubt the thirst for knowledge of claimants under the new scheme will be such that the Government should provide a generous stock in supplementary benefit offices.

Next, I ask the Minister for two assurances on regulation 9—that it will not be retrospective on arrangements currently operating in families and that it will not apply to the matrimonial home.

I have also asked for the undertaking that if I have read regulation 6 correctly —I hope that I have not—the Government will amend it. As it stands, it means that those single people who are looking after aged and infirm relatives will no longer be eligible for supplementary benefits, because they will be deemed to be being paid an adequate income by the person to whom they are providing the care.

Finally, perhaps the Minister would like to salvage a little of her reputation as a radical by commenting on why the present Government, while preaching about the benefits of home ownership, particularly in the public sector—sentiments that I share—have surreptitiously piloted through a regulation from the Department of the Environment saying that those on supplementary benefit are ineligible. They have also made sure that even a part share of the mortgage cannot be undertaken by the poor on supplementary benefit, as a result of the regulations that we are debating.

7.26 pm
Mrs. Chalker

With the leave of the House I shall try to reply to the comments made by Opposition Members in this short debate.

First, I return to something which I said a little while ago in the House and in Committee and which I shall go on saying. I believe that it is important that we should be prepared to amend our regulations publicly and openly when we find that they are not as precise as possible or are not as they were intended to be. That can be seen only after a period of consideration.

I was very conscious in the summer that there would always be a need for amending regulations. The hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) asked for an assurance that we would amend the regulations if we found that something was unworkable. That was in direct contradiction to his right hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East (Mr. Freeson), who asked whether this would be the last set of amendments. I understand that the Opposition are saying clearly and firmly that they do not like having amendment upon amendment. That was the point of the right hon. Gentleman's earlier remarks.

The point about these regulations is that they are introduced, at a slightly quieter time in the processes of Parlia- ment, after a period of considerable study, as considered amendments suggested by people outside the House, and some hon. Members, to provide for what is right and what was intended in the debates. I know that the amendments create much extra work, but it is right that we should amend the regulations so that they are as hon. Members had decided they should be.

I expected the right hon. Gentleman to be appalled and to make the comments that he did. He would not be his normal self if he did not. However, on the question of earlier consultation, I can assure him that throughout the year there would have been consultations about the way in which the scheme would go on. I, too, wish that there were many more hours in the day, so that more consultation could take place immediately, but sometimes people want to consider the results of earlier consultations. Although I did not personally handle the regulations in the House in July, I believe it right that we should allow, and encourage, the consultation that has been going on and that will continue.

I do not believe that there has been a failure to consult. I do not believe that there is now unseemly haste. The complexity of the scheme to which the right hon. Gentleman referred makes it essential that we look at the scheme stage by stage, as it is in effect, to ensure that it is as hon. Members requested.

Mr. Freeson

My strong objection is to the manner in which further amendments are being made. The regulations are not even working and yet we are asked to consider amendments. That indicates that something was wrong three months ago when the main regulations were laid before the House. We are not discussing amendments to regulations which are already in operation and from which we have learned by experience. The scheme is not even working and yet we are asked to amend it. May we have a list of the main organisations which were consulted about the regulations which were put before the House in July? For how long were they consulted?

Mrs. Chalker

I speak from memory, but the consultations in the summer were with most of the main pressure groups. Detailed consultations could not take place until their views had been taken into account. Where we have seen the need we have made minor modifications to the general regulations which were accepted by the House and which are still right in principle. In that way we have improved the system for people whose circumstances are slightly different from the circumstances which we first envisaged.

Mr. Field

The Minister has not grasped the point. We are not glowing over the Government's failure to bring in regulations which stand up to scrutiny. That would be easy enough. We are trying to put a serious point to the Government. We do not doubt that the Government consulted outside bodies. However, they consulted at the wrong time. In Committee and privately we pleaded with the Government to consult before they brought the draft regulations to the House. Are not most of the amendments the result of suggestions which outside poverty groups have made to the Minister? How much more sensible it would have been for the Government to have consulted prior to the publication of the original regulations. That would have saved us a debate and amendments tonight.

Mrs. Chalker

Even if there had been much wider consultation in more specific terms than was possible way back in the summer, we should not have seen all the matters which the passage of time has brought to the notice of officials. Many of the amendments have come, not from outside bodies, but from our staff in the Department.

The right hon. Member for Brent, East asked about a consolidation of the regulations and Acts. They are provided in the "Yellow Book". It is a book for experts which is amended at six-montly intervals. It will be brought up to date as soon as possible. Copies will be put in the Library.

