HC Deb 28 January 1986 vol 90 cc888-900

Queen's Recommendation having been signified

Motion made, and Question proposed, That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Social Security Bill, it is expedient to authorise the following—

(1) the payment out of money provided by Parliament of— (a) any sums payable by way of the following—

  1. (1) income support;
  2. (ii) family credit;
  3. (iii) rate rebate subsidy;
  4. (iv) rent rebate subsidy:
  5. (v) rent allowance subsidy;
(b) payments by the Secretary of State into the social fund; (c) any sum payable under the Act to a person whose entitlement to the sum depends on his being entitled or treated as entitled to a qualifying benefit payable out of money provided by Parliament; (d) payments by way of adjustment; (e) any sums falling to be paid by the Secretary of State under or by virtue of the Act by way of travelling expenses; (f)any other expenses of the Secretary of State attributable to the Act; and (g) any expenses of the Lord Chancellor attributable to the Act: and (h) any increase attributable to the Act in the sums payable out of money provided by Parliament under any other Act;

(2) the charging on and payment out of the Consolidate Fund of any increase attributable to the Act in the sums to be charged on and paid out of that Fund under any other Act;

(3) the making of payments into the Consolidated Fund; and in this Resolution—

  1. (a) 'Act', when not used in relation to any Act resulting from the Social Security Bill. includes an Act of the Parliament of Northern Ireland; and
  2. (b)other expressions shall be construed in accordance with any Act resulting from the Social Security Bill. —[Mr. Newton.]

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

I hope that the House will not pass the money resolution. During the Second Reading debate, several hon. Members expressed great anxiety about the provisions of the Social Security Bill. The alliance, other Opposition Members and, it would seem, some Conservative Members, have expressed great anxiety about the Bill. We would not be happy to pass the money resolution.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood) pointed out earlier, we were sceptical from the outset, as were many hon. Members, about the introduction of a Bill with the stipulation of nil revenue implications. Now that we see how the Government propose to implement that stipulation and straitjacketing, our concern is justified. The lack of figures, the lack of clarification and the unwillingness of the Government to provide suitable clarification and explanatory figures of what is envisaged makes it impossible for the Bill to be properly scrutinised. What is available and open to analysis gives rise to great anxiety. We have already said that the reform of pensions policy cannot command broad support because of the simple fact —dwelt on by the Minister at some length in his speech —that the Government are again in danger of making pensions provision a party political football.

I am sorry that the Minister and the Secretary of State did not pay more heed to the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Pym) when he spoke with great authority about the need for consensus in these matters. Consensus is not, as the Minister and his hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Stern) tried to make out, a dirty term. Consensus does not imply that the major problems will be avoided or removed. We do not suggest that for one moment. On the contrary, in a crucial area such as pensions, which will stretch into the next century, we need a little less party political posturing from all quarters and more agreement in the name of the common good.

The alliance have been the only parties to stress that during the debate this year. It is sad that the Government have not seen fit to enter into such a constructive discussion, which could have led to a much securer basis for legislation than the one they have now. As my hon. Friend the Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire made clear, we regret the fact that the savings which the Government will make through their proposed restructuring of the state earnings-related pension scheme will not be used, at least in part, to increase the basic pension. There can be no doubt, despite the protestations of the Minister, from our constituency surgeries that, under the Government's economic policies, pensioners have a great deal to complain about and suffer a great deal of hardship. It is sad that the Government will not give more attention to their position.

The cuts in housing benefit which the Government are marking out in their review of social security, and especially the extraordinary provision that there should be a contribution of 20 per cent. towards rates bills, are discriminatory and unjust. It is astonishing to remember that, earlier today, the Secretary of State for the Environment made a statement on rating reform and quoted as one of the three fundamental weaknesses in the present arrangements, the unfair burden on householders of domestic rates. He went on at some length in the rest of the statement and in answer to questions to speak about the anomalies and the injustices. If the Government believe the rating system to be so unsatisfactory and unfair, why do they now, in what is supposed to be a far-reaching and long-term review of social security, draw into the rating net many of those least able to contribute towards those rates? That makes nonsense of the argument in favour of simplification and fairness which the Government have laboured.

