HC Deb 14 February 1984 vol 54 cc149-236 4.55 pm
The Secretary of State for Social Services (Mr. Norman Fowler)

I beg to move, That the draft Supplementary Benefit (Requirements) Amendment Regulations 1984, which were laid before this House on 6th February, be approved. It might be for the convenience of the House if we were also to take the following motions: That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Housing Benefits Amendment Regulations 1984 (S.I., 1984, No. 103), dated 6th February 1984, a copy of which was laid before this House on 6th February, be annulled. That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Housing Benefits Amendment (No. 2) Regulations 1984 (S.I., 1984, No. 104), dated 6th February 1984, a copy of which was laid before this House on 6th February, be annulled. That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Housing Benefits (Subsidy) Order 1984 (S.I., 1984, No. 110), dated 8th February 1984, a copy of which was laid before this House on 8th February, be annulled. That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Housing Benefits (Rate Support Grant) Order 1984 (S.I., 1984, No. 111), dated 8th February 1984, a copy of which was laid before this House on 8th February, be annulled.

Mr. Speaker

Is that agreeable?

Mr. Michael Meacher (Oldham, West)

It is.

Mr. Fowler

In considering the background to this debate it is important to recognise interconnecting policies— the need to contain public spending, the need to reduce inflation and the need to reduce taxation. Controlling public spending is important both economically and socially. The economic argument is well established, but high inflation is also socially a disaster for individuals whose incomes and savings are reduced by it and for business and industry which carry much of the burden of financing the welfare state. If evidence of that point is needed, we have only to go back to the Labour Government who presided over an increase in inflation of 110 per cent. and were forced to go running to the International Monetary Fund. The social consequences of those policy failures were vast and affected every person in this country —particularly particularly the elderly with limited savings. It is one of the Government's greatest and most basic achievements that inflation is now down to levels not experienced in Britain since the 1960s. That is of direct benefit to everyone in the country.

Few would now argue that no control of public spending is necessary. The fact is that, with social security spending, we are dealing with an increasing, not a decreasing, budget. Spending now runs at about £35.5 billion a year—more than half on pensioners and help for the elderly—while next year we estimate that it will increase to more than £37 billion. It is impossible to leave such sums out of account. It is also important to remember that we are price protecting the pensioner and preserving the value of supplementary benefit and unemployment benefit in announcements that have already been made.

At the same time, many of us in the House share the aspiration of bringing down the tax burden, particularly for the low-paid and pensioners. However, if we are to do that—if we are to raise tax thresholds—public spending must be contained. It is simply unrealistic to argue that tax should be brought down but at the same time no effort should be made to look at a budget, such as social security, when it accounts for 30 per cent. of all public spending.

We should perhaps also remember that to raise tax thresholds and allowances costs £200 million for each 1 per cent. and that therefore simply keeping pace with inflation costs about £1 billion.

We are seeking to reduce the rate of growth in social security spending. The reason why we have sought savings in housing benefit, as the Social Security Advisory Committee recognised, is that there are some aspects of the housing benefit scheme which extend financial help further up the income ladder than anywhere else in the social security system and if cuts in social security spending are essential it might be reasonable to take resources from there rather than from the means-tested safety net". There is no question but that spending on housing benefit has increased sharply. It goes to 7 million households covering 35 to 40 per cent. of the population and costs nearly £4 billion a year. The cost of rent and rate rebates and allowances has increased by 140 per cent. in real terms over the past 10 years. It means, for example, that a couple whose children have left home and who have no mortgage left to pay can get help with a £10 a week rates bill—their major housing cost—even though their income is up to £8,000 a year.

Perhaps worst of all, people are paying tax with one hand and receiving benefit with the other. More than 1 million families pay tax and receive benefit. More than 300,000 families are paying £7 a week in tax and at the same time receiving £5 a week in housing benefit. Containing the benefit cost is an important way in which to give ourselves some way to reduce the tax burden as well. In making such changes to the scheme, we should seek to protect the position of the poorest families. This we have sought to do in the changes contained in the regulations and orders. The result is that 4.5 million people, including 2.5 million pensioners, are not affected by the taper or minima changes that we are proposing. The result also is that no one on supplementary benefit or who is below the needs allowance level need lose. As I announced last week, we are retaining the existing minimum payment requirements below the needs allowance figure, to the benefit of about 40,000 people.

In the changes we are proposing, we have taken account of the recommendations of the Social Security Advisory Committee of points raised in the last debate on housing benefit in the House, and of points put to me by my hon. Friends and outside organisations, including local authorities. I made it clear in the last debate on housing benefit that I would consider all the points put to the Government. It is not possible to meet every point made, but I hope it is recognised that the Government have made important changes, and the result is a very different set of proposals from what were introduced last year.

Three major changes are contained in the Housing. Benefits Amendment Regulations and in the Supplementary Benefit (Requirements) Amendment Regulations. The first covers the position of non-dependants living in the household of the claimant. At present a claimant's entitlement to housing benefit is reduced if there is someone else in work living in the house. In other words, it is expected that the non-dependant should make a contribution rather than the taxpayer. The changes that we are proposing will affect the contributions of non-pensioners. In effect, they mean that a deduction for rent and rates of £8.20—£6.15 for rent and £2.05 for rates—will be made applying to everyone over the age of 18. Therefore, more will be expected of the non-dependant in work and less from the taxpayer. Even those who criticise the change—I accept that the Social Security Advisory Committee is included — concede that the level of average earnings does not make this an unreasonable imposition when male average earnings are nearly £170 a week for adults and for 18 to 20-year-olds nearly £100 a week.

As the House will remember, we originally proposed that there should be a deduction also in respect of 16 to 17-year-old non-dependants. Their average earnings are £60 per week, and the contribution will be set at £3.10. However, that change will not come into effect until November, on the ground that local authorities will need time to process the information. It is one of a number of changes that the Government have deferred to make the administrative change as simple as possible in April.

I have to say that some of the criticism is ill-founded and at times misrepresents the position. The example given by the Shelter Housing Aid Centre was widely quoted, notably in The Times. A family with two children, one at school and the other, a 17-year-old, living at home, with a total income of £135 a week and paying £25 a week in rent and £8 per week in rates, will lose £2.95 a week in April and a total—not an addition—of £7.28 a week from November. That example omits to say that £3.10 of the loss comes from the non-dependant's deduction for the 17-year-old living at home. If he has an average income, he will be earning about £60 a week. In other words, in the example quoted by SHAC we are talking about a family income of about £10,000 a year. Even after the reduction, the taxpayer will still be paying about £1 a week towards the family's rent and rates.

Mr. Ralph Howell (Norfolk, North)

Is it not absurd that we are still subsidising families with an income of £10,000 a year? Is the change that we have so laboriously made worth the candle if we still have not straightened out the absurd situation with regard to tax and benefits?

Mr. Fowler

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend's first point. One of our central points is that housing benefit is going too high up the income scale and is not being directed at those who are most in need.

If my hon. Friend will forgive me, I shall go on with my speech and not go into tax credits, which I have debated with him previously. If my hon. Friend is about to argue the case for tax credits, I shall listen to him with sympathy, but, unless his costings have changed radically, that is likely to lead to a substantial increase, not a decrease, in public spending.

Mr. Howell

I feel that I am being misrepresented as I have never supported the idea of a tax credit scheme. I have always supported some form of negative income tax scheme. I still maintain that it is futile to try to remedy these problems without doing so in a concerted way, with changes in taxation as well.

Mr. Fowler

I knew that I should not have crossed swords with my hon. Friend on this subject. As I understand it, I have my hon. Friend with me on my first proposition—that housing benefit is going too far up the income scale, and I gave an example of that. With regard to what my hon. Friend said about examining the social security system and making it more rational than it is at the moment, he has my wholehearted support. He will know that I have already set up an inquiry into incomes and retirement and that we are in the process of setting up an inquiry into housing benefit. The whole point of those inquiries is to do what my hon. Friend most wants. I shall listen with interest to what he says in the debate.

The second major change concerns supplementary benefit and the position where the supplementary benefit recipient is not himself a householder. His benefit is at present increased by £3.10, which is intended as a contribution for him to make to housing costs. This contribution is not provided for 16 to 17-year-olds and the proposal here is that the addition should be withdrawn from 18 to 20-year-olds, subject to an important qualification.

If the householder is himself on supplementary benefit or housing benefit, the contribution will be added directly to the benefit paid to the householder. It should also be added that the supplementary benefit scale rate in any case rises from £16.50 to £21.45 at the age of 18, providing a significant increase in income at that age.

All told, those changes—the changes concerning the non-dependant and the supplementary benefit housing contribution—account for about half of the money being saved in 1984–85.

Mr. George Foulkes (Carrick, Cummock and Doon Valley)

My hon. Friends and others can deal with the general question later, but I wrote to the Minister about a case in Girvan in my constituency of a young nondependent relative who was in part-time employment. Will the Secretary of State clarify what will happen to such people?

Mr. Fowler

I shall ask my hon. Friend the Minister for Social Security to deal with that point.

The bulk of the remainder of the savings comes from the third major change on tapers.

As the House will know, standard benefit is calculated as 60 per cent. of rent and rates plus a percentage of the amount that the claimant's income falls short of his needs allowance or minus a percentage of the amount by which income exceeds the needs allowance. The regulations are concerned only with the taper above the needs allowance. Originally we had proposed that this taper would be increased for rents from 21 per cent. to 31 per cent. from April, and for rates from 7 per cent. to 9 per cent. The rates proposal remains the same, but we have reduced the rents taper to 26 per cent. in April, thus having the effect of halving any rent losses at that date; and, as I have already made clear, we intend permanently to reduce the taper increase from 31 per cent. to 29 per cent. Below the needs allowance, the tapers remain the same and give a very heavy preference in favour of pensioners: for each pound by which a pensioner's income falls short of the needs allowance, his benefit is increased by 70p—50p for rent and 20p for rates — compared with 33p for non-pensioners.

In effect, in modifying the original proposals, the Government have reduced the taper changes permanently and have phased their introduction in April and November in the way that I have just described. The Government have postponed any change in the minimum payment levels and permanently reduced them. The rent minimum above the needs allowance will now increase to 50p only, not £1, and there will be no change in the minimum below the needs allowance.

Mr. Ivor Stanbrook (Orpington)

My right hon. Friend has mentioned the further changes that may be expected in November, and the regulations that we are discussing today come into operation in April. Will fresh regulations have to be laid before next November, and will we have to go through this exercise again?

Mr. Fowler

It certainly means that fresh regulations will have to be laid. We wish to consult the local authorities—my hon. Friend might find this helpful—to see whether, in the regulations for implementation in November, it will be possible to institute a limit upon losses. If so, it would be sensible to seek to do that. From everyone's point of view, it would be sensible to deal with the November changes in separate regulations.

Mr. Jerry Hayes (Harlow)

I fully appreciate my right hon. Friend's predicament and sympathise with him, but does he accept that this act of gross social and political folly will only widen the poverty trap for those in work whom many Conservative Members are here to protect?

Mr. Fowler

I do not agree with one word of what my hon. Friend has just said. I remind him that, if he is to sustain any of the promises that he made to his constituents about reducing taxation, at some stage he will have to face the fact that public spending will have to be checked. There is no point in his telling the public or the House that he can do both, because that would be false.

We have postponed other changes, such as the high rent area proposals. until November, when in any case benefits will be uprated and the impact of changes will be lessened. At the same time we shall examine the possibility of introducing a limit on individual losses in November. I hope that the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher), who talked about the initial reaction of local authorities, will support that.

What that means to the individual is that a substantial majority—1.3 million—of those who face any loss have had that loss reduced when compared with the original proposals. Nobody in work and with an income up to about £27 a week above the supplementary benefit level loses from the taper of minimum changes. No pensioner with an income of £10 above the state pension loses at all. Our reworked figures show that whereas the average loss in April was going to be 96p a week, it is now reduced to 69p, while the pensioner's loss is reduced from 85p to 56p. To put it another way, in April over 50 per cent. of all claimants and almost 60 per cent. of pensioners lose less than 50p and almost 80 per cent. of all claimants and 85 per cent. of pensioners lose less than £1.

As far as the savings themselves are concerned, the savings for 1984–85 would have originally been £230 million. The modifications reduce those savings to £185 million, which is partly offset by a saving of £12 million from postponing the increase in the child needs allowance. Here it should be emphasised that we are not taking away money that has already been given but postponing a real increase I had hoped to make, so that, instead of a £1 real increase in April 1984, there will be a 50p real increase in November followed by a further £1 in April 1985 which, incidentally, takes the real increase to £1.50 and above what we had planned.

Dr. Brian Mawhinney (Peterborough)

There has been concern in recent weeks about the number of press reports of figures that seem to many hon. Members to be hard to sustain on the basis of the documents that have been produced. Can my right hon. Friend or my hon. Friend the Minister for Social Security tell us how many people in April will be more than £2 a week worse off as a consequence and, more importantly, what income such people will have?

Mr. Fowler

I shall ask my hon. Friend to give the exact figures, but the most important figure is the one that I have already given. Four and half million people will not be affected in any way, and I have already given the figures for those who are losing less than £1. However, for the sake of accuracy, I shall ask my hon. Friend to give the figures under £2 and to break down the figures between £1 and £2.

Mr. Meacher

From what the Secretary of State said, I think the answer to his hon. Friend's question is that 110,000 pensioners and families will lose more than £2 a week, even after these concessions.

The right hon. Gentleman said that the public expenditure plan would not be altered as a result of these regulations. How is the £35 million saving to be financed?

Mr. Fowler

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Oldham, West for raising that matter. We originally planned a saving of £230 million. The modifications that I have announced reduce those savings to £185 million. That is partly offset by a saving of £12 million from postponing the increase in the child needs allowance. Clearly, the balance will have to be found partly from the contingency reserve and partly from offsetting measures inside the social security budget, but not—I repeat, not — from inside the housing benefit budget itself. We shall have to bring those measures before the House in the normal way, but at present I am not in a position to announce them.

Mr. Jeff Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr)

Will the Secretary of State explain what he has just said? Is it that decisions have been made about further cuts in the social security system but, because of the Budget and other matters, he is not in a position to tell the House, or are the Government still looking to see where in the system they can make the cuts? Will the right hon. Gentleman spell it out for us?

Mr. Fowler

The latter is true. We are examining a number of areas inside the social security system to see whether savings can be made. When we have finished that examination — and not before — we shall make an announcement on policy changes. As I said, a contribution would also be made from the contingency reserve.

As I also said, an important aspect of the modifications that we made to the original proposals is that they seek to minimise the additional administrative burdens on local authorities. Concern has been expressed that the original changes announced at the end of last year would have been difficult to implement by April. My hon. Friend the Minister for Social Security has discussed the revised proposals with the local authority associations, and they have confirmed that it is possible to implement them by April.

The views of the local authorities are also central to the No. 2 regulations. These provide a package of improvements, both to the administration of the scheme and to the benefits themselves. Many of the provisions arise directly from proposals made by the local authorities. With the permission of the House, I will not cover them in detail, but, for instance, they include a provision for rent allowances to be paid fortnightly; they simplify the rules for calculating benefit; and they change the rules dealing with unreasonably high rents and paying benefit direct to landlords. Given the concern expressed about administrative problems flowing from changes in the housing benefit scheme at this time, my hon. Friend also asked the local authority associations whether they wished these measures to go ahead. They confirmed that they wish us to proceed with the changes contained in the No. 2 regulations, many of which simplify the administration of the scheme.

Mr. Foulkes

I am not clear from what the Secretary of State said exactly what the local authorities were replying to. What option did the Secretary of State offer to local authorities, other than going ahead with the proposals in the No. 2 regulations? What option was there? Was it Hobson's choice for the local authorities?

Mr. Fowler

Certainly not. As I said when I made the statement, the Housing Benefits Amendment (No. 2) Regulations — the larger regulations — gave local authorities the option that we would not go ahead with the regulations, if that was their wish. The regulations were produced for their convenience and were at their suggestion, but, if they thought that they would lead to administrative problems for them, we were prepared not to go ahead. It was after full consultation with them, and on their advice, that we decided to introduce them at this stage. My hon. Friend will say more on this subject when he sums up, but I can confirm that that option was given to local authorities.

Mr. Frank Field (Birkenhead)

What value does the right hon. Gentleman put on this commitment given by the local authority associations to the Secretary of State? In my area—the Wirral authority—tenants are appearing before the courts for non-payment of rates, having been taken to the courts by the finance department, although that same finance department has not paid out the rebates. There is chaos in many departments throughout the country. What worth can the right hon. Gentleman attach to local authorities saying that they can manage these changes?

Mr. Fowler

Clearly, there are parts of the country where problems exist, and the hon. Gentleman represents one such area. We put the proposals to representative organisations, such as the AMA, which—to put it in the most moderate and neutral language—cannot be said to be one of the greatest friends of this Government either generally or in the housing benefit proposals. If the representative organisations of local authorities say that they are able to institute the changes—changes which they themselves proposed and want implemented — it would be rather strange for the Government to reject them.

These changes are not just concerned with administration. They also contain some important improvements in the rules for benefit entitlement. For instance, where blind or disabled householders have a non-dependant — perhaps a grown-up son or daughter—living with them and helping to look after them, the normal deduction from housing benefit will not be made, whether or not the non-dependant is in work. I am sure that that will be welcomed.

Where a supplementary benefit recipient first takes on responsibility for housing costs—perhaps by moving to new accommodation—it will be possible for benefit to be backdated by up to six days. That will avoid such claimants immediately being put in arrears on their rent.

The benefit improvements covered by these regulations involve expenditure of nearly £4 million a year and will make important improvements in the benefit position of some claimants.

The remaining two orders to be debated later—the Housing Benefits (Subsidy) Order 1984 and the Housing Benefits (Rate Support Grant) Order 1984 — are concerned with the arrangements for reimbursing local authorities for the cost of benefits awarded and of administering the scheme.

The rate support grant order is a purely technical one. It defines the expenditure which is not counted as "relevant" in the context of rate support grant calculation.

The subsidy order, on the other hand, is more important, as it takes some significant steps to rationalise and regularise the reimbursement system.

In administration costs, it marks a move away from the essentially transitional system which has operated this year. Under that system, a distinction was drawn between "old" costs, arising from the rebates and allowances schemes which local authorities always ran, and "new" costs, which arose in implementing the new scheme and administering cases transferred from DHSS local offices.

That distinction is increasingly inappropriate as we move away from the start of the new scheme and would become increasingly unrealistic to operate. For 1984–85, therefore, we shall be moving to a specific grant system which nationally will more than cover the new costs as previously defined. The grant will be set at 60 per cent. in England, 65 per cent. in Scotland and 70 per cent. in Wales. The remaining administration costs will, as before the housing benefit scheme began, receive financial support from central Government through block grant to local authorities.

The other significant change in the subsidy order concerns the reimbursement of benefit expenditure. There will be no change in the rates for reimbursing benefit costs from this year. But the order takes steps to prevent a small number of local authorities from manipulating the scheme to get additional finance from the taxpayer. The tactic that these authorities—I stress it is a small number only—are seeking to adopt, when reduced to its basics, involves charging higher rents to those of their tenants who get all or most of their rent paid through housing benefit. The result is that the local authority can get substantially more income to use for the purpose it wishes at little or no cost to the tenant but at a cost to the taxpayer which could, if taken up generally, run into many millions of pounds.

There are two provisions in the order which will put a stop to that. Article 5(b) provides that if an authority introduces a system of differential rents involving higher rents for those on supplementary benefit, it will get reimbursed by the Government only at the lower rent level. But some authorities are considering adopting a more complicated manoeuvre. They propose to offer tenants a choice: one rent level will be charged if the tenant undertakes to do his own minor repairs; and a higher rent level will be charged if he opts for a repairs-inclusive tenancy. That might seem reasonable on the face of it, except that the differentials are to be set at a level that is totally disproportionate to the service being offered—for example, a 25 per cent. increase. In one case at least, the publicity material provided to tenants makes it clear that the objective is to get extra finance from the taxpayer. Article 5(a) ensures that schemes of that sort will also not be underwritten by the Government.

There is also scope under the existing legislation for authorities which find themselves, either unintentionally or deliberately, with a surplus on their housing revenue accounts to make cash payments to tenants rather than to keep their rent increases down or to give tenants rent-free weeks. In the case of housing benefit tenants, this again is at the taxpayer's expense.

The matters covered by the regulations that we are debating today, and the background that I have sketched in my speech, are a demonstration of the need to take a fresh and deep look at the whole of the housing benefit scheme.

As I told the House last week, I intend to set up a review of the scheme as soon as possible—by that I mean in the next few weeks. Its objective will be to find ways of improving the operation of the scheme, making it simpler to understand and operate, and making sure that it is better targeted to give help where it is most needed without distributing ever-increasing sums of taxpayers' money to an ever-increasing number of claimants.

In its leader today The Times says that this is an inquiry only into the "local administration" of the scheme. It calls on me to extend the scope of the inquiry to cover the machinery of the benefit itself". I gladly give that assurance. That was exactly what I said in my statement last week. The inquiry has not been intended to look only at the local administration of the scheme. That is a fundamental misreading of the position by The Times leader writer.

I want the review to be completed quickly. That is why I envisage not a large and cumbersome group attempting to balance every conceivable interest but a small review team which can get to the heart of the matter quickly and bring forward clear conclusions from which the Government can determine the action that needs to be taken.

Mr. Archy Kirkwood (Roxburgh and Berwickshire)

How quickly?

Mr. Fowler

It is difficult to give an answer until the group has been set up, but I hope that we shall get the report in the early autumn. It should be as early as possible.

The regulations that we are debating today represent an important step towards the better control and administration of the housing benefit scheme.

In modifying the original proposals for changes to the scheme, we have responded to the genuine concerns that have been expressed. But expenditure on social security is still growing rapidly—in total it is now forecast to be some £750 million higher next year than was expected at this time last year — a large part of that because of housing benefit. We have to find ways of containing that growth. Increasing social security expenditure—like all increases in public expenditure—means an increasing tax burden for all taxpayers. We can only relieve that burden, and particularly the burden on low-income families and pensioners, if we are prepared to make sensible economies where we can.

I therefore commend these regulations to the House.

5.35 pm
Mr. Michael Meacher (Oldham, West)

I did not think that I would ever live to see the day when I would find myself looking forward to the concluding speech of the Minister for Social Security to provide us with details about a complex matter which were previously unavailable. Clearly, the main job of the Minister tonight will be at least as much to wind up the speech of the Secretary of State and to tell the House the things that he did not know as it will be to reply to the debate. We shall look forward to that speech with our usual enjoyment.

The purpose of these complicated amendment regulations is simple—to save the Secretary of State's face. He has been ground between two incompatible millstones. One is the unyielding demand from hard-nosed Treasury Ministers for yet another round of swingeing cuts in social security, and the other is the dawning political realisation, even permeating the Government Benches, that these cuts are increasingly widely seen as nasty, mean, spiteful and unpopular.

The amendments have therefore been devised as a balancing trick to give the impression to outraged public opinion that major concessions are being offered, w hilt; at the same time giving the nod to the Treasury that its ill-gotten predatory gains are safe. Like all conjuring tricks, it falls apart as soon as one examines it closely.

The Secretary of State positively oozed today with emollient statistics to obfuscate the one central fact that really matters: that the Government's hijacking of £230 million of benefits belonging to the poor is now to be reduced net by a mere £35 million, which itself will be reduced in November to about £15 million. In other words, cuts of £230 million which the Government's own Social Security Advisory Committee excoriated, in its own words, as causing substantial loss in a largely indiscriminate fashion to families who have very low incomes indeed are now to be reduced by all of £15 million, which will still leave poor pensioners and families £215 million worse off. Some concession. The Treasury must be laughing all the way to the bank.

I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Mr. Bowden), if it is not too embarrassing to him for me to do so, and to a few of his hon. Friends who opposed the Government in the first place because of the harshness of the cuts and because they severely hurt pensioners. Their reaction to the package will be a test of their mettle on two counts: the extent of the concessions is by any standards trifling — Conservative Members must realise that—and the penalty on pensioners has scarcely been lessened at all.

Let us take a single pensioner with a retirement pension and a modest occupational pension, which combined amount to £77 per week, who pays £18 per week rent and £5 per week rates. He is a fairly typical pensioner with a modest occupational pension. Under the Secretary of State's original proposals, that pensioner would have been deprived of £4.50 per week. He will now still lose, in April, £2.35 per week, but that loss will rise still further in November to £3.35 per week. In other words, the pensioner will still be deprived of three quarters of the original proposal. I ask Conservative Members whether that is a concession which satisfies the conscience of those who knew from the start that these housing benefit cuts were unjust and arbitrary.

If the cuts were mean and spiteful before, they are mean and spiteful now. More than 2 million of the poorest households in this country will still be heavily hit by the changes. More than 1 million pensioner households will still be penalised. The hon. Member for Harlow (Mr. Hayes) made an important point, and I hope that he will not be penalised for saying something that needed to be said clearly. There will still be an increased poverty trap for low-income families. Those families will be faced with a marginal tax rate in April of 74 per cent., rising to 77 per cent. in November. I ask Conservative Members to consider what that means. It is a far higher marginal tax rate than that paid by any of Britain's most highly paid executives.

The rates taper will still increase immediately to 9p in April, so that the changes will still not give any help to low-income home owners. They will still lose as much as under the original proposals. Indeed, if they have children, they will lose more than before, because of the failure to increase the needs allowance addition. That is quite contrary to the Government's commitment to the family and home ownership. In addition, more than 250,000 households on supplementary benefit will still be penalised as a result of the increased non-dependant deductions. In some cases they will be penalised by more than £3 per week, despite misleading and complacent claims by the Prime Minister, who has excelled herself even by her standards of megaphone demagogy, to the effect that the poorest families on supplementary benefit were not affected. The fact is that they are affected. The Government have made no attempt to prevent these proposed losses.

I think that it was the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) who said that local authorities would now be faced with the huge task of implementing two sets of complex changes in the regulations. There are, therefore, likely to be even more serious delays and even further administrative chaos in both April and November. Worse still, the Association of Metropolitan Authorities, which represents 76 big cities, has now warned that, despite the concessions, some families will still lose £10 per week in November and that it looks increasingly difficult — although it would clearly be desirable — to impose ceilings on the cuts in November. That is what the association is now saying, although I hope that it is wrong.

For all those reasons, it is therefore crystal clear that these so-called concessions are no more than cosmetic; the small print of minor technical adjustments. Even if that is not so, there remains one fundamental question: why are pensioners and families in poverty having £215 million taken out of their pockets at all? That is the central question. I want to meet the Government's case head on, because the more closely one looks at it, the clearer it becomes that the Government's case—if one can dignify it with that title—does not stand up to examination.

The Government try to justify their action on the ground that housing benefits now cost £3.75 billion per year. They say that that cannot be afforded, and the Secretary of State repeated that today. They say that the money should, therefore, be allocated more selectively. There are two answers to that. First, although the total cost has grown markedly, it is not because the benefits were ever awarded more generously by the Government. In fact, the reverse is true. When the housing benefits were first introduced in April 1983, 2.5 million households took a cut in housing benefit. Now the cost has soared, because the Government have deliberately pushed up the level of rents through the roof. There has been an increase of 40 per cent. in real terms since 1979. Furthermore, the number of households becoming entitled through poverty has risen enormously as a result of the Government's policies, and principally as a result, of course, of mass unemployment.

There are now, officially, no fewer than 7.5 million people on the poverty line who are dependent on means-tested benefits, and therefore entitled to certificated housing benefit. Another 1.5 million are officially recognised to be no better off, although they do not claim the supplementary benefit to which they are entitled. Therefore, there are 9 million people on the official poverty line in Thatcherite Britain today. That is one in six of the population. They are in that position mainly because of the Government's policies, so why should they now be punished for being poor through no fault of their own? The Government must answer that crucial question, to which they have given no answer because they cannot do so.

Dr. Mawhinney

The hon. Gentleman knows that I listen carefully to his speeches, and I am grateful to him for giving way. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State pointed out that a family with an income of £10,000 per year would still be receiving £ 1 per week in benefit. I happen to agree with my right hon. Friend that that is an indefensible arrangement. The hon. Gentleman has thrown the word "poverty" about fairly loosely without defining it. Does he believe that a family with an income of £10,000 per year should be receiving £1 per week from the Government in benefit?

