HC Deb 25 February 1986 vol 92 cc799-800
5. Mr. Pendry

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he has any plans to consult further with disability organisations on the Social Security Bill.

Mr. Newton

We have not received any requests for meetings in addition to the extensive consultations that have already taken place, but we are always glad to consider the views of such organisations.

Mr. Pendry

Is the Minister aware that on Friday last the Secretary of State for Social Services received a request from several disablement groups, who were extremely angry? They believe that they have been deceived by the Minister and the Secretary of State. They believe that they have not been consulted properly about the adequacy of existing or future benefit rates, so they have completely lost confidence in the Secretary of State. If Ministers will not meet those groups, listen to what they say and substantially amend the Social Security Bill, they should give way to Ministers who will.

Mr. Newton

I suspect that the hon. Gentleman will realise from the puzzled expressions on the faces of my right hon. Friend and myself that that is the first we have heard of this. I assure him that if such a request has been or is made we shall seek to respond to it. However, I must also say that I find some of his expressions rather odd in view of the extent to which the majority of sick and disabled people will clearly have their position improved by the proposals that we have put forward for the income support system on the illustrative rates that we have given.

Mr. Galley

I hope my hon. Friend will agree that he has a record that is second to none in helping the disabled of this country. Will he accept that some people who are now in receipt of additions to benefit on the grounds of ill-health and disability may well not be eligible for the disabled premium under the income support scheme? Will he give serious considerations to a two-tier premium system, for the less severely, and the more severely, disabled?

Mr. Newton

I make two points on that. First, quite large numbers of people that my hon. Friend may have in mind are likely to qualify for a premium under another head, for example, in the category of over 80. Secondly, the most severely disabled on income support already gain considerably from the fact that attendance and mobility allowances are disregarded for supplementary benefit and would be disregarded for income support.

Mr. Wigley

Will the Minister accept that when he does eventually find the letter he will see that it is signed by a number of the leading organisers of disablement organisations, people of very high standing in the disablement world, and that they are making known to him their grave concern, from their own experience, over the shortcomings of the Social Security Bill? Will he, therefore, give an undertaking to meet them as a matter of urgency when he has seen the letter?

Mr. Newton