HC Deb 02 May 1984 vol 59 cc440-3


That, at this day's sitting, the Health and Social Security Bill may be proceeded with, though opposed, until any hour.—[Mr. Sainsbury.]

Question again proposed, That the clause be read a Second time.

Dr. Boyson

Perhaps I may continue into the second house on this. In November 1978, short-term supplementary benefit was £23.25 for a couple. Indexed for inflation, that would have been £41.26 in November 1983. We had in fact increased it to £43.50. The long-term rate was £31.55 in 1978. Indexed for inflation, it would have been £51.55 in 1983, but it was in fact £54.55. No one can say that the Government have done nothing. In tight circumstances, we have done all that we possibly could.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Does the Minister agree that one of the justifications for dropping the threshold to the age of 60 was that the Government believed that people over that age were unlikely to find work? Now that there is clear evidence that in many parts of the country people over 50 or 55 are unlikely to find work, should not a similar argument prevail?

Dr. Boyson

The hon. Gentleman is quite right. The 60 to 65s were given priority because of their difficulty in finding work. Within the funds available, we made them a priority. I do not disagree with the hon. Gentleman on that.

In conclusion, priorities must be set within the total £37 billion social security budget, although we are spending 27 per cent. more in real terms than when we came to office. We cannot accept the intention of the new clause. I therefore ask my right hon. and hon. Friends to vote against it.

Mrs. Beckett

I shall reply briefly to some of the points made by the Minister. As is all too often the case with the Government, the Minister spent a considerable time talking about what happened under the Labour Government, going back even further than usual.

The Minister will not deny that over the years we have sought consistently to improve the social security system. No doubt in later debates today he or his colleagues will put the same argument on other issues, pointing out that the Labour Government did not make such and such an improvement X years ago. He should understand that we made improvements then and we seek further improvements now.

The Minister referred to 1966. He must recognise that under the Government unemployment is unfortunately on a scale not seen in this country for many decades, certainly much further back than 1966. There is also a sense of hopelessness about future employment prospects that this country has not known for a very long time. It is, therefore, somewhat invidious to compare present circumstances with those in 1966.

The Minister pointed our that the Government had increased spending on the overall budget by 27 per cent. in real terms. We recognise that, but we also recognise that that is not because the Government are overflowing with the milk of human kindness, wishing to rush around handing out money right, left and centre, but because, due to the Government's disastrous economic policies, so many people have lost all other means of support and have no choice but to become dependent on social security.

I hope—although I must admit it is a faint hope—that I shall not have to make my next point again tonight. As the Minister knows only too well, the overwhelming differences between the economic difficulties faced by this Government and those faced by the previous Labour Government, and is not only that many of them are of this Government's own making but that throughout their period in office they have enjoyed £10,000 million to £14,000 million per year in income from the North sea. If the Labour Government had enjoyed such an income, and certainly if we had enjoyed such an income before the Prime Minister had had a chance to wreak such damage on the British economy, we would have transformed the social security system, and we would not be facing this debate.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 48, Noes 165.