Mr. Meacher

The family that the Secretary of State mentioned is not on the poverty line. I am not for a moment suggesting that such families are on the poverty line. I am talking about the 9 million people on the poverty line. That family still receives housing benefit because, as I have said, rents have risen to astronomic levels. In some areas rents are exceedingly high. However, I agree that it would be much better to have lower rents, and then such families would not have to obtain rental assistance.

Dr. Mawhinney

It is good of the hon. Gentleman to give way, but he has not really answered my question. I asked him whether he believed, for whatever reason, that a family obtaining £10,000 per year should receive £1 per week in benefit—yes or no?

Mr. Meacher

I do not believe that families on £10,000 or families on £30,000 should be receiving housing aid. In a moment I may say a little about those who have incomes four or five times higher than the income of that family and who still, quite indefensibly, receive substantial sums of money. If the hon. Gentleman will just wait, I shall give an accurate quote in a moment.

Mr. Fowler

I think that perhaps I missed the hon. Gentleman's answer to the first question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Dr. Mawhinney). The relevance of the family on £10,000 per year is that it is the very example given by the Shelter Housing Aid Centre in its letter to all hon. Members. That letter has been much quoted. Indeed, it has been quoted in The Times at least twice. Does the hon. Gentleman think that the position is defensible?

Mr. Meacher

What SHAC does is a matter for it—[HON. MEMBERS: "Answer the question."] SHAC is a voluntary organisation with an exceedingly good record of drawing attention to the results for housing of the Government's policies. I have already fully answered the question. That family is not living in poverty and is not one of the 9 million or one out of six who, under this Government, have fallen into poverty. I have said that it is an anomaly for families on £10,000 a year—if they are on that level — to receive housing aid, but the answer is to reduce the level of rents, or not to allow them to go through the roof as they have done with an increase of 40 per cent. in real terms over the past five years. That is what is wrong.

There is another reason why the Government's excuses for a mean and shabby attack on the poor is so threadbare. I return to the words of the Secretary of State, which he used to justify his action last week when he made a statement to the House. He said that it is essential for the Government to maintain firm control of public expenditure, and in the last 10 years cash expenditure on the former rent and rate rebates scheme has increased tenfold, an increase of 140 per cent. in real terms."—[Official Report, 6 February 1984; Vol. 53, c. 612.] On that basis, I have news for the Government. Over exactly the same period, since 1972–73, mortgage interest tax relief has almost doubled in real terms. It is now costing the country £2.75 billion, not much less than housing benefit. Not only that, but it is heavily concentrated on the rich, and here I am coming to the point made by the hon. Member for Peterborough (Dr. Mawhinney).

According to a recent parliamentary answer, which I have with me, published on 3 February, at c. 392, those on £30,000 a year pick up a cool £22 a week in mortgage interest tax relief. I ask a question of Conservative Members—do they believe, when they claim that there are great restraints on national resources, that that can be justified?

Mrs. Edwina Currie (Derbyshire, South)

By exactly what proportion did the Labour Government of 1974 to 1979 reduce mortgage interest tax relief?

Mr. Meacher

The Labour Government of 1974 to 1979 did not raise the ceiling for the receipt of mortgage interest tax relief from £25,000 to £30,000. A more retrograde step at a time of limited resources for housing I can scarcely imagine.

Mr. Fowler

What is the policy of the Labour party if, God forbid, a Labour Government should come in? What would the incoming Labour Government do about mortgage interest tax relief?

Mr. Meacher

I have shown clearly what we would not do, which is what this Government have done—increase the ceiling from £25,000 to £30,000. There could not be a greater waste of £60 million of public expenditure than that. I can gladly answer that, in my view—I am only one of the contributors to party policy—we shall in the next four or five years reach an agreed policy. It is my view that mortgage interest tax relief should be payable only at the standard rate. It is unjustifiable for Conservative Members, many of whom are beneficiaries from the payment of mortgage interest tax relief in the higher tax range, to complain. That cannot be defended and I hope that the next Labour Government in four years' time will stop that. I shall play my full part to secure that aim.

How does the Secretary of State morally justify chopping back the pensioners' meagre housing benefit by £2 to £3 a week — that will still happen to many pensioners in April, even after the concessions—while at the same time casting a blind eye to this housing largesse poured out to their well-heeled friends in the City and the plush boardrooms?

Mr. Fowler

Of the average losses to pensioners, of those who will lose—and we must remember that the majority do not lose—59 per cent. will lose less than 50p, 26 per cent. will lose between 51p and £1 and only 1 per cent. of pensioners will lose between £2.50 and £3.

Mr. Meacher

According to an answer that I received from the Secretary of State, 50,000 pensioners will lose between £2 and £3 a week in the changes. The right hon. Gentleman clearly dodged my question, which was what justification can there be for robbing 50,000 pensioners of between £2 and £3 a week when there are people on £30,000 a year or more who are getting £22 a week tax relief for housing? Will the right hon. Gentleman answer that specific question?

Mr. Fowler

If the hon. Gentleman wants my position on this, I can confirm what he says about pensioners and the figure of between £2 and £3. As to mortgage interest tax relief, the hon. Gentleman has to remember that. while the threshold for housing benefit for the needs allowance has kept pace with inflation, the ceiling of tax relief has been increased only once since 1974.

Mr. Meacher

It was indeed increased only once, and that was by this Government in the past year, when the ceiling was raised, wrongly and indefensibly, from £25,000 to £30,000. It is clear that the Secretary of State has no answer to how it can be justified to chop back housing benefit for 50,000 pensioners by between £2 to £3 a week and at the same time allow 150,000 people £22 a week in housing tax relief.

There is a third point which effectively completes the demolition of the Government's case. Ministers ask, and the Secretary of State said it again this afternoon, "Where is the money to come from?" If the aim is to save £200 million, as I have already said, paying mortgage interest tax relief only at the standard rate, plus not raising the ceiling from £25,000 to £30,000, would save exactly that sum.

The House need not take my word for it. I shall quote the words of the Daily Telegraph, which is not normally a supporter of the Militant Tendency, which said on 20 January: It hardly seems equitable to cut welfare spending on the relatively poor in the name of good housekeeping and then reward owner occupiers with large subsidies (while making it more difficult for first-time buyers to purchase by distorting the market and effectively raising housing prices). I go further. How can one justify cutting back the widower's or the pensioner's mite when the world of perks, fringe benefits and tax allowances—the fiscal welfare state—which is so cosily inhabited by the rich is allowed to continue? Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will explain how fringe benefits, tax allowances and perks on a scale far greater than he is talking about have been allowed to grow so massively and now exist on a gigantic scale.

The Tory party finds the payment of £3.75 billion of housing benefit to the poor an unsupportable burden but has no trouble in supporting the dishing out of tax relief for pension contributions, life assurance, mortgage interest and investment income surcharge exemption. The total of that, according to the latest Inland Revenue figures, costs the country a crippling £9 million a year.

It is no wonder that the Tory party and its big business friends do not find that too much of a burden—after all, they do not pay for it. Those tax remissions are paid for by the rest of the community, which is forced to pay higher taxes than it would otherwise have to pay in order to recoup the Exchequer for the plundering of the tax system by the rich. What is so sickening, nauseating and sordid about this whole mean little exercise of a housing benefit being rammed home today by the Government's minus majority is that the pensioners and the families in poverty are the stool-pigeons for the next round of Government handouts to the rich in next month's Budget.

Mr. Fowler


Mr. Meacher

I shall give way in a moment. That is what lies behind this mean and spiteful measure, making way for yet further tax handouts for the rich. If the pensioners and the families in poverty go to the wall, that is just tough luck, in the eyes of the modern Tory party's values.

Mr. Fowler

The hon. Gentleman is talking a great deal about pensioners, and I entirely share his concern. One of the matters to which he referred and questioned was the encouragement that is given to people to join occupational pension schemes. Is it the policy of his party to do away with that relief as well?

Mr. Meacher

I have noted that it is the policy of the Government apparently to do away with the partnership of occupational pension schemes with the state, with their ill-thought-out and stupid plans to support portable pensions. I think that the right hon. Gentleman might do well to consider his own question, because he has no answer to that.

Mr. Rooker

Is my hon. Friend aware that there is no clearer sign of a Minister who is bankrupt than for him to continue saying to the Opposition, "What is your policy, what would you do?" when he is putting proposals to the House which he clearly does not wish to be debated?

Mr. Meacher

My hon. Friend is entirely right. I do not think that it will do the Secretary of State much good to try to deflect attention from what the nation knows to be a shabby little scheme. The House is witnessing today only the last of a series of manoeuvres which have become the symbol of Thatcherite government. It is the constantly recurring theme of redistribution from poor to rich. I give credit to the Government for the fact that they have at least pursued it with single-minded ruthlessness.

Benefits for the poor have been reduced since 1979 by approximately £2,000 million. It is no accident that the Tory handouts to the rich over the same period come to approximately the same total. If one aggregates the reductions in the higher tax rates, the increased exemptions from investment income surcharge and the huge concessions that have literally riddled the capital transfer tax and capital gains tax with loopholes, one sees that that has transferred no less than an extra £2,600 million in total to the pockets of those who can take advantage of it, almost exclusively the rich. The Secretary of State comes to the House today and asks the House how the money is to be raised. What a nerve. It is for those who have already been cosseted enough by tax privilege under this Government that 1,300,000 pensioners and 550,000 low-income households will, if the motion is approved, be forced in April to take yet another cut in their meagre livelihood around the poverty line, and that is why the exercise stinks.

I have one final point to make on the financial effects of the motion. I wish to be fair to the Secretary of State, but I continue to be troubled by the uneasy feeling that I may have been a little too generous to him. The point concerns that which I raised earlier — how the £35 million net reduction in the housing benefit cuts this April will be financed. Hitherto I have given the Secretary of State credit for making at least some marginal gesture in the direction of his critics, but now I am not so sure. Is it not unprecedented for a Minister to come to the House and make proposals when he still does not know how they will be financed?

In 13 years in Parliament, I have never known a Minister who has done that. I therefore ask the Secretary of State whether he will give an unequivocal pledge to the House that this £35 million will be recouped from the contingency fund and not by further cuts in social security benefits. He would not give that assurance earlier. I put it to the right hon. Gentleman that he should reconsider that. If he will not give that assurance, the impression with which he started his speech, namely, that he was making concessions, degenerates into a black farce of transparent hypocrisy, because he is doing nothing of the kind. If there are no concessions — and that is what he was really saying—if poverty is merely redistributed, the whole idea of softening these cuts is one big unadulterated PR scheme.

Lastly, there is the question of the Secretary of State's proposed review of the housing benefit scheme. One must ask, in view of what happened previously, whether this is pure cosmetic in order to get round an embarrassing Back-Bench revolt, or whether it is for real. It is essential that the review team should be able to examine all the options available for developing housing benefit, not only those which do not involve extra costs. That is not only my view; it is the view of the Conservative think tank, The Economist.

The latest issue of the The Economist of 11 February says: The shambolic housing benefit scheme introduced in 1982 to make housing relief more straightforward has done the opposite. It continues: The cuts announced last year made a bad thing worse. It concludes: The ideal result would be a complete re-think. The question is whether there will be a complete rethink. There certainly ought to be, since the scheme is still an administrative shambles of unprecedented magnitude throughout the country. Liverpool city, for example, has not dealt with all the cases from a partial start in November 1982, 15 months ago. The rent increases introduced in July 1983 are only now being taken into account. Greenwich takes three months to process new applications. It is also dealing with 3,500 changes of circumstances. It takes on average three to six months to implement a change.

Manchester has a case load of 101,000 claims for housing benefit, but it has no way of identifying non-dependants, and it believes that to implement these latest regulations properly it may have to reassess all its cases. To take Hackney, which must surely be one of the poorest boroughs in the country, there are still 7,000 to 8,000 claimants without housing benefit to which they are entitled. None of those examples that I have quoted is in any way exceptional.

When the Secretary of State or his hon. Friend the Minister for Social Security winds up the debate and gives the House the more detailed information that has been promised, I should like answers to some precise questions. For a change, it would help if we could have some precise answers. Will the housing review have a nil extra cost remit, which, I might say, is incompatible with a scheme that is smoothly administered? Will the review team consist not merely of officials and local authority representatives but of representatives of voluntary organisations, such as the citizens advice bureaux, which have made a major contribution in this area, and welfare rights organisations? Will it be free to look at a genuinely unified housing scheme which includes tax relief housing benefits? Will it take evidence from independent bodies? Above all, when the report is ready, will it be published? If the review is not yet another piece of divertionary camouflage, I can tell the Secretary of State that we shall be looking for positive answers to all those questions.

It was, I think, Disraeli who said, when asked to define the difference between a disaster and a catastrophe, that if Mr. Gladstone fell in the Thames that would be a disaster, and if anybody pulled him out that would be a catastrophe. There are few people—and this includes Conservative Members—who do not know, if they are honest with themselves, that this half-baked scheme is a disaster. If the Treasury, which has virtually taken control of the scheme from the Secretary of State, does not recognise what it is doing to some of the poorest people in the country, and if it does not withdraw these cuts altogether prior to the publication of the report by the review team, that will be a catastrophe.

6.9 pm

Mr. Andrew Bowden (Brighton, Kemptown)

I shall bear with fortitude the comments made about me by the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher). Although he made some powerful points, they were largely spoilt by exaggeration. His exaggerations were so numerous that he nearly persuaded me to vote with the Government tonight, but they were not quite as bad as that.

The hon. Member for Oldham, West was not entirely fair to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State or to his colleagues in the Department. I pay tribute to those Ministers, who have the incredibly difficult task of handling a massive budget, of ensuring fairness to many sections of the community and of balancing one priority against another. It is comparatively easy for me or for my hon. Friends on the Government Benches to criticise the way in which that money is used. I do not envy them their job, and I have no wish to have responsibility for carrying out their duties.

I have no doubt that the Ministers are men of genuine compassion who care for people. It is worth putting it on the record, especially in the light of the comments of the hon. Member for Oldham, West, that Britain now has the largest-ever social security budget in real terms State pensions have reached their highest level of purchasing power and, in real terms, nearly every benefit has a higher purchasing value than it did when the Labour Government left office. I put that on the record to get this debate in perspective and in the context of the comments of the hon. Member for Oldham, West.

My complaints about the new housing benefit regulations are almost entirely concentrated on pensioners. As the House knows, there are more than 9 million pensioners in Britain. Sometimes, when people discuss pensioners' problems, there is a tendency to oversimplify them. Some say that pensioners have a terrible time, that they are all half-starved, freezing to death and only just existing. At the other end of the scale, some say that pensioners have never had it so good, that they are living well, are quite warm and well fed, and are well looked after.

The truth is that there are groups within those 9 million pensioners which have special problems. One such group, which we shall not discuss in detail tonight, is the nearly 1 million pensioners who do not draw a supplementary pension although they are entitled to do so. They are living below the poverty line. Another group which has concerned me since I have been a Member of the House is made up of those pensioners who live on small additional incomes that take them above the pension and supplementary pension rates, and therefore just above the needs allowance. That group, which obtains the extra income either through small occupational pensions or through investments and savings, have had an extremely difficult time during the past 20 years.

The House should not forget — as each general election goes by it is easier to forget — that those pensioners lived through the second world war and that some of them lived through the first world war. They scrimped and saved in difficult times to prepare for their retirements so that they would have something spar: from the state pension, and so that they could be independent of the state and of their families.

But what has happened? We know that the value of those occupational pensions has been destroyed by 86 per cent. in 10 years. Imagine the bitterness of many pensioners whose incomes are only marginally above the incomes of those who receive the state pension and the supplementary pension. They do not receive many of the concessions that are available to those on supplementary pensions, and in many cases they lose out on concessionary fares, special prices, and reduced prices for cinemas and theatres. They find that, having saved for most of their lives and having managed to put a little aside, their standard of living is below that of those who receive the basic and supplementary pensions. I ask my right hon. Friend not to underestimate how deep that bitterness goes.

Governments—mostly those formed by the Labour party—are largely responsible for the destruction of the value of occupational pensions. The little compensation for that group that can be provided by the Government comes in the form of housing benefit, which is why I so deeply deplore the cuts that the Government intend to impose.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State argues, rightly, that inflation is the greatest enemy of the pensioner and those who receive housing benefits. However, out of his budget of £37 billion, he is talking about taking £45 million from pensioners, which in accounting terms is nothing. Let us imagine that someone running a business with a turnover of £37 billion was told at the end of the financial year by his chief accountant that, although the turnover was £37 billion, he could not account for £45 million. I do not know what £45 million is as a percentage of £37 billion, but it must be tiny. If I were the chairman of that company, I would say to the chief accountant, "Sit down and have a glass of whisky. You have done an extremely good job if you have lost only £45 million." The sum about which we are talking bears no relation to beating inflation or to controlling Government expenditure. I am not asking for the moon; I am asking for £45 million out of that total expenditure.

We are told by economic experts—not many of us trust economic experts, unless we happen to be in the profession, which I am not—that in preparation for the Budget things look good. We may be able to keep expenditure on the public sector borrowing requirement at about the £8 billion mark, which is excellent news for the Government. We are told that there may be some leeway for tax concessions when the Chancellor of the Exchequer presents his Budget next month. If that is true, it undermines the basic argument presented by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in relation to housing benefit.

More than 1 million pensioners will be affected, and we have already heard some figures. My hon. Friend the Minister for Social Security was good enough to reply to my parliamentary question on this matter, but I received his reply only a couple of hours before this debate. I gather that 210,000 pensioners will lose more than £1 in April and that 90,000 of them will lose more than £1.50, that 50,000 will lose more than £2 and that 10,000 will lose more than £2.50. That is a level of take which I cannot support, and that is why, most reluctantly, I shall have to go into the Lobby tonight against the regulations.

When we play with figures of this type, let us consider what they mean to an individual. Take the example of a single pensioner who will lose more than £2 in April. His income will be about £4,000 a year — his state retirement pension and his occupational pension—and he will be paying, say, £18 rent a week and £5 rates, yet he will lose more than £2 in April; and if it carries on to November— perhaps the proposals will not go on till then—he will lose more than £3 a week. In addition, I estimate that he is paying between £8 and £9 a week in tax. Having paid tax on the money to earn his rather meagre occupational pension, and having seen its purchasing value destroyed in 10 years, he is paying tax on top of that as well.

Perhaps one of the priorities of the Chancellor in his Budget must be significantly to increase the age allowance for pensioners, which at present stands at the moderate sum of £2,360 for the single pensioner and at £3,755 for the married pensioner.

The Secretary of State made effective play with the importance of the battle against inflation, and I endorse that. Although inflation has been tamed, it is not yet beaten, and I agree with his description of inflation as being socially disastrous. I am simply saying that it is not possible, in the context of the sums about which I am talking in relation to pensioners, to claim that they are in any way a significant factor at any level in the battle against inflation. When occupational pensioners—who really were suffering a few years ago under the then Labour Government when they were facing inflation rates of 25 per cent. a year—consider the actions of this Government and look at the present position, I am sure that they will bear that factor in mind as well.

It seems from statements that have been made that more will be taken from pensioners in November and that, by that time, the difference between what the Government announced originally and what will take effect in November will be very small indeed. I repeat that there is still time for my right hon. Friend to reconsider the position. I cannot in all conscience support these housing benefit proposals. They are fundamentally unjust and not in accordance with the principles of the party of which I have been proud to have been a member for 39 years.

6.24 pm
Mr. Sean Hughes (Knowsley, South)

In his statement to the House on 6 February, the Secretary of State referred to the review of the housing benefits scheme which he trusted would make the scheme as simple as possible. If a camel is a horse designed by a committee, we can appreciate what the second item on the agenda was. It was the design of the housing benefits scheme, because it is a mess. It is an administrative maze which is incomprehensible to the recipients and ridiculously over-complicated for those who must organise it.

The simple, clearly understood effect of the proposals is that the changes will be harsh. The Social Security Advisory Committee's comments on the amended regulations were that the changes would have an unduly harsh effect on many individuals and that for many people, the loss of income will be very severe. Consequently, the committee called on the Secretary of State to withdraw the draft regulations completely. The changes announced last week have not weakened that condemnation in the least.

The effects of the amendments nationally have been described by my hon. Friends and by some Conservative Members at various times in the House, but the national figures do not convey the real extent of the problem, the disproportionate effect that will be felt in deprived areas such as in my constituency.

Under the regulations as proposed by the Secretary of State in November, about 41 per cent. of the people in my borough — a borough already over-subscribed to the housing benefits scheme—would have been adversely affected. Despite what the Secretary of State described last week as the Government's decision to modify the proposed changes, the burden which falls on so many of my constituents will hardly be less onerous, and my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) referred to the Government's conjuring trick performed with these trifling modifications.

A few figures will demonstrate the point. Last November, taper changes were estimated to affect 4,066 tenants in my borough. That number is now massively cut to 3,926. Of that total last November, we estimated that 2,245 pensioners would be affected. Now that figure has been slashed to 2,060. Of owner-occupiers affected by November's proposals, the estimated number for my borough was 2,380. Now it is dramatically reduced to 2,142. Therefore, whereas a total of 6,446 people were likely to have been affected by the November 1983 proposals in my borough, that figure has been reduced incredibly to only 6,068. Hon. Members will not be surprised to hear, therefore, that the Secretary of State's most recent proposals did not provoke dancing in the streets of Knowsley, South.

All of that is compounded by the levels of deprivation already recorded in my constituency. Hon. Members have frequently heard my catalogue of misery, although apparently the Government have not appreciated how appalling is the state of affairs. In the words of the Social Security Advisory Committee, The prospect of very large sudden drops in income for families, who are already poor seems to us to be the most objectionable aspect of these proposals and the one which most requires amendment. My borough has estimated, in calculating the effects of these amendments on the working of the housing benefits scheme in Knowsley, that there are over 6,000 possible permutations to be considered, depending on individual circumstances. It is a strange and complex game which nobody wins and of which hardly anybody understands the rules. Indeed, the Social Security Advisory Committee declared that the amendments would introduce further confusion into the administration of a benefit which has been suffering from a particularly troubled birth. In some areas benefit has not yet been implemented. Where the system is in operation, payment has been subject to interminable delays. I appreciate that Orwellian references have been somewhat overdone during the first six weeks of this year, but if ever a system befitted the year, it is the housing benefit scheme.

People are characterised as householders and homes are classed as households or non-households, as the case may be. These people do not have sons and daughters; they have dependants and non-dependants. Relatives dare not stay too long with them lest they be classed as sub-tenants. The new riddle is, "When is a sub-tenant not a sub-tenant?—When he is a non-dependant." A person's income is no longer that easily understood concept so beloved by us all as we complete our tax returns. Income is now defined in some Government circles more by exclusions than inclusions.

When we come to define rents, we enter realms which are made exotic by the introduction of mooring charges for houseboats and site fees for caravans or mobile homes. A "mobile home" is a contradiction in terms given the time that it takes to calculate housing benefits payments. Also included in the definitions are contributions paid for accommodation in almshouses that are provided by a charitable housing association.

Rent can include service charges that range from the cost of a shared television aerial, which is included, to payment for window cleaning, which is excluded, unless the cleaning is for other than communal areas, in which case it is included.

Local authorities have instructions to take such factors into account. I hope that they are not expected to take them too seriously. My constituents, well versed in these definitions and having worked out their income and its position relative to their needs allowance, can proceed with their calculations to ascertain their entitlement to housing benefit. It comes as no surprise to discover in the Social Security Advisory Committee report that the committee was unable to ascertain from the Secretary of State or from his Department the information that it needed on the full extent of the consequences of the proposed cuts.

If the Department concerned does not understand the repercussions of what it does, how are lesser mortals to understand how the benefits are to be calculated? Do not the Government realise the hostility which such complexity promotes? If benefits are not easily understood, more and more people will believe that the regulations are meant to prevent their obtaining assistance rather than facilitating access to it.

I am reminded of Palmerston's famous comment on the Schleswig-Holstein question when he recalled how only three people really understood it. The first person who understood it was the Prince Consort, and he was dead. The second person was a German professor, and he had gone mad. The third was himself, and he had forgotten it. If Palmerston were alive today—and he is not, despite the fantasies of some Conservative Members—he would not find three people who understood the housing benefit system.

6.34 pm
Mr. Alan Haselhurst (Saffron Walden)

A difficulty for some of my right hon. and hon. Friends and me is to distinguish our position from that taken by the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher). We may have some reservations about the Government's position, but we would not wish to see ourselves grouped with much of what he said. The extravagance of his language matched only the profligacy of the economic thinking that seemed to suffuse much of his speech. I do not want it to be thought that I have any part in much of the thinking behind his attack on the Government, but there are some of us who are extremely worried and upset that we should find ourselves in a somewhat unhappy situation.

I regret that we appear to be in the business of taking away benefit, even to a small extent, from retired people who are not among the most well-off in society and that we seem to be contributing to a worsening of the poverty trap. Neither of these things seems to be part of our philosophy, nor part of our long-term aims to which our declared policies are directed. Apparently it is national economic need and the level of income to which housing benefits presently reaches that have caused the Government to make changes and to bring the regulations before us.

Setting aside national economic need, I am prepared to accept that there is a case for re-examining housing benefits and reappraising, and possibly readjusting, their coverage and scope. I am worried that it should be done in the way that is set out in the regulations. I do not accuse my right hon. Friend or his ministerial colleagues of malice or disregard of those in need. I understand how the situation has come about. They have had to find something which they think will do the least damage, and perhaps they have had to do so in a time scale which is not the most ideal. They are therefore open to criticism from those of us who are concerned about the effects that a hurried decision may bring about. However, it is a forced decision and it is a great pity. I cannot see how it can be denied that there are ill effects for some deserving recipients of housing benefits.

My worry turns to embarrassment when I link the regulations with the fact that not a year ago we were increasing the scope of tax relief on mortgage interest I shall not go into the realms of the hon. Member for Oldham, West, and I think that everyone will have taken note of the direction in which he seems to want to propel the Labour party for the next general election. I merely say to my Front Bench colleagues that, when the decision was taken on mortgage interest relief last year, not many of us thought that we should be linking it in our minds with some withdrawal of benefits from those on lower incomes. We might have judged the mortgage move differently had we known what was to come.

My embarrassment turns to concern when I recognise that some of those who will be adversely affected are in the elderly age group who have found themselves dragged reluctantly into the tax-paying bracket. They may feel that they are being penalised twice over. It seems that we are hitting those who have practised thrift and good housekeeping throughout their lives. They will not see the Government's proposals as a very apt reward.

If the Government say that it is paramount that savings must be made, surely another way could be found. We are only a few weeks away from the Budget. It is a pity that the mechanics of government seem to be so wooden that there cannot be an overall assessment of how certain things could be done. I know that there are conventions attached to the Budget and that much lies in the prerogative of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. However, I cannot help concluding that the Government's position on housing benefits could have been reassessed in a wider context if there were a proved need to balance the books in a certain way.

Having expressed my anxiety, perhaps not as strongly, fluently and ably as my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Mr. Bowden), whose concern for the elderly is well known in the House and does him great credit, I recognise that the Government, through my right hon. Friend and his colleagues, have attempted to retrieve the situation to some extent and have listened to the anxieties expressed by many of my right hon. and hon. Friends.

I welcome the review. It is important, and I hope that it demonstrates the recognition that conditions will be improved. If I can be persuaded by my hon. Friend the Minister for Social Security that that is so, I may give the Government the benefit of the doubt. At best, I can go into the Government Lobby with only a feeling of acute discomfort about this affair, as this measure is one for which the need has not been unambiguously proved. This is something which, with a little political dexterity and a little more time, could have been avoided. It means an extra obstacle for us in the path towards the just society which Conservative Members are intent on trying to create.

6.40 pm
Mr. Archy Kirkwood (Roxburgh and Berwickshire)

It is a pleasure to take part in the debate. I should like to position my views between those of the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) and those of the hon. Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Mr. Bowden). I agree with the hon. Member for Kemptown that the hon. Member for Oldham, West did his cause no justice by using such hyperbole.

