HC Deb 21 May 1984 vol 60 cc775-94 10.13 pm
Mr. Michael Meacher (Oldham, West)

I beg to move, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Social Security (Adjudication) Regulations 1984 (S.I., 1984, No. 451), dated 26th March 1984, a copy of which was laid before this House on 2nd April, be annulled.

The regulations put into effect the provisions of schedule 8 to the Health and Social Services and Social Security Adjudications Act 1983 for creating a unified social security and supplementary benefit appeals system. The Opposition have tabled this prayer because the whole area of social security adjudications is riddled with serious issues of injustice which will by no means be resolved by the regulations and will in some important ways be made worse.

We regret that organisations with direct experience of adjudication were not consulted before the regulations were published in their final form. The Secretary of State and the Council on Tribunals refused to allow outside organisations to see the regulations in draft form which is, of course, as hon. Members know, when influence can be genuinely exerted. Therefore, our first complaint is that we deplore this unnecessary and undesirable secrecy in decision making.

Indeed, the BMA has indicated that the Minister concerned admitted that, had not the opportunity for enabling legislation been presented by the existence of this "miscellaneous provisions" Health and Social Services and Social Security Adjudications Bill, there would have been more consultation, and furthermore that the proroguing of the last Parliament curtailed anticipated debate. Senator Goldwater would no doubt say in such circumstances that that is really not the way to run a railroad. In our view, it is quite wrong that proper debate and consultation should be pre-empted by such accidental contingencies. That is one reason why we insist on a full debate tonight.

On the main substance of the regulations, we very much doubt whether either national insurance tribunal members or supplementary benefit tribunal members are yet in a position to cope properly with the amalgamation of the two systems. The truth is that there is, on the one side—I am sure that hon. Members will fully bear this out—a terrifying complexity to the supplementary benefit regulations. Indeed, the Minister is wont to put very large volumes before the House with, I think, 43 pages of indices, just to impress on us how complex they are. On the other side, there is a daunting plethora of legislation, covering the whole range of other benefits, alongside supplementary benefit and family income supplement.

Given that, the present position on training is clearly unsatisfactory. At present, tribunal members receive only a few days' training on benefits, and even that can take place after they have begun to sit on tribunals. So my first question is what extra training is being given to tribunal members to ensure not only that the present inadequate standards are substantially improved but that they can successfully manage the huge complexity of the extra duties being imposed on them by the regulations? What ongoing training is to be provided to ensure that they keep up with what the House, even under this Government, ensures is a welter of changes in legislation, and social security commissioners' decisions?

There is another very disturbing aspect. It appears that the DHSS is sanctioning a limitation of access to primary legislation to the chairperson only. I understand that tribunal members have recently been told that they will not be issued with the supplementary benefit legislation, because the "chairperson will have it". That was the reason given. Is this, then, another cut, whereby the law relating to supplementary benefit and family income supplement, the so-called Yellow Book, and the law relating to all other social security benefits, the so-called Brown Books, are not made available to tribunal members? If so, how can tribunal members reach informed decisions without the legislation? That is an important question if we expect them to carry out their duties.

This is not a minor issue but an important principle, that other members of the tribunal are of equal status with the chairperson as adjudicators. It is surely vital that they retain the capability, based on informed knowledge, to outvote the chairperson if they so choose. I hope that the Minister agrees with that and that he will resolve the problem.

A third objection to the regulations is that they appear to consolidate a two-tier quality of decision making. Under section 100 of the Social Security Act 1975, the duty of insurance officers is to give written notice of their decision and the reasons for it". I stress the words and the reasons for it". A supplementary benefit officer, while being obliged to give a written decision, has been under no obligation to give reasons for it. Under regulation 68(6), a supplementary benefit claimant has the right to a statement of the reasons", but only if he or she applies for it within 28 days of a decision.

Why the distinction? Why is there not a requirement to provide a statement in each case? Supplementary benefit officers are notorious for reaching wrong decisions. A duty to give reasons for a decision would oblige adjudicators to show that their decision is in accordance with the relevant statutory provisions. Supplementary benefit tribunals have always been the slums of the English tribunal system. It is time that that distinction was removed.

Our fourth complaint involves another aspect of petty-minded cost saving which will worsen the adjudication process. The regulations permit a single adjudicating medical practitioner, rather than two doctors, to assess applicants for various social security and disablement benefits. I have no doubt that another cheese-paring exercise is involved, since it is difficult to find another reason. It will not work because it is a false economy. A claimant is more likely to appeal against a decision when one doctor rather than two is involved. There will be good reasons for appeals since an error of judgment is more likely when one doctor makes an assessment of the cause and degree of disablement. I hope that the Minister will reconsider.

How will the Secretary of State exercise his proposed discretion to direct that a particular claim shall be assessed by a two-doctor board rather than a single doctor, when the pre-medical board scrutiny by a Civil Service medical officer has been dispensed with and only lay people undertake the task? The implication is that the Secretary of State will not be in a position to exercise such discretion and that claimants will be subject, willy-nilly, to assessment by a single doctor and their rights will thereby be less protected. Is that really what the Government intend? If they intend the Secretary of State to exercise such discretion, by what means will he do so under the regulations?

Our fifth objection to the regulations is that they place no explicit duty on adjudicating officers dealing with supplementary benefit to examine all a claimant's needs when a request is received for a weekly or single payment. Far from trying to ensure that claimants receive the full benefits to which they are entitled under the law, this Government have taken the unprecedented step, in response to one of the commissioner's decisions, of going out of their way to make it clear that the visiting officer has no such duty.

The whole point of the 1980 reforms of the supplementary benefit scheme, according to the DHSS, was that the legal entitlement would improve take up. That improved take up will happen only if claimants can rely on officers to inform them of their entitlement. The majority of claimants are not fully informed of their entitlement. Ministers are deliberately intervening on commissioners' decisions to ensure that they are not fully informed, contrary to all their rhetoric of four years ago. This is an important matter. If the Government are serious in their claim that they want people not only to be prevented from obtaining benefits to which they are not entitled—and the Government are hot on that—but that they obtain the benefits to which they are genuinely entitled, why do we have a regulation that makes that unlikely, if not almost impossible?

