HC Deb 25 January 1982 vol 16 cc705-24 10.14 pm
Mr. J. W. Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr)

I beg to move, that an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Child Benefit (Claims and Payments) Amendment Regulations 1981 (S.I., 1981, No. 1772), dated 9th December 1981, a copy of which was laid before this House on 18th December, be annulled. I start by asking why we are here tonight. There is a serious answer to that question; we are here to remove the individual right of weekly payments of child benefit to mothers. That is the intention of the regulations. Aneurin Bevan once said: there is no test for progress other than its impact on the individual. That excellent test should be used more often in the Labour Party and on that criterion the House is not making progress tonight.

Who wants a change that will mean that 50 per cent. of mothers who collect child benefit weekly must leap a series of high hurdles if they are not to be put on to child benefit payments every four weeks in arrears? It is no good Ministers saying that there is a form in the claims book. Many mothers receiving weekly child benefit will not send in those claim forms, even after the six month waiting period following the commencement of the regulations.

Therefore, 50 per cent. of mothers will be badly affected by the regulations. The position will be even worse for new mothers after 15 March 1982 when, of course, only those on supplementary benefit or family income supplement or widows and those who can prove hardship, without the right of appeal, will be able to claim weekly child benefit.

Child benefit was one of the most important achievements of the last Labour Government. It consisted of a cash payment to mums every week if they wished it, rather than a combination of family allowance and child tax relief to the father—money which most mums never saw. Childless couples benefit if today's children are looked after well enough to provide the wealth for their retirement pensions.

No one wants the change except for a very small band of what might be called "politically motivated persons" in the Treasury. The Government will save only £7 million a year in administrative payments and then only from 1987–88. There is a slight improvement on the original proposal, but for the financial year 1982–83 there will be a cut in child benefit payments of £56 million.

It may be argued that that is a once-and-for-all cut, but it is a cut for mothers in the financial year 1982–83. If anybody doubts that it is not the Government's intention to cut, I ask him to consider the statement of the former Secretary of State at Question Time on 31 March 1981. When challenged by myself and other Labour Members about the cut in benefit for the year in which the change to four weeks took place, he said: Any effect on total public expenditure occasioned by less frequent payments of child benefit—the hon. Gentleman rightly used the term 'cash flow'—will affect cash flow in moving expenditure from this year to next. The resulting reduction in public expenditure this year is a reduction which the Chancellor must have if he is to meet his Budget targets."—[Official Report, 31 March 1981; Vol. 2, c. 143.] That is a cut and there is no getting away from the fact that it is part of the Chancellor's cuts for 1982–83. I am surprised that that cut is not mentioned in the memorandum I referred to earlier that the Government gave to the Select Committee on Social Services when they totalled up the cuts in social security to £1.4 billion. I submit that it ought to be 1.45 billion, because this cut must be included.

Mothers are losing an individual right. They can claim child benefit every four weeks now if they wish. The take-up rate of weekly collection was only 24 per cent. in March 1979. By March 1980, when the Government's first set of cuts had started to bite, 35 per cent. of mothers collected the benefit weekly. Those figures were given to the Select Committee by the Post Office last year. In June 1980, the figure was 45 per cent. and in December that year it was 48 per cent. Those figures were given in a parliamentary reply on 23 March 1981. The Minister said of the 48 per cent. figure "It was Christmas". That might have stood up but for the fact that by June last year 50 per cent. of mothers were collecting child benefit weekly. Between March 1979 and June 1981 the figure had doubled.

It is clear that the Government want the change. Let us look at who does not want it. A number of organisations were quoted in a written answer on 1 April 1981, including the Child Poverty Action Group. That was predictable. The CPAG would not want the change, because it is concerned with child poverty. The National Federation of Sub-Postmasters does not want the change. I cast no aspersions on the federation, but it was predictable that it would oppose the change, because it has a vested interest. Its members' incomes will be cut.

Other organisations listed in the answer include the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, the National Federation of Women's Institutes, the Women's Liberal Federation, the Labour Women's Committee for Wales, the Family Welfare Association, the Family Service Units, the Health Visitors Association and the National Union of Teachers. Teachers see the results of child poverty every day. The Royal British Legion does not want the change and neither does the Women's National Advisory Committee of the National Union of Conservative and Unionist Associations. In addition to that august committee, the general purposes committee of the National Union of Conservative and Unionist Associations—which is the equivalent, I imagine, to the Labour Party's NEC, so it must be pretty important—does not want the change, as it made clear in a letter to the former Secretary of State on 2 March 1981, signed by the secretary Mr. Alan Smith.

The Tory Party does not want the change, the British Legion does not want it, the Liberals do not want it, the Labour Party does not want it, the teachers do not want it. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about the SDP?"] The SDP has no view. That has been made abundantly clear. Its Members did not even vote in the previous debate. They may have given up Socialism, but they have certainly not given up socialising.

No body concerned with the welfare of children wants the proposed change. The future administration of child benefit will be a nightmare because of the variations in the system of payments.

I wish to raise a number of questions, although I do not want to pre-empt the remarks of my hon. Friends. The CPAG has asked us to raise the question of claimants being told about their rights. Will the Government print on supplementary benefit, FIS and widow's benefit claim forms details of the right to claim child benefit weekly? How much will they spend on advertising? That is crucial.

We should also like to know about the Government's discretionary hardship provisions. There is no right of appeal for any mother who wants to claim that she needs the benefit weekly on the ground of hardship. The Social Security Advisory Committee was extremely critical of the regulations. In the Secretary of State's memorandum, which appears at the front of the committee's report, he refers to massive discretionary powers that have been given to him. He stated: I shall, of course, be answerable to Parliament for the way in which this discretionary provision is applied. How is it intended to report to Parliament regularly about the use of the discretionary powers? We also want to know how much the Government will spend on advertising. The rights of individuals are being curtailed because of the regulations. We want to know what criteria will be adopted in deciding what constitutes hardship.

We are dealing with crucial issues. These are not technical regulations. When we debate these issues we do not fill the august Press Gallery, to which we are not supposed to refer. However, the regulations will bear on half the mothers in the country. From 15 March they will have an effect on all mothers. The rights that were given to them by the House following the initiative of a Labour Government are being removed.

I hope that we shall hear much less in future from Conservative Members about the rights of individuals. I presume that they will vote against the prayer. In doing so, they will know full well that they are curtailing and diminishing individual rights. I can say that without fear of contradiction. We are not discussing the niceties of paying benefits into bank accounts, compulsory four-week payments or compulsory weekly payments. We are discussing the right to the payment weekly if the mother thinks that she needs it, and she is in the best position to decide.