The information which claimants need will be in the leaflet and the handbook and in the chief supplementary benefits officer's guidance, for those who wish to go through it. As much explanatory material as possible for the public and hon. Members will be made available. I shall ensure that all information is updated.

We have concentrated not only on asking outside bodies to examine draft leaflets but on making them available in time for the start of the new supplementary benefits scheme. That is why I say that we shall deal with any necessary changes as they arise. Nobody, least of all the hon. Member for Birkenhead expects claimants to read the regulations. The hon. Gentleman tried, more or less successfully—I must not be rude about his reading prowess—to read out a portion of the regulations. When drafted by lawyers they cannot possibly be in language used by the man and woman in the street. However, it makes more sense to put the information into leaflets and the handbook which will be available on Thursday 13 November. That is a substantial advance on the position a few years ago.

The hon. Member for Birkenhead also commented upon the cost of the regulations. That is not a matter for us. It is in line with HMSO pricing policy. I can assure him that claimants will not have to buy the regulations. They will be available in local offices. We have no objection to handbooks also being available in the local offices.

The right hon. Member for Brent, East and the hon. Member for Birkenhead asked about maintenance and lump sum payments. The regulations reflect exactly the Supplementary Benefits Commission policy. If a liable relative pays that sum agreed regularly there are no problems over lump sums. The Labour Government took steps to ensure that there was no storing up of payments, and we shall follow in their footsteps. We shall ensure that maintenance is paid regularly and not saved up and paid in a lump sum. That is an abuse of the system. There is no difference from the practice under the old scheme. I hope that those comments cover also the question of maintenance. If it does not I shall write to the hon. Member for Birkenhead.

I was also asked about the purchase of a home by a sitting tenant and whether there would be a restriction on mortgage interest. There is no difference between us and the previous Government. It is long-standing policy that the Government do not assist with the purchase of a capital asset by somebody who is in receipt of supplementary benefit. There is no inconsistency between regulation 13 and 20 and the regulations under the Housing Act 1980 which govern the conditions of entitlement to local authority mortgages.

Under the regulations relating to the Housing Act it is clear that supplementary benefit will not be regarded as an eligible source of income where a local authority assesses a prospective purchaser's level of eligibility for a mortgage. It is clear therefore, that most supplementary benefit claimants living alone will not be able to buy their council house, simply because they would not be able afford it. However, where there are other people in the house, such as working sons and daughters, and the sale is made jointly and the income for the mortgage eligibility purposes is that of the working son or daughter, the regulations simply ensure that supplementary benefit is not increased. The Supplementary Benefits Commission has encountered such cases on a number of occasions. Opposition Members will find that the details are already included in the Supplementary Benefits Handbook for 1979, in paragraph 5.20. The amendment simply carries forward the policy that that followed. I am sure that the House would agree that it would be quite wrong for supplementary benefits to be increased where there is no reason to do so. If the tenancy is secure, there can be no good reason why supplementary benefit should help fund the purchase of a capital aquisition.

Mr. Peter Bottomley

I apologise for the fact that I was not in the Chamber to listen to earlier remarks. Am I right in thinking that if I had a job and obtained a mortgage and then lost my job and obtained supplementary benefit, the Supplementary Benefits Commission would pay the interest on my mortgage, but that if I were out of work and receiving supplementary benefit at a time when I might be able to buy my house my supplemetary benefit income would not be included in any way, even if I did not have to rise to pay the mortgage that I was trying to obtain?

Mrs. Chalker

My hon. Friend has understood exactly the continuation of the position that has always existed, whereby the Supplementary Benefits Commission would not increase the benefit and a building society would not include that money in the assessment for a housing loan.

Mr. Bottomley

The point made by the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) is that if we, as a Government and a party, are committed to the extension of home ownership, we should ask ourselves whether a continuation of the status quo is right and adequate given our housing and supplementary benefit policies.

Mrs. Chalker

I can understand the point being made by my hon. Friend and by Opposition Members. But it has not been thought appropriate to assist with the purchase of a capital asset when a person is dependent upon supplementary benefit. In these days of straitened circumstances I cannot give an assurance that we might see our way to doing anything different. I understand the point that has been made. Where resources are available to assist with the purchase of a house when a son or daughter is willing to help, it does mean not that the supplementary benefit is not paid but that it cannot be increased to take on a new liability. That is the position.