In addition to those five fundamental objections, there are a number of lesser, although still significant issues on the adjudication process. It is only by putting down the prayer that we have the opportunity to debate this important general issue.

Claimants have been known to have had to wait for up to a year before their appeal is heard—even for up to three months for a decision from the commissioner after the hearing. Does the Minister agree that such inordinately long delays are wholly unacceptable? If so, what will he do to reduce them?

We are disappointed that the regulations make no attempt to improve the rights to representation — something that we regard as extremely important. Indeed, some argue that the regulations actually limit the right. Will the Minister at least give an assurance that there is no intention to limit representation to one person? The one strand of the Bell report on tribunals, on which no action was taken in the Health and Social Services and Social Security Adjudications Act 1983, was the expansion of advisory and representative facilities for claimants. That would have a dramatic effect on claimants' entitlements. The Government's record on their willingness to spend on behalf of claimants to pursue their entitlements shows why they have done nothing about that recommendation.

There is a change in regulation 19 from commissioners having to record their reasons for a decision simply to having to give grounds for their decisions. That may be purely a technicality, and if so the Minister can confirm that. However, we wonder whether it is not something rather different—that by allowing a much less stringent and less detailed response from commissioners, the Government are placing a deliberate restriction on the rights of claimants to obtain redress. If that is so, we deplore it and want the regulation changed.

We believe that chairpersons should have a duty to take note of evidence as the tribunal hearing proceeds. It is wrong that, all too often, that task is left to the clerk of the tribunal, who is a DHSS employee. Carefully weighing up the evidence is a task that cannot be fairly carried out on the basis of a DHSS officer's notes.

Primary legislation in social security has become increasingly broad and vague. Acts are empty shells that the Minister is empowered to fill with the substance of law by the making of regulations. It is not simply that the Acts omit the details—they often omit the basic principles. The Social Security Act 1980 lays down the barest outline of the supplementay benefits scheme, and contains less detail than the 1976 Act that it replaces. When it was passed, hon. Members and interested organisations had little opportunity to debate or examine the new law in detail as most of the substance was left to the now voluminous regulations.

The Social Security and Housing Benefits Act 1982, which gave birth to the present housing benefit scheme, is an even emptier shell. It simply provides that the Minister "may by regulation" make a scheme for local authorities relating to the grant of rent and rate rebates and allowances. Nothing could be vaguer than that. Everything is left to delegated legislation that can be speedily changed and that largely escapes the usual processes of consultation and debate.

These regulations are of the essence of the way that the supplementary benefit rules are administerd and applied to those on the poverty line. That is why this debate is important. I have given abundant evidence to show that there are major and fundamental objections to the way that the rules stand in these regulations. They aggravate several injustices in key parts of claimants' rights and are biased to obvious cost saving at the expense of real fairness and equity. For these reasons, I appeal to the House to reject the regulations so that they can be fully reconsidered and improved by the Government before they are finally passed.

10.30 pm
Mrs. Edwina Currie (Derbyshire, South)

I always listen with the greatest interest to the strong words of the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher). I agree with him that this is an important subject that affects many millions of people and is of concern to every hon. Member. However, his words rang a little hollow, and it is rather a pity that, despite his great insistence on having a debate, he is backed by all of three hon. Members from his party, two of whom are sitting on the Front Bench with him. Even if he is concerned, it looks as though most other Labour Members are not, in which case one has to ask why we are here debating this subject on an Opposition prayer.

The new regulations are a considerable improvement, and are part of a substantial Government movement to improve the tribunals and the appeal system for supplementary benefit, pensions and the rest. To start with, there is now one set of tribunals instead of two. The national insurance tribunal and the supplementary benefit tribunal are merged into one, and that must be a great improvement, particularly as many people are claiming both sets of benefits. It was a fiendishly complicated business before, and it is marginally better now.

The second change is the removal of the insistence that there must be a trade unionist on the tribunals. It will be a welcome replacement to have instead the insistence that people on the tribunal must have local knowledge—we all welcome that. On the Second Reading of the Health and Social Services and Social Security Adjudications Bill, the Minister said that he would look as well at applications from people representing the disabled and other interest groups, to make sure that they were represented.

Another improvement will be what might be called beefing up the chairman, and he may have to be legally qualified. I am not legally qualified, and I wonder whether we are not replacing one set of restrictive practices—the need for a trade unionist—by another set of restrictive practices—the need for a lawyer. Anyone who has read through this lot of documents will agree with my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister for Health, who said that only lawyers will be able to understand them. I have been reading them all day, and if I understand one tenth of them, I feel that I have done well.

These regulations affect a large number of people. We spend £37 billion a year on supplementary benefits, pensions and so on. It has come to a pretty pass when the only people who can understand them properly are those with a legal background. We are talking about difficulties that are sometimes faced in times of great extremity by people at the edges of our society, such as the disabled. It is a tragedy that they cannot simply pick up these documents and figure out what they should do next, and that those who advise them, such as local councillors, do not understand what is being done to them and for them through the regulations, which are, after all, intended to be for their benefit.

In the Library, there are boxes full of advisory leaflets from organisations trying to explain to the disabled their entitlement. There should be a prize for clear English, and I hope that the DHSS will one day qualify for it, but the day has not yet come.

One of the Opposition's main complaints is the omission of the specific reference to trade union members, and this was raised in the other place by Lord Dean of Beswick. He asked that "sympathetic consideration" should be given to trade unionists by way of their retaining rights to serve on the tribunals that have been granted in the past by successive Governments regarding this matter". That sums up the attitude of the trade unionists in the Labour party. They are not interested in exercising the obligations to serve—they want to retain a right. That right often does not exist for the people who go to tribunals. I remember taking to a tribunal people who were seeking supplementary benefit because of industrial trouble in Birmingham. Their sheer anger when they found a trade unionist adjudicating was something to see. They felt strongly that in many cases people had lost their jobs—and that much of the livelihood of the city was in jeopardy—because of the activities of trade unionists of the sort that they then found facing them at the tribunal. There is a difference between a right to serve and an obligation to do something useful.