I refer to the administration of the scheme in terms of statutory instrument No. 103 on the housing benefit regulations. By any objective standards, the changes have been dogged by confusion and uncertainty since they were introduced. However it may be measured, the administration of the scheme has been bungled. The Minister and his Department are guilty of a degree of incompetence which has had a clear result. The housing benefit scheme, introduced in 1982, was brought in with the intention of streamlining the existing system. It was intended to make the system more straightforward. But it has done the opposite.

In 1982, there were two different ways of obtaining help with housing benefit costs. Those in receipt of supplementary benefit qualified for weekly housing cost additions to their allowances. Under an entirely separate scheme, local authorities gave assistance in the form of rent and rate rebates. It was decided to amalgamate those schemes in a unified benefit system to be administered by local authorities. That system was warmly welcomed in principle by all involved, but in practice, because of the way in which the Government have implemented the scheme, a high price has been paid by those on benefits.

The Government tried to implement the scheme on a nil—cost basis. The scheme has been carried out in a penny-pinching way which guaranteed the scheme's failure before it started. Claimants obtaining benefit under the supplementary benefits scheme still have their housing relief calculated on a basis which is different from the calculation for those who formerly were assisted only by the local authority. Further confusion compounds the problem, because the introduction of a third type of benefit called housing benefit supplement meant inevitably that the scheme became complicated and impossible to work. Illustrations of that confusion have been well documented in the debate. The hon. Member for Oldham, West gave some staggering figures for Hackney. My information is that 70 per cent. of the population in that borough is dependent upon housing benefit and almost 7,000 people have been waiting for more than two months to have their claims sorted out. Meanwhile, arrears continue to pile up. The hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) alluded to difficulties in his constituency. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Provan (Mr. Brown), with whom I spoke earlier today, said that conditions in Glasgow are no better.

Even before the new scheme was introduced in 1982, fears were expressed that the scheme would go badly wrong if it were not properly financed, organised and implemented. The first phase in November 1982 was implemented relatively smoothly, but, sadly, it became seriously unstuck when substantial changes were introduced in April 1983 with the second phase.

As a measure of the type of complications faced by local authorities, I draw hon. Members' attention to a point made in last week's The Economist, which pointed out that local authorities had to cope with no fewer than nine amendments before the second phase of the scheme was effected in April 1983. The last circular making fairly important changes went out just two weeks before the scheme was expected to be fully operational. No wonder local officials were ill prepared to cope.

One of the weakest remaining links in the chain and which continues to bedevil and dog the new scheme is the fact that local DHSS officers continue certificating claimants' rights for supplementary benefit. Their failure to do that timeously and properly is causing tremendous confusion and anxiety in the areas to which I have adverted.

Initially, we were told that the scheme would cost about £5 million to institute, with an annual running cost thereafter of about £25 million. My research shows that the latest estimates are that the suggested introductory costs are running at about £8 million, with an annual expense of about £40 million. Admittedly, those costs are supposed to be offset by DHSS staff savings of 2,500 jobs. I should like the Minister of State to confirm those costs. The Liberal-Social Democratic alliance is worried about the cost of administration relative to the benefit savings that we were supposed to be making.

The most cheering aspect of last Monday's statement by the Secretary of State was his decision to set up a committee to review the scheme. I paid careful attention to what he said earlier today, and I look forward to receiving the results of the review. The implementation of the scheme has had a terrible history. I believe that in the autumn, when the review committee reports, the officials will just be beginning to come to grips with the April changes, and we shall have round three of confusion and uncertainty. We should try to avoid that.

I refer briefly to the financial aspects in the statutory instrument. Even the Government would admit that the Secretary of State has been required by the Treasury to save £230 million. I refer the House to the leader in The Times today to which reference has been made. The last sentences state: the Government should forgo its savings from the scheme. There is enough margin in Mr. Lawson's budget accounting to take the £195 million involved from reserves. That is not too high a price to teach social security tinkerers a lesson. Social security tinkerers should take note of that point. That is my opinion, and it was the view expressed by the hon. Member for Kemptown.

In view of the totality of the social security budget, these cuts are not worth a candle. The Secretary of State took the strategic decision to find the necessary revenue by cutting funds from housing benefit, and I listened carefully to his explanation. He left it to the Minister of State to carry through the necessary changes. To be fair to the Minister of State, because he took office only in June 1983, it must have been difficult for him to be catapulted into the complicated benefit changes. If I put the most benevolent view on his actions, he must have been in the hands of his parliamentary officials when he agreed to the package of cuts.

I am convinced that neither the Secretary of State nor the Minister of State understood fully the effects of the proposals when they were initially put forward. There is some evidence to suggest that the Cabinet was confused and did not understand the ramifications of the proposals. I quote in evidence of that view the front page story in The Times of Wednesday 23 November 1983: Cabinet Ministers have complained that they were left in complete ignorance of the political consequences of some of the decisions taken at the November 10 Downing Street meeting on public expenditure targets. It was revealed last night, for example, that Mr. Norman Fowler's £230m package of cuts in housing assistance and rate rebates had been approved by ministers without the benefit of background briefing or detailed cabinet discussion. I wait to be contradicted about that.

There is evidence that the Government did not understand the full political consequences of the £230 million saving that they set out to achieve. The evidence of the confusion is shown further by the experience of the Association of Metropolitan Authorities, just one of the authorities that complained that it took the Department a month to come up with a comprehensive breakdown of the income levels, weekly losses and the number in each of those categories losing money because of the original cuts. That suggests a failure by the Government at all levels to understand the implication of the cuts they originally set out to achieve.

Today's debate focuses on the revised proposals outlined by the Secretary of State last Monday after he was forced, as I believe he must concede he has been forced, by political pressure from Conservative Members as well as from the Opposition, and by relentless press exposure in national newspapers such as The Guardian, The Times and others of the deficiencies of the scheme.

Statutory instrument No. 103 covers only the first stage of the cuts that will come into operation on 1 April. They are part of an overall package coming into force in April and November and it is, therefore, right that both parts of the scheme should be considered this evening.

I should like to pay tribute to those Conservative Members who have been so outspoken in their criticism of these proposals. Without their courageous stance—and in particular I single out the hon. Member for Kemptown, who is joint chairman of the all-party group for pensioners and whose devotion and commitment to this cause has impressed me since I became a Member of the House in the summer—we should be unlikely to be debating such a revised proposal.

Pressure from Conservative Members, from the Opposition, from the Social Security Advisory Committee and from newspapers has combined with the painstaking criticism from pressure groups such as Shelter Housing Advisory Committee, Age Concern and the Child Poverty Action Group to force the Government to introduce a review of the housing benefit scheme to exclude those below the needs allowance from the effect of the cuts and to introduce minor modifications of the taper clauses and delay the minimum replacement changes.

The scale of the original measures and the revised version worry me. It is unprecedented in my experience, which may not be great, for regulation changes to be made by secondary legislation. The Social Security Advisory Committee, whose chairman, Sir Arthur Armitage, so tragically died recently, commented in Command 9150 at paragraph 7: These proposals are undoubtedly the most significant on which we have had to advise in a report on draft regulations. They make changes of a scope more usually dealt with by Parliament through primary legislation". That is an important point that the House should take into account. We are dealing with substantial sums of money by statutory instrument and secondary legislation. In principle, that must be regretted. I hope that it is not a custom or practice that the Government will continue to adopt during the rest of this Parliament.

The changes in the original proposals can only be described as minimal. The Social Security Advisory Committee's comments are appropriate to the modification that we are considering as well as the original proposal for cuts. The committee also warned: we have had less time to consider them than their importance merits". The modifications are being considered with undue haste. The Government would be well advised to take the advice of the hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Haselhurst), who said it would be sensible to delay the cuts until the review that the Secretary of State has instituted has taken place.

The concessions made by the Secretary of State are reported to restrict the cuts by about £45 million. Even if that is the case, those concessions have received a more favourable public response then they deserve. Last week, the Secretary of State laid most emphasis on the import of his revised proposals in April 1984. He sought to convince his Conservative colleagues that he had backtracked a long way when in fact he had merely hidden in the scheme's tangled undergrowth.

The Secretary of State's reply in Command 9155 to the Social Security Advisory Committee lays the Secretary of State's generosity bare for all to see. We know that the effects of his previous proposal would have been to cut the housing benefit of the average occupational pensioner by 80p a week. The effect of the Secretary of State's modified proposals, as conceded in paragraph 9 of his reply to the Social Security Advisory Committee, would be to cut the average occupational pensioner's housing benefit by 73p a week from November. The average pensioner will have been spared to the extent of 7p a week. I have caused some research to be carried out, and I am told that that sum can purchase half a bar of Kit Kat.

Mr. Foulkes

More than a tin of Kit-e-Kat.

Mr. Kirkwood

More than a tin of Kit-e-kat, as the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Pounces) says.

I am grateful for the additional information given to the House by the hon. Member for Kemptown about the answer that he has received to a parliamentary question relating to how many pensioners will lose sums of money in April 1984. We have not heard yet, and we await with keen interest to hear what the Government spokesman can tell us, about the losses to be sustained in November.

The proposals before us tonight—the raising of the tapers and the changes in the non-dependant deductions, in particular— are merely the first bite. They will hit about 1 million pensioners who will lose benefit in two stages. The first will be in April and the second in November when the minima level changes, the high rent threshold changes and the 16 to 17-year-old non-dependant deductions come in.

Many thousands of pensioners will lose more than £1 a week and some will lose up to £3 a week. Families on low incomes will lose out and the poverty trap will be accentuated. Council tenants also will be severely hit. Until the Government produce figures to the contrary—which they have so far failed to do—there is no good reason for us to assume anything other than that the revised proposals will have only a marginally different effect on those involved compared with the previous ones. The new proposals will not have as stiff a cumulative effect on some individuals, but we are, none the less, talking about substantial numbers of people — about 2 million households that stand to lose as a result of the cuts.

The original idea of housing benefit cuts has been widely and rightly condemned. A Government who are prepared to raise mortgage relief thresholds and to continue to pay mortgage interest relief—here I agree with the arguments deployed by the hon. Member for Oldham, West as far as they went—at higher bands of income tax while cutting the benefit of some of the poorest families are, in my view, promoting a socially divisive two-nations policy. They cannot claim to be governing in the interests of all our people when they reward the rich by cutting benefits for the poor. The Government cannot attribute blame to the poor for their own condition. Many of them are dependent upon housing benefit because of the direct and indirect consequences of the Government's financial and economic policies. During the past five years, unemployment has soared, the gap between rich and poor has increased, and other basic costs have been forced up, to the severe prejudice of people on small and fixed incomes.

Even in the event of the Secretary of State securing the parliamentary approval that he needs to implement the regulations, the callousness and incompetence of the scheme will continue to dog him and the Government for the rest of this Parliament and perhaps beyond.

We on these Benches will make it our business, when we get into a position of any influence in the Government, to introduce a thorough overhaul of the system that conjoins taxation and benefit schemes so that we can sweep away the anomalies and discrepancies in the system that we are debating and introduce a proper tax credit system.

7 pm

Mr. Alistair Burt, (Bury, North)

In the general election of June last year I was returned to Parliament for a constituency which had previously been in the temporary stewardship of a Labour Member but which was a traditionally Conservative area. It was not traditionally Conservative in the sense of those who equate the Conservative with the landlord of vast rolling shires and an abundance of green countryside. There are many different sorts of Conservative, and the Conservatives of Bury and the surrounding area were—and still are — hard-working, thrifty, careful individuals. They do not have too much money to spread about, but they have an understanding of the basic values and concerns of life and are sufficiently acute to be aware that the ways of the world are almost inevitably Tory. In a close-knit community, concern for one's neighbour was nothing new and nothing to be remarked upon.

In recent years times have got harder for my constituency. Unemployment has risen, for many reasons. The people of Bury, North had sufficient confidence in the Conservative Government, and sufficient astuteness, not to be taken in by Labour promises of jam tomorrow, to see the problems of the wider world and to appreciate that Bury's difficulties could not be laid at the door of one particular Government. Times and money were tight, but my constituents were prepared to return a Conservative Member. It is because of that strand of Conservative thought, that feeling of closeness and concern for others, and the feeling that today a little money means a great deal to a growing number of people in my constituency, that I am making this speech.

It is not easy to find many good words to say about the system of housing benefit. A calculated gamble was taken by the Government some time ago to seek a unified housing benefit system to the mutual advantage of those who claim benefit and those who dispense it. That attempt is not to be sneered at.

If we are to tackle the problem of welfare benefit spending in this country, foresight will be needed. The will to try something different will also be needed and should be encouraged. Those who argue for the protection of all the sacred cows in the social security system ignore the evidence of their own eyes by ignoring the problems of increasing demand and vastly rising expenditure. I do not seek to do that.

All my hon. Friends accept the problems discussed by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and acknowledge the general thrust of Government financial policy. In passing, I associate myself entirely with the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Mr. Bowden) about the work and quality of the ministerial team and the way in which benefits are generally administered.

Much is said by Opposition Members about their care for the old. I spend a little of my time here working on energy matters, partly because of my constituents' concern about fuel and high prices. Fuel—like housing—is a matter of great concern to the elderly. A small statistic recently revealed that the Labour Government increased electricity prices by 170 per cent. —2 per cent. every five weeks. Under this Conservative Government, who are proposing a 2 per cent. increase over a period of two years, heating additions have outstripped fuel prices. That suggests how the present Government care for the old and perhaps redresses the balance of the remarks made by the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher). It is precisely because our record of care for the old has been so good and reasonable that I find the measures before us so sad.

I return to the problem of the benefit and my right hon. Friend's difficulty in trying to deal with the anomalies that he described. If a job is to be done properly, a target must be not only sighted but accurately and cleanly hit. I accept what my right hon. Friend said about the increasing expenditure on housing benefit and the fact that in many cases it goes to those who do not need it. However, although the general area of the target has been correctly identified, I do not believe that the bull's eye has been hit.

The whole system has proved extremely difficult to administer. Studies throughout the country — in particular, by the citizens advice bureaux—note that although the chaos of the initial introduction—not really unexpected—has now lessened, there are still areas of the country where benefit cannot be provided within, at best, 14 days of the claim. In a number of cases, payments are made much later. My own authority, which has done its best with the scheme, recently reported to me: The goal of simplification, making the scheme easier for claimants to understand and for officials to administer, has really not been achieved. It will perhaps for ever be impossible to estimate the losses in administrative time which have occurred because of the hurried nature of the changeover. The figure of £230 million demanded by the Treasury initially as a saving from the budget of the Department of Health and Social Security for these schemes will be seen as small beer when compared with what might have been lost administratively. It may be impossible to make the calculation. One can certainly say, however, that, whatever were the hopes of the scheme in the beginning, they have not been satisfied.

The review announced last week, and referred to today by my right hon. Friend, must be welcomed on all sides. It will surely provide the proper opportunity to spot the high income anomaly and to seek real savings both now and in future in the housing benefit scheme. One would hope that, if the Government seek to be a truly reforming Administration, other Departments will take a lesson from the DHSS, consider other aspects of national and local government, and come to similar conclusions that overhaul may be necessary. Let us see what true reforms can be brought instead of tinkering and continuing to chop and change in an unsatisfactory manner, pleasing few and upsetting many. Fundamental reform of local government finance might be a potential target.

The review is much to be welcomed, and I shall await with eagerness its terms of reference. The inquiry should certainly possess an outside element — preferably through the appointment of an independent chairman and the access of outside bodies to it so that their recommendations may be considered. The greater the number of bodies with influence on the inquiry, the better will be the chance of finding the right answer. The inquiry should be wide-ranging enough to cover not just the machinery and administration of the present system of housing benefits but the possibility of a reformation of the system, should that be necessary. If it is open enough to accept innovations, great strides may be made. I am pleased to note what my right hon. Friend said in response to the leading article in The Times today.

The Government's concessions show that they accept that all is not well. If the Government listen to those who have pinpointed examples of where the present loss of benefit will strike and are disturbed by those examples, and if they accept the need for a fundamental review of the whole system — as they do — why are we discussing these measures? Tinkering with the system has produced the worst of both worlds. A considerable number of people have been alienated, and the Treasury has benefited by only a comparatively small sum.

If the Government had announced the review and said that they would act upon its recommendations, they would not only have had the full support of all hon. Members on the Government Benches but might have been able well and truly to pinpoint their targets and reduce benefits to those who do not need them in order to concentrate resources on the poor, which is the aim of us all.

Much has been said about the concessions, and a suggestion has been made that they tend merely to defer loss of benefit. I sincerely appreciate what my right hon. Friend and his colleagues have been able to achieve on behalf of those who expressed such concern about the original proposals. If we accept that cuts have to be made and put ourselves in the Minister's shoes, we can accept that it should be housing benefit that suffers rather than anything else. That may still be the case. I do not suggest that no cuts in housing benefit need to be made, but the cuts announced are not falling in the right place. With the Budget shortly upon us, we should be asking not which benefit must be cut but whether there should be a cut at this stage at all.

My hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Haselhurst) mentioned the economic position. At the time of the autumn statement the gloom over public expenditure was acute, but, if we read the entrails of the financial newspapers correctly, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor may have rather more room than he originally expected when he makes his Budget statement in four weeks' time. There has been economic growth since the autumn. A recent survey by the Confederation of British Industry suggests that the recovery is rather more substantial than it seemed at first. Is there not an opportunity for the Chancellor to absorb this mish-mash of benefit loss with all its imperfections into the Budget picture, not so that it might be lost for ever but so that something proper and sensible can be worked out during the review in the summer? He might gain rather more at the end than he stands to lose at the moment.

I must say in all honesty that I find little enthusiasm throughout my constituency for the possibility of cuts in personal taxation if it is suspected that they are to be financed by less fortunate folk down the road. There might be parts of the United Kingdom where such a view is acceptable, but I do not represent one.

Right hon. and hon. Members have already drawn attention to the individual impact of the benefit regulations, and I shall not go into detail about that. Experience in our surgeries week by week teaches us the value of small sums of money to people whose needs are great and incomes small. It cannot be right that poorer pensioners, who are not too much above supplementary benefit level, should have to withstand losses to the extent, in many cases, of £1 a week and, in other cases, more. It cannot be right to put forward proposals which have a tendency to entice more people into rather than release more people from the poverty trap. It cannot be right to run the risk that a non-dependant who has lost a job will have to wait 56 days until the household's housing benefit has been readjusted, and that during that time he or she will have to pay up to £8.50 a week into the housing budget. Even the Social Security Advisory Committee has suggested that that delay "should preferably be abolished."

I must emphasise my special anxiety about small amounts of money meaning a lot to people on small incomes. It is easy for someone on a higher income to tide himself over a bad time for a few weeks, or sometimes even months; but, for people on a limited budget, a holdover of benefit, even for a couple of weeks, might cause real hardship. If it merely sends a family across the road to a DHSS office to get an urgent needs payment, nothing has been gained. Indeed, something has been lost.

We do not know what the effects of a cumulative loss of benefit will be. It is possible to make up theoretical examples of losses of benefit which lead to cumulative losses, which not uncommonly amount to £8 per week. Of course, I welcome and accept what my right hon. Friend said about having a limit on the amount of loss to be suffered in any one instance. However, while the limit is being agreed and considered by my right hon. Friend and local authorities, there is great uncertainty throughout the country — uncertainty that could be avoided if the regulations were not put into effect before his announced review has been completed and the limit has been set.

The measures advanced by the Government fail on several counts. They will do nothing to ease the difficulties of administration; they will do little to prevent the overrunning of the housing benefit scheme; they will not be able to take reductions from those who can stand them best without hurting those who can stand them least; they will do little to affect the Chancellor's public sector borrowing requirement; and yet the distress that they might cause is out of all proportion to the saving and the benefits to the country. In short, the measures are unnecessary, unfortunate and unacceptable.

The Conservative party and Government have for years survived the jibes of many of those who believe that we do not care enough for the poor and for those whose circumstances are unfortunate. Opposition Members have little of which to be proud in this respect. They often wear their hearts on their sleeves in opposition, but they make sure that they hide their wallets and the banknotes under the mattress when they take power. Alas, a measure such as this makes it more difficult for the Conservative party to maintain its standing throughout the country. The Government must be careful. They must not strain the patience of their supporters in the country who think a great deal of them, understand and accept the basic need to control public expenditure and are prepared to cooperate and work hard for comprehensive reform. Many people wish to ensure that the ideal of the concentration of resources on those who need them the most does not get blown away in a benefit free-for-all or through measures such as this where the target is good but the aim is bad.

The Government have much to do that is right and supportable. The more their actions are based on our firm, unforgettable and not forgotten compassionate tradition, the greater our support will grow. We might do well to pause and wonder at the slight feeling throughout the country of unease about the Government. Some of my colleagues might support these measures with a heavy heart tonight. It is with great reluctance, and with an equally heavy heart, that I shall not be joining them.

7.14 pm
Mr. George Foulkes (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley)

It is a special pleasure to speak after the hon. Member for Bury, North (Mr. Burt) after what he said at the end of his speech. I did not agree with many of his more party political points but he would not expect me to do so. However, when dealing with the issue before us he made a telling, if not devastating, case which was no less effective for being presented quietly and thoughtfully. I listened carefully to the hon. Gentleman's speech. I hope that the Secretary of State was not just hearing what he said but listened to it carefully, because his hon. Friend made a powerful case.

What the hon. Member for Bury, North said has already been touched on by several hon. Members on both sides of the House. They have repeatedly said that the Government are rushing into proposals the effect of which on individuals they do not know. It is criminally irresponsible for them to proceed without knowing how much the proposals will affect old people, couples in poverty and young people.

Several hon. Members on both sides of the House have pointed out that the Government's proposals will cause more administrative chaos in local authorities. They will have to cope with yet more changes. When we get the review, there will be changes again. The House has made a clarion call to the Government not to implement the proposals now. The Government recently announced that they would set up a review. Hon. Members on both sides of the House are now saying, "Is it not crazy, having set up a review, and having acknowledged that the system is not working but needs a fundamental review, to go ahead with all of this tinkering, not knowing how it will affect people?" I was glad to hear the hon. Member for Bury, North say that he would not vote with the Government tonight. I was also glad to hear that he will follow up his good words with deeds and vote against the Government.

Mr. Burt

I must correct the hon. Gentleman. Although I shall not support my party, I cannot bring myself to associate with the Opposition, whose record is rather less outstanding than their deeds.

Mr. Foulkes

In that case, I must reluctantly withdraw my congratulations. I thought that the hon. Gentleman had the necessary courage. He described how his constituents were suffering. He said how much a small amount of money meant to people who were living in poverty. He described how the Government were taking money away from them. If he really believes that and wants to represent the people whom he purports to represent, he should have the courage to be with us in the Lobby tonight.

We see such behaviour again and again. I do not know what causes it, or what time warp occurs between Bury and Westminster or other parts of the United Kingdom and Westminster. Some right hon. and hon. Members must have constituents rather like mine unless, of course, they represent stockbroker belts. I know that the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) and others have far more stockbrokers than poor people in their constituencies.

Mrs. Currie

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the best-off people in my constituency are the coal miners?

Mr. Foulkes

That is a dramatic revelation, on which I shall ponder all evening.

Ordinary people come to the surgeries of Conservative Members, who must gain some understanding, unless they have no feeling at all—I do not impute that to them—of the problems that the Government are creating. I cannot understand why Conservative Back Benchers are so lily-livered that they do not translate their words into deeds. The rebellions that we have seen so far have been puny and pathetic. All the time we get bleeding hearts, sympathy and supposed understanding, but never any action.

That was just my introduction following the speech of the hon. Member for Bury, North and I shall now come to what I had planned to say.

I was amazed at the criticisms of the Opposition Front Bench by my good friend—I cannot say my hon. Friend—the joint chairman of the all-party pensioners group, the hon. Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Mr. Bowden), and others, including the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood). My hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) was criticised for being too aggressive, for using hyperbole, and for other alleged failings. Considering what we have before us tonight, I thought that my hon. Friend was far too gentlemanly.

The regulations are among the most outrageous and unjustifiable to come from a Government famous for their outrageous and unjustifiable proposals. Even a leader in The Times today described the measure as a "smash and grab raid". We shall probably hear more quotations from The Times leader column tonight. Thankfully the paper is being published this week, which is advantageous.

Now that the Minister for Social Security is back in the Chamber, I have a question for him. The hon. Gentleman will need to speak even more rapidly than usual to be able to cover all the points, but it will not take him long to list the organisations that support the Government's proposals. I cannot find any. If Conservative Members want to intervene, I shall give way. The hon. Member for Derbyshire, South can do her ritual crawling later in the debate, if she wishes, but I can find no one outside the House who supports the measure and few inside, apart from the hon. Lady.

Three Conservative Members have spoken so far, all of whom were critical of what the Government are proposing. The Secretary of State asked us to consider the regulations in relation to the Government's three interconnected aims, which are to control the allegedly high level of public spending, as well as inflation and taxation.

I shall not take the Brian Walden line and argue that the Government have failed to control taxation or high public spending. Let us accept that the Government are sincere in their objectives, but the people with the broadest shoulders, those best able to contribute and make sacrifices for the Government's aims, will not be affected by housing benefit. To repeat the question of the hon. Member for Kemptown, has anyone listed the ways in which elderly people have shouldered more than their fair share of the burden to keep the country on an even economic keel over the past five years?

The Labour Government introduced a link between pensions and earnings. We said that pensions would go up in line with either prices or earnings, whichever was the higher, but that scheme was scrapped by the Conservative Government. The hon. Member for Kemptown said that benefits had been going up in line with inflation I am afraid that he forgot to mention quite a few benefits, for example the one on which both he and I have been campaigning for the past five years—the death grant. He forgot the Christmas bonus, which should now he well over £40 to keep up with inflation. The Government also scrapped the proposal for a national concessionary travel scheme. Conservative Members have done nothing about domestic energy standing charges, which have rocketed under the present Government. What about the sheltered housing programme? Every hon. Member will agree that to provide purpose-built sheltered housing for the elderly is one of the best things that we could do for them, yet the programme has been slashed by the Government.

The reason why my voice is not as good as normal is that on Sunday and Monday this week I was in Dumfries and Ayrshire with the Labour party NHS ambulance, as part of the campaign against the cuts in the NHS. I said to the people of Dumfries and Ayrshire that the lists of geriatrics and old people waiting for geriatric and psychogeriatric care had greatly increased because of the NHS cuts. The cuts in local authority expenditure mean that there have been cuts in home help provision and in meals-on-wheels for old people. Those burdens are already being borne by our old people.

The Government say that we should suggest an alternative. I could go on for another half hour, suggesting alternatives. The mortgage interest relief scheme has been cited already as a criminal additional expenditure for those who are already particularly well off when we are cutting back on housing benefit. I shall mention some more alternatives. There are 1,800 people on islands 8,000 miles away on whom we are spending not just a few pence. a few pounds, a few hundred pounds or a few thousand pounds, but millions of pounds in trying to maintain them. That is in the Falkland Islands. We could relatively easily come to a peaceful arrangement in the south Atlantic that would cut down that expenditure.

There are a number of rich people who can afford to pay tax and companies that have set up subsidiaries or holding companies in the tax havens of the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. Hundreds, if not thousands, of millions of pounds of tax are being lost in that way. Why do the Government not do something about that instead of clobbering people through the housing benefit scheme? There is also the tax relief for BUPA and for private schools. I could go on giving a list of ways in which the Government are helping the rich.

As the hon. Member for Kemptown said, the amount to be taken from pensioners is £45 million compared with the Department of Health and Social Security budget of £37 billion. Unlike the hon. Member for Kemptown, I believe that if the accountant said that he had lost £45 million I would have him on the carpet, but if the spending officer said that he had overspent by £45 million I would not argue the case at all, because £45 million in £37 billion is much less than the margin of error. As The Times said in the great leader today, There is enough margin in Mr. Lawson's budget accounting to take the £195 million involved from reserves. Of course there is. We know that there is such a slack in any Budget, but the Government are not prepared to do that. They used the reserves on the Falklands episode. They managed to find the money for that, but they cannot find the money for our old people.