The alliance cannot support the cash-limited social fund, for which approval is sought in this money resolution. The Secretary of State was extremely vague in his opening speech this afternoon when questioned on this matter. He seems anxious to ignore the evidence contained in the special report of the Council on Tribunals. It is worth reading into the record what that council said about the proposal: The Council on Tribunals believe this proposal to be misconceived. It would abolish a right of independent appeal which has existed for over 50 years.

If the Government are intent on having some local accountability in the decision-making process for the grants and loans made under the social fund, it is incumbent on the Secretary of State to come clean with the House as to what he has in mind. It was evident from his statement that he is willing to have a system that pays lip service to the idea of an appeal against an unfair or unjust decision, but that he will not have something which affords the claimant—who until now has operated on the basis of a right to appeal, as much as a right to claim benefit —the right to an appeal which has been enshrined in law for many years, as the report made clear, and that he is unwilling to consider an effective alternative appeal mechanism.

There must be a greater move towards integration of the tax and benefits system. The Secretary of State said that the present take-up of FIS was about 50 per cent. and hoped that the equivalent system under the new scheme would have a take-up of 60 per cent. how can he be confident that that rate of take-up will be achieved? Further integration of tax and benefits would be the most effective way to increase the level of take-up in the whale benefits system. For that reason, and to achieve simplicity and fairness, the alliance supports that integration.

For those reasons, we cannot support the money resolution. We believe that its defeat would add support to our demand for a reform of the social security system, which at present is unjust and ill-conceived and will not carry the all-party support that is essential, as hon. Members in all parts of the House pointed out in the earlier debate.

10.37 pm
Mr. Jim Lester (Broxtowe)

Considering the Government majority in the last Division, it is wishful thinking on the part of alliance Members to imagine that the money resolution will not be approved. Although I did not support the measure on Second Reading, I urge hon. members to support the money resolution.

When opening the debate, the Secretary of State said that, when replying, the Minister of State would deal with the issue of income support. I appreciate that, because the House was anxious that as many hon. Members as possible should take part, the Minister did not have time to deal with that issue.

While defending the family credit scheme and the supplementary benefit arrangements, the Minister said, in a sensitive and understanding way, that child credit went to the poorest of the unemployed. I was interested to hear his remarks on that subject because I am deeply concerned about the impact that the Bill will have on the unemployed and, in particular, on the long-term unemployed.

This issue has been raised by my hon. Friends and I consistently—through well-supported early-day motions and in the evidence that we gave to my right hon. Friend's review —and I remain disappointed about the way in which the long-term unemployed will be treated. There is no doubt that those who have been without work for a long time require additional benefit. Indeed, the Government recognised that when they allocated long-term supplementary benefit to the over-60s in return for the declaration that they were no longer seeking employment. The Government and Opposition have for long agreed the principle of paying supplementary benefit to the long-term unemployed; it has simply been a question of when the cash should be provided.

For the families of the unemployed, the premium system is likely to be of greater benefit than the present system. But as about 15 per cent. of families come within the ambit of the long-term unemployed, about 85 per cent. of families will be substantially worse off unless a premium is introduced that recognises that when someone has been out of work for 12 months or longer, additional support should be provided.

I hope that my right hon. Friend will examine the position as it affects those people, otherwise during the next election campaign, when I expect unemployment to be higher rather than lower, the public will raise that as a major issue with hon. Members, particularly Conservative Members.

b If no special premium is intended or no one is seeking a special premium, one needs to look at the alternative. The alternative put forward by my right hon. Friend is the social fund. I am worried about the way the social fund is likely to operate for the long-term unemployed. One can imagine not only a variation in attitude from place to place where problems may be different, say from south Wales to the south-east of England, but a variation from one individual to another. It is difficult for any social security officer to make a judgment on the social requirement of a long-term unemployed person, particularly when the intention of the social fund is to replace grants by loans repayable out of a claimant's weekly benefit.