I was amused at the answer of the noble Lord Glenarthur, who said that representation by trade union members is important: but so also is flexibility to overcome delays that have been caused by the shortage of trade union members in some cases." —[Official Report, House of Lords, 3 April 1984; Vol. 450, c. 597.] That is one reason why it is a good thing to move away from trade unions.

Any of us who has ever dealt with any cases that go to tribunals—even in an area such as Derby, where the Department of Health and Social Security is extremely helpful and has done its utmost in any case that I have taken to it, for which I am grateful—knows that the delays cause a great deal of anxiety and anguish. We are dealing with people who are in difficulties and who are in trouble. Whatever the public image of people who have to go to tribunals, the fact is that many of them, particularly disabled people, are as genuine a case as one could ever find. The delay that occurs is thoroughly unsatisfactory.

Those people normally have between 10 and 28 days to lodge appeals. There are four pages of schedules in the book on how long one has to lodge an appeal, ranging from 10 days to three months. I defy anyone to figure out which is the correct period for any particular case. That in itself would exercise a lawyer for a long time. In most cases, the maximum period is about 28 days. However, it takes an awful lot longer than 28 days to get a hearing, and longer than that to get an answer. It looks as if the situation is getting worse.

In reply to a question on 7 December 1983 about how long the completion of appeals at supplementary benefit tribunals was taking, my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary said that in the three months to 30 June 1983, the average time from the lodgement of appeal to the date of the hearing by the supplementary benefit tribunal was 8.3 weeks. That is not a good record. On 6 March this year, The Prime Minister said in answer to a question that the time had gone up to 9.7 weeks in the three months ending 31 December 1983.

If those figures are correct, the period is getting longer. I accept that it might be because one period related to the summer, when there might be fewer appeals, and the other related to the winter, when there might be more appeals on heating and so on, but 9.7 weeks on average, for the whole country, cannot be accepted by any of us as reasonable. That is a very long time. We are talking about people who may have needed that money four or five months before. That is just the time to the hearing. It will take possibly several more weeks after that to get a reply from the tribunal, after which a decision has to be made about where to go from there.

Part X of the regulations refers to the mobility allowance adjudications. I have a little bit of special pleading to make, with which the Minister may be familiar. I have been chasing the DHSS at the highest levels since last December on application for mobility allowance by a family that includes two mentally handicapped children. I am well aware that the mentally handicapped can walk. Under the regulations, the rules say clearly that one gets mobility allowance if one can demonstrate a lack of ability to walk. To those who are managing mentally handicapped children, the ability to walk is irrelevant. The test that is applied is to ask the child to walk to the door and back, and the child can do that, but it may be impossible to get that child to undertake any independent transport.

The case with which I am concerned involves two mentally handicapped adults. They are in their twenties. A mobility allowance has been refused. The ability to walk is not a sufficient criterion. Regulation 53(d) refers to whether a person's condition will be such as permits him from time to time to benefit from enhanced facilities for locomotion". If ever there was a definition of a form of assistance that would be extremely useful to the mentally handicapped and their families, that is it.

I believe that the Secretary of State's reviews of disablement and benefits are considering the mentally handicapped. I hope that the inclusion of the mentally handicapped among those who qualify for mobility allowance, as they already qualify for attendance allowance, will be considered.

The new regulations are a great improvement, but I hope that it will be understood that changing the structure is not enough by itself. We need to consider the results. My hon. Friend will support my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary in changing the structure, but if he could reduce the delays to a period that we would all regard as reasonable, and make the regulations such as could be understood by all and the whole system more human, he would receive the accolade of the entire House.

10.42 pm
Mr. Archy Kirkwood (Roxburgh and Berwickshire)

This is a very important subject. It affects more and more of our constituents as, over the months and years, more and more people require welfare benefit.

I echo the plea of the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) for more coherent and more easily understandable regulations. Like her, I have spent much of the day trying to make sense of the regulations. In spite of the fact that I have a legal qualification, I have not made much more sense of them than the hon. Lady has. She and I are accustomed to perusing regulations, and, I hate to think what the average claimant would make of them in their present form.

In the late 1970s and the early 1980s there was a widespread view that there was a need for rationalisation of the social security system. Experts such as David Donnison took the view that rationalisation was necessary to prevent the collapse of the system, and at that stage I was prepared to be guided by their views, but having studied the regulations I have to conclude that the reality does not measure up to the hopes and aspirations expressed at that time.

I do not necessarily take as rigid a view as the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher). I think that the regulations are defective, and I do not support them, but I think that the Minister has a tremendously difficult job. He is trying to rationalise the two systems and to bring supplementary benefit into line with the national insurance regulations of the past.

The hon. Member for Oldham, West was absolutely right about the need for consultation. The Government are taking a great risk—they are quite wrong—in bringing in these regulations, which apply from 23 April, without falling over backwards to make sure that all who are in the front line are given a full say. The Minister could not put his hand on his heart and say that he has done that. In the fullness of time that will prove to have been a mistake.

My local constituency experience and my discussions with pressure groups suggest that the social security and national insurance chairmen who are being asked to adopt these regulations are quaking in their shoes. I do not blame them. Anyone who can master both the yellow book and the brown book must have either a photographic memory and/or more time on his hands than any local chairman whom I have met; and if that applies to the chairmen—who will, in future, have to be legally qualified—it must apply even more to the wing men. I have appeared before the tribunals, and in my experience the wing men are carried away by the weight of the regulations.

That was the case when the chairman was not a lawyer, so now, when the chairman will be a lawyer, it is extremely unlikely that the lay members will outvote the chairman. That is a retrograde step. As the hon. Member for Oldham, West said, it is crucial that lay persons should, as of right, have direct access to the yellow and brown books if they are to have any role to play in tribunal proceedings. There should not be a difference between the national insurance and the supplementay benefits decisions.