One of the first actions of an incoming Labour Government, who will surely follow the defeat of the Conservative Government at the next general election, will be to restore freedom of choice to all mothers to collect child benefit weekly if that is what they wish and not if Ministers so wish. That is a firm pledge.

10.27 pm
Mr. Peter Bottomley (Woolwich, West)

One of the problems of child benefit is its name. If it had been called child tax credit, there would have been more concern about it. Tax allowances appear to be more popular than benefits. Child benefit might be the exception to that general rule, but it might have received more attention from the Government if the name had not been changed by the Labour Administration.

The hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Bar (Mr. Rooker) talked about the increasing number of parents, mainly mothers, who are now drawing child benefit weekly. About 10 years ago my wife was working for the head of the Child Poverty Action Group, who is now the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field). She was engaged in surveying the budgeting behaviour of low income families. The initial evidence that was produced persuaded the then Conservative Government not to switch the value of the family allowance and child tax allowance into husbands' pay packets.

The importance of the family allowance, as it then was, which was only a minor proportion of family income support, was revealed by CPAG research. It was shown to be essential to many low income families that were exposed to job changes, difficult domestic circumstances, the split-up of families, the loss of jobs and desertion, for example. The CPAG surveys provided the evidence that, I think, persuaded the Select Committee that it was important to restrict payments to the mother and to continue with the benefit in weekly payments.

Since that time there has been a general rise in the standard of living, but there has not been an obvious general rise in the standard of living of families with children, especially poor families with children.

During the past few months many organisations have argued for freedom, for the reverse of what the Government have proposed. That battle may be lost tonight. With some misgivings, I shall support the Government, because it is important to win a greater battle—the level of child benefit itself, on which I believe we can argue tonight.

The important issue about child benefit is to try to increase it, if necessary by stages, to a level approximately double the present level. It is not feasible for that to happen in a year or so, but it is feasible to have an announcement from the Government in the next two months that, as economic conditions are clearly easing, child benefit will be restored to the level of April 1979, when they came to office.

We know from the present change that if half the mothers move on to the monthly payment of child benefit £56 million of the public sector borrowing requirement is saved in the first year. It is also open to the Government to save more money on the PSBR if, instead of "Rooker-Wising" the whole married man's part of the married man's tax allowance, they give the same increase in the allowance to married people as to single people. Those married men below retirement age would forgo £310 million, which, if distributed to child benefit, would give an extra increase above inflation and put child benefit a penny or two above the level in April 1979. That is essential. I hope that more hon. Members will put that point to the Government in the weeks before the Budget.

I return to the switch to four-weekly payment. It is important for the Government to review all the publicity material that they have decided to put out or are thinking about. I commend to them the idea, not simply of printing it on the back of the child benefit order book—which may already have been determined in advance of the vote tonight—but of enclosing with the order book a leaflet in black and red—non-partisan—produced by the Child Poverty Action Group in association with the National Federation of Sub-Postmasters. If the Government want to leave out of their leaflet the advertisement for joining the CPAG, so be it, but they should put out an eye-catching document like that, spelling out the opportunities that will be available to mothers if the prayer is defeated.

The Government have given a commitment to monitor how the change affects mothers. They should decide in advance, and publicise, what tests they will apply, and give a regular report to the House on the decisions made in each case where a mother or a father has applied to have weekly payment, when that parent does not fall into one of the authorised categories.

If the Government have to make savings of £56 million in this way—if it were not necessary, it would be easy to pay the four-weekly benefit at the beginning of the month rather than at the end, so one assumes that the decision was made the other way round purely for the financial saving—I hope that when economic conditions ease they will regard themselves as having £56 million that needs to be returned to parents with interest.

Having suggested switching the inflation increase in the married man's tax allowance, I wish to point out another possible switch on the PSBR. If the £310 million is given in the tax allowance, the full cost falls on the Treasury in the first financial year, because tax allowances are available from April. If it is put on to child benefit, the cost to the Government in the first financial year—1982–83—is only one third—£100 million rather than £310 million. The Government ought to consider, as economic conditions ease, switching back the extra £200 million that has been saved to child benefit.

One point that has been regularly missed in the House, generally by the Treasury, which goes into a static rather than a dynamic economic analysis, is the importance of child benefit in general economic conditions. It is associated with a generally lower level of pay settlements. I do not believe that we shall get pay settlements roughly in line with changes in the underlying economy unless we make sure that we protect the low paid who have family responsibilities. It is unreasonable to expect those who represent low paid workers to settle for pay increases below the level of inflation unless child benefit is increased more greatly than inflation.

As Douglas Grieves, general secretary of the Tobacco Workers Union bravely said, the family wage is a myth for lower paid people. There is no way that the lower paid worker can expect to support a wife, or spouse, and children on minimum rates. Child benefit is an essential element in making sure that we do the right thing by those who cannot look after themselves. We have done quite well for pensioners, we have not done quite so well for the sick and the unemployed, and in the last 25 years we have done badly for families who are raising children on low incomes.

10.36 pm
Mr. Robert Kilroy-Silk (Ormskirk)

Like my right hon. and hon. Friends, I rise to oppose the Government's attempt to end the system of weekly payments of child benefit. It is yet another example of the Tories' attempts to erode gradually and insiduously the Welfare State.

The hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Thomas), who now represents the Social Democratic Party, laughs at what I have said, but he does not seem to take the protection of the rights of those who are suffering from not being able to pay their fuel bills or of those who are in receipt of child benefit sufficiently seriously to be in the Chamber or to vote in the House on most of the occasions when these matters are raised. Perhaps we can hear a little less from him.

The regulations provide that from 15 March child benefit will be provided only every four weeks unless the mothers are currently in receipt of child benefit or, if they are new mothers, if they are in receipt either of family income supplement or supplementary benefit, or if they are lone parents, take the initiative to opt for weekly payments.

I am concerned that many mothers who are currently in receipt of child benefit will forget to opt for weekly payments or will not have seen the publicity about the change. If they have, they may overlook the procedure necessary to opt for benefit and so will not receive the weekly payment that they require. I am also concerned that many of the mothers who become eligible for child benefit and who are not in receipt of supplementary benefit or family income supplement, or who are lone parents, will nevertheless be sufficiently poor to require it to be paid weekly, not monthly.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) said, the Select Committee on Social Services said that the number of women cashing their child benefit on a weekly basis had increased dramatically during the lifetime of the Tory Government, from 24 per cent. at the beginning to 50 per cent. in June last year. That is yet another sign both of the depth of the recession and of the public expenditure cuts and high unemployment that the Government have brought about, necessitating a tightening of the belt of middle class, middle income families to a greater extent than in the past.