If that is the way in which the social fund is to operate, not only will we disadvantage the long-term unemployed by offering no premium, but we will also squeeze their weekly rate by the repayment of grants for the necessary things that a person needs for himself and his family when he has been unemployed for more than a year. In addition, the proposal to charge 20 per cent. rates adds still further to the squeeze on an already limited income. None of us who have taken any interest in this subject have any doubt that the unemployed are the poorest of all. I have a file of considerable dimensions full of letters from people who have written to me from all over the country telling me how difficult is their situation.

One of the things that one might have welcomed is the earnings rule, because it would make the money resolution less onerous if people were able to earn a certain amount while unemployed. The Bill proposes a certain relaxation of the earnings rule in that anyone who has been unemployed for two years is able to disregard £15 of what he earns. As the normal definition of long-term unemployment is to be out of work for a year, it seems odd that one has to be out of work for two years before one is allowed to earn £15 to help pay for the vital needs of oneself and one's family. I hope that my hon. Friend will look at that and bring it into line.

The combination of these things also includes the impact of SERPS on someone who suffers from unemployment, because the abolition of the 20 best years rule will hit anyone who is unemployed for a long time and for whom there is no alternative form of protection against a broken work record. No alternative protection is proposed.

I am teasing out from the Bill its overall impact on the long-term unemployed. One must highlight the plight of those people and that is why I speak on this money resolution. I hope my hon. Friend will consider in stage, and certainly on Report, the points I have made. Without that consideration, for a lot of other reasons that other hon. Members have talked about, this Bill will not be seen as a major reform, but as a way in which we have damaged and been less than fair to those less fortunate people in our society.


Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Denton and Reddish)

I make no apology for detaining the House, because if the Government had not chosen to make a statement before the Second Reading debate, I suspect that all hon. Members who wanted to speak on the money resolution could have spoken on the second Reading. It seems odd that a Government who are so proud of their reform proposals for social security, only a few months ago felt it necessary to upstage this debate by making their announcement on the rates. I suspect that the Government are already beginning to realise that the less that is said publicly about the Bill the better.

I have three main points to make. The first is a general one, in that it seems that the only reason for the Government bringing this measure forward is that they have a totally pessimistic view of our future economy.

If the Government were investing in the needs of the country, we should not have to question whether we could afford to pay for SERPS. Clearly we should be able to pay for it. If the Government were doing anything to create jobs and get people back to work, the amount that had to be paid out in benefits would be considerably reduced and there would be sufficient money to pay decent benefits to those in need of them. It is a measure of the Government's lack of confidence in themselves that they have felt it necessary to bring the measure forward.

My main objection to the money resolution centres on the way in which the Bill further extends the Government's powers to do things by regulation and denies the House the opportunity to scrutinise most of the measures. There is hardly a page in the Bill on which there are not powers to make regulations. For example, in clause 41(1), paragraphs (a) to (u) set out over two pages the regulations which may be made.

When I intervened earlier, the Minister claimed that there would be fewer regulations because of the Bill. That may be so, but they will tend to have wider powers, so there will be longer individual sets of regulations, which means that the House will have even less time to scrutinise them in the normal one and a half hours.

The worst problem with regulations is that we do not get an opportunity to move amendments. The Department has great difficulty in presenting regulations accurately. I do not blame the officials, because they have to produce a tremendous number of them, but they get about one a week wrong. Sometimes the mistakes are found by the courts, sometimes by the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments and just occasionally by the officials themselves.

Some people assume that the Department gets regulations wrong just in wildly publicised cases, but I shall give just one example from today's proceedings of the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments about which the Department wrote: It is conceded that there is no authority to delegate the power of determination to the scheme managers and trustees, and the Department proposes therefore to make an amending regulation". That is the pattern that we get fairly consistently from the Department.