Mr. Field

One must congratulate the hon. Lady on explaining the point with absolute clarity, but it is not the point to which we asked her to address herself. The question at issue is how the regulations relate to the housing regulations on mortgage repayment that the Government are bringing forward. Unfortunately, I have sent my copies of those regulations to the Official Report, and have to speak from memory. It is of crucial importance to realise that while the Government are maintaining the existing rules for those who have a mortgage, the housing regulations being brought forward prevent anybody on supplementary benefit from entering into an arrangement to buy his home if it is a council house, even if he is asking only for the interest payment to be paid from the Government. That is inconsistent. We pay businesses capital grants—why not pay the poor capital grants? The Government are serious about spreading the idea that property—home ownership—gives dignity. I understand the Minister's argument that the Labour Administration's policy on mortgage repayments is being continued. We understand that, and there is no argument about it. But if I were a council tenant in Birkenhead in receipt of supplementary benefit—which I might be one day—wishing to buy my council house, but my only income was supplementary benefits, that income would not be taken into account when working out whether my income was adequate to secure a mortgage—despite the rules about repayment of interest or capital repayment. Therefore, the Government must address themselves to the fact that the regulations will need to be read in conjunction with the regulations being brought forward by the Secretary of State for the Environment.

Mrs. Chalker

I assure the House, for the second time, that the regulations are not inconsistent. It is not only a question of not increasing the amount of money to help with housing costs if a purchase has been entered into—which remains the same under this Government as it was under the previous Government—but that it was also a long-standing policy not to assist with a new purchase of a capital asset previously, and it is not now the policy. The Housing Act 1980 regulations make it clear that supplementary benefit was not included as an eligible source of income previously when assessing a prospective purchaser's level of eligibility for a mortgage by a local authority, nor will it be now. There is no change in that.

Mr. Freeson

The approach that my hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) is taking is that he is seeking a change in policy that would fit in with a change of policy initiated by another Government Minister. It has always been the practice to interpret the principle of no help for the acquisition of a capital asset when in receipt of supplementary benefit as meaning that the State should not go beyond assistance with interest payments. The principle was applied in that way. That is now being varied. I shall repeat a point that has not been answered, namely, if somebody is in receipt of a rent allowance within supplementary benefit, and is subject to restrictions coming from another Department, and he then wishes to consider entering a house purchase on a joint basis, the assistance will be restricted to a level in line with the rent allowance that was paid previously below the level required by mortgage interest payments. That practice ignores the fact that if a person remained a tenant the rent allowance would be increased from time to time to allow for changes in the rent levels. That is not allowed for in this provision. It is important that we do not continue to repeat that the practice is being translated exactly into the new regulations. However, as my hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead stressed, that is not the point. We are supposed to be improving upon the system, but, according to Government policy, that will not be so.

Until now there has been no compulsory purchase of council houses. That is the difference under the Housing Act 1980. Yet many sales took place. Can it be said with certainty that people buying their houses now, who previously would have done so under a voluntary arrangement as distinct from a compulsory power, will be in no different a position from that in which they would have been prior to the Housing Act 1980? The only difference is a compulsion on local authorities to sell. We are concerned that their position, whether they buy under a compulsory power or under a voluntary agreement, is as it was prior to the 1980 Act.

Mrs. Chalker

I should not attempt to tangle with the right hon. Gentleman's knowledge of housing matters because he was Minister with responsibility for housing in the previous Government. In relation to the supplementary benefits regulations, we are being entirely consistent with the regulations that have been laid under the Housing Act 1980. When he has time to go through those regulations in detail the right hon. Gentleman will find that they take into account the supplementary benefit position. There were no regulations under the previous Housing Act dealing with this specific position.

The hon. Gentleman asked, secondly, whether we would be prepared to pay the mortgage interest where there was no security of tenure. Of course that would be the case. I shall write to the hon. Gentleman and set out the matter clearly so that the exchanges and interchanges that we have had tonight can be put on the record for all to see. That is the best way to resolve the matter, because if we go into it further we shall delay the House for too long.

The right hon. Gentleman asked also for an assurance about regulation 9. He asked what was meant by the words "as appropriate". This is a matter for the benefit officer, but I expect that the supplementary benefit officer will issue guidance on this in due course. The right hon. Gentleman asked what sort of situation one had in mind in using this terminology. For example, it would be where a house had been purchased jointly by a supplementary benefit claimant and her working son or daughter. Let us say that the son subsequently dies, emigrates or is sentenced to a long period of imprisonment. In those circumstances it would not seem appropriate to continue to restrict the amount of supplementary benefit. It is perfectly proper and right that the individual benefit officer should be given power to waive that particular restriction of housing cost where in his judgment it would be appropriate to do so.