All women should have the right to receive weekly payments. As my hon. Friend said, everyone who has spoken on the issue—all the pressure groups, individual women and political organisations—except the Minister and his friends want benefits to continue to be available on a weekly basis. Indeed, I gather that the Minister has received about 42 petitions, signed by 12, 500 people, asking for weekly payments to continue. How many has he received asking for monthly payments?

The Child Poverty Action Group points out that child benefit is a vital source of regular income for many mothers, and the only source of independent income for many women. It is therefore extremely important that it should be available to them on a weekly basis as of right. If they choose otherwise, it should be their own decision to collect it at longer intervals, not something arbitrarily imposed upon them by the Minister.

If the proposals are approved they will cause a great deal of distress and inconvenience and put a large number of women under considerable financial pressure. II is yet another example of the Government's mean-minded, petty penny-pinching, spiteful attitude towards benefits and beneficiaries in the Welfare State system.

Certainly the Government seem to be putting administrative convenience well before the interest of the claimants and beneficiaries. It is scarcely won h introducing the regulations, with the inconvenience and distress that they will occasion, simply to save about £7 million. Moreover, the Government are not just introducing compulsory four-weekly payments, but making them payable in arrears, thereby saving £56 million. In effect, the Government are stealing £56 million from the women of this country. That is a disgrace and a scandal, which members of all parties should not allow to pass tonight.

10.42 pm
Mr. Reg Race (Wood Green)

My principal objection to the Government's proposal is that it will mean a saving to the Government of a paltry £7 million and very substantial inconvenience to millions of women. Moreover, it shows that the Government do not understand the realities of working-class life in this country.

Many supporters of the Labour Party, but proportionately far more supporters of the Conservative Party, receive their salaries or wages monthly, but the vast majority of poor people and manual workers, if they are in work at all, receive their wages weekly. Most of the working people of this country make weekly payments for their groceries, their rents and indeed their rates in the case of council tenants and some private tenants. It is therefore a crude reality of the working class in this country that payments are made on a weekly basis. For the Government now to tell millions of women and children that benefits are to be paid on a monthly basis unless they specifically opt otherwise will mean serious hardship for families who will find it difficult to adjust.

Reference has been made to the way in which more and more women have been forced, by the logic and necessity of their circumstances, to opt for weekly payments. Women do not now have to draw child benefit weekly. They can opt to leave the orders in the book until such time as they wish to cash them. As my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr.Rooker) rightly pointed out, a basic liberty is being taken away by the Government.

Nobody has asked the Government for the measure. Women have not asked for it, and organisations have not asked for it. The Government have introduced it simply to save £7 million. Given the scale of the Government's attack on the poor and on social security benefits, involving £1.4 billion in the next financial year, a saving of £7 million on a permanent basis hardly seems worth the candle.

It is important to discuss the likely consequences for individuals of the Government's action. Why is no time limit set in the regulations? After 13 September 1982 no claims for weekly payments will be allowed. Why is there that inflexibility? Why cannot there be a continuation of the present system under which people who wish to cash their orders weekly may do so? What happens when people are in changed and straightened circumstances? What happens when the man or woman loses a job and their family income drops from £100 a week to the level of unemployment benefit and the child dependency addition? What will that mean for them?

If such people receive monthly payments they will have to go through a bureaucratic procedure to obtain weekly payments. A letter to the DHSS office will not suffice. The request for weekly payment must be made on a prescribed form and sent to the local DHSS office. Why is that so? Must we put millions of people through a bureaucratic nightmare and make them write to the DHSS office, be told that they have not filled in the appropriate form and then be sent the form? By that time some will have fallen by the wayside and will not return the form. Why on earth must we put people through all that?

On what basis will discretionary payments be made? How will parents be informed that discretionary payments are available? What procedures will be adopted to administer the scheme? What will be the criteria for accepting that hardship is taking place? That is important because in our unequal society many men in employment, and many who are not, do not give their spouses sufficient money to meet the weekly grocery bills. I suspect that the DHSS might take a long time to accept that a woman does not have sufficient income from her husband to meet the regular weekly bills. It might not accept that such a woman is in hardship because it takes account only of the family's total income. That will affect the way in which women conduct their duties in the household.

I am also worried about the political effects of the regulations. I am worried about women drawing four weeks' child benefit at the post office. Many women with three or four children will draw substantial sums. They will draw it across the counter. I do not wish to hear Conservative Members running campaigns against the level of child benefit—as the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) has over the years—complaining that people are being paid too much. If such a campaign were mounted as a consequence of the regulation, it would be a disgrace. I hope that it will not happen, but it is another reason for the regulations not being approved tonight.

Mr. Mike Thomas (Newcastle upon Tyne, East)

They had never thought of that until the hon. Gentleman mentioned it.

Mr. Race

I am sure that they would have thought about it very quickly when they entered a post office or when some of their more reactionary constituents wrote to them complaining about the matter. I hope that the Government will have second thoughts. I hope that the votes of hon. Members tonight will remove the regulations. They will effect the living standards of ordinary working people and attack the cash flow of families, to the detriment of children in those families. they will operate directly against the interests of all concerned. I hope that hon. Members will vote against the regulations to protect the interests of the children and the families concerned.

10.50 pm
Mr. Keith Best (Anglesey)

The House is indebted to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker), if only for giving further publicity to the measure. All the families that read Hansard avidly will learn more about it. If the House does not accept that families in poor conditions read Hansard avidly, there is a clear commitment on the Government to use their best endeavours to make sure that families that will be affected are fully appraised of the situation. I know that my hon. Friend the Minister will have some remarks to make on that matter.

This is an issue that all hon. Members will scrutinise carefully. I do not believe that there would be any dispute if it were felt that by adopting such proposals the £7 million saved would be allocated to those in the greatest need. My hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Bottomley) said that the money should go toward child benefit, which I believe would be generally accepted. I hope that the Minister will be able to say where the savings will be directed. If he does not, I am sure that many hon. Members will watch carefully to see that the money reaches the families in greatest need.