It is not as if the present cuts, particularly in housing benefits and the adverse effects on old people, are new. Even when housing benefits were introduced, many people suffered more than they did previously. A note from my former colleagues in Age Concern Scotland stated: Already 17,000 Scottish pensioners"— these are the Scottish figures— have been 'floated off' supplementary benefit when housing benefit was introduced. All of these households lost entitlement to allowances for heating, payment of their water rates, entitlement to single payments for necessities and entitlement to use the fuel direct payments scheme. Those pensioners lost out the first time when housing benefits were introduced. Age Concern Scotland gives examples of people who are affected, which I shall not quote because I have already spoken at fair length and I have other points to make. No doubt other voluntary organisations can give examples of people who have been affected.

Let me underline what a number of other hon. Members have said. We are talking about pensioners who have tried to take advantage of what the Government have said is an incentive to work and to provide for themselves in retirement. They are the very people whom Conservative Members purport to want to encourage. Age Concern Scotland says: In particular we should point out that some pensioners will be paid an enhanced pension through the state earned related scheme, and will be penalised by the state for this through the housing benefit scheme. That is crazy.

The hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire quoted the figures in the April changes. The Government are paying a lot of attention to the alleged concessions in April. The Secretary of State concentrated on those during his speech and no doubt the Minister will do the same when he replies. However, when one also takes account of what will happen in November, we realise that taking April and November together there are really no concessions at all. They are illusory. At the end of the day, as Age Concern and others have pointed out, the average gain to a pensioner as a result of the concessions in April is 9p per week. Is it not amazing that well over 40 Conservative Members who said that they were annoyed and furious and would fight against the Government's proposals have been bought off by what the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire described as half a Kit-Kat? That is the price of Conservative Members' consciences.

As usual, the Government's favourite targets are those who are suffering most. As a number of people have said in representations to us, the analysis clearly shows—it is not easy to analyse the Government's proposals—that the burden of the cuts will fall particularly on council house tenants who have suffered more than anyone else in the past five years of Conservative government. It is all right for those who have private houses and mortgages. We have done relatively well. However, council house tenants have seen their rents go up far in excess of inflation. At the same time, because of cuts in public expenditure, local authorities have not been able to maintain the houses to the standards to which they should be maintained. Many local authority houses are not now as wind and watertight as it is the landlord's responsibility to make them. Council house tenants are being clobbered again.

I have spoken of the United Kingdom in a general context, and I hope that hon. Members will forgive me if I mention Scotland briefly. Unfortunately, in his answer to a written question, the Minister was unable to say exactly how many people in Scotland are affected. I have received a helpful briefing from Shelter in Scotland. The Secretary of State was a little dismissive about SHAC earlier, but I hope that he will find Shelter's figures rather more convincing. It says: Scotland is particularly vulnerable to any cuts in housing benefit. According to the latest figures, 35.7 per cent. of British households receive housing benefit, but for Scotland alone the figure is 45 per cent. or 812,000 households. Moreover it is certain that the brunt of the proposed cuts will be borne by claimants of standard housing benefit, of which there are 531,000 households, a figure which, proportionately, is no less than 56 per cent. higher than the counterpart for England and Wales". What the Department of Health and Social Security is doing to housing benefit will have a much harsher effect on the constituents of my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) and my own than it will on the constituents of Conservative Members who, as we know, predominantly represent constituencies south of the border.

Finally, I want to quote from a report produced by one of the most respected people in social services in the United Kingdom today. Mr. Fred Edwards is the director of social work on Strathclyde regional council. Strathclyde regional council has the largest social services department, not just in Britain but in Europe, and Fred Edwards and his staff have a great deal of experience in dealing with the problems. In the conclusion of his report he says: I hope that the Government will abandon the proposed cuts entirely". Those are the words of a local authority official and there are no politics involved.

He goes on to say: As a minimum there will be serious social repercussions in Strathclyde if the following changes are not introduced. (1) A 'safety net' should be introduced which would ensure that the cumulative effect of the various proposed cuts are limited for any individual family. That is not included. Secondly, he says: Proposals to increase deductions from rebates for nondependent 16-20 year olds should be withdrawn; these proposals, if implemented, will lead to a reduction of the income of young people including disabled teenagers, and will increase rent arrears problems and lead to considerable stress in low income families. That is the view of a respected social work director. That is what will happen in Strathclyde. That is what will happen to families who are already under stress. It will create problems for social workers who are already overworked. That is what the Government are doing by not accepting either of the requirements put forward by Fred Edwards.

Fred Edwards goes on to say: I also consider that in the event of the proposed changes being implemented in full or in part,"— he is a realist, because he knows that although some Conservative Members say that they will go through the Lobby with a heavy heart they will go none the less— the DHSS should run a national advertising campaign"— is the Minister planning a national advertising campaign along the lines suggested by Fred Edwards?— explaining the changes being introduced by the Government and their implications, and explaining that Local Authorities have no discretion in their implementation. In other words, it should explain that it is the Government who are responsible.

At the end of the day, Fred Edwards, all those who made representations to the advisory committee, and all those hon. Members who have spoken tonight, apart from the Minister, have said that the Government should think again, for the sake of all those who will suffer—the Minister and others have admitted that we do not know all those who will be affected—and for the sake of all the local authorities which will have more and more work implementing the changes and, no doubt, further changes. Having set up an inquiry to consider the operation of housing benefits and to institute some kind of fundamental review, is not it crazy to go ahead with these tinkering proposals which will affect so many people? I finish by echoing what every hon. Member has said tonight. I hope that the Government will think again.

7.38 pm
Mrs. Edwina Currie (Derbyshire, South)

This is a debate about generosity. One of Britain's institutions, of which we are rightly proud and which distinguishes it from most other countries, including those behind the iron curtain, is the welfare state. We have one of the most generous in the world, and among all the benefits the housing benefits scheme is acknowledged to be the most generous of all. Indeed, the Social Security Advisory Committee said that the housing benefit scheme as presently constituted reaches further up the ladder of increasing family income than any other scheme that we have.

In the past 10 years, cash expenditure on rents and rebates—the standard benefits—has gone up 10 times over. It is worth remembering that when the scheme started in 1972–73 we were talking about £132 million. Now it is £1,330 million. Even taking into account inflation, that is an increase in real terms of about 140 per cent. We are talking about a total cost of £4 billion out of a total social security budget of £37 billion. That is 30 per cent. of total public expenditure, and the figures that we have this year are £1 billion more than the figures set out in the public expenditure White Paper. That is generosity on a very large scale. To my mind, it is a definition of largesse.

Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse (Pontefract and Castle ford)


Mrs. Currie

I shall give way in a moment.

We should also remember that among those who receive that generosity are a. very large number of people who are helping to pay for it through the tax system.

Mr. Lofthouse

The hon. Lady gave figures for the increase in housing benefts. Does she accept that unemployment has gone from 1 million to 4 million?

Mrs. Currie

The main increases that concern me are not the number of people claiming benefit for that reason but the number claiming benefit, and who are able so to do, because the scheme has got progressively more generous. I shall describe in a moment one or two of the ways in which that has happened.

In 1982, 60 per cent. of the people receiving housing benefit were taxpayers as well. I followed with interest the comments of the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) on the subject of higher taxpayers. I gather that about 600,000 of those who pay tax and claim benefit were actually higher tax rate claimants. I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman's criticism and dislike of people who pay higher tax would extend to those who also manage to claim housing benefit. I do not believe they should claim housing benefit. The hon. Gentleman does not believe that they should claim mortgage tax relief. Perhaps we should put the thing together and say that it would be much better if they did not pay the higher rate of tax either.

The whole system was designed as a safety net. It has not been a safety net. It has become a great big smothering blanket. In my view, having had experience of administering one of these systems, it has become what it was never intended to be—the biggest feather bed in, the world. Whoever was in charge, whichever party was occupying the Government Front Bench, someone would have to take the system in hand and sort it out. A system as generous as that ends up by destroying the independence and strength of the country and doing none of the things it was designed to do.

I want to pick up one or two of the points that were made in the debate. There was a discussion earlier about mortgage tax relief. It is worth putting on record that when the Labour party was in power it did not touch mortgage tax relief. The Labour Government did not put it up, which they should have done to keep up with inflation, and they did not put it down. They did not alter it at all. Labour Members were aware then, as they are now, that a large number of people, many of whom are not well off, claim mortgage tax relief. If, as I have a feeling it may, it becomes Labour policy in the next Labour party manifesto to abolish mortgage tax relief, that party will lose the next election as it lost the last two elections. The policy will be writ large for a large number of the electorate. There is not a chance in hell that the Labour party will mess around with mortgage tax relief, and to criticise the Government for keeping it up with inflation is a piece of horrifying hypocrisy.

I want to put on record that, in this debate on a matter that affects millions of our people, this is the second time in approximately four weeks that I have had to point out that no more than seven or eight Labour Members have been present. I exclude the hon. Member for Ross, Cromarty and Skye (Mr. Kennedy), who represents the alliance and has been here all the time. At one stage the number was down to four Members. I counted five, but the fifth Member was the Government Whip, who was sitting on the Labour Benches, trying to encourage them and saying that all the fire and brimstone that we had heard was a little hollow when about 190 Labour Members were out having their tea.

The hon. Member for Oldham, West should beware. If he is going to act like a great general leading an army in a morale crusade, he needs to make sure that he has his troops behind him. Otherwise, he will end up being dubbed the Commander Bill Boakes of the Labour party, and the half a dozen votes that he will collect as a result will be an accurate reflection of the real interest of Labour Members.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)

Order. I hope that the hon. Lady will come to the regulations that are before the House. She has been speaking for six minutes, and so far she has not mentioned them.

Mrs. Currie

It will be a great pleasure so to do.

One of the most useful things that has come out of our debate today, and on 6 February when we originally debated this subject, is the review that the Secretary of State intends to introduce. That review could do a number of things, and I hope that it will be in order if I suggest a few.

One of the most important, in my opinion, is liaison with other Departments, particularly the Department of the Environment. I had the experience, as hon. Members will know, of instituting the housing benefit scheme in Birmingham. It was obvious — I am sure it was not intended—that the Department of the Environment and the DHSS never actually talked to each other about how the housing benefit scheme should operate. Birmingham is a good illustration, because the total housing revenue account—the rent roll—was about £100 million. We started off in early 1982 with a housing subsidy of about £15 million. We also had a subsidy from rates of about £15 million. We finished the end of the year with a subsidy from rates of about £2 million—much of which was the statutory contribution and could not be avoided. So we were able to get rid of a very large chunk of money.

One of the ways in which we did that was, with Government encouragement, to put up rents. The hon. Member for Oldham, West will be surprised to hear that I think he is right about rents. We were able to put up the rents to an economic level in the city. I took the view that Conservatives should do that and should then subsidise those who could not pay. At the same time as paying an economic rent, those people were entitled to housing repairs, good estate management, wardens, and so on. Labour Members could not fault me on those aspects of our policy. For example, we did 26 per cent. more repairs in that year with the rent money that we raised.

The effect was interesting. Early in 1982, approximately 50 per cent. of Birmingham's council tenants were receiving some form of benefit. About half were on supplementary benefit, and half were on rent and rate relief. By early 1983—certainly during 1983—the figure rose substantially. Now about 70 per cent. of those tenants are on benefit of one kind or another. That is not an uncommon experience in the country as a whole. In most cities now between 60 per cent. and 70 per cent. of council tenants receive benefit of one kind or another.

What we did was to switch the subsidy from the Department of the Environment to the Department of Health and Social Security. We, at least, knew exactly what we were doing, but I sometimes wonder whether in the sums done on a national level it was realised that not only Birmingham or Sheffield but every local authority in the country was doing it.

The result was that the poor old DHSS has picked up the tab in local authorities in no uncertain terms. In fact, that has been encouraged. Some local authorities have managed to make a profit out of their housing revenue accounts, and in a small non-metropolitan district council that is easy to do. The housing benefit system will also pick up an increase in rates, if that is what one wants. In fact, it is more generous in the treatment of rates than in the treatment of rents. I do not believe that it was anyone's intention to encourage the switch to housing benefit for those reasons and in that way, but that is what happened. In my view, therefore, the housing benefit scheme has been treated by many local authorities, entirely in the interests of their rent and rate payers, like a great big American Express card. As the bills came in, the recipients were able to say—and it is entirely in their interests for them to do so — "Rent increase? Rate increase? Housing benefit? That will do nicely."

We see the result. One of the reasons was the general slippage of the high-rent areas. When the scheme started, a local authority had to show that rents were 150 per cent. above the national level to qualify as a high-rent area. Now the figures are 120 per cent. for council rents and 115 per cent. for private rents. Those must change. They are not reasonable figures and they open too many doors.

The review board should also examine the statistical base on which most of the information is compiled. I was for a short time a civil servant and, therefore, I retain the faint hope that civil servants will normally provide the answers if the questions are asked in the right way. The Social Security Advisory Committee report, commenting on the changes, in page 4, paragraph 4, says: Some information we should have liked in considering these important changes was not, however, available because of limitations in the Department's data base. We regret in particular that no information was obtainable on the size of benefit losses and numbers of families affected simultaneously by several of the five major changes proposed in these regulations. Details could be provided of the numbers affected by each change individually, and of numbers of families by size of loss for the changes proposed in the tapers and the level of minimum payments. But no figures were available for overall losses. We find it unsatisfactory that information should not exist on the size of benefit losses likely to be suffered by significant groups of people, and, more importantly, that"— the rest of the quotation is in italics— there is thus no provision in these regulations for limiting the total loss to any one beneficiary. That is astonishing. It did not take the pressure groups long to work out the overall effect on any one family of more than one of the five different changes. If it did not take the pressure groups long, one must seriously ask why the DHSS said that it could not be done.

The inadequacies of the data base have resulted in the problem we find now. The Secretary of State has asked for £190 million to be found and it has affected 2.5 million households to the tune of less than £1 each. Surely that is not the way we would normally expect a small change like that, which is peanuts in terms of the overall £4 billion, to be taken over so many households. It is probably the data base itself that is at fault.

In his response, in paragraph 25, the Secretary of State said that basically he agreed but that it all depended on the family expenditure survey. If the family expenditure survey will not answer the questions that are put to it, it is about time it was put right.

Whatever we did with this leviathan, this monster of a system, this great thing that has grown without anyone realising how it would grow, whatever changes were, will be or may be introduced by whoever sits on the Front Bench, somebody would not like it. With better consultation with other Departments and with a better data base, at least we might say that we had got the system that we intended to end up with.

The hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) talked about bleeding hearts. It has long been an axiom of anyone who has administered major spending budgets in welfare areas that it is no good having a bleeding heart if it cannot be paid for. I detect a deep unwillingness among many ordinary people to pay out more in tax, and I detect a deep inability in industry and commerce to find any more. In this debate no one has mentioned the poor so-and-so's who have to pay. For £4 billion to be taken out our system in transfer payments is an enormous burden to put on the economy.

We should ask ourselves whether it would not be better if some of that money were back in the pockets of those who pay it and in the hands of industry. I would rather see that money spent creating employment and future prosperity instead of perpetuating the pattern of dependence to which we seem to have become addicted.

7.54 pm
Mr. Jeff Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr)

It is not without significance that since the Secretary of State sat down the hon. Lady the Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) is only the second person who has taken part in the debate who will vote for the regulations. I have not kept a count of how many speakers there have been, but I think it is nine, ten or eleven. Clearly the hon. Lady is a supporter of the Government, and good luck to her.

Mr. Lofthouse

She will need it.

Mr. Rooker

Well, she will pay the price in the end.

Hon. Members on both sides of the House who have spoken are grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and to your predecessor in the Chair for not confining the debate to the pure technicalities of the measures. I do not think that even the Ministers would have wanted that, because the ramifications are wider. I want to comment first on what has been said and then make some constituency points.

Some hon. Members talk about people in receipt of housing benefit and supplementary benefit and about taxpayers as though they were in different groups, whereas, generally speaking, they are the same people. I do not know how many recipients of housing benefit pay tax. The hon. Lady quoted a figure, but I think she was talking about those on higher rates of tax. Many people who are in receipt of one or other of the social security benefits, of which housing benefit is one, pay income tax.

Because of tax and national insurance changes in the past five years since the Government came to power, people who are working full time but whose earnings are in the bottom tenth of the earnings scale are worse off in real terms than they were five years ago. Anyone on the bottom tenth of the earnings scale, unless living in a mansion, will be eligible for housing benefit. In real terms, before housing cost is taken into account, they are worse off because of the tax changes made by the Government. We must get rid of the smear that appeared to come from Conservative Members that families with an income of £200 a week should not be getting help. I am not talking about those people.

The hon. Member for Bury, North (Mr. Burt) spoiled a speech with which I and most of my hon. Friends could agree by indicating that he intends to abstain when the vote is taken. As he knows in his heart, he must go back to Bury and explain to at least 3,000 of his constituents why their housing benefit will be cut. That is his dilemma. Unfortunately, there is at the moment no Member for Chesterfield. Someone must explain why 3,000 families in Chesterfield will have their housing benefit cut. The hon. Member for Derbyshire, South has the same responsibility to the 3,000 of her constituents who will lose housing benefit because of the changes we are debating today.

Reference has been made to the tax relief on mortgages. There is not a shred of evidence to show that my party will make any change to mortgage tax relief, as the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South well knows, as she grins like a Cheshire cat. That suggestion is typical of the Tory smear. What we will do—and there is a strong rumour that the Chancellor may do so in the Budget—is to get rid of the extra mortgage tax relief for higher rate taxpayers who have a taxable income of over, I think, £14,500. They are on more than £300 per week before they start to pay the higher rate of tax. They receive an extra plus on mortgage tax relief. There is a strong rumour that the Chancellor of the Exchequer intends to do that. If he does, he will receive 100 per cent. support from the Opposition. The question is whether the Chancellor will receive 100 per cent. support from his own side.

Such action would amount to social justice and would go some way towards redressing the damage caused by raising the threshold for mortgage interest relief from £25,000 to £30,000 last year. The Treasury did not want to make that change. Everybody knows that it was forced through by the Prime Minister against all the advice of the Treasury. I suspect that the Chancellor or the Treasury will get their own back and will make a case for mortgage tax relief, just as a case was made for life insurance some years ago by a Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer. We would support that and could find plenty of things to spend the money on. For a start, we could stop these cuts.

Many hon. Members have said that the subject is complex. There were warnings that the scheme would not be easy to introduce. Indeed, I remind you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that you also have 3,000 constituents who suffer from the complexities of the legislation. However, when the House debated the regulations that introduced housing benefit on 26 July 1982, I found myself speaking for the Opposition. It was a choice between doing that or being a midwife, due to the circumstances of Ann Taylor who then spoke on housing. At that time, as the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South has said, the change occurred. The budget was swapped from the Department of the Environment to the DHSS. The former Minister, the hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Sir H. Rossi), said that social security regulations were lengthy and difficult to understand … housing benefit, is from the same mould. The Minister then went on to make a great boast about how the Government would, under the regulations, make more people eligible for housing benefit. That immediately knocks on the head the arguments put forward by the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State and the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South that things have got out of control. More people were to collect the money. The Minister then said: I shall refer to some changes in more detail as I come to the relevant regulations. However, the House might find it useful now to be given an overall view by my drawing together the improvements in the existing rebate and allowance schemes. First, we are widening the definition of rent eligible for rebate. The Minister proceeded to give a list of things that would widen the scheme. He then said: Secondly, we are widening the classes of tenants who can claim rebates to include service occupants and licensees, caravans and houseboat dwellers". The Minister gave a third class when he said: Thirdly, we have created some new disregards"— again, it was intended to bring more people within the scope of housing benefit— those items of income that need not be taken into account when calculating entitlement to benefit. They include TOPS travel allowances, parental contributions towards the maintenance of children in advanced education and pensions paid to the victims of Nazi persecution".—[Official Report, 26 July 1982; Vol. 28, c. 754–755.] Those were all pluses, deliberately designed in July 1982—not a generation ago—in the full knowledge that more people would have the right to claim housing benefit. That widening was supported by all hon. Members. No hon. Member opposed it, although I admit that the Opposition voted against the regulations. We did so because, although we agreed with the principle of a unified housing benefit system, the Government were not introducing—and they do not now operate—a unified housing benefit system. There were too many losers for our liking.

We warned Ministers about the regulations. I remember using a phrase of the Child Poverty Action Group and describing the regulations as byzantine in their complexity. There was a three-hour debate on the subject. The Minister spent an hour and nine minutes moving the motion and the Under-Secretary of State spent 30 minutes concluding the debate. An hour and a half was left for other hon. Members, including the Opposition Front Bench, to debate what we are trying to put right tonight. It was late July, and hon. Members disappeared from the House. The Terrace was full of parties and there was not one Member of Parliament who could claim at the end of the three hours that he had not been called to speak. All those who wanted to speak managed to speak, even though only an hour and a half was left. That is symptomatic of what is wrong and of how complex we have made our social security system. As soon as hon. Members mention figures, the Chamber empties. That is true of both sides of the House, irrespective of the petty point made by the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South. As the hon. Member for Bury, North so eloquently explained, the reality comes home to hon. Members when they hold their surgeries. We can then see why we must oppose these further cuts in benefit.

I should like to comment on housing benefit in Birmingham. I do not want to rake over the old arguments that have taken place in the House. However, I should like to correct the record. I shall refer to what is happening now, because it reinforces the need for the review, which is mentioned in paragraph 26 of the Secretary of State's response to the Social Security Advisory Committee.

The hon. Member for Derbyshire, South said that when she was chairman of the housing committee in Birmingham she discovered that the Departments were not talking to each other. The situation was worse than that. She referred only to the DHSS and the Department of the Environment, but things got so bad that the city housing department of which she was chairman lost contact with the Department of the Environment. She must know about the exchange of correspondence after she ceased to become chairman.

I have a letter with me from the city housing officer dated 29 July 1983, when the hon. Lady was a Member of Parliament. A long letter of complaint was sent by the city council to the Department of the Environment. I shall not use many quotations, but I wish to make my point. The city housing officer wrote: Liaison in some areas appears to have virtually broken down. That is a reference to liaison between the city council officials and the Department of the Environment over the problems of transition and the start-up of the scheme in Birmingham.

The regional officer of the DHSS replied to that letter on 14 September 1983. I shall put two quotations on the record. The letter was written by Mr. Green. His letter back to the city housing officer states: My enquiries do not confirm your claim that liaison in some areas appears to have virtually broken down and I don't think it helps anyone for such a statement to be made in the press. That put the city housing officer in his place. In that respect I defend the city housing officer, because liaison had clearly broken down. The regional officer then said: From my enquiries it is clear that some difficulties relating to Housing Benefit still exist"— this is July 1983— and we must avoid taking up entrenched positions, each blaming the other for difficulties and shortcomings. I should like to highlight some of those shortcomings by putting some of the details on the record.

Mrs. Currie

Will the hon. Gentleman acknowledge that the effort that was made to bring Departments together was actually made by the city of Birmingham housing department?

Mr. Rooker

I accept that. I do not lay the blame at the door of a department or an individual. However, sometimes a chief officer, chairman or Secretary of State has to carry the can. That is the reality of life. They are in charge of the system. My constituents feel that it is they who have damaged their incomes. A lot of false hopes were raised about the introduction of housing benefit. Everyone thought that they would get rid of arrears and that the system would be dead easy to introduce.

Ministers were responsible for saying this when they claimed that the money would go straight from the DHSS to the city councils and district councils, and people would not have the chance not to pay the rent. The hon. Member for Derbyshire, South fell into the same trap in July 1982, in the rent sub-committee of Birmingham city council. The minutes say: Councillor Mrs. Currie pointed out that when the scheme was in operation the time spent by staff in pursuing rent arrears would be substantially reduced. That was in July 1982. In June 1982, the rent arrears in the city of Birmingham stood at £7.9 million—I am using rounded figures. By March 1983, they were £11.6 million. That was one of the largest proportional increases in rent arrears in the history of the city council of Birmingham.

Mrs. Currie

I know that the hon. Gentleman was in the thick of this, as I was. Will he admit that one of the reasons for the growth in the arrears was that half the social security officers in the city were on strike for much of that time? I acknowledge the effort that he and other colleagues on both sides of the House made to get people hack to work, but if the offices were shut we could not get anything out of them.

Mr. Rooker

The Lady is moving her position. I am grateful for the point that she has just made about myself and my hon. Friends, because when she first came to the House, in a speech to which I have referred, she made it clear that she held us responsible for keeping the offices closed.

The Birmingham city council was further misled into believing that the system would be easy to adminster and operate because in the same set of minutes of 8 July the chairman of the rent sub-committee, who at that time was probably Councillor Williams, and who was under the authority of the chairman of the housing committee—the hon. Lady— expressed the view that additional staff would not be required to administer the scheme. Birmingham, the largest housing authority in the country, was saying in July 1982 that it would not need any extra staff to administer the scheme. As I understand it, the net result was that 130 extra staff had to be appointed to administer the scheme. That would be fine if people were getting their housing benefit, but they are not now on 14 February 1984.

Before I explain why they are not getting the housing benefit and give the stark examples that should send shivers down the spines of Conservative Members—those who have them—I shall refer back to the point that I made during the speech of the hon. Lady. She claimed, as she has claimed before, in June and July of last year—I do not know because I was not in the Chamber at the time, and I am sorry but I have not read the speech, whether she retracted these claims in February —that that under her stewardship of the Birmingham housing authority things were going fine, there were lots of extra repairs, good administration of housing and the system was running in tip-top condition—I am paraphrasing.

Mr. J. F. Pawsey (Rugby and Kenilworth)

Due to the sales.

Mr. Rooker

She may have said that, but that is not the point that I shall make. The hon. Lady spoke about repairs again tonight and gave the figure of 26 per cent. After the hon. Lady's speech in July last year, one of the councillors wrote to the city of Birmingham housing authority chief officer and said: Dear Mr. Waddington, From time to time, reference is made in the City Council and elsewhere to the effect that the number of council house repairs carried out in the six months after May 1982 was greater than in the previous six months. That is the claim that the hon. Lady is making. He continued: As I recall, the explanation for this, at the time, was that the rapid introduction of DLO legislation caused a tremendous amount of re-organisation in the Department. This caused a hiatus at the fag end of 1981–82.

The deputy city housing officer responded to this point in a letter to the council on 8 August, highlighted the logjam of work in that department caused by the introduction of direct labour organisation legislation, and pointed out that: You will recall that the winter of 1981/82 was particularly severe and we had to deal with an unprecedented number of burst pipes and associated plumbing problems. Other work virtually ground to a halt and, whilst some trades—plumbers. roofers and drainers in particular—were very busy, others were not … The figures do show an increased number of repairs completed during 1982/83 than in 1981/82. This, for the reasons I have described"— which is the reorganisation of the DLOs and other factors— is hardly surprising". For the hon. Lady to make the points that she has made is not a defence of the Government in their introduction of housing benefit. To keep pointing out that we were running a tight ship in "Brum" when every time a Member for Birmingham says that it is still chaos in Birmingham — I say that again today — and constituents are not getting their benefits, and for the hon. Lady to keep trumpeting the fact, irrespective of that, that more repairs are being done, does not help the Government. That is true for one particular snapshot of the period for the reasons that I have explained.

Mrs. Currie

I am not sure how the activities of Birmingham city council are relevant to this debate. However, my back is broad. I ask the hon. Gentleman to confirm that the capital programme that I inherited from his Labour colleagues in 1981–82 was £41 million, but I managed to extend it to £60 million, that I instituted a housing capital budget of £128 million, the amount that is available this year, that most of that money was made available because of the sale of council houses, which, by the end of this year, will have achieved £100 million of sales in Birmingham under the 1980 Act, and that the direct labour department, with which I am proud to be associated, under my control made a profit of £5 million last year.

Mr. Rooker

That may be so, but the deputy city housing officer went on to point out that the hon. Lady had overspent on the repair budget to the tune of £4.7 million. I am all in favour of overspending on repair budgets to get the repairs done, but one cannot do that and come to the House and make the assertions that the hon. Lady has made. It is highly relevant that, without my mentioning it, she has made that point. I should not have gone into the detail that I did if the hon. Lady had not made that point.