Division No. 272] [10.5 pm
Atkinson, N. (Tottenham) Corbyn, Jeremy
Beckett, Mrs Margaret Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'I)
Bermingham, Gerald Dewar, Donald
Campbell-Savours, Dale Dobson, Frank
Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y) Dubs, Alfred
Carter-Jones, Lewis Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.) Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Cohen, Harry Fisher, Mark
Corbett, Robin Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald
Freud, Clement Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)
Garrett, W. E. Short, Mrs R.(W'hampt'n NE)
Gould, Bryan Skinner, Dennis
Harman, Ms Harriet Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth) Stott, Roger
Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall) Thompson, J. (Wansbeck)
Howells, Geraint Wallace, James
Kennedy, Charles Wareing, Robert
Kirkwood, Archibald Wigley, Dafydd
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Williams, Rt Hon A.
Marek, Dr John Wilson, Gordon
Meacher, Michael Winnick, David
Meadowcroft, Michael Young, David (Bolton SE)
Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Tellers for the Ayes:
Nellist, David Mr. Frank Haynes and
Pike, Peter Mr. Jack Dormand.
Alexander, Richard Grant, Sir Anthony
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Greenway, Harry
Amess, David Gummer, John Selwyn
Ancram, Michael Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)
Arnold, Tom Hawkins, C. (High Peak)
Ashby, David Hayhoe, Barney
Aspinwall, Jack Hickmet, Richard
Atkins, Robert (South Ribble) Hirst, Michael
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Holt, Richard
Batiste, Spencer Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)
Bellingham, Henry Irving, Charles
Bendall, Vivian Jackson, Robert
Bennett, Sir Frederic (T'bay) King, Rt Hon Tom
Benyon, William Knight, Mrs Jill (Edgbaston)
Berry, Sir Anthony Lang, Ian
Biffen, Rt Hon John Lester, Jim
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)
Body, Richard Lilley, Peter
Boscawen, Hon Robert Lloyd, Ian (Havant)
Bottomley, Peter Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham)
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n) Lord, Michael
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Luce, Richard
Braine, Sir Bernard Lyell, Nicholas
Brandon-Bravo, Martin McCurley, Mrs Anna
Bright, Graham Macfarlane, Neil
Brinton, Tim MacGregor, John
Brooke, Hon Peter Maclean, David John
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes) Malins, Humfrey
Buck, Sir Antony Marland, Paul
Burt, Alistair Mather, Carol
Butterfill, John Maude, Hon Francis
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Chapman, Sydney Mayhew, Sir Patrick
Chope, Christopher Mellor, David
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Meyer, Sir Anthony
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Miller, Hal (B'grove)
Cockeram, Eric Mills, lain (Meriden)
Colvin, Michael Mitchell, David (NW Hants)
Conway, Derek Moynihan, Hon C.
Coombs, Simon Murphy, Christopher
Cope, John Neubert, Michael
Couchman, James Newton, Tony
Cranborne, Viscount Nicholls, Patrick
Currie, Mrs Edwina Norris, Steven
Dorrell, Stephen Onslow, Cranley
Dover, Den Osborn, Sir John
Dunn, Robert Ottaway, Richard
Evennett, David Page, John (Harrow W)
Fallon, Michael Page, Richard (Herts SW)
Favell, Anthony Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Fookes, Miss Janet Powell, William (Corby)
Forth, Eric Powley, John
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman Prentice, Rt Hon Reg
Fox, Marcus Price, Sir David
Gale, Roger Proctor, K. Harvey
Garel-Jones, Tristan Rhodes James, Robert
Glyn, Dr Alan Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Goodhart, Sir Philip Robinson, Mark (N'port W)
Goodlad, Alastair Roe, Mrs Marion
Gorst, John Rowe, Andrew
Gower, Sir Raymond Ryder, Richard
Sackville, Hon Thomas Trotter, Neville
Sainsbury, Hon Timothy Twinn, Dr Ian
St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N. van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb') Viggers, Peter
Shelton, William (Streatham) Waddington, David
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Soames, Hon Nicholas Walden, George
Speed, Keith Waller, Gary
Speller, Tony Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Spencer, Derek Wells, John (Maidstone)
Squire, Robin Wheeler, John
Stanbrook, Ivor Whitfield, John
Stern, Michael Wilkinson, John
Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton) Winterton, Mrs Ann
Stevens, Martin (Fulham) Winterton, Nicholas
Stewart, Allan (Eastwood) Wolfson, Mark
Stradling Thomas, J. Wood, Timothy
Taylor, Teddy (S'end E) Woodcock, Michael
Thompson, Donald (Calder V) Young, Sir George (Acton)
Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
Thorne, Neil (llford S) Tellers for the Noes:
Thurnham, Peter Mr. Douglas Hogg and
Tracey, Richard Mr. John Major.

Question accordingly negatived.

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