A fundamental misapprehension that seems to prevail among Opposition Members who have spoken in the debate is that an increase in the take-up of child benefit weekly means that the families need the money desperately every week. That is one inference to be drawn, but it is not necessarily the correct conclusion. If money is available to be collected, there are very few people, I suspect, in any walk of life who will leave it sitting where it is if it can be collected at an earlier date.

Opposition Members have said that 50 per cent. of claimants collect the money on a weekly basis. What is important is that those in the greatest need, if supplementary benefit, family income supplement and lone parenthood are the measures will still be able to take these payments on a weekly basis. That point has not perhaps been sufficiently stressed in the debate.

The hon. Member for Perry Barr says that the measure is a direct attack on the freedom of the individual.

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Grantham)


Mr. Best

My hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg) says "Rubbish". I shall be kinder to the hon. Member for Perry Barr. I shall call it inaccurate. I would also describe it as rather insulting to those receiving child benefit. By enabling a greater sum to be taken on a four-weekly basis, the measure enables parents to spend the money on clothes or for other purposes in a manner that allows far greater latitude than would be the case if it were collected on a weekly basis. If the view of Opposition Members is that those receiving child benefit cannot be trusted to accumulate the money in order to spend it on items of major expenditure for children, they are doing those people a great disservice.

Mr. Clement Freud (Isle of Ely)

If the hon. Gentleman is talking about accuracy, will he accept that these regulations do nothing that people were unable to do before? They just stop the options.

Mr. Best

The hon. Gentleman is right, but what he says does not in any way demean my argument that these regulations still enable people to spend money in larger sums when they collect it at four-weekly periods. They are entitled to accumulate that money now on a weekly basis. Opposition Members are saying that people cannot be trusted to take the money in four-weekly amounts. That is grossly insulting to the people who receive it.

The only point that I want to stress tonight—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"]—other than those that I have made and which I believe are quite substantial—relates to monitoring. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will tell us a little more about the monitoring process. I do not accept that injustice is inherent in these regulations, but I accept the strength of feeling among Opposition Members. If there is injustice, it must be closely watched to make that sure that it is rectified.

I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will come back to the House and tell us how many people who can take child benefit in only four-weekly amounts are applying to have it paid weekly, and on what grounds they make that applications, so that the House may know exactly how many people are affected in that way. If the investigations show that there are very few, or none, I suspect that Opposition Members—who I always hope are reasonable people, if nothing else—will accept that no hardship has been caused.

Mr. Douglas Hogg

There is a further aspect, as I am sure my hon. Friend will agree. The various pressure groups will keep in touch with the Department and inform my Front-Bench colleagues of any cases of injustice or classes of cases of injustice that arise as a result of these regulations.

Mr. Best

My hon. Friend is right, but that does not involve only the Department. He may not be on the mailing list of the Child Poverty Action Group, but I and many other hon. Members on both sides of the House are, and we regularly meet people from that group. The Government will be subjected to precise details of cases of hardship, and hon. Members will make representations to the Government on the Floor of the House. I hope that my hon. Friend will say more about that matter when he winds up the debate.

Let there be no mistake about the strength of feeling on both sides of the House on the need for child benefit. We all accept, without dissent, that child benefit should be increased far more than has happened in the past. so that we need not have debate after debate about the real poverty that can exist in families that desperately need more child benefit. That is in the true tradition of both the major parties that are represented in the House. It is particularly true of the party that I represent, because it is a matter on which he have a particularly fine record. I hope that that record will not be marred.

10.59 pm
Mr. David Stoddart (Swindon)

At Tory Party conferences Ministers always preach in vibrant tones, pontificating about the sanctity of family life and about the family being the backbone of our country. They say that as long as we look after the family, everything will be all right. They may say that at party conferences and on public platforms, but when it comes to helping families, it is different.

The history of family allowances and child benefit shows that in office, the Tory Party always rats on the family and on children. In 1968, it was left to the Labour Government to increase family allowances. Between 1970 and 1974, the Conservative Government failed to increase family allowances. A Labour Government had to introduce child benefit at a reasonable rate. It was riot high enough, but it had the apparent support of Conservative Members. When the Conservative Party took office in 1979, it ratted again on families and children by failing to pay the 50p increase agreed by the previous Labour Government. That is how much Conservative Members think of families.

The pontificating utterances at Conservative Party conferences and so on are followed by attacks on families. Hon. Members should make no mistake about it, the poorest in society are those with children, regardless of whether they receive supplementary benefit. Those who do not receive supplementary benefit or family income supplement, but who earn low wages, may suffer more hardship than necessary because of the Government's attitude to families.

The Tories significantly increased taxes for families by failing fully to index tax allowances in 1980–81 and they did not increase tax allowances at all in 1981–82. Since 1979 families have been attacked. The regulations represent a further attack and will make it even more difficult for families—and particularly for women—to make ends meet on a weekly basis. Therefore, we oppose them.

Conservative Members should understand that working-class people budget on a weekly basis. If they cannot do so, their finances go haywire and they may well get into all sorts of difficulties and debts, such as rent arrears which will rebound against them and against the State. The regulations will not help families, but hinder them and make life more difficult. It is useless to say that families will be able to save for four weeks. Many families need the money on a weekly basis to feed their children and to provide heating in their homes. If they want to save they can do so under the present system, because they can leave the money for one month or six months.

The regulations are nasty and mean minded. They seek to save millions of pounds and to reduce the net borrowing requirement, probably so that highly paid taxpayers can be relieved in the Budget. The hon. Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Bottomley) has far more confidence in his Front Bench than me, or some of the Conservative Members sitting behind him. So far, the Government's record does not hold out much hope of assistance for families. I shall certainly oppose such dreadful regulations. Those like the hon. Member for Woolwich, West—who has a good record on this matter—should throw the regulations out of the window.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine)

Order. I understand that the Minister would like to commence his reply at 11.15 and two other hon. Members wish to intervene between now and then. I leave the arithmetic to them.

11.5 pm

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Stockport, North)

These are among the most obnoxious regulations to come before the House since I have been a Member. The sub-heading should be "Big Sister knows best", because that is what the Government are saying. They are saying that it is not for the individual to make a choice and that the individual should do what suits the Government rather than what is in his best interests. That is the most obnoxious thing about the regulations.

The Conservative Party claims to have some concern for the individual, yet it has come forward with regulations that take away the individual's right to choose. It is saying "You must collect your benefit monthly instead of weekly, fortnightly, monthly or as suit your circumstances". To say that it must be collected monthly in arrears is particularly mean and despicable.