Birmingham and housing benefit still do not go together, and they will not do so after the statutory instruments are approved tonight, assuming that the Government use their majority. I shall give the House three examples of how people are affected. Two of them have occurred in the past few days and one in the past year. This is the nightmare that tens of thousands of people are living through at the moment. I have a letter sent by the city housing department, but not to one of my constituents. It was sent to me by a councillor. He woke up one morning on 18 July 1983 and received a letter saying: Your rent rebate application has now received careful consideration … I regret to inform you that you are not entitled to a rebate at the present moment. However, it has been possible to grant you an allowance of £533.20. This amount covers rebate due from the date of your application up until the date you started receiving Housing Benefit and this amount will be credited to your rent account on 18th July 1983. First, he is told that he will not get it, and then he is told that he has £533.20. The man does not know where he stands, but on 22 July he gets a letter from the same office saying: Rent Arrears. In spite of previous warnings, my records show that you are still failing to pay your rent regularly … Your circumstances will be considered by the Committee at their meeting at the Council House, Victoria Square … on 27th July. He is told to bring the letter and rent voucher books with him, and that he will probably have to pay the court costs if the matter goes to the courts. This was at a time in mid-1983 when there was still an argument, and an initial correspondence between the city housing department and the regional office of the DHSS, about whether there was a liaison. This is the effect of all that confusion, with people waking up to such correspondence.

In the past two days I have received two representations from my constituents, one on Friday and one yesterday. I will take the one I received yesterday first. A telephone call was made to me at the House. The lady lives alone. She is aged 81 and has a private landlord. Her rent is £20.89 a week. She is in receipt of a supplementary pension of £34.48 plus a small pension from IMI of £8.20 every two weeks. Her income in total appears to be approximately £38.58 comprised of her state pension of £34.48 and £4.10 for the IMI pension. She has just been told by Bush house—I do not know whether to describe it as the Kremlin or Lubjanka from the point of view of the council tenants of Birmingham—that she has been overpaid housing benefit and has to pay back £548.18 from last July. That works out to approximately £20 a week.

Bush house is saying to a woman of 81, living alone, that she was not entitled to any housing benefit, and this is supposed to have been sorted out. One can imagine what she and her family are going through. I have told her not to pay the rent. The landlord is a private landlord and for all I know, might be relying on the rent for income. It is a scandal.

That is as bad as—I shall not say it is worse than—what I learnt last Friday. I was handed a letter from a constituent about his parents: Can you look into a problem please. My parents"— I shall not read the address, because that would be unfair— are pensioners 75/73 years of age and have not received any assistance with their rent of £25 pw for 3/4 months. They have continued to pay the rent weekly out of old age pension but have now run out of savings which they had had to use to supplement their income. A visit, and also a phone call, to College Road Housing Department Office which issued the rent book has gained the response that their records were not at College Road and they should go to Bush House to enquire. A call to Bush House gave the information that DHSS at Walsall Road should be contacted as the matter was nothing to do with them. After a wait of two weeks a visitor from DHSS put the problem firmly back with College Road Housing and also said that they should only be paying water rates anyway. They are now desperately short of money having paid out between £250/300 of their savings and I have only just found out, when they asked me for money. It would seem that somewhere the buck is being passed. I pass the buck to the Secretary of State. At the end of the day, he is responsible. I will take these matters up with the housing department, but at the end of the day it was this Government who, on a Whips drove the system through the House of Commons without proper detailed legislation. The legislation was an enabling Bill upstairs, and there was nothing really to debate. A three-hour debate took place in the House in late July less than two years ago when there was insufficient opportunity to discuss the ramifications. I readily admit that not many hon. Members were queueing up to do that, but that is neither here nor there. The legislation was rushed through. The Government were warned — and some of the warnings came from Conservative Members—that they were attempting to enact the legislation much too quickly and that it would not work.

If the Government had the guts to say, "We think there could be major problems for a few thousand people," they would have some defence in the cases of which I have given details to the House, but they have no arguments; they have shown nothing but utter complacency throughout. When things have gone wrong, they have blamed the local authorities. This has not been assisted, of course, by some of the actions of those who run local authorities who have been insufficiently aware of the implications of housing benefit in their cities.

The question that my constituents will want to be answered is when this will stop. My constituents will know of the debates in the House last year. There was a big row in Birmingham with a great deal of publicity. The matter was raised in the House towards the end of the year, and the House is considering housing benefit yet again tonight. It is abundantly clear, from hearing about the problems of the citizens of Birmingham, that the housing benefit system is not working. What do I do? Do I listen to the Minister and say, "Oh, he's going to fix it, everything will be okay"?

The last time I participated in a debate on this subject the Minister said that Birmingham had had an extension of three months, and everything would be ready and working by 31 December. That statement was made from the Dispatch Box last summer. But the system is not working. I cannot accept the Minister's statement that it will come right in the end, because I cannot see any end to the problem. I ask the Minister to use what authority he has, which I suspect is very little, and to have the guts to say when winding up the debate: "I've listened to the debate. Not many hon. Members have spoken in favour of the orders. There was the hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Haselhurst)" — for whom I have great respect—"and the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) I do not say I have no respect for the hon. Lady, but I have not seen her operate in the House sufficiently to know whether she deserves my respect or not. "Only those two hon. Members have supported the regulations. As Minister for Social Security, I shall not have any more truck with the guff that civil servants are dishing out to me, or with the Chancellor and the Treasury who are forcing us to implement a system that the House and our constituents know does not work"; and then to say at about five minutes to Ten o'clock, "I beg to ask leave to withdraw the regulations and orders."

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Paul Dean)

Before I call the next hon. Member, I should tell the House that the winding-up speeches are expected to begin at approximately 9.20 pm. Six hon. Members still wish to speak, so I appeal for brief contributions.

8.26 pm
Mr. David Sumberg (Bury, South)

I acknowledge your request, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I shall be brief. Many of the points that I wished to make have already been made eloquently in the debate.

The debate presents me with a difficulty, for I face a clash of loyalty, and I make no apologies for saying so. I have a loyalty to the Government, whose policies I support, and whose record on pensions is good. Equally, I have a loyalty to some of the principles that brought me into Conservative politics. One of those principles is the community's responsibility to those in need who cannot help themselves, and particularly to those who, with a little assistance, wish to try to help themselves. It is with the latter group of people that I am particularly concerned.

There are two groups of people to whom Conservatives should give a little help—the occupational pensioner and those on low incomes, many of them council house buyers who are buying their own homes. As many hon. Members have said, occupational pensioners are people who have scrimped and saved over the years, often at great sacrifice during their working lives, to provide for themselves some independence and self-respect when they retire. They have done so at great cost, because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Mr. Bowden) said, inflation has often ravaged those pensions. I must pay tribute to the Government, because they have controlled inflation, and they are winning the battle against inflation, which, for every pensioner on a fixed income, is vital.

It ill-becomes some Opposition Members to wax eloquently on the ills of the measures when, if their policies were ever implemented, the disaster for people on fixed incomes in inflation terms would be horrendous. The Conservative party supports thrift and savings. While I appreciate that the tax system is often unhelpful to savers, the problem with the measures is that they affect the poorest of the thrifty. They are the people who truly rely on the Conservative Government for assistance.

I mentioned at the beginning of my speech another group that will be affected adversely by the measures. That group, which has not yet been mentioned in the debate, comprises those on low incomes who are buying their council houses. Many of them are young couples, who have benefited from one of the best measures that the Government introduced — the right of council house tenants to buy their homes. It was a big gamble to take that decision, and many of them rewarded our initiative by voting for the Conservative party, and for me, at the election. Some of them probably voted Conservative for the first time. Their quest for independence from the state is also our quest.

I make no apology for adding my tribute to the way in which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has tried to deal with the problem. He has been willing to listen, to make concessions, and at all times to see the magnitude of the problem which many hon. Members have mentioned. That factor weighs heavily with me, because I believe that the review is crucial. I shall listen carefully to what my hon. Friend the Minister says when replying to the debate, because I am in a position similar to that of my hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Haselhurst). If my hon. Friend the Minister can assure me that the review will be thorough and exhaustive, and that it will consider all the options, I shall reluctantly and with many doubts go into the Government Lobby tonight. I hope that he can give me that assurance.

8.31 pm
Mr. Charles Kennedy (Ross, Cromarty and Skye)

I am sure that the Minister will agree that hon. Members on both sides of the House believe that the nightmare of the scheme is its complexity. The most accurate comment about it, which has probably not got on the official record —perhaps I could introduce it in this way—was made by the Secretary of State. When someone criticised his policy and said that it was being administered by the Treasury, he turned round and said to one of his hon. Friends, "I wish it was." That sums up the matter, because the Treasury has dictated the financial policy that underpins this decision. Although it may be harsh and unrealistic, as has been said, Ministers would be happy if someone else had to carry through this measure. We sympathise with them to that extent. However, sympathy must be limited, since the problem is of their own making.

In a written answer to me on 30 January this year, the Minister for Social Security said: We shall announce final decisions on our proposals shortly"— my question was about the 1 April deadline for the implementation of the proposed cuts in housing benefit— taking account of the need for local authorities to he given adequate time to implement them." — [Official Report, 30 January 1984; Vol. 53, c. 102] The revised statement extended the period to November, and then we heard that it would be extended for another year. In addition, the Secretary of State has announced a review. The problem is that if a fundamental and wide-ranging review is considered necessary—the Secretary of State said that it would be very broad—and if the deadlines are relaxed to extend wither to November this year or one year hence, why is the interim implementation going ahead? It does not make sense, since, as has been said time and again, if one places the saving involved alongside the group of people who must provide it—the pensioners—it is out of all proportion.

As we have seen from the debate, that view crosses party lines and is held by those at various extremes in the political spectrum. I hope that the Minister, in the light of his written reply to me, will recognise that and accept the impossible position in which local authorities have been placed. We must show the Government the hypocrisy of their position. With the housing benefit scheme, they are willing to turn over everything to the local authorities, which must administer the system. That will deflect criticism of its horrendous practical implications. In that case, the Government say that local authority decision-making, accountability and control are important. How can that be consistent with their views about local authorities in other areas, and their proposals for rate-capping? The truth is that if it suits the Government or Cabinet Ministers, local authorities must be bashed and rate-capped, but, equally, when it suits them, local authorities should be left to deal with the mess that Ministers have created. They want to wash their hands of this scheme. I do not expect the Minister to withdraw the measures when he replies to the debate, but we live in hope.

The Secretary of State spoke about an increase in real terms in the housing benefit child needs allowance from £1 to £1.50, but he said that the increase would be phased in over 12 months. What does he mean by the words, "in real terms"? The Minister will appreciate the basic economic consideration that, as the increase will be phased in over a period, it presumes a great deal about the rate of inflation. Although the rate is lower than it has been for several years, none the less it presumes that it will remain low. If, during the next 12 months, the Government have the same success in administering the economy as they have had during the past 12 months in administering the housing benefit scheme, we cannot be confident that the real increases of which the Secretary of State spoke will be forthcoming. Perhaps the Minister can clarify that for me.

There is no doubt that the proposed review will examine the complexity of the housing benefit scheme. Perhaps the Minister will pass to the review team an argument that has been made strongly by alliance Members: that the complexity and scale of means-tested benefits has reached the stage where, first, the take-up rate is significantly less than it should be and, secondly, that it does not help those in the poverty trap for whom it is designed. In the cause of greater selectivity, and of trying to solve the appalling problems that have arisen under the housing benefit scheme, will the review team seriously consider introducing a new scheme of basic benefits based on a credit system, such as that for housing, rather than continuing this maze and tangle, which often lead to human misery?

The real point of this debate cannot be ignored, and perhaps it was best made by Shelter, which stated that the case for the Government to withdraw these proposals was overwhelming. I hope that, in view of the strong expressions of reservation to downright opposition, and certainly of general distaste, that have been expressed by hon. Members in all parts of the House, the Minister will think again. By doing so, he will be doing something practical and proper which, at the end of the day, will be welcomed, especially by those in the poverty trap who are suffering most of all. We urge him at this late stage to reconsider the position.

8.41 pm
Mr. James Couchman (Gillingham)

I must at the outset apologise to the Secretary of State for being absent when he spoke at the beginning of the debate; I was at another meeting elsewhere in the House.

We have heard a great deal from the Opposition Benches which suggests that my right hon. Friend is indulging in some sort of reverse Robin Hood act. The hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) spoke of taking away £230 million from the poor and said that that had been reduced by a measly £35 million from April and only £15 million from November.

We are not speaking of the very poorest. Although we had a great deal of talk about the very poorest from the hon. Member for Oldham, West, those on supplementary benefit are to be protected from the reductions in housing benefit which are suggested by the instruments that are before the House. We are, in fact, talking of families whose incomes may be considerably greater than those at the bottom of the scale. We are talking about families with incomes greater than the average industrial wage, and a number of examples have been given.

We have had the family of four—a man, his wife and two children—the man with his two working sons earning perhaps £100 each, a total income of £15,000 a year going into the household, and still having an entitlement to housing benefit of nearly £5 a week. We believe that that is wrong, and the provisions which deal with non-dependent relatives will take some care of that.

We are talking of a family where the father and single son or daughter may have a total household income of £11,000 a year, and still qualify for a rebate of nearly £2.50 a week on rent and rates of just £27 a week. We are talking of a couple with an income of £10,000 a year, including child benefit, with two dependent children and the husband only working, who might receive housing benefit if their rate bill were just £11 a week, and £11 a week is not a large rate bill in London, where we have some highly profligate Labour-controlled councils imposing extremely high rates indeed—[Interruption.] —not 1 million miles from here.

Of course, we regret that there will be pensioners with occupational pensions of not a great amount who will suffer a reduction in housing benefit as a result of these instruments. But even the much publicised single pensioner with retirement and occupational pension totalling £4,000 a year, which is £76.92 a week, paying £18 a week rent and £5 a week rates, is not among the poorest in society. She will lose £2.33 a week from April and £3.33 from November. Under the original scheme, before the recent moderations introduced by my right hon. Friend, she would have lost £4.52. That proves that consultation and discussion has improved her situation by about £1.20 a week. But that hypothetical lady has an income of half of what the average industrial wage-earner is bringing up his entire family on. Her circumstances are not those of the very poor.

Of course, nobody wants to reduce any benefits that have already been given, but it is, sadly, not unique in Europe for a constraint to be placed on the social security budget in many countries; several of our EEC partners are having to reduce benefits, or at least keep increases for inflation to below the level of inflation. If constraint on the social security budget of £37 billion is necessary and must be applied, then clearly the housing benefit is the least unacceptable. It is rapidly becoming an old sore that housing benefit extends further up the income scale than any other benefit.

Mr. Nicholas Lyell (Mid-Bedfordshire)

My hon. Friend has given some pertinent examples. Would he agree that if we could make progress down the tax reductions road so that tax thresholds were raised, even by quite small amounts, many of the people whose examples he has given would find themselves better off than they are today.

Mr. Couchman

That is so, as we have heard much talk of the poverty trap. By increasing the thresholds for income tax, the greatest benefit is felt by all taxpayers, including the people to whom I have referred. The hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) spoke of 45 per cent. of households in Scotland receiving housing benefit and one third of households in England and Wales receiving housing benefit. Many of those households are paying significant income tax, so this is a case of transferring money from one pocket to another in the same pair of trousers. That is ludicrous and it arises not so much from the low threshold for income tax as from much too high a cut-off point for housing benefit.

My hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) spoke at some length of the generosity of the housing benefit system, and I will not repeat what she said. The hon. Members for Oldham, West and for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley made much of the recent modest increase in mortgage tax relief. They spoke of the cost of that relief being £2.8 billion per year; that was quoted directly, interestingly, from a brief prepared by the Low Pay Unit. Let them compare that cost with the cost of housing benefit, which will reach £3.8 billion this year. The social security bill is £37 billion this year and it is in danger of running totally out of control.

I have some sympathy for the plea made by the hon. Members for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood) and for Ross, Cromarty and Skye (Mr. Kennedy) for a tax credit system which would replace the present maze of benefits and allowances. Failing that, I welcome my right hon. Friend's setting up of a review team to investigate housing benefit and its mechanism and administration. I trust that it will be able to look at, and investigate in depth, some of the curiosities of the present system, such as the ability of students living in halls of residence to claim housing benefit; at some of the obscure regulations that allow people on a short spell in prison to claim housing benefit, and to claim it retrospectively; and at the fact that some people who are in possession of two homes can in certain circumstances claim housing benefit. I hope that the review team will be able to look in a wide way at the whole workings of this benefit.

We on these Benches believe in providing benefit to those in real need. Housing benefit is at present going to those not in real need. It is not being directed at those who really need it, and by casting the net too wide the help given to those in real need is diluted. Tonight's proposals go some way to reducing benefits to those who are not in real need and I hope that that will allow my right hon. Friend to direct more generously to those who really are among the poorest. For my part, I shall support the Government in the Lobby tonight.

8.50 pm
Mr. Chris Smith (Islington, South and Finsbury)

When the faithful few debated this subject at 5 o'clock in the morning during the Consolidated Fund debate shortly before Christmas, I spoke of the chaos which attended upon the introduction of the housing benefit scheme in both 1982 and April 1983. I spoke also of the inadequate time which had been available to local authorities to implement it, of the insufficient information which was available to them from the DHSS, the lack of proper resources which were allowed to authorities properly to implement the scheme and the chaos which resulted from all of those factors together with the inevitable chaos caused by the complexity of the scheme, of which many right hon. and hon. Members from both sides of the House have spoken. That chaos forms the background against which the debate takes place.

The system is a mess already and the package of cuts will make it more of a mess. That is why my colleagues and I intend to oppose the regulations root and branch. I refer to it as the Lawson package, because that is where the blame should lie. It is neither a Fowler package nor a Boyson package. If he had had his way, I am sure that the Secretary of State would not have embarked on such a petty means of removing £190 million from Britain's public spending.

I said also in the debate shortly before Christmas that the original package which was proposed, of cuts of £230 million, would be disastrous, especially for pensioners with a modest occupational pension as well as the state retirement pension and for families with low incomes with dependants living at home, who are already caught in the poverty trap. The effect on those two groups of the modified package of cuts will be slightly less severe than that of the original package, but it will still be severe. The great majority of the proposals in the original package have been deferred and not abandoned.

We shall see one set of proposals introduced in April and a further set of damaging proposals introduced in November. There are two factors that worry me. The first factor is the adjustments to rent tapers. There will be a rise from 21p to 26p in April, which will be followed by a further 3p rise in November. Secondly, I and my constituents are concerned — many of those whom I represent are living in private rented accommodation—by the high rent thresholds, which will be raised in November and not, thank goodness, in April. Many of my constituents will be hit severely when that happens.

When the Secretary of State introduced the new proposals a week or so ago, he said that he thought---he admitted that he was speaking from memory— that no one would suffer by more than £3 a week. That is more or less true for April, but it is completely wrong for November. Come November, many households will suffer by considerably more than £3 a week. Even if we are talking about people suffering a loss of £2, £2.50 or £2.99 a week, the Secretary of State and the Government do not seem to realise that for many people and households throughout the country a sum of £2.50 or £3 a week is a major proportion of their available spendable income. An amount which to the right hon. Gentleman or myself might be a mere addition to our budgets is to those people a major blow. They cannot afford to lose that sort of money.

When the hon. Member for Gillinghani (Mr. Couchman) said that we were not talking about the very poorest, technically he was right. We are not talking about those who are below the safety net. However, we are directing our attention to those who are only marginally better off than the very poorest, and they should still demand the attention, respect and care of the House. Sums of £2, £3 or £4 in April and £6 or £7 in November will mean a great deal to such families.

It was a cheek for the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) to talk about the housing benefit scheme as a form of feather-bedding. That is an insult to many who are living in abject, desperate poverty. I should like the hon. Lady to meet a lady who visited one of my constituency surgeries a few weeks ago. She had received a bill from the gas board because the meter through which she had been paying for her gas had been under-registering. As a result, she had received a bill for £11, a sum which she could not possibly pay. She was in receipt of a small occupational pension and she will be affected by the regulations before us. I should like the hon. Lady to meet that lady and to tell her that the Government's policies are working and that the removal of money from her weekly income will not have a disastrous effect upon her.

For all the talk of tapers, the complex jargon of the system and the claimed amelioration of disaster, the plain and simple truth is that there are many who will suffer because of the decisions that the Minister will ask the House to take. The problem will be exacerbated still further. Local authorities will be required to implement changes which we heard about only last week. They will be expected to implement the changes on 1 April. In my constitutency there is already a backlog of two or three months' work in dealing with applications for housing benefits under the original scheme. Frankly, one lives in a fantasy world if one expects the local authority instantly, not just to wipe away that backlog, but to implement changes for large numbers of people who are already assessed for housing benefit.

People in my constituency, just as in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker), are receiving rent arrears letters because the DHSS has not come up with the right figures or because the housing department has not yet worked out the assessment for housing benefit. People are, therefore, desperately worried, and in some cases are making the decision to go without food, heat or light to ensure that they can pay the rent.

The system is not working. To assume that somehow, between now and April, changes can be imposed on top of all those problems is ludicrous. In April the chaos will not just be worse. The local authorities will be required to make changes not only in April, but again in November. If the Secretary of State thinks that local authorities can simply adjust the tapers, the high rent figures, the nondependent deductions and the minimum payments by touching a few computer buttons and running the system through a perfectly working model, he obviously has not experienced the way in which the scheme is operating in inner city areas such as the one I represent. The administrative chaos resulting from the imposition of these changes will add to the difficulties facing many people.

It must be remembered that some—not many—local authorities may find that the extra administrative costs imposed on them by these changes will not be met by setup costs and possibly will count against them for penalties when their rate support grants are assessed. They will find that, for implementing one set of decisions taken by the Government, they will be penalised by another set of decisions, also taken by the Government, imposed in the form of penalties by the Department of the Environment. I should like the Minister to give a guarantee that, where a local authority can clearly substantiate to the satisfaction of the Department of the Environment that the additional costs have been incurred by the implementation of these changes, the additional costs will not count against local authority expenditure when it is assessed for penalty under the rate support grant system.

We see additional chaos being imposed upon local authorities, enormous difficulties in administration, contrary to what the Secretary of State believed when he made his statement last week and people suffering—perhaps not the poorest, but those near to the poorest. A scheme which is bad already is being made much worse by the introduction of the Government's changes.

9.2 pm

Mr. Richard Holt (Langbaurgh)

Inevitably, I start with a small geography lesson for the sake of some hon. Members. Langbaurgh, my constituency, and Langbaurgh, the local authority, are not coterminus. It is important to recognise that, because my constituency is being taken to task because it had the temerity to return a Conservative Member of Parliament. Largesse from the ratepayers and taxpayers is spent out in that part of Langbaurgh which has a Labour Member of Parliament.

In taking to heart Mr. Deputy Speaker's strictures to keep speeches short, I shall underline the difference in political views of a local authority such as Langbaurgh. Many right hon. and hon. Members have never heard of Langbaurgh, stuck, as it is, in the north-east of England, yet it has certain claims to fame or infamy, depending on one's view. Langbaurgh is the local authority that has the highest figures—these can be taken from Hansard—for the excess of expenditure target over grant-related expenditure in the country. The local authority has the highest subsidy per council dwelling in the country. Those two statistics are painful reading to some people, especially those of my constituents who must suffer under the regime that runs Langbaurgh borough council

Last Friday, although there were not many hon. Members present, we had an interesting debate on future social benefits initiated by my hon. Friend the Member for Wealden (Sir G. Johnson Smith). We discussed some of the matters that we are discussing this evening. I make that point to show that neither side of the Chamber has a monopoly of caring. We all care, and many of us are still ambivalent about this evening's vote. In the final analysis, we must decide. We cannot be complete cowards.

When I see the people in Langbaurgh who will suffer most, I must vote with the Government, because Langbaurgh borough council intended to introduce a two-tier differential rent scheme. It was going to increase the rents of the poorest and the least able to pay. In that way, taxes would have fallen on all. It has not done so because counsel's opinion was that the scheme would not have been upheld.

For thenext increase, the council has introduced a three-tier system. It is:

  1. (a) Group 1 (Bungalows, Ground floor flats, Aged persons flats and Multi-storey flats)—£2.50 per week.
  2. (b) Group 2 (Houses)£2.00 per week.
  3. (c) Group 3 (Dwellings other than those in groups 1 and 2)—£1.50 per week.

Mr. Field

I understand why the hon. Gentleman will vote against this measure, but there are five votes tonight. Does that mean that he will be with us on the other four?

Mr. Holt

The hon. Gentleman must wait and see. That intervention came as I was seeking to draw to the attention of the House, the Minister and the world that when an authority such as Langbaurgh, run by rather way-out Left-wing people of modest intelligence, brings forward rent reviews of this nature, they by definition fall hardest on those least able to pay because the council disregards all those who are not in receipt of benefit. That is what the Labour-controlled Langbaurgh council is doing to my constituents. That is why I am supporting the Government. There is no reason for the Langbaurgh council to have introduced that pernicious tax.

As many right hon. and hon. Members will be aware, I had not even heard of Langbaurgh 12 months ago before the general election. I have made it my business to find out rapidly as much as I can about the way in which the authority runs compared with the authority of which I was leader before coming here.

It was interesting for me to note that, given the level of council house rents, the number of council houses and the various other aspects of running housing, expenditure on housing in Langbaurgh costs an additional £750,000 this year. That is a tax that people must pay and is not a matter in which I take any great pride. It is something that we must tackle.

I introduced myself to the housing manager of Langbaurgh council shortly after I was elected. Unfortunately, he fell out with the leader of the council and his desk was cleared in a few hours.

Mr. Pawsey

Did he get £200,000?

Mr. Holt

I have no idea.

When discussing benefit, we always find ourselves considering those on the margin. The moving of the trap will always affect some people. We can always give examples and, in the end, make a case. However, we must look at the overall picture. I was very unhappy about the measures as they were first introduced to the House a few weeks ago. I should like publicly to thank the Minister for seeing me and listening to my representations. Afterwards, he was able to make some changes.

I welcome the review that has been announced. The review may acknowledge the fact that, although nobody likes to make reductions, and we would all like to be Santa Claus every day of the week, every time somebody is Santa Claus, somebody else pays. The ratepayers and taxpayers of Langbaurgh at the Cleveland end are paying far too much over the odds as opposed to those at the Redcar end, who are being feather-bedded by the Left-wing Labour local authority. If such an uncaring authority can introduce differentials in rentals such as I have described — an authority of the type that Labour Members openly espouse and support—no doubt Labour Members will join us in the Lobbies to support the Minister, who is seeking to bring some common sense into housing benefit.

9.12 pm
Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse (Pontefract and Castleford)

This is a debate of a type that is becoming familiar to the House. The Government can find few supporters to present their case. Before the hon. Member for Langbaurgh (Mr. Holt) began to speak, there had been only three, and I cannot make up my mind whether or not the hon. Gentleman supports the Government. However, no doubt Conservative Members will troop into the Lobby later tonight behind their political masters, like good boys and girls, to vote for something in which they do not believe.

I am sorry that the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) has left the Chamber. I understand that she must be feeling deflated after listening to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker). I hope that the hon. Lady will read Hansard tomorrow to hear what I have said. She proudly told us that she represents miners. Miners rarely make mistakes, and they will not make that mistake next time.

The modifications recently announced to the housing benefit measures will give very little comfort to those who need these benefits. The proposals are a complete con.

They have conned many Conservative Members, whose attitude to the modified proposals is rather different from their attitude to the original ones.

I believe—the Minister will correct me if he feels that I am wrong—that some claimants will still lose about £10 a week in November. Average losses in the £2 to £6 range will be reduced by only about 30p to 40p. 'The Government have attempted to make the effects more acceptable by suggesting a maximum loss limit on individual claimants. That is unlikely to be practical or to operate efficiently, because people's circumstances change. Their rents and rates alter, people become out of work, get a job for a couple of weeks and such like. Attempting to organise such a policy will create administrative chaos.

I entirely accept that the full effects of the modified proposals have not been tested. However, it is already clear that the changes in children's needs allowance simply transfer the burden of losses to families with children. Losses among such people might increase, as might the number of people affected. I shall give examples for council tenants in Wakefield. Under the original proposals, 31 per cent. of cases lost. Under the new ones, 31.5 per cent. of cases will lose. Under the original proposals, 35 per cent. of cases in the owner-occupier sector lost. Under the new proposals, that figure will grow to 36 per cent. Although some people might receive some relief from the new proposals, many more will be caught in the poverty trap.