I appreciate that there are pressures in the Government to indulge in all possible cost-saving exercises. I support cost saving, but yellow and brown books could be made available to the panel of tribunals at a reasonable cost. That is a saving which the Government could well have done without. The stance which the Department seems to be taking with regard to not assessing all of the circumstances when asked to adjudicate is retrograde. Hon. Members find that, by putting the question differently to the Department, our constituents get much better treatment. A constituent asks whether he is entitled to X or Y benefit and the Department can truthfully put its hand on its heart and say no, but if I write asking to what benefits my constituent is entitled, the answer is what I want and the constituent needs. Lay people do not know what questions to ask. Who can blame them when they are faced with our ineffably complex system? It might be an additional and onerous burden on the Department, but it should examine all the circumstances when a person makes a claim.

I am also worried about delays. My experience in this regard is limited to my constituency. Even in relatively small places in the south-east of Scotland there are delays. People in my part of the world must make long journeys and incur considerable expense to get to tribunals. That is an inhibiting factor. Legal representation would be the most direct and helpful step that the Department could take, although I accept that its provision might not be within the gift of the Minister. In spite of the fact that discretion has alledgedly been screwed out of the system and lay persons should be able to make sense of it, the one step that would make the biggest difference in cutting through the swathe of complexity would be the introduction of lawyers and the provision of legal aid for such representation at tribunals. That might be expensive, but the service would benefit greatly, from such a change.

I agree with the hon. Member for Oldham, West that it is a fundamental point of principle, equity and justice that minutes that are taken at a tribunal should be taken by the chairman and not the clerk, as the clerk is a DHSS employee who has a vested interest. Decisions should be made on the basis of facts recorded by the chairman.

There are so many questions about the regulations that I cannot support them, but I should like to make it clear that I do not go as far as the hon. Member for Oldham, West, who damned them completely. I understand that the Minister's job is complicated. It would be much better if he took these proposals away for six months and sorted them out properly before presenting them again.

10.49 pm
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security (Mr. Tony Newton)

I am grateful for the opportunity of discussing the adjudication regulations, because they are of great significance to many less well-off people, as well as some who are a little better off, and are well worthy of discussion by the House.

I emphasise that although, because of the parliamentary pressures arising from the dissolution at the time when the underlying primary legislation was going through the House, some of these matters were not discussed as fully as they would have been if the Bill had gone through on a normal timetable, that was not the result of any intention by the Government to attenuate discussion or of any Government wish to proceed other than openly.

In view of the strictures that have been levelled against us, I should point out that although there was not much discussion in the latter stages of the passage of the Health and Social Services and Social Security Adjudications Bill—which became known as the HASSASSA Act—on the Floor of the House, there was an extensive discussion in Committee, during which, as far as I can recall, one of the major questions raised by the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) tonight—single doctor adjudication—was not raised at all by the Opposition.

There was considerable consultation with the BMA about the changes. I accept that the association's private practice committee, which is not normally the greatest friend of the hon. Member for Oldham, West, just as he is not normally its greatest supporter, has reservations about our proposals. However, the absence of agreement is not the same as an absence of consultation, and there has been a good deal of consultation in the drawing up of the proposals.

I am happy to tell my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) and the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood) that the adjudication regulations, although bulky, represent a condensed version of the previous secondary legislation on the subject. In the past, these items were scattered through 11 statutory instruments and we have consolidated them in a form which I am advised—I do not pretend to have counted — is one third shorter than their varied predecessors. The commendable economy of administration for which the Government are well known has been carried through into the adjudication regulations. That is in line with our intention that one of the aims of the HASSASSA Act should be to simplify and streamline the social security adjudication system.

The fact that the system is not as simplified and streamlined under the regulations as I or the House should like does not detract from the fact that they are a significant move in the right direction. I was much encouraged that the Child Poverty Action Group's recent book "We don't give clothing grants any more"—which is not noticeably flattering to the Government — says in chapter 3 on appeals: The DHSS has clearly recognised the problems and is moving to correct them. That is a comment on our proposals on appeals, part of which are represented by the regulations.

Despite that, I recognise that the regulations are complicated and it may help the House and others concerned with these matters if I summarise the three main changes introduced by the Act and, thereby, place the regulations in context. The officers who decide these claims, formerly known by different titles according to the particular benefit, are now all entitled "adjudication officers", to make explicit the single process of adjudication where the law is applied to the facts of each case. To monitor the standards of that process of initial adjudication, HASSASSA provided for the appointment of a chief adjudication officer, who is to issue advice and guidance on the law to all adjudication officers. He replaces the former chief supplementary benefit officer and the chief insurance officer. He will furthermore—this is a useful departure—be making an annual report to the Secretary of State on standards of adjudication by adjudication officers, which will be published. In due course that might give rise to further debate.

Where a claimant is dissatisfied with the decision made by the first tier, he has the right to appeal to an independent tribunal, and these tribunals—this is the second set of changes—have been unified under a presidential system under HASSASSA. The Act provided for the appointment of a president of social security appeal tribunals and medical appeal tribunals. He is appointed by the Lord Chancellor and not the Secretary of State. He is responsible for the administrative organisation of the tribunal system, the training of chairmen and members and the appointment of tribunal members. I am glad to say that Judge Byrt QC has been in post as the SSAT president since November and is now assisted by seven regional chairmen and four full-time chairmen. The full unification—it was implicit in the remarks of the hon. Member for Oldham, West that the process is not yet complete, and I must accept that—of national insurance local tribunals and supplementary benefit appeal tribunals will unquestionably be an evolutionary process, but the adjudication regulations represent an important step towards harmonising their different traditions.

Medical appeal tribunals, although under the administrative wing of the president, will retain their separate identity. The initial tier of medical adjudication will also remain distinct from lay adjudication, and this subject formed the third strand of the main legislation by preparing the ground for regulations on the use of adjudicating medical practitioners rather than the previous system of two-doctor medical boards, with the safeguards of broader rights of appeal to a medical appeal tribunal.

Against that background, the preparation of the adjudication regulations involved the largely technical task of drawing together the different procedures of adjudication. In general, the regulations continue the previous practice. That needs to be borne in mind against the background of some of the criticisms that have been made, which suggested that many features of the regulations were being introduced for the first time. As I have said, much of the regulations are a continuation of that which have already existed. It may be argued that there is scope for further improvements, but it is important that the House should understand that that is being urged without necessarily any criticism of positive changes that the Government are proposing, although I recognise that some are regarded as being less than satisfactory There are changes and this is not purely a measure of consolidation. Some changes have not so far been mentioned and I hope that the House will welcome them. There has been a concentration, perhaps understandably, on some of the criticisms.