Having announced this proposal, the Government discovered that everyone was up in arms, as a result of which they back-tracked, but instead of back-tracking totally, they have come forward with this compromise, which as usal makes things more complicated and unsatisfactory for the claimant.

The Government are saying to existing claimants that if they fill in a special form, they can continue to get the benefit weekly, but that new claimants will have to show hardship. They are trying to brand those who claim weekly as people who suffer hardship and cannot quite manage. In other words, they are trying to suggest that this is a second-class group of people in order to discourage them from claiming weekly.

The message from this House should be that as far as possible people ought to claim their benefit weekly. They should certainly be allowed to exercise their own choice. They should be free to decide whether they want to cash their benefit each week or leave it for a week or two. The trouble is that once someone accepts a monthly payment, they will have great difficulty if they want to go back to a weekly payment.

Sometimes, the collection of child benefit weekly is important for many of my constituents, especially when they experience unforeseen circumstances, such as loss of a job or sickness. They find that it takes time to go through the bureaucracy of the DHSS. It may take four or five days to sort out their claims, and during that time child benefit is something they can get without fuss. It keeps the family going. Surely every family should have the ability to collect child benefit if it is needed.

No one can predict what unfortunate circumstances may befall a family. I know of many cases in my constituency where, for some reason or other, the husband has left the wife and all she is left with is the child benefit book. That proves extremely important while supplementary benefit is sorted out.

That is what the Government are taking away. People will now have to go through the bureaucratic process of changing from a monthly to a weekly payment. My message is "Whatever your present circumstances, take advantage of the Government's offer and make sure that you opt for weekly payments". Let people have the right to choose. Do not let Big Sister dictate what she thinks is best.

11.9 pm

Mr. Frank Field (Birkenhead)

I rise to oppose the regulations. If, instead of discussing the position of 8 million mothers we were debating an order affecting 8 million fathers and suggesting that their weekly wage packets should be replaced by monthly payments, my guess is that the House of Commons would be full and the Government would not get their measure through. It is a sad reflection on how difficult it is to make the needs of women felt in the House that not only is the debate poorly attended, but the Government are so confident of getting their way in the Lobby that they have begun to operate the scheme before they have parliamentary power to do so.

Mr. Douglas Hogg

The Conservative Party has the majority of Members in the Chamber tonight.

Mr. Field

That may well be so. I was not trying to criticise one side or the other. It is sad that there are only about 30 hon. Members in the House. When we are short of debating time, interruptions from a sedentary position are unwelcome.

The measure is wrong, for three reasons. First, it reduces choice. It is slightly ironic that the Conservative Party is introducing the measure. At a time when child benefit is reaching a decent level, when it is worth drawing weekly and when, as my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport, North (Mr. Bennett) said, more families are drawing it weekly, we shall lessen the choice of the many families who draw benefit weekly. Child benefit may be uninteresting to some, but it is interesting to us, because it tells us something about the sort of society that we, as the House of Commons, wish to create. Do we wish to have a society that minimises bureaucratic interference with people's lives, or one that maximises it? Do we wish to have a society that maximises people's choices, or minimises them?

That is what these dry little regulations are about. We are taking away from 8 million mothers the choice to draw their child benefit payments weekly, fortnightly, monthly or up to six-monthly. The proposal is wrong, because many mothers will not know the importance of weekly child benefit. My hon. Friend the Member for Stockport, North made that point. Many of us believe that our families are secure, but circumstances sometimes change. Unemployment or sickness may strike, or a husband might leave. In those circumstances, the regular weekly payment is crucial. Many mothers are not yet in a proper position to realise how necessary it may be for them in the future to draw child benefit weekly.

Mr. Douglas Hogg

I realise that the hon. Gentleman knows a great deal about the matter but, in the situation that he just described, if the family is in receipt of supplementary benefit the right to weekly payment would arise.

Mr. Field

The hon. Gentleman makes my third point for me. The matter is crucial, because in my surgery, as in many other hon. Members' surgeries, mothers say that if it were not for child benefit they would have nothing. On Friday, a mother who had been trying to draw supplementary benefit since May 1980 said that without child benefit, for many weeks she would not have been able to feed her children. Under the present system, until she had received supplementary benefit she could not opt for the weekly payment of child benefit.

There are some questions which all of us have put to the Minister tonight and to which we wish to receive answers. As I said in an earlier debate this evening, I represent a neighbouring constituency to the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security, the hon. Member for Wallasey (Mrs. Chalker). About 20, 000 mothers in her constituency and 15, 000 mothers in mine will lose the right to the weekly payment of child benefit unless they know what to do. Therefore, as the hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. Best) said, we wish to know much more about the advertising campaign that the Government will initiate.

I suggest two useful things that hon. Members who have an interest in the matter may wish to do. I wrote to all the clergy in my constituency asking them to make a special announcement about the changes before Sunday services. Almost all of them did. They put the announcement in newspapers and on notice boards.

The other crucial group to inform of the change is sub-postmasters. I plead with hon. Members to write to each sub-postmaster in their constituencies and ask him, when each mother comes to draw child benefit, to draw her attention to the form at the back of the child benefit book, which she should fill in and post to the centre at Blackpool. Many hon. Members are doing what advertising they can, but we want to know more about the Government's advertising campaign.

Lastly, there is a question of monitoring. We are worried about the difficulties that some families may face in establishing their right to weekly child benefits. If the scheme does not work as smoothly as the Government have suggested, will they revoke the regulations and revert to weekly child benefit payments?

The proposal is wrong, for three reasons. It lessens choice and decreases individual freedom. Most mothers are not in a position to know whether they will be in desperate need to claim weekly child benefit payments in the future. Mothers receiving child benefit say that it is the only secure payment on which they can depend each week.

I end on the point that I began with. It is sad that we are discussing the rights of 8 million women in an almost empty Chamber. We would never have treated 8 million fathers in this way.

11.15 pm
The Minister for Social Security (Mr. Hugh Rossi)

I shall try to answer as many of the questions raised as I can in the time left to me, but a number of points were exaggerated almost beyond reason.

No basic individual liberty is at risk. The freedom of choice of existing mothers will not be taken away. The choice will be given to future mothers if they fall within categories where hardship might be suffered by a four-weekly payment. Finally, no one will lose any benefits as a result of the regulations. They will continue to receive exactly the same amount.

The £56 million to which the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) referred is an accounting accident, which arises from the fact that if payments are deferred from a weekly to a four-weekly period certain payments fall outside the Government's accounting year. It will not in any way prevent the recipients from receiving the money due to them during the year. It is nonsense for the Opposition to raise the point. It is purely a matter of Government bookkeeping.