Because of the way in which cuts are to be made, even more families in the Wakefield district will suffer. Under previous proposals, just over 13,500 families and elderly tenants would have suffered a cut in benefits. That has now increased to 13,960, almost 8,600 of them being council tenants. I accept that the Government's new proposals reduce overall suffering slightly, but council tenants will still lose £1.08 per week on average, more than 70 tenants losing more than £4 a week. More than 1,200 families will still lose all benefit. Those are the figures which Wakefield metropolitan council has produced. Perhaps the Minister will choose to refute them.

The Government's new proposals, which include postponing a promised increase in child allowance, deepen the poverty trap for many poor large families. Under the previous proposals, 480,000 people nationally would have lost 70p in the pound of any earnings increase. The new proposals increase that figure to 540,000 from next April. That compares with the Government's reduction of the tax rate for the most wealthy and reveals the truth of their claim to reward initiative.

Commenting on the effect of the proposals on the elderly, the hon. Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Mr. Bowden) described the new proposals as a tax on thrift.. I share that view and suspect that many other Conservative Members do too. It is worth giving some examples of the cuts, as the hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Couchman) made great play of the fact that people in the lower income bracket are probably better off. A family with two children, one at school and the other a 17-year-old who is still at home, with a total income of £ 110 per week, paying £16 a week in rent and £5 a week in rates, will lose £1.20 per week and an additional £2.65 in November. when benefits will be reduced further. A pensioner couple with a 50-year-old daughter living with them and receiving the single person benefit, who have an income from pensions and savings of £80 a week, paying £14 in rent and £4 in rates per week, will lose £1.19 weekly. A single pensioner with a retirement and occupational pension totalling £58.80 a week, paying £11.50 a week in rent and £2 a week rates, will lose 90p a week.

I shall be brief, as I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden) wishes to start the wind-up at 9.20 pm. Before I finish, I have some questions for the Minister. I sincerely hope that the hon. Gentleman will be more successful with his replies than a few weeks ago on "Any Questions", when he found great difficulty in answering questions from people on the receiving end.

The proportion of the administrative cost of the benefits scheme to local authorities is 60 per cent., under the proposals. It is estimated that that proportion will have to rise to 72 per cent. if local authorities are to break even.

Will the Minister assure us categorically that, if local authority expenditure on the scheme does increase to 72 per cent., the Government will meet that increase, and that the grant will be outside the AEG? Some local authorities will be pushed into penalty as a consequence of the policies. If that happens, will the Secretary of State be able to provide a safeguard for them? If not, every £1 extra spent by those authorities on housing benefits under the Government's scheme will cost the authority and its ratepayers from £2 to £6.

I call on all right hon. and hon. Members who can honestly say that they do not agree with the regulations or the policy to join the Opposition in the Lobby tonight to throw out the regulations. We should let the Government have another think after their review put into operation by the regulations, which was a case of putting the cart before the horse.

9.23 pm
Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West)

Eight days ago, the Secretary of State announced some modifications to the housing benefits scheme to the House. In the debate tonight and in the intervening period, it has become clear that that statement was an elaborate ploy to buy off the widespread opposition to the Government's proposal to cut housing benefit.

The Minister came to the House last week anxious to present himself, and the Government, as compassionate champions of pensioners. He gave the impression that his second thoughts would reduce the income of only a few households, and by small amounts. The media were lobbied, Tory Members were lobbied, and even the hapless Secretary of State for the Environment was wheeled out to calm fears on the Tory Benches that further cuts in housing benefit would not cause further shambolic chaos throughout Britain. But, as his latest announcement was examined in detail, the Secretary of State for Social Services was exposed, not as a champion of the poor, but as a Minister trying to shift wholly unnecessary cuts in housing benefit from one group of poor people to another, by sleight of hand and careful press release.

"Benefit Changes: A new blow to poor" was how The Sunday Times commented last weekend on the latest statement. Age Concern, the London Housing Aid Centre, Shelter and many other organisations have issued replies to the Secretary of State's statement. They all made it clear that the cuts in April and November, taken together, would offer minimal help to pensioners. Indeed, the all-party parliamentary group for pensioners, chaired jointly by the hon. Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Mr. Bowden) and my hon. Friend the Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes), said: Overall losses for pensioners will be marginaly less than they would have been particularly in April when the first proposals come in. However, once the overall package has been implemented in November, the difference between the modified proposals and the original measures will be limited: for example, the average loss to occupational pensioners would have been 80p a week under the original proposals, though the average weekly loss will be 'only 59p' in April, it will be 73p in November. As Age Concern points out, this 'gain' of 7p a week means that pensioners will still be losing the equivalent of two weeks food spending in a full year". The Secretary of State has arranged for cuts by instalments, with cuts in April, cuts in November and further cuts in April next year. As has been said in the debate, the most mean and miserable aspect of his latest proposals, which do not echo the statement by the Secretary of State for Defence in his leadership bid at the weekend, when he talked in glowing terms about the Tory party having to have an open mind and a warm heart, is the way in which the working poor, especially those with large families, will be clobbered by the Secretary of State for Social Services. A family with four children earning £100 a week, which was not previously affected, will lose £1.32 a week. Throughout the debate, in which supporters of the proposals have been extremely sparse, hon. Members on both sides of the House have talked about the impact of the proposals upon their constituents. The most graphic description was given by my hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract and Castleford (Mr. Lofthouse), who illustrated the sharp impact that they will have on his constituents in the Wakefield area.

For a Government led by a Prime Minister who claims to set so much store in the well-being of families to cut the family budgets of the poorest families, some of which were not hit by the previous cuts in housing benefit, is disgraceful. For a Government, who, with winks and nods, are telling journalists that they want to help poor families by lifting tax thresholds in the Budget, to clobber those self-same families by cutting their housing benefits represents a dazzling degree of brass-necked hypocrisy, even for this discredited, double-dealing, deceitful Administration. The Government prattle on about the need to pull more people out of the so-called poverty trap, but cuts in housing benefits are pushing more of the working poor deeper into the poverty trap.

Under the previous proposals, about 480,000 people would have lost 70p in the pound—very high rates of marginal taxation. Under the latest proposals that figure will increase to 540,000 people. Indeed, by April next year it will still be more than 500,000 people. Instead of being helped by the Government to obtain a better standard of living for their children and themselves, the working poor are battling to survive against sky-high rates of marginal taxation.

The Secretary of State referred to this at length in his speech. Ministers complain about the amount of public money going into housing benefit and use that as a reason for justifying the cuts, but they fail to explain—and the Secretary of State failed to explain today—that the steep rise in public spending on housing benefit is due directly to Government policy. The Government have more than doubled unemployment. They have more than doubled rents. Those are the major reasons for the increase in public spending on housing benefit.

Mention has been made of Chesterfield. There are 12,000 households on housing benefits in Chesterfield and 6,000 in receipt of supplementary benefit. Thirteen out of every 100 people are unemployed, and chasing 250 vacant jobs. People in Chesterfield and throughout Britain will be worse off if the housing benefit is cut, as proposed by the Government, in April, November and April next year. The Government are directly responsible for those cuts, which are unnecessary and immoral when compared to the eagerness with which the Government are increasing public subsidies to well-off owner-occupiers in mortgage tax relief. We have heard that for people on £30,000 a year there is a subsidy of £22 a week. The top 1 per cent. have enjoyed handsome tax cuts from the Government. We know that under the Government there has been some boom in the creation of millionaires. There are now 1,200 millionaires in Britain, an increase of well over 1,000 since the Government came into power.

Whatever changes are now made, there must be a considerable doubt about whether local authorities can introduce any changes whatever by April without further intensifying the human distress and administrative chaos which has already characterised the introduction of the housing benefit scheme as we have heard so often throughout the debate tonight.

Cuts in housing benefit are unacceptable and unnecessary, especially when they are compared with the increasing help that is being given to well-off owner-occupiers. They are unnecessary and unacceptable because they hit the working poor exceptionally hard. They are unacceptable because they deepen the poverty trap and inevitably these cuts—any cuts introduced at this stage—will cause further distress and administrative chaos. We are talking about the people that my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) spoke about. They are the people who wake up in the morning to find letters demanding huge amounts of money. That causes great distress and worry to many elderly people in particular. The House should recognise that. When those Conservative Members who have had deep and sincere doubts about the wisdom of introducing any cuts at all in housing benefit consider their positions tonight I hope that they will have the integrity and belief in their principles to join us in the Lobbies tonight in voting against the regulations.

The only reasonable way for the Government to have responded to the surge of opposition that there has been to cuts and proposed cuts in housing benefits would have been to withdraw them, certainly pending the comprehensive review of the housing benefits scheme that the Government have announced. That review has only come as a result of the pressure that we have heard tonight from Conservative Members and from the demands of Labour Members over recent months when we have discussed housing benefits on innumerable occasions. If that review is to be soundly based and to command public respect, and if the people serving on the committee are to have a real confidence that they are making a major contribution to resolving one of the biggest blunders ever introduced by any Administration in Britain in living memory, the Government should allow the review to do its work. They should have deferred the proposed cuts that they are now urging us to support and allowed the committee to come forward with I hope proposals to remove many of the administrative problems that exist in housing benefits.

This is not even a banana skin. We cannot even see the hand of the Foreign Secretary behind the problems of the housing benefit scheme. We have heard tonight that certain Conservative Members seem to be able to sell their principles for half the cost of a Kit-Kat, not even the £1,000 that the Foreign Secretary has asked trade unionists to sell their principles for. However, I have greater respect for Conservative Members. I do not think that they can be bought off for half the price of a Kit-Kat and I hope that they will vote according to their consciences.

By rushing through these cuts in the way that they are, the Government are casting great doubt on the genuineness of the review that they are initiating. The Minister said that the cost of the housing benefit scheme cuts will have to be met by what he called "off-setting measures". In this age of creative accountancy we are used to such jargon, but we want to know what such off-setting measures will mean to the DHSS budget. We know that the Department must find about £35 million. I hope that when he replies the Minister will tell us what proportion of that £35 million will come from the contingency fund and what proportion will come from the DHSS budget. We know that there are only three options. Whatever comes out of the DHSS budget means that something will be cut elsewhere, delayed or abolished entirely.

In view of the considerable public controversy that there has been about the housing benefit scheme, circulars have come out of the Elephant and Castle like confetti during the past 12 months, introducing amendment after amendment to local authorities. The Minister of State arid the Secretary of State have had meeting after meeting with their Back Benchers during the past few weeks. The Minister has been closeted with local authority representatives for weeks past. I gather that over Christmas he even read the book on housing benefit written by the director of SHAC. Such was his concern to get to grips with the complexities of the housing benefit scheme that he sacrificed a considerable part of his Christmas, reading about housing benefits. Bearing in mind the discussions that have taken place and the enormous amount of concern that exists among people who will be hit by these proposals, if they are implemented, the Minister of State should tell the House where the money is coming from, and how much will come out of the DHSS budget.

The only course left to the Government, if they wish to demonstrate by their actions that they wish to respond to reasonable democratic pressure, and show that they are genuinely concerned about family poverty, is to withdraw the regulations. If, despite all opposition, they press on and try to push the changes through by April, bringing the other changes in November, and further changes in April, it will be another indictment of this mean and nasty, Government, who are again forcing poor people to pay for more help for the rich in this country.

May I quote from the weekend speech by the Secretary of State for Defence. It was headlined in The Sunday Times: Heseltine goes for hearts and minds. He told the young Conservatives: We are seeking to build an entrepreneurial society in which the pursuit of profit is the fuel of the system and individual reward is the prime incentive. The article went on: But there was a third element in Tory attitudes—'that a civilised society depends upon the unavoidable and often welcome role of a sympathetic government'. I believe that that is true. When one compares that fine rhetoric and those fine words with the gross unfairness of housing benefits, one does not find a marrying of minds. These cuts are avoidable, and they are being imposed by a most unsympathetic Government.

If the Minister of State wants to reassert his reputation as a man of principle, as a man of Thatcherite principle, he should disentangle himself from the biggest blunder that we have seen in the government of this country for many years. If he is not prepared to withdraw these proposals, I hope that he will shortly announce his resignation and disengage himself from the chaos and hardship that he is imposing on many people in this country—pensioners and the working poor, people who cannot bear those burdens. I hope that the Minister will withdraw the proposals tonight and say that he will allow the review to do its job and that, in the meantime, there will be no changes to this unloved and unlovely scheme.

9.38 pm
The Minister for Social Security (Dr. Rhodes Boyson)

I think this is the fourth debate that we have had on housing benefits in the past few months. The cast has changed from time to time. Some of the principals remain, but the numbers of hon. Members on the Opposition Benches remain static. The speech of the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) would have been more effective if he had had more backing on the Benches behind him, for all the great indignation that he showed on that occasion. While we have been sitting here, some of us have missed the fact that the gold medal was won by Torvill and Dean tonight. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Even housing benefits must be seen in perspective on these occasions.

I want to put the whole subject of housing benefits into perspective, on behalf of both sides of the House, including the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes), who has now rejoined us. I should like to put in perspective the whole matter of social security spending by this Government. Opposition Hon. Members may not like it because we are spending money. Next year we shall be spending £37 billion on social security, 30 per cent. of Government expenditure and 25 per cent. more in real terms than when we came into office four and a half years ago. [Interruption.] There are more on the dole, but in purchasing power people who are on the dole are getting more money than they were four and a half years ago. Long-term supplementary benefit, which is now paid at the age of 60 years, is £54.55. If it had been indexed for inflation from the level at which we inherited it, it would be £51.70.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Get on to housing benefit.

Dr. Boyson

I shall get on to housing benefit; I shall not be misled by the hon. Gentleman, who is a skilled performer in the House.

In real terms we are giving out more for nearly every benefit than we were when we came into office. Housing benefit is costing about £3.75 million, £4 per week in taxes for every household. It goes further up the income ladder than any other means-tested benefit. That is accepted on both sides of the House and certainly by the Social Security Advisory Committee.

My right hon. Friend referred to the big increase of 140 per cent. in real terms over the last 10 years in this expenditure. Paragraph 10 of the committee's report says clearly: there are some aspects of the housing benefit scheme which extend financial help farther up the income ladder than anywhere else in the social security system, and that if cuts in social security spending are essential it might be reasonable to take resources from there rather than from—say—the means-tested safety-net benefits. A household of a man, his wife and two children with an income of £170 per week, paying £25 per week in rent, can get help through housing benefit. A man and wife by themselves, without children, earning £160 a week, can receive housing benefit if they are paying £10 per week in rates; again that is for two people above the average income. Similarly, a man with £100 per week, with two sons aged 16 and 17 on average income, with a total income of £220 per week, gets a £4.65 rebate on rent and rates of £28 per week. My hon. Friends know these figures; they are very knowledgeable about housing benefits.

Because the benefits are at this level, when we had to consider the continuing increase in social security expenditure, we naturally examined this area.

Mr. Foulkes

Answer the debate.

Dr. Boyson

I am answering the debate.

Since we made our suggestions on 17 November last, we have listened to the Social Security Advisory Committee, to my right hon. and hon. Friends, to the local authorities, to the citizens advice bureaux and even to Opposition hon. Members when they have said more sensible things than they do at times. It is because we have listened that we have made the amendments which are being debated in the regulations and orders. No householder on supplementary benefit need be affected. People below the needs allowance will be unaffected apart from a few paying higher rents in November.

We shall have to consider whether capping is necessary in November. That is why we were able to give the figures for the losses in April, but not for the losses in November.

As regards the tapers, instead of going up to 31 per cent. in April the rent taper will go up to 26 per cent. The rates taper will increase from 7 per cent. to 9 per cent. In April, we will also increase the deductions for non-dependant 18-year-olds, 19-year-olds and those aged 20 plus. None of my hon. Friend object to that increase.

Mr. Field

They should do.

Dr. Boyson

Why should my hon. Friends object? The hon. Gentleman is trying to distract me from the main theme of the debate. The average wage of 18-year-olds and 19-year-olds is £95 per week for males and £78 per week for females. Surely they can afford to put £8.20 into the family kitty. Are they to be freeloaders for ever more, as some Opposition Members might desire?

Mr. Foulkes

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Dr. Boyson

I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman in a minute, as I always enjoy being in the Chamber with him. To ensure that he is in the Chamber next time I speak, I shall give way shortly.

If people are on unemployment or sickness benefit we shall, as the Social Security Advisory Committee recommended, alter the number of days after which the deductions can be modified from 90 to 56 and backdate the provision to the day of application.

As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, we met the leaders of the local authorities as soon as we had laid the regulations. They agreed that they could implement them. If the Government want to know whether local authorities can do their job, we do not usually ask the Opposition Front Bench; we ask the local authorities, and that is what consultation is all about. The leaders of the local authorities said that they could implement the regulations. In one case, it was said that local authorities might have difficulty. We said, "Ring us up tomorrow." One could not be fairer than that. My right hon. Friend and I are most reasonable men.

It was the district councils that said that it might be difficult. We should be clear about that, because the full story must be told. Nothing must be withheld. When we asked the local authorities about the minor alterations which they had wanted, all but the district councils said that they could implement the regulations, including the Scottish representative who had flown down specially from Scotland. The hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley will be very interested in that. If Scotland can do it—and no doubt the authorities will do it well—it can no doubt be done elsewhere.

There are 576 district councils. I was astonished by the number. I—like, no doubt, my right hon. and hon. Friends—did not realise how many there were. Their representative said that he would have to ring every one of them the next day. He rang them, and the next evening he came back and said that it could be done. Therefore, there is no question of difficulty in applying these regulations. The authorities have made it perfectly clear that they could do it.

New programmes will not be required. The parameters of any computer programmes that already exist will just have to be changed.

Mr. Field


Dr. Boyson

I must not give way to the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field). Let us have first the intervention from the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley.

Mr. Foulkes

I regret that such an important debate should be developing into a farce because of the nature of the Minster's reply. Earlier, the Minister was talking about non-dependent relatives. I wanted to ask him to answer the point that I made to the Secretary of State about the position of non-dependent relatives who are employed part-time. So far, there has been no reply to that point. The way that the Minister is going, he will not reply to any of the points that have been made.

Dr. Boyson

By sheer chance, I have the letter that the hon. Gentleman wrote to the Department. It just happens to be on top of my pile. It refers to somebody with a 21-year-old son who works only 18 hours a week on an MSC course and receives £41 per week gross. We were asked whether he had to pay the full amount. The answer is that he does. There is no way of carrying out means tests for such a small number. I know that the hon. Gentleman will be disappointed—but he will at least be delighted that my Department has replied so quickly.

It is as well to remind the House that two thirds of those receiving housing benefit will be unaffected by what we are doing at Easter. The average loss is only 69p, and for pensioners only 56p. Moreover, 51 per cent. of claimants and 59 per cent. of pensioners who are affected by the taper change will lose less than 50p a week, and 78 per cent. of claimants and 85 per cent. of pensioners will lose less than £1 per week.

My hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Dr. Mawhinney) asked about those losing more than £2. Fewer than 2 per cent. of those receiving housing benefit will lose more than £2 per week. Some 120,000 householders will lose, including 50,000 pensioners. My hon. Friend also asked what kind of income was coming in so that one knew where the money was lost. It is not possible to break down the figures absolutely, but, of those concerned, 10,000 have incomes between £25 and £30 above the needs allowance, 70,000 have incomes between £30 and £40 above the needs allowance, and the remainder have an income that is more than £40 above the needs allowance. Nobody can say that we are clawing back money from those receiving the least in our society. Nobody enjoys having to claw back, but where one has to we have made sure that those from the lower income sectors of the population are those who suffer the least.

Dr. Mawhinney

I am grateful to my hon. Friend both for the substance and the speed of the reply. Would not the Opposition Front Bench's case have been more credible if it had related the clawback, as my hon. Friend has called it, to the income that the families were receiving? We can now see that it is not a significant percentage of the income.

Dr. Boyson

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's comment. I know that he is concerned about this, because we have talked about it.

In November the Social Security Advisory Committee suggested that those who were below the needs allowance should not be affected by an increase in the minimum amounts; that these should remain at 10p and 20p and not go up to the figures suggested. Again, the people below the means allowance will not now be affected. The SSAC recommended, as did the local authorities, that in some cases the minimum should go up, but it will only go up to 50p for rent cases, not to £1 as was originally intended.

I have a list, which I do not have the time to go through, which shows that about 11 of the recommendations made by the SSAC have been accepted by us in half or in full. In other words, nobody can say that we are not ready to listen, that we have not read the report or have not applied it within the constraint of knowing that money does not grow on trees and that we need to control the level of expenditure on housing benefit as we do the rest of Government expenditure.

In November the 16 to 17-year-olds will be expected to contribute £3.10 out of an average wage of £61 for males and £56 for females if they are not at school, on YTS, supplementary benefit or non-contributory invalidity pension—for it was recommended that these should be exempt, and we accepted that. That seems to be reasonable.

The high rent changes have been put off until November because they are difficult to operate, and the rent taper will then go up to 29 per cent. I remind the House that two thirds of those receiving housing benefits, including two thirds of pensioners, will not be affected by the changes in November, any more than they will be affected by the changes at Easter. We have said, as we said to the local authorities when we met them a week ago today, that if we can find some method of capping the accumulated losses from the various tributaries in November, we shall do so. We shall look at this and be delighted to take advice from local authorities or from any hon. Member.

Mr. Meacher

As the Minister knows, 50,000 pensioners will lose between £2 and £3 a week. What justification can he give for chopping their benefit back at all, when those earning over £30,000 receive £22 a week in mortgage interest tax relief? What justification is there for pensioners or families in poverty having such a cut in those circumstances?

Dr. Boyson

Mortgage relief has already been mentioned, and I imagine that many hon. Members are affected by it. One fact does not seem to have been mentioned. Last year we increased from £25,000 to £30,000 the level of mortgage relief. If my memory serves me correctly—and I stand to be corrected on this—the last time there was an increase in mortgage relief from £20,000 to £25,000, it was done by a Labour Government in 1974. [Interruption.] I would like that to be checked tomorrow. At that time, the Labour party was holding a different view on mortgage relief from its present view.

As to the amount of the relief, the Government obviously do not enjoy limiting the amount of housing help made available to people. Of the £45 million cuts in the cuts, if I may put it that way, £23 million will go to pensioners, so there is no doubt that we have put the priority where both sides of the House would like it to be, that is, in helping the pensioner as much as we can in what we are doing.

I deal next with the review, which was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Bury, North (Mr. Burt), my hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Haselhurst), my hon. Friend the Member for Bury, South (Mr. Sumberg), my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Mr. Couchman), my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) and other hon. Members. We have stated that there will be a review of the size, shape and scope of the scheme. We have said that there will be an external chairman. We have gone no further than that, because we put the proposal before the House only last week. The review will take evidence, possibly oral and certainly written. The review will have to take evidence from local authorities and people who have information on the matter. We have said that the review is to examine the structure and scope of the scheme to ensure that it is as simple as possible, and that help is concentrated on those most in need. The aim is to improve its administration by local authorities. The team will be a small one, with an independent chairman reporting directly to the Secretary of State.

Mr. Lofthouse


Dr. Boyson

I shall not give way. I must finish this point to put at rest the minds of my hon. Friends and, I trust, the minds of some Opposition Members. We came to an agreement, and, on this side of the House, we stand by agreements.

Mr. Kirkwood


Dr. Boyson

I am not giving way. Although we have not finally decided, we are considering the publication of the report, because I know that hon. Members will make that request.

Mr. Kirkwood

Will the Minister say whether the review will undertake a thorough investigation of the administrative costs of the scheme, including the modified alterations?

Dr. Boyson

The answer is yes. The administration of the scheme will be similarly investigated.

An attempt has been made by certain Labour authorities to milk the housing benefit scheme and to put in a differential rent scheme so that the money they get back through Government is put at a higher level, and the money that the local authorities expend is put at a lower level.

Mr. Lofthouse


Mr. Deputy Speaker


Dr. Boyson

We do not believe that Government money which goes to people for housing benefits should be used to inflate costs or should be given back in rate rebates. By all means, let there be rent-free—

Mr. Lofthouse

Before the Minister forgets, will he answer the question? If local authorities go into penalties arising from the housing benefit scheme, will they be protected?

Dr. Boyson

Sixty per cent. of the grant is direct grant, and it more than covers the expenditure for 80 per cent. of local authorities. I have met the local authorities to discuss this. They stated what would happen in such a case, and there are two answers. One is that local authorities do not go into penalties just by the amount that is spent on housing benefits in this way. Local authorities must already have been considerably overspending. I believe that there is a method by which a local authority can appeal if it thinks that it has a right for the penalty not to be applied. I shall write to the hon. Member giving the full details of what was said when I met the local authorities, and put his mind at rest.

Mr. Madden


Dr. Boyson

I shall give way for the last time.

Mr. Madden

In the time remaining, can the Minister of State answer one of the questions that have been put to him? I and other hon. Members asked where the money that has to be saved will come from, how much will come from the contingency fund, and how much will come from the DHSS budget.

Dr. Boyson

My right hon. Friend said earlier that it would be a mixture of the contingency fund and the DHSS budget. As Opposition Members have reminded us frequently this evening, the Department's budget is £37 billion. We must consider the entire budget over a period before we decide. That was an idea that we got from Opposition Members, which we have taken on board completely.

The Government's priorities have been the protection of the poorest, those on the lowest incomes and pensioners—[Interruption.] Yes, they are. Are we not protecting those drawing supplementary benefit? Are we not protecting those earning below the needs allowance? The Opposition have a strange idea about poverty. We have looked after those on supplementary benefit and those who earn below the needs allowance. We have listened to local authorities, and in April we shall introduce provisions which they say they can administer. We have simplified administration, and I hope that the Opposition will not vote against that, because it was agreed by the local authorities. The Opposition had better examine all the measures before they decide on the ones against which they will vote. Perhaps they can ask us for advice.

The House must realise, as does the Conservative party, that if we continue to spend money like water it will mean either higher taxes and the destruction of incentives, or inflation. During the Labour Government there was 110 per cent. inflation, which destroyed the value of occupational pensions and the purchasing power of those on fixed incomes.

I ask my right hon. and hon. Friends, and any Opposition Members who wish to join us, to vote for the regulations.

Question put:—

The House divided:—Ayes 350, Noes 209.