The House should consider the way in which it scrutinises tax and social security measures. I can see no logic in the fact that we have developed two differing sets of procedures. For taxation measures we have the Budget and the Finance Bill once a year, so hon. Members have a very good opportunity on the Floor of the House and in Committee to scrutinise the legislation, to put down amendments and to force the Government to justify each clause and, if necessary, each subsection. For social security measures, instead of having one Bill each year, with an opportunity to table amendments, we are presented with many regulations which we cannot amend. Ministers are given amazing powers. Any Minister who has been in the DHSS, not just under this Government but under the Labour Government, may have thought when he wanted to do something that he would have to get into the legislative queue. I suspect that Ministers have been amazed when told by civil servants that, if certain powers are used in a different way, they can do what they want. So Ministers have got into the habit of using powers under regulations to do things that people never expected them to do.

If the Government want to integrate the social security system and the tax system, the first thing they should do is to examine the procedures of the House and bring social security legislation into line with tax proposals, so making sure that the House has an opportunity to amend each proposal, rather than putting them into a continuing series of regulations.

The Minister for Social Security (Mr. Anthony Newton)

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. I say this with some diffidence, since my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury has come in. I wonder what comment the hon. Gentleman has to make about the extent to which the Revenue operates under things that never come before Parliament at all -namely, an extensive range of extra-statutory concessions.

Mr. Bennett

I accept the argument about extra-statutory concessions, but I suggest that they go nothing like as far as the regulating powers that the Government make. It is perhaps a little worrying that the Minister has apparently now learnt from the lessons of extra-statutory regulations, because he talks in the measure of directives. Again, I am sure that the Committee will want to spend a lot of time scrutinising how the directives mentioned in the Bill are to he subjected to parliamentary approval. It may well be that Ministers would like to get away from parliamentary scrutiny, but I believe very strongly that the House ought to be pressing hard for full scrutiny of all these proposals, that Ministers should not be allowed to put more and more into regulations and prevent debate.

This money resolution affects students, particularly in the way in which the Government have, I believe, cheated students. This time last year, there were to be two reviews —the social security review and the review of student financial support. Eventually the government announced that they wanted to remove students from the social security system. Instead of announcing the results of their student grants inquiry and suggesting that they would make good the money that students would lose by cuts in social security, the Government simply abandoned the review of student financial support.

So the students have found that their income from social security is being taken away, without there being a proper review of student grants. We know that, in the short term, they will lose the right to claim housing benefit during the short vacations and for halls of residence during term time. That will be a considerable loss to many students, faced already with the possibility that their grants will rise by only 2 per cent. and with a real-term loss of grant of about 20 per cent. since 1979. In the short term therefore, students will suffer real and considerable hardship.

In addition, proposed in the Bill and left out of the money resolution is the long-term question of money for students. The Government have made it clear that they want to take students out of the social security system, a laudable proposal, in my view, provided that the Government come up with adequate finance to replace the money that students will lose. But the Government have produced no explanation of where the money will come from and, in particular, have not addressed themselves to the problem that housing costs vary widely across the country.

I suggest that Government ought immediately to reinstitute their inquiry into student financial support. Only when they bring those proposals forward will they be justified in starting to take student finance out of social security. Until they do so, there will be great bitterness among students. It is quite clear that very many students already suffer considerable worry and anxiety during term time about their financial position. We have the absurd situation of students taking jobs in the local community, to the detriment of their studies, and forcing others to claim benefits. Many students are in conflict with their parents over finance, yet if their proposals go through, the Government expect students to be supported by their parents. I hope that the Minister will give a clear directive to social services departments for those students who have been in care, to make certain that the local authority puts up extra money.

Until the Government can bring forward adequate alternatives for students, they should take these proposals away and keep students within the social security system. Until the Government can face up to giving the House adequate powers of scrutiny over social security regulations, again they should take the Bill away. Lastly, the Bill should be taken away because I am sure that a decent Government could run this country effectively enough to give us all decent pensions and decent benefits.

10.54 pm
Sir Brandon Rhys Williams (Kensington)

I oppose this money resolution because it constitutes yet another nail in the coffin of the national insurance fund. The national insurance fund is not actually mentioned any where in it; but it ought to be at the core of it.

I said on Second Reading that the Government are still paying lip service to the contributory principle, but their adherence to it is not based on logic or on any recognisable financial maxim, and it does not carry them even as far as the money resolution on this major Bill. That is a significant error, and it is the reason why the House should reject the resolution.