Regulation 4(4) gives all appellants the unfettered right to a private tribunal hearing. In the past, national insurance cases were held in public, while supplementary benefit and FIS cases were held in private. We have allowed choice by allowing the claimant to opt for either according to his own preference, and that has the backing of the Council on Tribunals.

Regulation 7 provides that appeal tribunals should be able to refer a question to a medical practitioner for examination and report. Up to now, national insurance tribunals had this power, but it has now been extended to supplementary benefit cases. It should be useful, for example, where additions for dietary needs are requested on medical grounds.

Regulation 20 implements a change in the system for applying for leave to appeal, of which I gave notice in our Committee debate last year, namely, that applications for leave to appeal should be directed initially to the tribunal chairman, and only in the event of a refusal or late application direct to the commissioner. We have ensured that only legally qualified chairmen will consider such applications, as it is necessary in supplementary benefit applications to be able to identify the possible point of law. This regulation does not restrict the right of appeal, as an application may still be made to the commissioner after refusal of leave to appeal by the tribunal chairman. It does, however, provide a useful sift, as it exposes doubtful points of law at an early stage, and it is appropriate that we should demonstrate our faith in the new tribunal system by entrusting chairmen with a new responsibility.

Another important point raises the question of delays, on which hon. Members on both sides of the House have commented. Regulation 29 modifies the system for appealing to the commissioners, by introducing a time limit of three months for those who wish to submit written observations on an application, appeal or reference on a national insurance claim. There was previously no time limit for those cases, but the time limit of four weeks applicable to point of law appeals—mainly supplementary benefit ones—could not be implemented where the commissioner undertakes a complete re-hearing of the case.

We intend to consider that after experience of the new system. There is a useful improvement in that the time limits for observations — mainly the Department's observations — have been kept the same regarding supplementary benefit point of law cases. Although we have been unable to introduce the same relatively low time limit for national insurance appeals, for which a great deal of information must often be gathered, we have for the first time introduced a time limit—of three months. That shows our anxiety to reduce the delays, which have undoubtedly occurred.

I am glad to say that delays on appeals to commissioners were significantly reduced as a result of efforts by the Department and the commissioners to speed up matters. I accept as willingly now as I did in Committee that delays on supplementary appeal tribunals are longer than I should like or think it appropriate for the House to find acceptable.

Part of the purpose of the exercise—the change in last year's Act, these new regulations, the new structure of tribunals and various other steps are being taken, for example, to improve the training of adjudication officers in our Department—is to speed up the process of appeal and produce a position which I can more readily defend as acceptable. I hope and believe that it will have that effect, but it will take time.

I now turn to the changes, on which the hon. Member for Oldham, West spent much time, in the arrangements for the medical adjudication of industrial injuries disablement benefit claims. Regulation 32 brings more flexibility into the system by permitting more extensive use of single doctors in deciding medical questions that arise in such claims.

Until now these questions have in most cases been decided by a medical board of two doctors. However, an internal departmental study suggested that the large majority of disablement benefit claims involve relatively straightforward medical issues, are not contentious, lead to small gratuities only, and do not justify the deliberations of two doctors. In 80 per cent. of all cases the disablement assessed was 10 per cent. or less, and in most cases ran for a period of 12 months or less, giving rise to a gratuity averaging about £130—using rates current now—for a one-year award.

It is these comparatively medically straightforward cases that a single doctor, an adjudicating medical practitioner, will be called upon to determine under the revised arrangements in regulation 32. For the minority of cases where there are more difficult medical issues, two doctors will continue to act as a medical board. Such difficulties are often found in applications for review on the grounds of fresh evidence, or unforeseen aggravation of the results of the industrial injury, or prescribed disease and in the diagnosis of recrudescence questions that arise in prescribed diseases claims. Accordingly, the regulations make provision for all review applications and all claims to prescribed diseases to be considered by the medical board of two doctors. There will, of course, be other cases outside those two categories where the medical issues are likely to be complex. Therefore, provision has been made for any such cases where medical advice suggests that a second medical opinion is desirable to be referred by the Secretary of State to a two-doctor medical board.

In answer to the specific question of the hon. Member for Oldham, West about how this will be achieved, in broad terms the laymen who make the initial assessment will be given a set of guidelines about cases which they should refer to a medical officer. He, in turn, will be aware of the regulations and guidelines by which cases would normally go to a two-doctor board. To make it even clearer, cases involving eyes and ears, psychiatric cases, multiple injuries, malignant diseases and cardio-vascular conditions will normally go to a two-doctor medical board in the same way as they do at present.

I accept that, as with any such changes, these changes will need careful monitoring, and I guarantee that they will get it. Of course, we shall make changes if some of the fears that have been expressed are justified. But we believe that they will not be justified, and that the safeguards that we introduced to ensure that the genuinely more difficult cases get the necessary additional treatment of a two-doctor medical board will overcome the anxieties that have been expressed. Indeed, we believe that the effect of the arrangements will be to ensure a better match between the complexity of the issues and the number of doctors needed to decide those issues.

What this will do — I do not regard it as penny-pinching or as cheese-paring, in the sense in which the hon. Gentleman used the words—will be to allow better use of a scarce medical adjudication resource, and at the same time it has made it possible for us to strengthen the appeal rights of claimants by removing a restriction on appeal that has existed since the start of the industrial injuries scheme. This change which, with the other changes, took effect on 23 April, allows disablement benefit claimants to appeal to a medical appeal tribunal against a provisional award by an adjudicating medical practitioner, in a way that they have not previously been allowed to appeal. There is a countervailing improvement that we can make with the resources that are freed by the change to single-doctor boarding for some simpler cases.