Division No. 163] [10.0 pm
Adley, Robert Chapman, Sydney
Aitken, Jonathan Chope, Christopher
Alexander, Richard Churchill, W. S.
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n)
Amess, David Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Ancram, Michael Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)
Arnold, Tom Clarke, Kenneth (Sutcliffe)
Ashby, David Clegg, Sir Walter
Aspinwall, Jack Cockeram, Eric
Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H. Colvin, Michael
Atkins, Robert (South Ribble) Conway, Derek
Atkinson, David (B'm'th E) Coombs, Simon
Baker, Kenneth (Mole Valley) Cope, John
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Cormack, Patrick
Baldry, Anthony Corrie, John
Batiste, Spencer Couchman, James
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Cranborne, Viscount
Bellingham, Henry Crouch, David
Bendall, Vivian Currie, Mrs Edwina
Bennett, Sir Frederic (T'bay) Dickens, Geoffrey
Benyon, William Dicks, Terry
Berry, Sir Anthony Dorrell, Stephen
Best, Keith Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.
Bevan, David Gilroy Dover, Den
Biffen, Rt Hon John du Cann, Rt Hon Edward
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Dunn, Robert
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Durant, Tony
Body, Richard Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke)
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Eggar, Tim
Bottomley, Peter Evennett, David
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n) Eyre, Sir Reginald
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Fairbairn, Nicholas
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Fallon, Michael
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Farr, John
Bright, Graham Favell, Anthony
Brinton, Tim Fenner, Mrs Peggy
Brittan, Rt Hon Leon Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey
Brooke, Hon Peter Fletcher, Alexander
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes) Fookes, Miss Janet
Browne, John Forman, Nigel
Bruinvels, Peter Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Bryan, Sir Paul Forth, Eric
Buck, Sir Antony Fowler, Rt Hon Norman
Budgen, Nick Fox, Marcus
Bulmer, Esmond Franks, Cecil
Butcher, John Fraser, Peter (Angus East)
Butler, Hon Adam Freeman, Roger
Butterfill, John Fry, Peter
Carlisle, John (N Luton) Gale, Roger
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Galley, Roy
Carttiss, Michael Gardiner, George (Reigate)
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Garel-Jones, Tristan
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Glyn, Dr Alan Lyell, Nicholas
Goodhart, Sir Philip McCurley, Mrs Anna
Goodlad, Alastair Macfarlane, Neil
Gorst, John MacGregor, John
Gower, Sir Raymond MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)
Greenway, Harry MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)
Gregory, Conal Maclean, David John.
Griffiths, E. (B'y St Edm'ds) McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)
Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N) McQuarrie, Albert
Grist, Ian Madel, David
Ground, Patrick Major, John
Grylls, Michael Malins, Humfrey
Gummer, John Selwyn Malone, Gerald
Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom) Maples, John
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Marland, Paul
Hampson, Dr Keith Marlow, Antony
Hanley, Jeremy Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Hannam, John Mates, Michael
Harris, David Maude, Francis
Harvey, Robert Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Haselhurst, Alan Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael Mayhew, Sir Patrick
Hawkins, C. (High Peak) Mellor, David
Hawkins, Sir Paul (SW N'folk) Merchant, Piers
Hawksley, Warren Meyer, Sir Anthony
Hayes, J. Miller, Hal (B'grove)
Hayhoe, Barney Mills, Iain (Meriden)
Hayward, Robert Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)
Heathcoat-Amory, David Miscampbell, Norman
Heddle, John Mitchell, David (NW Hants)
Henderson, Barry Moate, Roger
Hickmet, Richard Monro, Sir Hector
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Moore, John
Hill, James Morris, M. (N'hampton, S)
Hind, Kenneth Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)
Hirst, Michael Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Moynihan, Hon C.
Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling) Mudd, David
Holt, Richard Murphy, Christopher
Hooson, Tom Neale, Gerrard
Hordern, Peter Needham, Richard
Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A) Nelson, Anthony
Howarth, Gerald (Cannock) Neubert, Michael
Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'Idford) Newton, Tony
Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk) Nicholls, Patrick
Hubbard-Miles, Peter Normanton, Tom
Hunt, David (Wirral) Norris, Steven
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Onslow, Cranley
Hunter, Andrew Oppenheim, Philip
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.
Irving, Charles Osborn, Sir John
Jackson, Robert Ottaway, Richard
Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick Page, John (Harrow W)
Jessel, Toby Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil
Johnson-Smith, Sir Geoffrey Parris, Matthew
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Patten, Christopher (Bath)
Jones, Robert (W Herts) Patten, John (Oxford)
Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith Pattie, Geoffrey
Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine Pawsey, James
Kershaw, Sir Anthony Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Key, Robert Pink, R. Bonner
King, Roger (B'ham N'field) Pollock, Alexander
Knight, Gregory (Derby N) Porter, Barry
Knight, Mrs Jill (Edgbaston) Powell, William (Corby)
Knowles, Michael Powley, John
Knox, David Prentice, Rt Hon Reg
Lamont, Norman Price, Sir David
Lang, Ian Prior, Rt Hon James
Latham, Michael Proctor, K. Harvey
Lawler, Geoffrey Pym, Rt Hon Francis
Lawrence, Ivan Raffan, Keith
Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel Raison, Rt Hon Timothy
Lee, John (Pendle) Rathbone, Tim
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh) Flenton, Tim
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Flhodes James, Robert
Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd) Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Lightbown, David Ridsdale, Sir Julian
Lloyd, Ian (Havant) Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham) Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Lord, Michael Robinson, Mark (N'port W)
Roe, Mrs Marion Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Rossi, Sir Hugh Thompson, Donald (Calder V)
Rost, Peter Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
Rowe, Andrew Thorne, Neil (Ilford S)
Rumbold, Mrs Angela Thornton, Malcolm
Ryder, Richard Thurnham, Peter
Sackville, Hon Thomas Townend, John (Bridlington)
Sainsbury, Hon Timothy Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N. Tracey, Richard
Sayeed, Jonathan Trippier, David
Scott, Nicholas Trotter, Neville
Shaw, Giles (Pudsey) Twinn, Dr Ian
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb') van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Shelton, William (Streatham) Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Viggers, Peter
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge) Waddington, David
Shersby, Michael Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Silvester, Fred Waldegrave, Hon William
Sims, Roger Walden, George
Skeet, T. H. H. Walker, Bill (T'side N)
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Wall, Sir Patrick
Soames, Hon Nicholas Waller, Gary
Speed, Keith Walters, Dennis
Spence, John Ward, John
Spencer, D. Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Spicer, Jim (W Dorset) Warren, Kenneth
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs) Watson, John
Squire, Robin Watts, John
Stanley, John Wells, Bowen (Hertford)
Steen, Anthony Wells, John (Maidstone)
Stern, Michael Whitfield, John
Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton) Whitney, Raymond
Stevens, Martin (Fulham) Wiggin, Jerry
Stewart, Allan (Eastwood) Winterton, Mrs Ann
Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood) Winterton, Nicholas
Stewart, Ian (N Hertf'dshire) Wolfson, Mark
Stradling Thomas, J. Wood, Timothy
Sumberg, David Woodcock, Michael
Tapsell, Peter Yeo, Tim
Taylor, John (Solihull) Young, Sir George (Acton)
Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman Tellers for the Ayes:
Temple-Morris, Peter Mr. Carol Mather and
Terlezki, Stefan Mr. Robert Boscawen.
Adams, Allen (Paisley N) Clay, Robert
Alton, David Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.)
Anderson, Donald Cohen, Harry
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Coleman, Donald
Ashdown, Paddy Concannon, Rt Hon L.D.
Ashley, Rt Hon Peter Conlan, Bernard
Ashton, Joe Cook, Frank (Stockton North)
Atkinson, N. (Tottenham) Cook, Robin F. (Livingston)
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Corbett, Robin
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Corbyn, Jeremy
Barnett, Guy Cowans, Harry
Beckett, Mrs Margaret Craigen, J. M.
Beggs, Roy Crowther, Stan
Beith, A. J. Cunningham, Dr John
Bell, Stuart Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli)
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh) Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly)
Bermingham, Gerald Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l)
Bidwell, Sydney Deakins, Eric
Blair, Anthony Dewar, Donald
Boyes, Roland Dixon, Donald
Bray, Dr Jeremy Dobson, Frank
Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E) Dormand, Jack
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Douglas, Dick
Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E) Dubs, Alfred
Bruce, Malcolm Duffy, A. E. P.
Buchan, Norman Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.
Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M) Eadie, Alex
Campbell, Ian Eastham, Ken
Campbell-Savours, Dale Ellis, Raymond
Canavan, Dennis Evans, John (St. Helens N)
Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y) Fatchett, Derek
Carter-Jones, Lewis Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Cartwright, John Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn)
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Fisher, Mark
Flannery, Martin Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Molyneaux, Rt Hon James
Forrester, John Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Foster, Derek Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Foulkes, George Nellist, David
Fraser, J. (Norwood) Nicholson, J.
Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Freud, Clement O'Brien, William
Garrett, W. E. Park, George
George, Bruce Parry, Robert
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Patchett, Terry
Godman, Dr Norman Pavitt, Laurie
Golding, John Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Gould, Bryan Penhaligon, David
Gourlay, Harry Pike, Peter
Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife) Powell, Rt Hon J. E. (S Down)
Hardy, Peter Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Harman, Ms Harriet Prescott, John
Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Radice, Giles
Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith Randall, Stuart
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Redmond, M.
Haynes, Frank Rees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S)
Heffer, Eric S. Richardson, Ms Jo
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth) Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall) Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)
Home Robertson, John Robertson, George
Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath) Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)
Howells, Geraint Rooker, J. W.
Hoyle, Douglas Ross, Ernest (Dundee W)
Hughes, Dr. Mark (Durham) Ross, Wm. (Londonderry)
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Rowlands, Ted
Hughes, Roy (Newport East) Ryman, John
Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S) Sedgemore, Brian
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Sheerman, Barry
Janner, Hon Greville Sheldon, Rt Hon R.
Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Hillh'd) Short, Mrs R. (W'hampt'n NE)
John, Brynmor Silkin, Rt Hon J.
Johnston, Russell Skinner, Dennis
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside) Smith, C.(Isl'ton S & F'bury)
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Smith, Rt Hon J. (M'kl'ds E)
Kennedy, Charles Smyth, Rev W. M. (Belfast S)
Kilroy-Silk, Robert Snape, Peter
Kirkwood, Archibald Soley, Clive
Lambie, David Spearing, Nigel
Lamond, James Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)
Leadbitter, Ted Stott, Roger
Leighton, Ronald Strang, Gavin
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Straw, Jack
Lewis, Terence (Worsley) Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Litherland, Robert Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Thompson, J. (Wansbeck)
Lofthouse, Geoffrey Thorne, Stan (Preston)
Loyden, Edward Tinn, James
McCartney, Hugh Torney, Tom
McCusker, Harold Walker, Cecil (Belfast N)
McDonald, Dr Oonagh Wallace, James
McGuire, Michael Warden, Gareth (Gower)
McKay, Allen (Penistone) Wareing, Robert
McKelvey, William Weetch, Ken
McNamara, Kevin Welsh, Michael
McTaggart, Robert White, James
Madden, Max Wigley, Dafydd
Maginnis, Ken Williams, Rt Hon A.
Marek, Dr John Wilson, Gordon
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Winnick, David
Martin, Michael Woodall, Alec
Mason, Rt Hon Roy Wrigglesworth, Ian
Maxton, John Young, David (Bolton SE)
Meacher, Michael
Meadowcroft, Michael Tellers for the Noes:
Michie, William Mr. James Hamilton and
Mikardo, Ian Mr. John McWilliam
Millan, Rt Hon Bruce

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved, That the draft Supplementary Benefit (Requirements) Amendment Regulations 1984, which were laid before this House on 6th February, be approved.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Housing Benefits Amendment Regulations 1984 (S.I. 1984, No. 103), dated 6th February 1984, a copy of which was laid before this House on 6th February, be annulled.—[Mr. Meacher]

Question put:—

The House divided: Ayes 210, Noes 345.

Division No. 164] [10.15 pm
Adams, Allen (Paisley N) Fisher, Mark
Alton, David Flannery, Martin
Anderson, Donald Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Forrester, John
Ashdown, Paddy Foster, Derek
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Foulkes, George
Ashton, Joe Fraser, J. (Norwood)
Atkinson, N. (Tottenham) Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Freud, Clement
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Garrett, W. E.
Barnett, Guy George, Bruce
Beckett, Mrs Margaret Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Beggs, Roy Godman, Dr Norman
Beith, A. J. Golding, John
Bell, Stuart Gould, Bryan
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh) Gourlay, Harry
Bermingham, Gerald Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)
Bidwell, Sydney Hardy, Peter
Blair, Anthony Harman, Ms Harriet
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n) Harrison, Rt Hon Walter
Boyes, Roland Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith
Bray, Dr Jeremy Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E) Haynes, Frank
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Heffer, Eric S.
Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E) Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Bruce, Malcolm Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall)
Buchan, Norman Home Robertson, John
Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M) Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)
Campbell-Savours, Dale Howells, Geraint
Canavan, Dennis Hoyle, Douglas
Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y) Hughes, Dr. Mark (Durham)
Carter-Jones, Lewis Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Cartwright, John Hughes, Roy (Newport East)
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)
Clay, Robert Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.) Janner, Hon Greville
Cohen, Harry Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Hillh'd)
Coleman, Donald John, Brynmor
Concannon, Rt Hon J. D. Johnston, Russell
Conlan, Bernard Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Cook, Frank (Stockton North) Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Cook, Robin F. (Livingston) Kennedy, Charles
Corbett, Robin Kilroy-Silk, Robert
Corbyn, Jeremy Kirkwood, Archibald
Cowans, Harry Lambie, David
Craigen, J. M. Lamond, James
Crowther, Stan Leadbitter, Ted
Cunningham, Dr John Leighton, Ronald
Dalyell, Tam Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli) Lewis, Terence (Worsley)
Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly) Litherland, Robert
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l) Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Deakins, Eric Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Dewar, Donald Loyden, Edward
Dixon, Donald McCartney, Hugh
Dobson, Frank McCusker, Harold
Dormand, Jack McDonald, Dr Oonagh
Douglas, Dick McGuire, Michael
Dubs, Alfred McKay, Allen (Penistone)
Duffy, A. E. P. McKelvey, William
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G. McNamara, Kevin
Eadie, Alex McTaggart, Robert
Eastham, Ken Madden, Max
Ellis, Raymond Maginnis, Ken
Evans, John (St. Helens N) Marek, Dr John
Fatchett, Derek Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Martin, Michael
Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn) Mason, Rt Hon Roy
Maxton, John Sheerman, Barry
Meacher, Michael Sheldon, Rt Hon R.
Meadowcroft, Michael Short, Mrs R. (W'hampt'n NE)
Michie, William Silkin, Rt Hon J.
Mikardo, Ian Skinner, Dennis
Millan, Rt Hon Bruce Smith, C. (Isl'ton S & F'bury)
Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby) Smith, Rt Hon J. (M'kl'ds E)
Molyneaux, Rt Hon James Smyth, Rev W. M. (Belfast S)
Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe) Snape, Peter
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Soley, Clive
Nellist, David Spearing, Nigel
Nicholson, J. Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Stott, Roger
O'Brien, William Strang, Gavin
Park, George Straw, Jack
Parry, Robert Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Patchett, Terry Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)
Pavitt, Laurie Thompson, J. (Wansbeck)
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Thorne, Stan (Preston)
Penhaligon, David Tinn, James
Pike, Peter Torney, Tom
Powell, Rt Hon J. E. (S Down) Walker, Cecil (Belfast N)
Powell, Raymond (Ogmore) Wallace, James
Prescott, John Warden, Gareth (Gower)
Radice, Giles Wareing, Robert
Randall, Stuart Weetch, Ken
Redmond, M. Welsh, Michael
Rees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S) White, James
Richardson, Ms Jo Wigley, Dafydd
Roberts, Allan (Bootle) Williams, Rt Hon A.
Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N) Wilson, Gordon
Robertson, George Winnick, David
Robinson, G. (Coventry NW) Woodall, Alec
Rooker, J. W. Wrigglesworth, Ian
Ross, Ernest (Dundee W) Young, David (Bolton SE)
Ross, Wm. (Londonderry)
Rowlands, Ted Tellers for the Ayes:
Ryman, John Mr. James Hamilton and
Sedgemore, Brian Mr. John McWilliam.
Adley, Robert Bruinvels, Peter
Aitken, Jonathan Bryan, Sir Paul
Alexander, Richard Buck, Sir Antony
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Budgen, Nick
Amess, David Bulmer, Esmond
Ancram, Michael Butcher, John
Arnold, Tom Butler, Hon Adam
Ashby, David Butterfill, John
Aspinwall, Jack Carlisle, John (N Luton)
Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H. Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Atkins, Robert (South Ribble) Carttiss, Michael
Atkinson, David (B'm'th E) Chalker, Mrs Lynda
Baker, Kenneth (Mole Valley) Channon, Rt Hon Paul
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Chapman, Sydney
Baldry, Anthony Chope, Christopher
Batiste, Spencer Churchill, W. S.
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n)
Bellingham, Henry Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Bendall, Vivian Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)
Bennett, Sir Frederic (T'bay) Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)
Benyon, William Clegg, Sir Walter
Berry, Sir Anthony Cockeram, Eric
Best, Keith Colvin, Michael
Bevan, David Gilroy Conway, Derek
Biffen, Rt Hon John Coombs, Simon
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Cope, John
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Corrie, John
Body, Richard Couchman, James
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Cranborne, Viscount
Bottomley, Peter Crouch, David
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Currie, Mrs Edwina
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Dickens, Geoffrey
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Dicks, Terry
Bright, Graham Dorrell, Stephen
Brinton, Tim Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.
Brittan, Rt Hon Leon Dover, Den
Brooke, Hon Peter du Cann, Rt Hon Edward
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes) Dunn, Robert
Browne, John Durant, Tony
Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke) Kershaw, Sir Anthony
Eggar, Tim Key, Robert
Evennett, David King, Roger (B'ham N'field)
Eyre, Sir Reginald Knight, Gregory (Derby N)
Fairbaim, Nicholas Knight, Mrs Jill (Edgbaston)
Fallon, Michael Knowles, Michael
Farr, John Knox, David
Favell, Anthony Lamont, Norman
Fenner, Mrs Peggy Lang, Ian
Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey Latham, Michael
Fletcher, Alexander Lawler, Geoffrey
Fookes, Miss Janet Lawrence, Ivan
Forman, Nigel Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Lee, John (Pendle)
Forth, Eric Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Fox, Marcus Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)
Franks, Cecil Lightbown, David
Fraser, Peter (Angus East) Lilley, Peter
Freeman, Roger Lloyd, Ian (Havant)
Fry, Peter Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham)
Galley, Roy Lord, Michael
Gardiner, George (Reigate) Lyell, Nicholas
Garel-Jones, Tristan McCurley, Mrs Anna
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian Macfarlane, Neil
Glyn, Dr Alan MacGregor, John
Goodhart, Sir Philip MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)
Goodlad, Alastair MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)
Gorst, John Maclean, David John.
Gower, Sir Raymond McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)
Gregory, Conal McQuarrie, Albert
Griffiths, E. (B'y St Edm'ds) Madel, David
Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N) Major, John
Ground, Patrick Malins, Humfrey
Grylls, Michael Malone, Gerald
Gummer, John Selwyn Maples, John
Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom) Marland, Paul
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Marlow, Antony
Hampson, Dr Keith Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Hanley, Jeremy Mates, Michael
Hannam,John Maude, Francis
Harris, David Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Harvey, Robert Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Haselhurst, Alan Mayhew, Sir Patrick
Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael Mellor, David
Hawkins, C. (High Peak) Merchant, Piers
Hawkins, Sir Paul (SW N'folk) Meyer, Sir Anthony
Hawksley, Warren Miller, Hal (B'grove)
Hayhoe, Barney Mills, Iain (Meriden)
Hayward, Robert Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)
Heathcoat-Amory, David Miscampbell, Norman
Heddle, John Mitchell, David (NW Hants)
Henderson, Barry Moate, Roger
Hickmet, Richard Monro, Sir Hector
Hill, James Moore, John
Hind, Kenneth Morris, M. (N'hampton, S)
Hirst, Michael Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)
Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling) Moynihan, Hon C.
Holt, Richard Mudd, David
Hooson, Tom Murphy, Christopher
Hordern, Peter Neale, Gerrard
Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A) Needham, Richard
Howarth, Gerald (Cannock) Nelson, Anthony
Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'Idford) Neubert, Michael
Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk) Newton, Tony
Hubbard-Miles, Peter Nicholls, Patrick
Hunt, David (Wirral) Normanton, Tom
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Norris, Steven
Hunter, Andrew Onslow, Cranley
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Oppenheim, Philip
Irving, Charles Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.
Jackson, Robert Osborn, Sir John
Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick Ottaway, Richard
Jessel, Toby Page, John (Harrow W)
Johnson-Smith, Sir Geoffrey Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Parris, Matthew
Jones, Robert (W Herts) Patten, Christopher (Bath)
Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith Patten, John (Oxford)
Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine Pattie, Geoffrey
Pawsey, James Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Pink, R. Bonner Stewart, Ian (N Hertf'dshire)
Pollock, Alexander Stradling Thomas, J.
Porter, Barry Sumberg, David
Powell, William (Corby) Tapsell, Peter
Powley, John Taylor, John (Solihull)
Prentice, Rt Hon Reg Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Price, Sir David Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Prior, Rt Hon James Temple-Morris, Peter
Proctor, K. Harvey Terlezki, Stefan
Pym, Rt Hon Francis Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Raffan, Keith Thompson, Donald (Calder V)
Raison, Rt Hon Timothy Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
Rathbone, Tim Thorne, Neil (Ilford S)
Renton, Tim Thornton, Malcolm
Rhodes James, Robert Thurnham, Peter
Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas Townend, John (Bridlington)
Ridsdale, Sir Julian Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey Tracey, Richard
Roberts, Wyn (Conwy) Trippier, David
Robinson, Mark (N'port W) Trotter, Neville
Roe, Mrs Marion Twinn, Dr Ian
Rossi, Sir Hugh van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Rost, Peter Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Rowe, Andrew Viggers, Peter
Rumbold, Mrs Angela Waddington, David
Ryder, Richard Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Sackville, Hon Thomas Waldegrave, Hon William
Sainsbury, Hon Timothy Walden, George
St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N. Walker, Bill (T'side N)
Sayeed, Jonathan Wall, Sir Patrick
Scott, Nicholas Waller, Gary
Shaw, Giles (Pudsey) Walters, Dennis
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb') Ward, John
Shelton, William (Streatham) Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Warren, Kenneth
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge) Watson, John
Shersby, Michael Watts, John
Silvester, Fred Wells, Bowen (Hertford)
Sims, Roger Wells, John (Maidstone)
Skeet, T. H. H. Whitfield, John
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Whitney, Raymond
Soames, Hon Nicholas Wiggin, Jerry
Speed, Keith Winterton, Mrs Ann
Speller, Tony Winterton, Nicholas
Spence, John Wolfson, Mark
Spencer, D. Wood, Timothy
Spicer, Jim (W Dorset) Woodcock, Michael
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs) Yeo, Tim
Squire, Robin Young, Sir George (Acton)
Stanley, John
Steen, Anthony Tellers for the Noes:
Stern, Michael Mr. Carol Mather and
Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton) Mr. Robert Boscawen.
Stevens, Martin (Fulham)

Question accordingly negatived.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Housing Benefits Amendment (No. 2) Regulations 1984 (S.I., 1984, No. 104), dated 6th February 1984, a copy of which was laid before this House on 6th February, be annulled.—[Mr. Meacher.]

Question put:—

The House divided: Ayes 206, Noes 345.

Division No. 165] [10.25 pm
Adams, Allen (Paisley N) Beggs, Roy
Alton, David Beith, A. J.
Anderson, Donald Bell, Stuart
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh)
Ashdown, Paddy Bermingham, Gerald
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Bidwell, Sydney
Ashton, Joe Blair, Anthony
Atkinson, N. (Tottenham) Boyes, Roland
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Bray, Dr Jeremy
Barnett, Guy Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E)
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E) Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Bruce, Malcolm Kennedy, Charles
Buchan, Norman Kilroy-Silk, Robert
Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M) Kirkwood, Archibald
Campbell, Ian Lambie, David
Campbell-Savours, Dale Lamond, James
Canavan, Dennis Leadbitter, Ted
Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y) Leighton, Ronald
Carter-Jones, Lewis Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Cartwright, John Lewis, Terence (Worsley)
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Litherland, Robert
Clay, Robert Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.) Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Cohen, Harry Loyden, Edward
Coleman, Donald McCartney, Hugh
Concannon, Rt Hon J. D. McCusker, Harold
Conlan, Bernard McDonald, Dr Oonagh
Cook, Frank (Stockton North) McGuire, Michael
Cook, Robin F. (Livingston) McKelvey, William
Corbyn, Jeremy McNamara, Kevin
Cowans, Harry McTaggart, Robert
Craigen, J. M. McWilliam, John
Crowther, Stan Madden, Max
Dalyell, Tam Maginnis, Ken
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli) Marek, Dr John
Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly) Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l) Martin, Michael
Deakins, Eric Maxton, John
Dewar, Donald Meacher, Michael
Dixon, Donald Meadowcroft, Michael
Dobson, Frank Michie, William
Dormand, Jack Mikardo, Ian
Douglas, Dick Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Dubs, Alfred Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)
Duffy, A. E. P. Molyneaux, Rt Hon James
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G. Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Eadie, Alex Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Eastham, Ken Nellist, David
Ellis, Raymond Nicholson, J.
Evans, John (St. Helens N) Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Fatchett, Derek O'Brien, William
Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn) Park, George
Fisher, Mark Parry, Robert
Flannery, Martin Patchett, Terry
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Pavitt, Laurie
Forrester, John Penhaligon, David
Foster, Derek Pike, Peter
Foulkes, George Powell, Rt Hon J. E. (S Down)
Fraser, J. (Norwood) Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald Prescott, John
Freud, Clement Radice, Giles
Garrett, W. E. Randall, Stuart
George, Bruce Redmond, M.
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Rees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S)
Godman, Dr Norman Richardson, Ms Jo
Golding, John Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Gould, Bryan Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)
Gourlay, Harry Robertson, George
Hamilton, James (M'well N) Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)
Hardy, Peter Ross, Ernest (Dundee W)
Harman, Ms Harriet Ross, Wm. (Londonderry)
Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Rowlands, Ted
Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith Ryman, John
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Sedgemore, Brian
Heffer, Eric S. Sheerman, Barry
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth) Sheldon, Rt Hon R.
Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall) Silkin, Rt Hon J.
Home Robertson, John Skinner, Dennis
Howells, Geraint Smith, C.(Isl'ton S & F'bury)
Hoyle, Douglas Smith, Rt Hon J. (M'kl'ds E)
Hughes, Dr. Mark (Durham) Smyth, Rev W. M. (Belfast S)
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Snape, Peter
Hughes, Roy (Newport East) Soley, Clive
Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S) Spearing, Nigel
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Stott, Roger
Janner, Hon Greville Straw, Jack
Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Hillh'd) Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
John, Brynmor Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)
Johnston, Russell Thompson, J. (Wansbeck)
Thorne, Stan (Preston) Williams, Rt Hon A.
Tinn, James Wilson, Gordon
Torney, Tom Winnick, David
Walker, Cecil (Belfast N) Woodall, Alec
Wallace, James Wrigglesworth, Ian
Wardell, Gareth (Gower) Young, David (Bolton SE)
Wareing, Robert
Weetch, Ken Tellers for the Ayes:
Welsh, Michael Mr. James Hamilton and
White, James Mr. John McWilliam.
Wigley, Dafydd
Adley, Robert Corrie, John
Aitken, Jonathan Couchman, James
Alexander, Richard Cranborne, Viscount
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Crouch, David
Amess, David Currie, Mrs Edwina
Ancram, Michael Dickens, Geoffrey
Arnold, Tom Dicks, Terry
Ashby, David Dorrell, Stephen
Aspinwall, Jack Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.
Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H. Dover, Den
Atkins, Robert (South Ribble) du Cann, Rt Hon Edward
Atkinson, David (B'm'th E) Dunn, Robert
Baker, Kenneth (Mole Valley) Durant, Tony
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke)
Baldry, Anthony Eggar, Tim
Batiste, Spencer Evennett, David
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Eyre, Sir Reginald
Bellingham, Henry Fairbairn, Nicholas
Bendall, Vivian Fallon, Michael
Bennett, Sir Frederic (T'bay) Farr, John
Benyon, William Favell, Anthony
Berry, Sir Anthony Fenner, Mrs Peggy
Best, Keith Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey
Bevan, David Gilroy Fletcher, Alexander
Biffen, Rt Hon John Fookes, Miss Janet
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Forman, Nigel
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Body, Richard Forth, Eric
Boscawen, Hon Robert Fowler, Rt Hon Norman
Bottomley, Peter Fox, Marcus
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n) Franks, Cecil
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Fraser, Peter (Angus East)
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Freeman, Roger
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Fry, Peter
Bright, Graham Gale, Roger
Brinton, Tim Galley, Roy
Brittan, Rt Hon Leon Gardiner, George (Reigate)
Brooke, Hon Peter Garel-Jones, Tristan
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes) Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Browne, John Glyn, Dr Alan
Bruinvels, Peter Goodhart, Sir Philip
Bryan, Sir Paul Goodlad, Alastair
Buck, Sir Antony Gorst, John
Budgen, Nick Gower, Sir Raymond
Bulmer, Esmond Greenway, Harry
Butcher, John Gregory, Conal
Butler, Hon Adam Griffiths, E. (B'y St Edm'ds)
Butterfill, John Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)
Carlisle, John (N Luton) Grist, Ian
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Ground, Patrick
Carttiss, Michael Grylls, Michael
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Chapman, Sydney Hampson, Dr Keith
Chope, Christopher Hanley, Jeremy
Churchill, W. S. Hannam,John
Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n) Harris, David
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Harvey, Robert
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Haselhurst, Alan
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael
Clegg, Sir Walter Hawkins, C. (High Peak)
Cockeram, Eric Hawkins, Sir Paul (SW N'folk)
Colvin, Michael Hawksley, Warren
Conway, Derek Hayes, J.
Coombs, Simon Hayhoe, Barney
Cope, John Hayward, Robert
Cormack, Patrick Heathcoat-Amory, David
Heddle, John Miscampbell, Norman
Henderson, Barry Mitchell, David (NW Hants)
Hickmet, Richard Moate, Roger
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Monro, Sir Hector
Hill, James Moore, John
Hind, Kenneth Morris, M. (N'hampton, S)
Hirst, Michael Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)
Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling) Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)
Holt, Richard Moynihan, Hon C.
Hooson, Tom Mudd, David
Hordern, Peter Murphy, Christopher
Howard, Michael Neale, Gerrard
Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A) Needham, Richard
Howarth, Gerald (Cannock) Nelson, Anthony
Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'Idford) Newton, Tony
Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk) Nicholls, Patrick
Hubbard-Miles, Peter Normanton, Tom
Hunt, David (Wirral) Norris, Steven
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Onslow, Cranley
Hunter, Andrew Oppenheim, Philip
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.
Irving, Charles Osborn, Sir John
Jackson, Robert Ottaway, Richard
Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick Page, John (Harrow W)
Jessel, Toby Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil
Johnson-Smith, Sir Geoffrey Parris, Matthew
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Patten, Christopher (Bath)
Jones, Robert (W Herts) Patten, John (Oxford)
Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith Pattie, Geoffrey
Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine Pawsey, James
Key, Robert Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
King, Roger (B'ham N'field) Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Knight, Gregory (Derby N) Pink, R. Bonner
Knight, Mrs Jill (Edgbaston) Pollock, Alexander
Knowles, Michael Porter, Barry
Knox, David Powell, William (Corby)
Lamont, Norman Powley, John
Lang, Ian Prentice, Rt Hon Reg
Latham, Michael Price, Sir David
Lawler, Geoffrey Prior, Rt Hon James
Lawrence, Ivan Proctor, K. Harvey
Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel Pym, Rt Hon Francis
Lee, John (Pendle) Raffan, Keith
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh) Raison, Rt Hon Timothy
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Renton, Tim
Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd) Rhodes James, Robert
Lightbown, David Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Lilley, Peter Ridsdale, Sir Julian
Lloyd, Ian (Havant) Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham) Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Lord, Michael Robinson, Mark (N'port W)
Lyell, Nicholas Roe, Mrs Marion
McCurley, Mrs Anna Rossi, Sir Hugh
Macfarlane, Neil Rost, Peter
MacGregor, John Rowe, Andrew
MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire) Rumbold, Mrs Angela
MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute) Ryder, Richard
Maclean, David John. Sackville, Hon Thomas
McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st) Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
McQuarrie, Albert St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.
Madel, David Sayeed, Jonathan
Major, John Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Malins, Humfrey Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Malone, Gerald Shelton, William (Streatham)
Maples, John Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Marland, Paul Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Marlow, Antony Shersby, Michael
Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Silvester, Fred
Mates, Michael Sims, Roger
Mather, Carol Skeet, T. H. H.
Maude, Francis Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Mawhinney, Dr Brian Soames, Hon Nicholas
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Speed, Keith
Mayhew, Sir Patrick Speller, Tony
Mellor, David Spence, John
Merchant, Piers Spencer, D.
Meyer, Sir Anthony Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)
Miller, Hal (B'grove) Squire, Robin
Mills, Iain (Meriden) Stanley, John
Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon) Steen, Anthony
Stern, Michael Waddington, David
Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton) Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Stevens, Martin (Fulham) Waldegrave, Hon William
Stewart, Allan (Eastwood) Walden, George
Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood) Walker, Bill (T'side N)
Stewart, Ian (N Hertf'dshire) Wall, Sir Patrick
Stradling Thomas, J. Waller, Gary
Sumberg, David Walters, Dennis
Tapsell, Peter Ward, John
Taylor, John (Solihull) Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Taylor, Teddy (S'end E) Warren, Kenneth
Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman Watson, John
Temple-Morris, Peter Watts, John
Terlezki, Stefan Wells, Bowen (Hertford)
Thomas, Rt Hon Peter Wells, John (Maidstone)
Thompson, Donald (Calder V) Whitfield, John
Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N) Whitney, Raymond
Thorne, Neil (Ilford S) Wiggin, Jerry
Thornton, Malcolm Winterton, Mrs Ann
Thurnham, Peter Winterton, Nicholas
Townend, John (Bridlington) Wolfson, Mark
Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath) Wood, Timothy
Tracey, Richard Woodcock, Michael
Trippier, David Yeo, Tim
Trotter, Neville Young, Sir George (Acton)
Twinn, Dr Ian
van Straubenzee, Sir W. Tellers for the Noes:
Vaughan, Sir Gerard Mr. Carol Mather and
Viggers, Peter Mr. Robert Boscawen.