I was asked whether the Government had noted the representations made by various bodies. The matter has been under discussion for about two years. It has been fully discussed inside and outside the House. The Government took on board the views expressed. The final decision was announced on 12 May. It was stated that all mothers in receipt of child benefit would be given a choice of switching to four-weekly payments or continuing with weekly payments, but, in general, new mothers would not be given a choice; they would have to be paid four-weekly. However, any new mother in receipt of supplementary benefit or family income supplement or who is a lone parent—including widows—will be given the choice of having a weekly payment, as was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. Best). That covers the classes of people likely to suffer hardship.

The regulations implement that decision. As hon. Members know, the regulations were referred to the Social Security Advisory Committee before they were published and the report that it published included a statement by the Secretary of State for Social Services in accordance with section 10(4) of the Social Security Act 1980. That statement was a response to the committee's recommendations.

I thought it important to spell out the facts to demonstrate that it has not been a quick change, but has been under discussion for some time and that the Government have taken fully into account representations and points made by hon. Members, organisations and members of the public. The proposals have been considerably modified in the light of comments made.

The hon. Member for Perry Barr read out a list of organisations that objected to the original proposals. Since the organisations listed by the hon. Gentleman objected to the change, the Government gave existing mothers the choice to stay on weekly payment if they wished. It was the desire of those organisations that that be the case.

Why are we making the change? We are changing the payment of child benefit to improve efficiency in paying social security benefits. We estimate that if about half of the existing beneficiaries opt for weekly payment, administrative savings of about £7 million a year will be made by about 1987-88 and smaller savings will be made in the earlier years.

The financial savings in themselves are not of great import. The important factor is that the system will become far more efficient administratively. We consider that our action strikes a fair balance between the needs of beneficiaries and our duty to keep down administrative costs.

I shall spell out how the regulations are being implemented and deal with the publicity monitoring and hardship, to which several hon. Gentlemen referred. Starting from mid-November 1981—[Interruption]. The hon. Member for Ormskirk (Mr. Kilroy-Silk) is not being fair he keeps interrupting from a sedentary position. I am trying to answer questions. I have little time and he is making it very difficult for me. I hope that he can compose himself.

Starting from mid-November 1981, all child benefit renewal order books contained an option card. That will continue until March 1982. The card explains that child benefit will be paid at four-weekly intervals in future, but that existing mothers can choose to continue with weekly payments if they wish. Their attention is drawn to the card by a message in red on the front of their order books. All that the mother has to do is remove the card from the back of the order book, sign it, obtain an envelope from the post office and send it to the child benefit centre at Washington.

Mr. Freud

Will the Minister accept that the women who most need the safety net of weekly benefit are those least able to cope with the minutia of filling out forms?

Mr. Rossi

Let me deal with how much further we shall help the mothers. The card also explains that if a mother would prefer to try four-weekly payments before making a decision, she can do so and still have a six-month period after the start of the four-weekly payment in which to switch back to weekly payments. In that way, all existing mothers will be made aware of the option in their order book and have ample time to decide to continue with weekly payments if they wish.

In addition to the card attached to the back of the order book, a poster is being displayed in post offices drawing attention to the new arrangements and the existing mothers' options. Leaflets, claim forms and the order books are all being amended to reflect the switch. In addition, the Department's regional information offices are taking the opportunity to explain the new arrangements in the local press and on local radio whenever possible. I cannot tell my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Bottomley) what will be the cost of the advertising exercise.

The question of monitoring was raised, principally by my hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. Best), but also by others. The Government will monitor the working of the new arrangements and provide the Social Security Advisory Committee with the results. In particular, we shall assess how the hardship provision is working and we shall keep statistics on hardship claims accepted, the reasons for acceptance and hardship claims refused. We shall also obtain the numbers who opt for weekly payments among existing mothers, lone parents and families receiving supplementary benefit or FIS and those who have moved from weekly to four-weekly payments.

Mr. Best

I am glad to hear what my hon. Friend has said about monitoring. Does he accept that some families, through reticence or for other reasons, will not try to get benefit paid weekly? What efforts will the Government make to ascertain whether hardship is caused in such cases?

Mr. Rossi

If families find themselves in hardship they will, I hope, immediately draw attention to that fact. They will be entitled to apply, under the hardship provisions, for weekly payment. If, having tried the four-weekly payment, a mother finds that she is suffering hardship, she will be seen at her local social security office. The decision on the application will be made following that interview and the mother will be informed before she leaves the office. If it is accepted that hardship is being caused, weekly Girocheques will be issued immediately and the four-weekly order book withdrawn until the necessary arrangements have been made for weekly order books to be issued. We are trying to make the system as easy as we can for the individuals concerned.

I do not wish to be dogmatic or to lay down guidelines or rules on the criteria for hardship. It will be a case of each application being treated on its merits.

Mr. Race

Why cannot those who suffer hardship get a weekly order book instead of having to wait for Giro cheques from the DHSS?

Mr. Rossi

It takes too long to issue an order book. We want to deal immediately with cases where hardship exists. We are making the system as flexible as possible in order to meet those cases, but we hope and believe that the majority of mothers will become accustomed to the four-weekly payment of benefits and will be able to cope with the system. Benefits are payable monthly throughout Europe. Surely the Opposition are not telling me that the British housewife is less capable than the Continental housewife of managing her financial affairs. That is the implication of all that has been said by Labour Members. They treat the British public as cretins.

New mothers—those whose entitlement begins on or after 15 March 1982—will be paid child benefit at four-weekly intervals, on the Monday or Tuesday in the fourth week, unless they are in one of the categories that have the right to choose to be paid weekly. The position will be explained in a note attached to their child benefit claim form when they first apply for benefit.

The great difficulty for existing mothers in switching to four-weekly payment will have been at the point of change, because they had become accustomed to weekly payments. We do not believe that that difficulty will be so obvious for new mothers. I have dealt with the anxieties expressed in comments on the White Paper.

We expect that some mothers will have difficulty with four-weekly payments and we have therefore provided in the regulations that lone parents, including widows, and families in receipt of supplementary benefit or FIS will have the right to choose to be paid weekly.

We believe that these provisions will cover the main groups that are likely to have difficulty in coping with the four-weekly payment of child benefit. The hardship provisions will remain for those who do not fall within the categories that I have outlined but who feel that they are experiencing hardship because of—

It being half-past Eleven o'clock, Mr. Deputy Speaker put the Question, pursuant to Standing Order No. 4 (Prayers against statutory instruments, &c. (negative procedure)).