I make no apologies for the deliberate looseness of the phraseology. It is sufficiently loose to enable us to meet the needs of claimants in difficult and often unforeseeable circumstances. I have given an illustration of the sort of circumstances that could be covered by the phrase, but we shall have to await the decisions of the social security commissioners before we have a list of specific instances. I hope that that clears up some of the points that the right hon. Gentleman had in mind.

I turn now to a number of other questions posed by the hon. Member for Birkenhead. He asked whether regulation 9 was retrospective. I assure him that it is not. It embodies current SBC policy. There is to be no change. He also asked a question about housing purchase in relation to regular maintenance from a separated or divorced spouse. Housing purchase proceeds are not taken into account if regular manitenance is paid, and the proceeds of the house purchase have not been made part of a device to avoid the liability—usually of the husband, but not exclusively—to maintain someone else on supplementary benefit. It is simply a precaution to avoid an abuse which could otherwise occur.

The hon. Gentleman asked me a third point about regulation 6. I was not wholly with the hon. Gentleman when he made that point, and I shall write to him. As he is not present to hear my reply, it is probably better that I write to him, other- wise the whole matter may become slightly mystifying.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

The hon. Lady is aware that a lot of people have received their new books for the benefits that will be paid from 24 November. When she talks about retrospection, does she mean that some of those people will have their books changed further or have the amounts reduced?

Mrs. Chalker

No. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the situations of which he is afraid will not occur. We may indeed discover things after 24 November which will include a back payment—something which should have been taken into account. However, provided people have been totally honest in submitting their claim form, the amount of money that appears on the foils is the sum that they will be paid. There is no need for the hon. Gentleman to be concerned on that score.

I hope that I have covered all the individual comments, apart from one which the right hon. Member for Brent, East asked in three ways. He asked for some assurances about what happens as a result of the Chancellor's public expenditure exercise and the Budget next year. Those assurances would be the outcome of the Chancellor's negotiations. The right hon. Gentleman knows full well that I am not privy to those negotiations. I cannot give him the assurances. I cannot deny that he would like them or that I would like to give them. However, they are not mine to give.

I can honestly say that although these amendments seem complicated—indeed, they are as they are written in legal language to protect public funds—they are a further step in an endeavour to bring to our supplementary benefits scheme a greater degree of comprehension and simplicity. Although the transitional period while changing from one system to the other must be a most difficult time for everyone involved, I am quite sure that all the work that was done in the supplementary benefits review under the previous Government, and in the Social Security Act 1980, will bear good fruit for the beneficiaries of the supplementary benefit scheme. I hope that the House will accept these regulations.

Question put:

The House divided: Ayes 143, Noes 101.