Question accordingly negatived.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Housing Benefits (Subsidy) Order 1984 (S.I., 1984, No. 110), dated 8th February 1984, a copy of which was laid before this House on 8th February, be annulled.—[Mr. Meacher]

Question put:—

The House divided: Ayes 204, Noes 348.

Division No. 166] [10.40 pm
Adams, Allen (Paisley N) Cook, Frank (Stockton North)
Alton, David Cook, Robin F. (Livingston)
Anderson, Donald Corbett, Robin
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Corbyn, Jeremy
Ashdown, Paddy Cowans, Harry
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Craigen, J. M.
Ashton, Joe Crowther, Stan
Atkinson, N. (Tottenham) Cunningham, Dr John
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Dalyell, Tam
Barnett, Guy Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli)
Beckett, Mrs Margaret Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly)
Beggs, Roy Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l)
Beith, A. J. Deakins, Eric
Bell, Stuart Dewar, Donald
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh) Dixon, Donald
Bermingham, Gerald Dobson, Frank
Bidwell, Sydney Dormand, Jack
Blair, Anthony Douglas, Dick
Boyes, Roland Dubs, Alfred
Bray, Dr Jeremy Duffy, A. E. P.
Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E) Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Eadie, Alex
Bruce, Malcolm Eastham, Ken
Buchan, Norman Ellis, Raymond
Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M) Evans, John (St. Helens N)
Campbell, Ian Fatchett, Derek
Campbell-Savours, Dale Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Canavan, Dennis Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn)
Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y) Fisher, Mark
Carter-Jones, Lewis Flannery, Martin
Cartwright, John Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Forrester, John
Clay, Robert Foster, Derek
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.) Foulkes, George
Cohen, Harry Fraser, J. (Norwood)
Coleman, Donald Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald
Concannon, Rt Hon J. D. Freud, Clement
Conlan, Bernard Garrett, W. E.
George, Bruce Nellist, David
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Nicholson, J.
Godman, Dr Norman Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Golding, John O'Brien, William
Gould, Bryan Park, George
Gourlay, Harry Parry, Robert
Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife) Patchett, Terry
Hardy, Peter Pavitt, Laurie
Harman, Ms Harriet Penhaligon, David
Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Pike, Peter
Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith Powell, Rt Hon J. E. (S Down)
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Haynes, Frank Prescott, John
Heffer, Eric S. Radice, Giles
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth) Randall, Stuart
Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall) Redmond, M.
Home Robertson, John Rees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S)
Howells, Geraint Richardson, Ms Jo
Hoyle, Douglas Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Hughes, Dr. Mark (Durham) Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Robertson, George
Hughes, Roy (Newport East) Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)
Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S) Rooker, J. W.
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Ross, Ernest (Dundee W)
Janner, Hon Greville Ross, Wm. (Londonderry)
Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Hillh'd) Rowlands, Ted
John, Brynmor Ryman, John
Johnston, Russell Sedgemore, Brian
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside) Sheerman, Barry
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Sheldon, Rt Hon R.
Kennedy, Charles Short, Mrs R. (W'hampt'n NE)
Kilroy-Silk, Robert Silkin, Rt Hon J.
Kirkwood, Archibald Skinner, Dennis
Lambie, David Smith, C. (Isl'ton S & F'bury)
Lamond, James Smith, Rt Hon J. (M'kl'ds E)
Leadbitter, Ted Smyth, Rev W. M. (Belfast S)
Leighton, Ronald Snape, Peter
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Soley, Clive
Lewis, Terence (Worsley) Spearing, Nigel
Litherland, Robert Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Stott, Roger
Lofthouse, Geoffrey Straw, Jack
Loyden, Edward Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
McCartney, Hugh Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)
McCusker, Harold Thompson, J. (Wansbeck)
McDonald, Dr Oonagh Thorne, Stan (Preston)
McGuire, Michael Tinn, James
McKay, Allen (Penistone) Torney, Tom
McKelvey, William Walker, Cecil (Belfast N)
McNamara, Kevin Wallace, James
McTaggart, Robert Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Madden, Max Wareing, Robert
Maginnis, Ken Weetch, Ken
Marek, Dr John Welsh, Michael
Marshall, David (Shettleston) White, James
Martin, Michael Wigley, Dafydd
Maxton, John Williams, Rt Hon A.
Meacher, Michael Wilson, Gordon
Meadowcroft, Michael Winnick, David
Michie, William Woodall, Alec
Mikardo, Ian Wrigglesworth, Ian
Millan, Rt Hon Bruce Young, David (Bolton SE)
Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)
Molyneaux, Rt Hon James Tellers for the Ayes:
Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe) Mr. James Hamilton and
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Mr. John McWilliam
Adley, Robert Baker, Kenneth (Mole Valley)
Aitken, Jonathan Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)
Alexander, Richard Baldry, Anthony
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Batiste, Spencer
Amess, David Beaumont-Dark, Anthony
Ancram, Michael Bendall, Vivian
Arnold, Tom Bennett, Sir Frederic (T'bay)
Ashby, David Benyon, William
Aspinwall, Jack Berry, Sir Anthony
Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H. Best, Keith
Atkins, Robert (South Ribble) Bevan, David Gilroy
Atkinson, David (B'm'th E) Biffen, Rt Hon John
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Glyn, Dr Alan
Body, Richard Goodhart, Sir Philip
Boscawen, Hon Robert Goodlad, Alastair
Bottomley, Peter Gorst, John
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n) Gower, Sir Raymond
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Greenway, Harry
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Gregory, Conal
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Griffiths, E. (B'y St Edm'ds)
Bright, Graham Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)
Brinton, Tim Grist, Ian
Brittan, Rt Hon Leon Ground, Patrick
Brooke, Hon Peter Grylls, Michael
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes) Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)
Browne, John Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Bruinvels, Peter Hampson, Dr Keith
Bryan, Sir Paul Hanley, Jeremy
Buck, Sir Antony Hannam, John
Budgen, Nick Harris, David
Bulmer, Esmond Harvey, Robert
Butcher, John Haselhurst, Alan
Butler, Hon Adam Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael
Butterfill, John Hawkins, C. (High Peak)
Carlisle, John (N Luton) Hawkins, Sir Paul (SW N'folk)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Hawksley, Warren
Carttiss, Michael Hayes, J.
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Hayhoe, Barney
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Hayward, Robert
Chapman, Sydney Heathcoat-Amory, David
Chope, Christopher Heddle, John
Churchill, W. S. Henderson, Barry
Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n) Hickmet, Richard
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Hill, James
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Hind, Kenneth
Clegg, Sir Walter Hirst, Michael
Cockeram, Eric Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling)
Colvin, Michael Holt, Richard
Conway, Derek Hooson, Tom
Coombs, Simon Hordern, Peter
Cope, John Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)
Cormack, Patrick Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)
Corrie, John Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'Idford)
Couchman, James Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk)
Cranborne, Viscount Hubbard-Miles, Peter
Crouch, David Hunt, David (Wirral)
Currie, Mrs Edwina Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Dickens, Geoffrey Hunter, Andrew
Dicks, Terry Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Dorrell, Stephen Irving, Charles
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J. Jackson, Robert
Dover, Den Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick
du Cann, Rt Hon Edward Jessel, Toby
Dunn, Robert Johnson-Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Durant, Tony Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke) Jones, Robert (W Herts)
Eggar, Tim Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith
Evennett, David Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine
Eyre, Sir Reginald Kershaw, Sir Anthony
Fairbairn, Nicholas Key, Robert
Fallon, Michael King, Roger (B'ham N'field)
Farr, John Knight, Gregory (Derby N)
Favell, Anthony Knight, Mrs Jill (Edgbaston)
Fenner, Mrs Peggy Knowles, Michael
Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey Knox, David
Fletcher, Alexander Lamont, Norman
Fookes, Miss Janet Lang, Ian
Forman, Nigel Latham, Michael
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Lawler, Geoffrey
Forth, Eric Lawrence, Ivan
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel
Fox, Marcus Lee, John (Pendle)
Franks, Cecil Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Fraser, Peter (Angus East) Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Freeman, Roger Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)
Fry, Peter Lightbown, David
Gale, Roger Lilley, Peter
Galley, Roy Lloyd, Ian (Havant)
Gardiner, George (Reigate) Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham)
Garel-Jones, Tristan Lord, Michael
Lyell, Nicholas Robinson, Mark (N'port W)
McCurley, Mrs Anna Roe, Mrs Marion
Macfarlane, Neil Rossi, Sir Hugh
MacGregor, John Rost, Peter
MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire) Rowe, Andrew
MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute) Rumbold, Mrs Angela
Maclean, David John. Ryder, Richard
McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st) Sackville, Hon Thomas
McQuarrie, Albert Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Madel, David St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.
Major, John Sayeed, Jonathan
Malins, Humfrey Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Malone, Gerald Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Maples, John Shelton, William (Streatham)
Marland, Paul Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Marlow, Antony Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Shersby, Michael
Mates, Michael Silvester, Fred
Mather, Carol Sims, Roger
Maude, Francis Skeet, T. H. H.
Mawhinney, Dr Brian Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Soames, Hon Nicholas
Mayhew, Sir Patrick Speed, Keith
Mellor, David Speller, Tony
Merchant, Piers Spence, John
Meyer, Sir Anthony Spencer, D.
Miller, Hal (B'grove) Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)
Mills, Iain (Meriden) Squire, Robin
Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon) Stanley, John
Miscampbell, Norman Steen, Anthony
Mitchell, David (NW Hants) Stern, Michael
Moate, Roger Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)
Monro, Sir Hector Stevens, Martin (Fulham)
Moore, John Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Morris, M. (N'hampton, S) Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes) Stewart, Ian (N Hertf'dshire)
Morrison, Hon P. (Chester) Stradling Thomas, J.
Moynihan, Hon C. Sumberg, David
Mudd, David Tapsell, Peter
Murphy, Christopher Taylor, John (Solihull)
Neale, Gerrard Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Needham, Richard Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Nelson, Anthony Temple-Morris, Peter
Newton, Tony Terlezki, Stefan
Nicholls, Patrick Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Normanton, Tom Thompson, Donald (Calder V)
Norris, Steven Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
Onslow, Cranley Thorne, Neil (Ilford S)
Oppenheim, Philip Thornton, Malcolm
Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S. Thurnham, Peter
Osborn, Sir John Townend, John (Bridlington)
Ottaway, Richard Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Page, John (Harrow W) Tracey, Richard
Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil Trippier, David
Parris, Matthew Trotter, Neville
Patten, Christopher (Bath) Twinn, Dr Ian
Patten, John (Oxford) van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Pattie, Geoffrey Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Pawsey, James Viggers, Peter
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Waddington, David
Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Pink, R. Bonner Waldegrave, Hon William
Pollock, Alexander Walden, George
Porter, Barry Walker, Bill (T'side N)
Powell, William (Corby) Wall, Sir Patrick
Powley, John Waller, Gary
Prentice, Rt Hon Reg Walters, Dennis
Price, Sir David Ward, John
Prior, Rt Hon James Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Proctor, K. Harvey Warren, Kenneth
Pym, Rt Hon Francis Watson, John
Raffan, Keith Watts, John
Raison, Rt Hon Timothy Wells, Bowen (Hertford)
Rathbone, Tim Wells, John (Maidstone)
Renton, Tim Whitfield, John
Rhodes James, Robert Whitney, Raymond
Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas Wiggin, Jerry
Ridsdale, Sir Julian Winterton, Mrs Ann
Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey Winterton, Nicholas
Roberts, Wyn (Conwy) Wolfson, Mark
Wood, Timothy
Woodcock, Michael Tellers for the Noes:
Yeo, Tim Mr. Douglas Hogg and
Young, Sir George (Acton) Mr. Michael Neubert.

Question accordingly negatived.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Housing Benefits (Rate Support Grant) Order 1984 (S.I., 1984, No. 111), dated 8th February 1984, a copy of which was laid before this House on 8th February, be annulled.—[Mr. Meacher.]

Question put:—

The House divided: Ayes 196, Noes 348.

Division No. 167] [10.55 pm
Adams, Allen (Paisley N) Ellis, Raymond
Alton, David Evans, John (St. Helens N)
Anderson, Donald Fatchett, Derek
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Ashdown, Paddy Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn)
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Fisher, Mark
Ashton, Joe Flannery, Martin
Atkinson, N. (Tottenham) Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Forrester, John
Barnett, Guy Foster, Derek
Beckett, Mrs Margaret Foulkes, George
Beggs, Roy Fraser, J. (Norwood)
Beith, A. J. Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald
Bell, Stuart Freud, Clement
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh) George, Bruce
Bermingham, Gerald Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Bidwell, Sydney Godman, Dr Norman
Blair, Anthony Golding, John
Boyes, Roland Gould, Bryan
Bray, Dr Jeremy Gourlay, Harry
Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E) Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Hardy, Peter
Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E) Harman, Ms Harriet
Bruce, Malcolm Harrison, Rt Hon Walter
Buchan, Norman Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith
Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M) Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Campbell, Ian Haynes, Frank
Campbell-Savours, Dale Heffer, Eric S.
Canavan, Dennis Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y) Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall)
Carter-Jones, Lewis Home Robertson, John
Cartwright, John Howells, Geraint
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Hoyle, Douglas
Clay, Robert Hughes, Dr. Mark (Durham)
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.) Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Cohen, Harry Hughes, Roy (Newport East)
Coleman, Donald Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)
Concannon, Rt Hon J. D. Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Conlan, Bernard Janner, Hon Greville
Cook, Frank (Stockton North) Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Hillh'd)
Cook, Robin F. (Livingston) John, Brynmor
Corbett, Robin Johnston, Russell
Corbyn, Jeremy Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Cowans, Harry Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Craigen, J. M. Kennedy, Charles
Crowther, Stan Kilroy-Silk, Robert
Cunningham, Dr John Kirkwood, Archibald
Dalyell, Tam Lambie, David
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli) Lamond, James
Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly) Leadbitter, Ted
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l) Leighton, Ronald
Deakins, Eric Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Dewar, Donald Lewis, Terence (Worsley)
Dixon, Donald Litherland, Robert
Dobson, Frank Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Dormand, Jack Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Douglas, Dick Loyden, Edward
Dubs, Alfred McCartney, Hugh
Duffy, A. E. P. McCusker, Harold
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G. McDonald, Dr Oonagh
Eadie, Alex McGuire, Michael
Eastham, Ken McKay, Allen (Penistone)
McKelvey, William Ross, Ernest (Dundee W)
McNamara, Kevin Ross, Wm. (Londonderry)
McTaggart, Robert Rowlands, Ted
Madden, Max Ryman, John
Maginnis, Ken Sedgemore, Brian
Marek, Dr John Sheerman, Barry
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Sheldon, Rt Hon R.
Martin, Michael Short, Mrs R. (W'hampt'n NE)
Mason, Rt Hon Roy Silkin, Rt Hon J.
Maxton, John Skinner, Dennis
Meacher, Michael Smith, C. (Isl'ton S & F'bury)
Meadowcroft, Michael Smith, Rt Hon J. (M'kl'ds E)
Michie, William Smyth, Rev W. M. (Belfast S)
Mikardo, Ian Snape, Peter
Millan, Rt Hon Bruce Soley, Clive
Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby) Spearing, Nigel
Molyneaux, Rt Hon James Stewart, Ian (N Hertf'dshire)
Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe) Stott, Roger
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Straw, Jack
Nellist, David Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Nicholson, J. Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Thompson, J. (Wansbeck)
O'Brien, William Thorne, Stan (Preston)
Park, George Tinn, James
Parry, Robert Torney, Tom
Patchett, Terry Walker, Cecil (Belfast N)
Pavitt, Laurie Wallace, James
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Penhaligon, David Wareing, Robert
Pike, Peter Weetch, Ken
Powell, Rt Hon J. E. (S Down) Welsh, Michael
Powell, Raymond (Ogmore) White, James
Prescott, John Wigley, Dafydd
Radice, Giles Williams, Rt Hon A.
Randall, Stuart Wilson, Gordon
Redmond, M. Winnick, David
Rees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S) Woodall, Alec
Richardson, Ms Jo Wrigglesworth, Ian
Roberts, Allan (Bootle) Young, David (Bolton SE)
Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)
Robertson, George Tellers for the Ayes:
Robinson, G. (Coventry NW) Mr. Frank Haynes and
Rooker, J. W, Mr. Allen McKay.
Adley, Robert Brittan, Rt Hon Leon
Aitken, Jonathan Brooke, Hon Peter
Alexander, Richard Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes)
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Browne, John
Amess, David Bruinvels, Peter
Ancram, Michael Bryan, Sir Paul
Arnold, Tom Buck, Sir Antony
Ashby, David Budgen, Nick
Aspinwall, Jack Bulmer, Esmond
Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H. Butcher, John
Atkins, Robert (South Ribble) Butler, Hon Adam
Atkinson, David (B'm'th E) Butterfill, John
Baker, Kenneth, (Mole Valley) Carlisle, John (N Luton)
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Baldry, Anthony Carttiss, Michael
Batiste, Spencer Chalker, Mrs Lynda
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Channon, Rt Hon Paul
Bellingham, Henry Chapman, Sydney
Bendall, Vivian Chope, Christopher
Bennett, Sir Frederic (T'bay) Churchill, W. S.
Benyon, William Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n)
Berry, Sir Anthony Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Best, Keith Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)
Bevan, David Gilroy Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)
Biffen, Rt Hon John Clegg, Sir Walter
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Cockeram, Eric
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Colvin, Michael
Body, Richard Conway, Derek
Bottomley, Peter Coombs, Simon
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n) Cope, John
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Cormack, Patrick
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Corrie, John
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Couchman, James
Bright, Graham Cranbome, Viscount
Brinton, Tim Crouch, David
Currie, Mrs Edwina Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Dickens, Geoffrey Hunter, Andrew
Dicks, Terry Irving, Charles
Dorrell, Stephen Jackson, Robert
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J. Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick
Dover, Den Jessel, Toby
du Cann, Rt Hon Edward Johnson-Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Dunn, Robert Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Durant, Tony Jones, Robert (W Herts)
Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke) Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith
Eggar, Tim Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine
Evennett, David Kershaw, Sir Anthony
Eyre, Sir Reginald Key, Robert
Fairbairn, Nicholas King, Roger (B'ham N'field)
Fallon, Michael Knight, Gregory (Derby N)
Farr, John Knight, Mrs Jill (Edgbaston)
Favell, Anthony Knowles, Michael
Fenner, Mrs Peggy Knox, David
Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey Lamont, Norman
Fletcher, Alexander Lang, Ian
Fookes, Miss Janet Latham, Michael
Forman, Nigel Lawler, Geoffrey
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Lawrence, Ivan
Forth, Eric Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman Lee, John (Pendle)
Fox, Marcus Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Franks, Cecil Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Fraser, Peter (Angus East) Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)
Freeman, Roger Lightbown, David
Fry, Peter Lilley, Peter
Gale, Roger Lloyd, Ian (Havant)
Galley, Roy Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham)
Gardiner, George (Reigate) Lord, Michael
Garel-Jones, Tristan Lyell, Nicholas
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian McCurley, Mrs Anna
Glyn, Dr Alan Macfarlane, Neil
Goodhart, Sir Philip MacGregor, John
Goodlad, Alastair MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)
Gorst, John MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)
Gower, Sir Raymond Maclean, David John.
Greenway, Harry McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)
Gregory, Conal McQuarrie, Albert
Griffiths, E. (B'y St Edm'ds) Madel, David
Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N) Major, John
Ground, Patrick Malins, Humfrey
Grylls, Michael Malone, Gerald
Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom) Maples, John
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Marland, Paul
Hampson, Dr Keith Marlow, Antony
Hanley, Jeremy Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Hannam,John Mates, Michael
Harris, David Maude, Hon. Francis
Harvey, Robert Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Haselhurst, Alan Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael Mayhew, Sir Patrick
Hawkins, C. (High Peak) Mellor, David
Hawkins, Sir Paul (SW N'folk) Merchant, Piers
Hawksley, Warren Meyer, Sir Anthony
Hayes, J. Miller, Hal (B'grove)
Hayhoe, Barney Mills, Iain (Meriden)
Hayward, Robert Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)
Heathcoat-Amory, David Miscampbell, Norman
Heddle, John Mitchell, David (NW Hants)
Henderson, Barry Moate, Roger
Hickmet, Richard Monro, Sir Hector
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Moore, John
Hill, James Morris, M. (N'hampton, S)
Hind, Kenneth Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)
Hirst, Michael Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Moynihan, Hon C.
Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling) Mudd, David
Holt, Richard Murphy, Christopher
Hooson, Tom Neale, Gerrard
Hordern, Peter Needham, Richard
Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A) Nelson, Anthony
Howarth, Gerald (Cannock) Neubert, Michael
Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'Idford) Newton, Tony
Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk) Nicholls, Patrick
Hubbard-Miles, Peter Normanton, Tom
Hunt, David (Wirral) Norris, Steven
Onslow, Cranley Shelton, William (Streatham)
Oppenheim, Philip Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S. Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Osborn, Sir John Shersby, Michael
Ottaway, Richard Silvester, Fred
Page, John (Harrow W) Sims, Roger
Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil Skeet, T. H. H.
Parris, Matthew Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Patten, Christopher (Bath) Soames, Hon Nicholas
Patten, John (Oxford) Speed, Keith
Pattie, Geoffrey Speller, Tony
Pawsey, James Spence, John
Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian Spencer, D.
Pink, R. Bonner Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)
Pollock, Alexander Squire, Robin
Powell, William (Corby) Stanley, John
Powley, John Steen, Anthony
Prentice, Rt Hon Reg Stern, Michael
Price, Sir David Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)
Prior, Rt Hon James Stevens, Martin (Fulham)
Proctor, K. Harvey Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Pym, Rt Hon Francis Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Raffan, Keith Stewart, Ian (N Hertf'dshire)
Raison, Rt Hon Timothy Stradling Thomas, J.
Rathbone, Tim Sumberg, David
Renton, Tim Tapsell, Peter
Rhodes James, Robert Taylor, John (Solihull)
Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Ridsdale, Sir Julian Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey Temple-Morris, Peter
Roberts, Wyn (Conwy) Terlezki, Stefan
Robinson, Mark (N'port W) Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Roe, Mrs Marion Thompson, Donald (Calder V)
Rossi, Sir Hugh Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
Rost, Peter Thorne, Neil (Ilford S)
Rowe, Andrew Thornton, Malcolm
Rumbold, Mrs Angela Thumham, Peter
Ryder, Richard Townend, John (Bridlington)
Sackville, Hon Thomas Townsend. Cyril D. (B'heath)
Sainsbury, Hon Timothy Tracey, Richard
St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N. Trippier, David
Sayeed, Jonathan Trotter, Neville
Shaw, Giles (Pudsey) Twinn, Dr Ian
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb') van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Vaughan, Sir Gerard Wells, John (Maidstone)
Viggers, Peter Whitfield, John
Waddington, David Whitney, Raymond
Wakeham, Rt Hon John Wiggin, Jerry
Waldegrave, Hon William Winterton, Mrs Ann
Walden, George Winterton, Nicholas
Walker, Bill (T'side N) Wolfson, Mark
Wall, Sir Patrick Wood, Timothy
Waller, Gary Woodcock, Michael
Walters, Dennis Yeo, Tim
Ward, John Young, Sir George (Acton)
Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Warren, Kenneth Tellers for the Noes:
Watson, John Mr. Douglas Hogg and
Watts, John Mr. Michael Neubert.
Wells, Bowen (Hertford)

Question accordingly negatived.

    1. c236
    2. MEDICINES 42 words
    3. c236
    4. ECCLESIASTICAL LAW 44 words