The House divided: Ayes 208, Noes 275.

Division No. 48] [11.30pm
Abse, Leo Fraser, J. (Lamb'th, N'w'd)
Adams, Allen Freeson, RtHon Reginald
Allaun, Frank Freud, Clement
Alton, David Garrett, John (NorwichS)
Anderson, Donald Golding, John
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Graham, Ted
Ashton, Joe G rant, George (Morpeth)
Atkinson, N.(H'grey) Hamilton, James(Bothwell)
Bagier, GordonA.T. Hamilton, W. W. (C'tralFife)
Barnett, Guy(Greenwich) Harrison, RtHon Walter
Barnett, RtHon Joel (H'wd) Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith
Beith, A.J. Haynes, Frank
Benn, RtHon Tony Heffer, EricS.
Bennett, Andrew(St'kp'tN) Hogg, N. (EDunb't'nshire)
Bidwell, Sydney Holland, S.(L'b'th, Vauxh'll)
Boothroyd, MissBetty HomeRobertson, John
Bray, Dr Jeremy Homewood, William
Brown, HughD. (Provan) Hooley, Frank
Brown, R.C. (N'castleW) Howells, Geraint
Brown, Ron(E'burgh, Leith) Hoyle, Douglas
Callaghan, Jim (Midd't'n&P) Huckfield, Les
Campbell, Ian Hughes, Mark(Durham)
Campbell-Savours.Dale Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Canavan, Dennis Hughes, Roy (Newport)
Cant, R. B. Janner, HonGreville
Carmichael, Neil Jay, RtHon Douglas
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) John, Brynmor
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (B'stolS) Johnson, James (Hull West)
Cohen, Stanley Johnson, Walter (Derby S)
Coleman, Donald Johnston, Russell (Inverness)
Concannon, Rt Hon J. D. Jones, Rt Hon Alec (Rh'dda)
Conlan, Bernard Jones, Barry (East Flint)
Cook, Robin F. Jones, Dan (Burnley)
Cowans, Harry Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Craigen, J. M. (G'gow, M'hill) Kerr, Russell
Crowther, Stan Kilroy-Silk, Robert
Cryer, Bob Lambie, David
Cunliffe, Lawrence Lamborn, Harry
Cunningham, DrJ.(W'h'n) Lamond, James
Dalyell, Tam Leadbitter, Ted
Davidson, Arthur Leighton, Ronald
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L 'lli) Lestor, Miss Joan
Davis, Clinton (Hackney C) Lewis, Arthur (N'hamNW)
Davis, Terry (B'ham, Stechf'd) Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Litherland, Robert
Dewar, Donald Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Dixon, Donald Lyon, Alexander(York)
Dobson, Frank McCartney, Hugh
Dormand, Jack McDonald, DrOonagh
Douglas, Dick McElhone, Frank
Dubs, Alfred McKay, Allen (Penistone)
Dunnett, Jack McKelvey, William
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G. MacKenzie, RtHonGregor
Eadie, Alex McNamara, Kevin
Ellis, R. (NED'bysh're) McTaggart, Robert
English, Michael McWilliam, John
Ennals, Rt Hon David Marks, Kenneth
Evans, loan (Aberdare) Marshal, I, D (G 'go wS 'ton)
Evans, John (Newton) Marshall, Jim (LeicesterS)
Ewing, Harry Martin, M(G'gowS'burn)
Faulds, Andrew Mason, Rt Hon Roy
Field, Frank Maxton, John
Flannery, Martin Maynard, MissJoan
Foot, RtHon Michael Meacher, Michael
Ford, Ben Mikardo, lan
Forrester, John Millan, RtHonBruce
Foster, Derek Mitchell, Austin(Grimsby)
Foulkes, George Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Moyle, RtHon Roland Soley, Clive
Newens, Stanley Spearing, Nigel
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Spriggs, Leslie
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Steel, Rt Hon David
Palmer, Arthur Stoddart, David
Park, George Stott, Roger
Parker, John Straw, Jack
Parry, Robert Summerskill, HonDrShirley
Pendry, Tom Thomas, Dafydd(Merioneth)
Penhaligon, David Thomas, DrR. (Carmarthen)
Pitt, William Henry Thorne, Stan (PrestonSouth)
Powell, Raymond (Ogmore) Tilley, John
Prescott, John Tinn, James
Price, C. (Lewisham W) Torney, Tom
Race, Reg Varley, RtHon EricG.
Radice, Giles Wainwright, E.(DearneV)
Rees, Rt Hon M (Leeds S) Wainwright, R.(Colnev)
Richardson, Jo Walker, Rt Hon H.(D'caster)
Roberts, Albert(Normanton) Watkins, David
Roberts, AlIan (Bootle) Weetch, Ken
Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N) Welsh, Michael
Roberts, Gwilym(Cannock) White, Frank R.
Robinson, G. (Coventry NW) White, J.(G'gowPollok)
Rooker, J. W. Whitehead, Phillip
Ross, Ernest (Dundee West) Whitlock, William
Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight) Wigley, Dafydd
Rowlands, Ted Williams, Rt Hon A.(S'sea W)
Ryman, John Wilson, RtHonSirH.(H ton)
Sheerman, Barry Wilson, William (C'trySE)
Sheldon, RtHon R. Winnick, David
Shore, RtHon Peter Woodall, Alec
Short, Mrs Renée Woolmer, Kenneth
Silkin, RtHonJ. (Deptford) Wright, Sheila
Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich) Young, David (BoltonE)
Silverman, Julius
Skinner, Dennis Tellers for the Ayes:
Smith, RtHonJ. (N Lanark) Dr. Edmund Marshall and
Snape, Peter Mr. George Morton.
Adley, Robert Cadbury, Jocelyn
Aitken, Jonathan Carlisle, John (Luton West)
Alexander, Richard Carlisle, Kenneth(Lincoln)
Alison, RtHon Michael Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (R'c'n)
Amery, RtHon Julian Chalker, Mrs. Lynda
Ancram, Michael Channon, Rt. Hon. Paul
Arnold, Tom Churchill, W.S.
Aspinwall, Jack Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th.S'n)
Atkins, Robert(PrestonN) Clark, SirW. (CroydonS)
Baker, Kenneth(St.M'bone) Clarke, Kenneth(Rushcliffe)
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Clegg, SirWalter
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Cockeram, Eric
Bendall, Vivian Cope, John
Benyon, Thomas(A'don) Corrie, John