Of course, I know that disquiet has been voiced by doctors who undertake industrial injuries adjudication and, as I have already said, by the private practice committee of the British Medical Association. Their chief worry is that adjudication by one doctor acting alone may lead to variations on decision-making, with resultant unfairness to claimants. However, there seems to be common ground that many medical examinations for industrial injuries purposes involve straightforward medical conditions that would cause little or no difficulty to a single doctor in reaching the appropriate decision. The arrangements are designed to ensure that such cases only are referred to a single doctor, so the problems envisaged should rarely arise.

However, I should emphasise that if the medical complexities of the case become evident only during the medical examination, the further arrangements will allow for the reference to the single doctor to be revoked and the case considered afresh by two doctors. Moreover, if, despite the straightforward nature of the case, the claimant is aggrieved at the single doctor's decision, he can protect his interests by exercising the right of appeal which, through the removal of the restriction that I mentioned earlier, is now available to nearly all claimants.

I hope that they will have allayed some of the worries that arise, understandably, at a time of change. We intend to monitor the effects of the new arrangements closely, and we shall, of course, make adjustment if we find that they are not working satisfactorily.

Reverting for a moment to non-medical adjudication, regulation 69 describes the procedure when one adjudication officer has to refer a case to another adjudication officer. Those circumstances will arise because complications arise from the inter-action between different kinds of benefit. So long as certain supplementary benefit questions depend upon decisions made in relation to other benefits, such as child benefit or unemployment benefit, there will be a need to refer to specialists, to ensure consistency of decisions relating to an individual. In those circumstances, it does not make sense for the appeal tribunal to hear a case before the full facts are available, and we have therefore ensured that the appeal tribunal should become involved only when all the questions have been tackled by the adjudication officers in the first instance. If a question can be resolved by the adjudication officer, we should not bring in the tribunal without cause, because the system is an expensive resource that we should clearly use as efficiently as we can.

Having made those points about some of the changes contained in the regulations, I should deal with some of the other points which were raised during the debate. First, the hon. Member for Oldham, West mentioned training, and the issue of yellow and brown books. I shall make two points, one of which is simple and relevant. It has never in the past been the practice for members of national insurance local tribunals to have the brown book, although I accept that members of supplementary benefit appeal tribunals have had the yellow book. There is a disparity in the traditions, and it would be as possible to rely upon one precedent as another to say what was right. I understand that the members of national insurance local tribunals have not had the brown book because it was felt to be less necessary in tribunals with a legally qualified chairman. To that extent it could be argued that that is the sounder precedent in the case of the new amalgamated tribunals.

Leaving that aside, I have to make the basic point, which I would have thought that hon. Members would recognise, certainly those who were on last year's Committee, that the subject of training that the hon. Member for Oldham, West raised, and that of the supply of materials to tribunal members are not, under the Act, matters for Ministers. They are matters for the president of the appeal tribunals. He has made no request or recommendation to us for the supply of the materials that the hon. Gentleman mentioned. Should he do so, we would of course consider the point, but it is a matter for him that is written into the Act. Parts of the relevant section were written in in deference to representations from the hon. Gentleman's hon. Friends when 'we discussed the Bill last year.

As part of the independence of the president of the tribunals, training and the supply of literature are matters for him and not for Ministers. Therefore, I can say no more about that this evening except that we would consider any propositions put to us.

May I make another important point relating to what the hon. Gentleman said about the taking of notes at tribunals? It appears that he has not registered the extent to which the tribunals are not the same animals as the previous ones in that respect. After a transitional stage the clerks to the tribunals will not be the employees of the DHSS. In the legislation we have provided for the clerks to be directly employed by the president of the social security appeal tribunals. At present DHSS officers are still fulfilling those tasks as a transitional provision, but in doing so they are responsible to the president and not to Ministers. The hon. Gentleman's remarks about note-taking at tribunals fall by the wayside in view of the additional independence that we have, in my view rightly—I feel that it is long overdue—given the clerks. That is what we are proposing and it seems to make the hon. Gentleman's remarks about the taking of notes largely irrelevant.

There is little else that I can usefully add in response to the hon. Gentleman's points. I have tried to cover them all.

Mr. Meacher

I am not at all convinced by some of the Minister's explanations and the way in which he tries to avoid responsibility for the availability of the social security Acts by laying it at the door of the president of the appeals tribunal. His explanation as to how he intends to reduce delays is also highly dubious.

The Minister has not answered two of the questions that I asked. First, should not supplementary benefit officers be required to give reasons for their decisions in each case? Secondly, and above all, should it not be a duty on visiting officers to inform claimants of all their entitlements when a request is being made for one single payment or weekly payment?

Mr. Newton

I am sorry. I had not intended to try to avoid the hon. Gentleman's questions.

On the first point, we are giving training to adjudication officers on the decisions issued in supplementary benefit cases. I believe that we are making progress towards giving every claimant the right to request reasons, and the forms notifying decisions will inform claimants of that right. We are not seeking to deny people the reasons for the decisions made about their claims. We are seeking to extend the availability of reasons to them. For administrative reasons, we should be reluctant to go quite as far as the hon. Gentleman suggests, but this is certainly something that I shall bear in mind and towards which we are making progress. Indeed, I hope that with the improved training that we are seeking to give to adjudication officers this is one of the areas in which there will be a modest further improvement in the way in which claimants are treated and in the rights of claimants as a result of the changes as a whole.

With regard to the duties of officers, I must rest on the position that a benefit officer must deal essentially with what the claimant claims. In the end, it is up to the claimant to put forward his requests. I believe that that must be so. Otherwise, there can be no doubt that an officer could be forced into the position of having to conduct a widespread and possibly intrusive investigation of all the claimant's affairs.

With all the advice and improved information that we can make available to people, we should not depart from the basic principle that it must be for the claimant to make his claim. It is not for officers of the Department to guess what that claim might be. There is a clear distinction between that and the duty of the Department to make it as easy as possible for claimants to know what their entitlement may be through improved information and advice.

In this context, my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South seems to have missed the celebrated newspaper picture of my hon. Friend the Minister for Social Security two or three months ago receiving a plain English award on behalf of the Department for one of the earlier productions of our new forms unit which is utterly dedicated to making our English better than it now is. The progress already made was reflected in that award.