Division No. 491] AYES [7.55p.m.
Alison, Michael Gummer, John Selwyn Nelson, Anthony
Ancram, Michael Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Neubert, Michael
Aspinwall, Jack Hampson, Dr Keith Newton, Tony
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne) Hannam, John Onslow, Cranley
Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset) Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael Page, Rt Hon Sir Graham (Crosby)
Bendall, Vivian Hawkins, Paul Page, Richard (SW Hertfordshire)
Benyon, Thomas (Abingdon) Heddle, John Parris, Matthew
Berry, Hon Anthony Henderson, Barry Peyton, Rt Hon John
Best, Keith Hicks, Robert Porter, Barry
Bevan, David Gilroy Hogg, Hon Douglas (Grantham) Prentice, Rt Hon Reg
Biggs-Davison, John Holland, Philip (Carlton) Proctor, K. Harvey
Boscawen, Hon Robert Hooson, Tom Rathbone, Tim
Braine, Sir Bernard Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Rees, peter (Dover and Deal)
Brinton, Tim Hurd, Hon Douglas Renton, Tim
Budgen, Nick Johnson Smith, Geoffrey Rhodes James, Robert
Bulmer, Esmond Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Butcher, John King, Rt Hon Tom Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Cadbury, Jocelyn Knight, Mrs Jill Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Carlisle, John (Luton West) Knox, David Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Lawrence, Ivan Sims, Roger
Carlisle, Rt Hon Mark (Runcorn) Lawson, Nigel Speed, Keith
Chalker, Mrs. Lynda Le Marchant, Spencer Speller, Tony
Chapman, Sydney Lloyd, Ian (Havant & Waterloo) Stainton, Keith
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Lloyd, peter (Fareham) Stanbrook, Ivor
Cockeram, Eric Lyell, Nicholas Stradling Thomas, J.
Colvin, Michael McCrindle, Robert Taylor, Teddy (Southend East)
Cope, John MacGregor, John Tebbit, Norman
Corrie, John MacKay, John (Argyll) Temple-Morris, Peter
Cranborne, Viscount McNair-Wilson, Michael (Newbury) Thomas, Rt Hon Peter (Hendon S)
Dean, Paul (North Somerset) McQuarrie, Albert Thompson, Donald
Dorrell, Stephen Medal, David Thorne, Neil (Ilford South)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Marlow, Tony Townend, John (Bridlington)
Eden, Rt Hon Sir John Marten, Neil (Banbury) Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexleyheath)
Edwards, Rt Hon N. (Pembroke) Mates, Michael
Eyre, Reginald Maude, Rt Hon Angus Trippler, David
Fairbairn, Nicholas Mawby, Ray van Straubenzee, W. R
Faith, Mrs Sheila Mawhinney, Dr Brian Viggers, Peter
Fenner, Mrs Peggy Mellor, David Wakeham, John
Fisher, Sir Nigel Meyer, Sir Anthony Waller, Gary
Fletcher, Alexander (Edinburgh N) Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove & Redditch) Warren, Kenneth
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman Mills, Iain (Meriden) Watson, John
Fraser, Peter (South Angus) Mills, Peter (West Devon) Wells, Bowen (Hert'rd & Stev'nage)
Fry, Peter Moate, Roger Wheeler, John
Garel-Jones, Tristan Morrison, Hon Charles (Devizes) Wickendon, Keith
Glyn, Dr Alan Morrison, Hon Peter (City of Chester) Williams, Delwyn (Montgomery)
Gow, Ian Murphy, Christopher Wolfson, Mark
Gower, Sir Raymond Myles, David TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Greenway, Harry Neale, Gerrard Mr. Carol Mather and
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Needham, Richard Mr. David Waddington.
Alton, David Eastham, Ken John, Brynmor
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ernest Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE) Johnston, Russell (Inverness)
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Ellis, Raymond (NE Derbyshire) Jones, Rt Hon Alec (Rhondda)
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) English, Michael Jones, Barry (East Flint)
Bidwell, Sydney Evans, Ioan (Aberdare) Kerr, Russell
Booth, Rt Hon Albert Evans, John (Newton) Leadbitter, Ted
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) Field, Frank Leighton, Ronald
Campbell-Savours, Dale Fitt, Gerard Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Canavan, Dennis Flannery, Martin Litherland, Robert
Carter-Jones, Lewis Foster, Derek Lyons, Edward (Bradford West)
Cartwright, John Foulkes, George McCartney, Hugh
Clark, Dr David (South Shields) Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald McGuire, Michael (Ince)
Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S) Freud, Clement McKay, Allen (Penistone)
Concannon, Rt Hon J. D. Garrett, John (Norwich S) McWilliam, John
Cryer, Bob Gourlay, Harry Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)
Cunliffe, Lawrence Grant, George (Morpeth) Marshall, Jim (Leicester South)
Cunningham, Dr John (Whitehaven) Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Mason, Rt Hon Roy
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife) Maxton, John
Davis, Terry (B'rm'ham, Stechford) Hardy, Peter Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Deakins, Eric Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Mitchell, R. C. (Soton, Itchen)
Dewar, Donald Haynes, Frank Morris, Rt Hon Alfred (Wythenshaw)
Dixon, Donald Home Robertson, John Morris, Rt Hon Charles (Openshaw)
Dormand, Jack Homewood, William Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Douglas, Dick Hooley, Frank Park, George
Dubs, Alfred Howells, Geraint Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Dunn, James A. (Liverpool, Kirkdale) Hudson Davies, Ednyfed Race, Reg
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen North) Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds South)
Rodgers, Rt Hon William Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley Whitehead, Phillip
Rooker, J. W. Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery) Whitlock, William
Sever, John Thomas, Dr Roger (Carmarthen) Winnick, David
Snape, Peter Tinn, James Woolmer, Kenneth
Spriggs, Leslie Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)
Steel, Rt Hon David Weetch, Ken TELLERS FOR THE NOES
Stoddart, David Wellbeloved, James Mr. Joseph Dean and
Strang, Gavin Welsh, Michael Mr. George Morton.
Question accordingly agreed to.
That the draft Supplementary Benefit (Aggregation, Requirements and Resources) Amendment Regulations 1980, which were laid before this House on 28 October, be approved.