Benyon, W.(Buckingham) Costain, SirAlbert
Best, Keith Cranborne, Viscount
Sevan, DavidGilroy Critchley, Julian
Biffen, RtHon John Crouch, David
Biggs-Davison, SirJohn Dean, Paul (North Somerset)
Blackburn, John Dickens, Geoffrey
Blaker, Peter Dorrell, Stephen
Body, Richard Douglas-Hamilton, LordJ.
Bonsor, SirNicholas Dover, Denshore
Bottomley, Peler(W'wich W) du Cann, Rt Hon Edward
Bowden, Andrew Dunn, Robert(Dart ford)
Boyson, DrRhodes Dykes, Hugh
Braine, SirBernard Eden, RtHon Sir John
Bright, Graham Eggar, Tim
Brinton, Tim Elliott, SirWilliam
Brittan, Rt. Hon. Leon Emery, Sir Peter
Brooke, Hon Peter Eyre, Reginald
Brotherton, Michael Fairgrieve, SirRussell
Brown, Michael(Brigg&Sc'n) Faith, MrsSheila
Browne, John(Winchester) Farr, John
Bruce-Gardyne, John Fell, Sir Anthony
Bryan, Sir Paul Fenner, Mrs Peggy
Buck, Antony Finsberg, Geoffrey
Budgen, Nick Fisher, SirNigel
Bulmer, Esmond Fletcher, A. (Ed'nb'ghN)
Butcher, John Fletcher-Cooke, SirCharles
Fookes, Miss Janet Maude, Rt Hon Sir Angus
Forman, Nigel Mawby, Ray
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman Mawhinney, DrBrian
Fox, Marcus Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Fraser, Peter (South Angus) Mayhew, Patrick
Gardiner, George(Reigate) Mellor, David
Gardner, Edward (SFylde) Meyer, Sir Anthony
Garel-Jones, Tristan Miller, Hal(B'grove)
Gilmour, RtHonSirlan Mills, lain(Meriden)
Glyn, DrAlan Mills, Peter (West Devon)
Goodhew, SirVictor Miscampbell, Norman
Goodlad, Alastair Mitchell, David(Basingstoke)
Gorst, John Monro, SirHector
Gow, Ian Montgomery, Fergus
Gray, Hamish Moore, John
Greenway, Harry Morgan, Geraint
Griffiths, Peter Portsm'thN) Morris, M. (N'hamptonS)
Grist, Ian Morrison, HonC. (Devizes)
Grylls, Michael Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)
Gummer, JohnSelwyn Mudd, David
Hamilton, HonA. Murphy, Christopher
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Myles, David
Hampson, DrKeith Neale, Gerrard
Hannam, John Needham, Richard
Haselhurst, Alan Nelson, Anthony
Hastings, Stephen Neubert, Michael
Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael Newton, Tony
Hawksley, Warren Normanton, Tom
Hayhoe, Barney Nott, Rt Hon John
Heath, Rt Hon Edward Onslow, Cranley
Henderson, Barry Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.
Hicks, Robert Page, Richard (SWHerts)
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Parkinson, RtHon Cecil
Hogg, HonDouglas(Gr'th'm) Parris, Matthew
Holland, Philip(Carlton) Patten, Christopher(Bath)
Hooson, Tom Pattie, Geoffrey
Hordern, Peter Pawsey, James
Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Percival, Sirlan
Howell, RtHonD.(G'ldf'd) Pink, R.Bonner
Hunt, David (Wirral) Pollock, Alexander
Hunt, John(Ravensbourne) Prentice, RtHon Reg
Irving, Charlesf(Cheltenham) Proctor, K. Harvey
Jenkin, RtHon Patrick Pym, Rt Hon Francis
JohnsonSmith, Geoffrey Raison, Timothy
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Rathbone, Tim
Kaberry, SirDonald Rees-Davies, W. R.
Kellett-Bowman, MrsElaine Renton, Tim
Kershaw, SirAnthony Rhodes, James, Robert
King, Rt Hon Tom RhysWilliams, SirBrandon
Knox, David Ridley, HonNicholas
Lament, Norman Ridsdale, SirJulian
Lang, Ian Roberts, M. (Cardiff NW)
Langford-Holt, SirJohn Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Latham, Michael Rossi, Hugh
Lawrence, Ivan Rost, Peter
Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel Royle, SirAnthony
Lee, John Sainsbury, HonTimothy
LeMarchant, Spencer St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.
Lennox-Boyd, HonMark Shew Giles (Pudsey)
Lestor, Miss Joan Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)
Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Shelton, William(Streatham)
Lloyd, Ian (Havant& W'loo) Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Loveridge, john Shepherd, Richard
Luce, Richard Shersby, Michael
Lyell, Nicholas Silvester, Fred
McCrindle, Robert Sims, Roger
Macfarlane, Neil Skeet, T. H. H.
MacGregor, John Speed, Keith
MacKay, John (Argyll) Speller, Tony
Macmillan, RtHonM. Spence, John
McNair-Wilson, M.(N'bury) Spicer, Jim (West Dorset)
McNair-Wilson, P. (NewF'st) Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
McQuarrie, Albert Squire, Robin
Madel, David Stanbrook, lvor
Major, John Stanley, John
Marland, Paul Stevens, Martin
Marlow, Antony Stewart, A. (ERenfrewshire)
Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Stokes, John
Marten, Rt Hon Neil Stradling, Thomas, J.
Mates, Michael Tapsell, Peter
Taylor, Teddy (S'endE) Ward, John
Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman Watson, John
Temple-Morris, Peter Wells, Bowen
Thomas, Rt Hon Peter Wells, Joh n (Maidstone)
Thompson, Donald Wheeler, John
Thorne, Neil(llfordSouth) Whitelaw, RtHonWilliam
Thornton, Malcolm Whitney, Raymond
Townend, John(Bridlington) Wickenden, Keith
Townsend, Cyril D, (B'heath) Wiggin, Jerry
Trippier, David Wilkinson, John
Trotter, Neville Williams, D. (Montgomery)
van, Straubenzee, Sir W. Winterton, Nicholas
Vaughan, DrGerard Wolfson, Mark
Viggers, Peter Young, SirGeorge (Acton)
Wakeham, John Younger, RtHon George
Waldegrave, HonWilliam
Walker, RtHon P.(W'cester) Tellers for the Noes:
Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir D. Mr. Anthony Berry and
Waller, Gary Mr. Robert Boscawen.

Question accordingly negatived.