In my view, there is a clear distinction to be drawn between our duty to provide the maximum and clearest possible advice and information to claimants about benefits and their possible entitlements and the duty of benefit officers, adjudication officers or officers of the Department, which must be to assess the claims that claimants make. In saying that, I do not wish to imply that we do not encourage our officers to be as helpful as possible, but to go beyond that and to suggest that they have a duty to investigate every possible aspect of the claimant's affairs, as the hon. Gentleman came close to requesting, would be to go further than I am prepared to contemplate or than would be right in a benefit system such as ours.

I hope that I have covered the questions that the hon. Gentleman asked, even if I have not managed fully to satisfy him on all of them. I have outlined some of the improvements that the regulations make. In view of the manifest fact that even if our proposals are not perfect they certainly represent a significant improvement on the situation until now I hope that hon. Members will not press their opposition to the regulations.

11.19 pm
Mrs. Margaret Beckett (Derby, South)

If, as the Minister said, these regulations turn out in practice to be an improvement on the preceding system, it will be the first change introduced by the Government in this sphere that has succeeded in doing so, whatever claims may have been made for the changes in advance.

I noticed with interest the observations of the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) on trade unionists, and I am sure that trade unionists in her locality, who have had conversations with her in the past, will note them with equal interest. I was particularly interested in her contention that trade unionists are not people with local' knowledge. That was a particularly fascinating sideline.

Two other points are more worthy of comment. The hon. Lady referred to the annoyance among claimants on confronting trade union members sitting in judgment. That probably pales into insignificance beside the despair felt by most claimants when confronted by people who have no experience of their problems and have very little sympathy for them.

The hon. Lady also referred to the tragedy of the lack of clarity in these regulations, as did the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood). I entirely agree. In a slightly different context the hon. Gentleman admitted that he supported the Government's wish to save costs.

The basic reason for the lack of clarity is not the inability of the Department to write plain English—little though that may be borne out by some of the contributions we hear in the House — but simply because all the changes implemented by the Government have always been done on a nil cost basis. If the Government were prepared to put more money into the social security system, it would be possible to have simpler regulations and we would not need debates of this kind.

I was not particularly impressed by the Minister's response to my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) on training and the facilities available to tribunals. He said that this was a matter for the president, and I hope that the president will take note of the remarks that have been made. I have too much respect for the Minister not to imagine that when he takes decisions he has primary information in front of him, and the president ought to recognise that that is necessary for tribunal members.

If the president does not ask for such information to be made available, many will suspect that he has not done so because of pressures from the Government in the context of the costs involved. Many would regard that as an indication that the president is not taking his duties with sufficient seriousness.

I note that regulation 3 of the appeals rules, which applied previously, does not appear in these new regulations. As this allows the Secretary of State to pay travelling and subsistence allowances to those who attend tribunals, perhaps the Minister will now say—if not, perhaps he will write—whether travelling expenses will be paid in future. If this is merely an omission, I am sure that the Government will rectify it as speedily as the Minister for Social Security so often rectifies the other omissions and errors that they make.

We have observed another of the petty meanness to which my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West referred. In regulation 59 (b) the Government have slipped in a substitution so that it will now read: a trade union of which the claimant is a member at the time of the appeal and was so immediately before the question at issue arose". I can only think that this is an attempt to deprive those individuals who need to make a claim—and who had not previously perceived the wisdom of joining a trade union but did so between the date of their injury and the date of their appeal—of the assistance that trade unions can and do provide in making representations on these points in these circumstances. If that is the case, it is yet another example of the Government's petty meanness and stupidity.

I shall highlight some of the problems that arise with tribunals. Often, the decisions of the Department's officers—and heaven knows it is not their fault, because they are suffering under the Prime Minister's self-imposed determination to reduce the Civil Service and so may face enormous difficulties on that count—are sadly all too frequently quite incorrect. Earlier this week, I had the example of a call from an office in Wales. As far as I can discover a wholly arbitrary decision has been made, perhaps for some years, by the local officer about what the grounds should be for an award of single payments for floor covering. It has had the effect of reducing the payments due by half. There appears to be no regulation to back up that decision. No commisioner's ruling provided any basis for it. It had been concocted at some point by someone in the local office. Heaven knows for how many years it has been applied.

The CPAG's excellent book has been quoted. On page 42, it gives yet another example of a claimant being given a wrong decision, and that was from a tribunal. I note that it is said that the tribunals will be better in future. We certainly hope so. However, a tribunal accepted the benefit officer's argument that because someone had had an illness for many years that led him to need special clothing, he no longer qualified for a clothing grant, because it was now normal wear and tear. Again, that decision had no basis on which any reliance could be placed. The tribunal members might have been able to contest it if they had had primary legislation, information, regulations, and so on in front of them.

It is not only the information available to tribunals that is important, but the attitude. On page 41, there is an excellent example. Many members of existing tribunals rely very heavily on whatever interpretation of the law is placed before them. They appear not fully to recognise the fact that there may be conflicting interpretations of the law, let alone of information. One organiser in London is quoted as saying: In fact every time I challenged the presenting officer to quote his source, I was interrupted by the chairperson with 'He is only trying to help you dear.'. Sadly, that is an all too familar experience to those who appear before tribunals today. I recognise that the Minister feels that that will change, but we believe that it is more likely to change if tribunals consist of people who are able, on their own account, to be well informed.

Perhaps the weakest of all the many weak arguments that the Minister put to us was that it was for claimants to identify their needs and to press officers to meet them, and not for benefit officers to guest at them. If the regulations were the model of clarity sought by some hon. Members and by the Minister, the Minister might have a more sensible basis for his argument. However, although he was quite curt to my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West about his unkind remarks, he must be aware that it is not only my hon. Friend, but one of his own commissioners who has said that it is outrageous. Surely it must be the duty of officers to investigate all the needs of claimants. It is only the Department that has agreed with the application of that argument.

The Minister clearly did not have time to deal with all the points raised in the debate, and we hope that he will write answering the points made about regulation 19, and so on. If not, we shall press him further for a reply. We shall vote for the prayer and against the regulations, because, as usual, they are not as clear as they might, be and, more importantly, because we feel that tonight—as so often in the past—the Government's fine words will be borne out by a worse experience for claimants in practice.

Question put:—

The House divided: Ayes 104, Noes 177.

Division No. 310] [11.30 pm
Adams, Allen (Paisley N) Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn)
Alton, David Fisher, Mark
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Foster, Derek
Ashdown, Paddy Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald
Atkinson, N. (Tottenham) Freud, Clement
Beckett, Mrs Margaret George, Bruce
Beith, A. J. Golding, John
Benn, Tony Hamilton, James (M'well N)
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh) Hardy, Peter
Bermingham, Gerald Harman, Ms Harriet
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Boyes, Roland Howells, Geraint
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E) Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)
Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M) Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Clay, Robert Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.) Kirkwood, Archibald
Cohen, Harry Lamond, James
Coleman, Donald Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Conlan, Bernard Lewis, Terence (Worsley)
Corbett, Robin Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Corbyn, Jeremy Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Craigen, J. M. Loyden, Edward
Crowther, Stan McCartney, Hugh
Cunliffe, Lawrence McDonald, Dr Oonagh
Cunningham, Dr John McGuire, Michael
Dalyell, Tam McKay, Allen (Penistone)
Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly) Mackenzie, Rt Hon Gregor
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l) McWilliam, John
Deakins, Eric Madden, Max
Dewar, Donald Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Dormand, Jack Maxton, John
Douglas, Dick Meacher, Michael
Eadie, Alex Meadowcroft, Michael
Eastham, Ken Michie, William
Ellis, Raymond Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Evans, John (St. Helens N) Nellist, David
Ewing, Harry O'Brien, William
Fatchett, Derek Penhaligon, David
Pike, Peter Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)
Powell, Raymond (Ogmore) Stott, Roger
Richardson, Ms Jo Thorne, Stan (Preston)
Roberts, Allan (Bootle) Wallace, James
Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N) Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Robertson, George Wareing, Robert
Ross, Ernest (Dundee W) Wigley, Dafydd
Rowlands, Ted Wilson, Gordon
Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood) Winnick, David
Skinner, Dennis Woodall, Alec
Smith, C.(Isl'ton S & F'bury) Young, David (Bolton SE)
Smith, Rt Hon J. (M'kl'ds E)
Snape, Peter Tellers for the Ayes:
Soley, Clive Mr. Don Dixon and
Steel, Rt Hon David Mr. Frank Haynes.
Alexander, Richard Dorrell, Stephen
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.
Amess, David Dover, Den
Arnold, Tom du Cann, Rt Hon Edward
Atkinson, David (B'm'th E) Eggar, Tim
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Evennett, David
Batiste, Spencer Eyre, Sir Reginald
Bellingham, Henry Fallon, Michael
Berry, Sir Anthony Farr, John
Best, Keith Fenner, Mrs Peggy
Biffen, Rt Hon John Forman, Nigel
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Boscawen, Hon Robert Franks, Cecil
Bottomley, Peter Fraser, Peter (Angus East)
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Freeman, Roger
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Gale, Roger
Braine, Sir Bernard Garel-Jones, Tristan
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Goodhart, Sir Philip
Bright, Graham Goodlad, Alastair
Brinton, Tim Gow, Ian
Brooke, Hon Peter Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes) Ground, Patrick
Bruinvels, Peter Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)
Bryan, Sir Paul Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Butterfill, John Hanley, Jeremy
Carlisle, John (N Luton) Hannam, John
Cash, William Hargreaves, Kenneth
Chope, Christopher Harvey, Robert
Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n) Haselhurst, Alan
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Hawkins, C. (High Peak)
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Hawkins, Sir Paul (SW N'folk) .
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Hawksley, Warren
Colvin, Michael Hayes, J.
Coombs, Simon Hayhoe, Barney
Cope, John Hayward, Robert
Couchman, James Heathcoat-Amory, David
Cranborne, Viscount Heddle, John
Crouch, David Henderson, Barry
Currie, Mrs Edwina Hickmet, Richard
Hind, Kenneth Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Soames, Hon Nicholas
Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling) Speed, Keith
Holt, Richard Speller, Tony
Hooson, Tom Spencer, Derek
Hordern, Peter Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)
Howard, Michael Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A) Squire, Robin
Howarth, Gerald (Cannock) Stanbrook, Ivor
Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk) Steen, Anthony
Hubbard-Miles, Peter Stern, Michael
Hunt, David (Wirral) Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Stevens, Martin (Fulham)
Hunter, Andrew Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Johnson-Smith, Sir Geoffrey Stradling Thomas, J.
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Sumberg, David
Key, Robert Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
King, Rt Hon Tom Temple-Morris, Peter
Knight, Gregory (Derby N) Terlezki, Stefan
Knox, David Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M.
Lawler, Geoffrey Thompson, Donald (Calder V)
Lee, John (Pendle) Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh) Thorne, Neil (Ilford S)
Lloyd, Ian (Havant) Thornton, Malcolm
McCurley, Mrs Anna Thurnham, Peter
MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute) Townend, John (Bridlington)
Major, John Tracey, Richard
Mather, Carol Twinn, Dr Ian
Miller, Hal (B'grove) Viggers, Peter
Morris, M. (N'hampton, S) Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Murphy, Christopher Walden, George
Newton, Tony Waller, Gary
Osborn, Sir John Ward, John
Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Parris, Matthew Warren, Kenneth
Porter, Barry Watts, John
Raison, Rt Hon Timothy Wheeler, John
Rathbone, Tim Whitfield, John
Roberts, Wyn (Conwy) Wilkinson, John
Roe, Mrs Marion Winterton, Mrs Ann
Rowe, Andrew Winterton, Nicholas
Ryder, Richard Wolfson, Mark
Sackville, Hon Thomas Wood, Timothy
Sainsbury, Hon Timothy Woodcock, Michael
Sayeed, Jonathan Yeo, Tim
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb') Younger, Rt Hon George
Shelton, William (Streatham)
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Tellers for the Noes:
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge) Mr. Ian Lang and
Silvester, Fred Mr. Michael Neubert.
Sims, Roger

Question accordingly negatived.