Of course, the national insurance fund at the outset was not financially sound. While it was based on flat-rate individual contributions, it had also to rely on a subsidy from the Consolidated Fund; and even then it could not meet its outgoings. But we found the solution to that problem some 10 years or more ago when we put contributions to national insurance on an earnings-related basis. That provided the solution, but it has not been followed up.

The national insurance fund could and should be the source of finance for all the benefits listed in the resolution, including the social fund, drawing its resources from a tax at a flat rate not on every worker but on every pound of income. Such a tax would be in fact a personal contribution, resting directly on personal capacity to pay.

If social benefits were financed in that way, it would constitute a growing-up of the whole conception of national insurance based on the contributory principle as a separate self-balancing system independent of the Consolidated Fund. We would not be treating the Consolidated Fund as we do now, and are doing in this resolution, as a glorious bran tub out of which benefits can be pulled simply by the application of political pressure. We would instead be able to bring the interests of contributors and the requirements of beneficiaries to a state of equilibrium based on the principle of, From each according to his capacity, to each according to his need. There is nothing wrong in that slogan as the basis of a closed self-balancing contributory system soundly financed.

The Government in this Bill and in this resolution are missing an opportunity because they have not given sufficient study to the principles underlying the redistribution of income in a democratic society.

I hope that the House will reject the resolution.

10.57 pm
Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

I, too, strongly oppose the money resolution which, indeed, of necessity is vague and, in the case of the Bill, well might it be so. The one feature throughout the debate on the Government plan for social security has been their inability accurately to predict how much it will cost or, more properly, how much it will cost claimants throughout the country for the social security legislation to be introduced. The most accurate prediction I have heard is that £700 million will be taken out of the pockets of the poorest people. For the Secretary of State to claim, as he has on numerous occasions, although not so much today, that the country cannot afford a decent social security system any more than it can afford a decent pensions system is arrant nonsense.

What we need is a determination to eliminate poverty. That is what the debate ought to be about, not a systematic attack on the welfare state, which is what the Bill and the money resolution represent.

The Policy Studies Institute produced an analysis of the Government's plan entitled "Selective Social Security" in which it quoted from a DHSS-sponsored survey in 1982 on the indicators of hardship by type of family. Taking first couples with children, the money of 56 per cent. of claimants ran out most weeks. Seventy per cent. of them had periods of real anxiety, 63 per cent. lacked a complete standard set of clothing and, when interviewed, 56 per cent. were in debt. Perhaps the Minister will say whether any of his proposals do anything to alleviate such problems and anxieties. I suspect that probably they do not.

The real intention behind the resolution and the Bill is to save public money at the expense of the poorest people, not to eliminate poverty as it should be. Politically, one may say that the Government are incredibly stupid or shortsighted, or that they simply do not care about the poorest people living in inner city areas.

In my constituency there are a number of social security offices. The two largest are based at Archway tower covering the Finsbury Park and Highgate areas. Jointly there are 38,000 claimants in those two offices. Most of them will suffer from the Government's proposals. Many more people will be forced to pay 20 per cent. of the rates which are high in London due to Government cuts in rate support grant and rate capping. The number of people affected in many of our inner city areas is about one third to one half of the population of those areas. That is the magnitude of the Government's attack on social security.

There are a number of matters to which I wish to refer which I believe come within the ambit of the money resolution. The first relates to income support. The childless long-term unemployed are excluded from income support. The loss of additional requirements means additional hardships for them with regard to heating and special diets.

There is a serious discrimination against the functionally disabled. I do not think that the Secretary of State addressed himself to that issue during his introduction of the Bill or in any of his numerous publications in support of the proposal. I am worried about the further deterioration which arises from the family credit scheme. A notional sum is included to replace free school meals. As a result, those currently eligible, whilst in receipt of family income supplement, will no longer benefit from free school meals. A survey of charges shows that they vary from £1.75 to £4.75 per week. At current rates, a £3 per week notional allowance would result in the loss of notional income of £1.75 per week per child in areas covered by those authorities with the highest meal charges. It would mean a loss for families in 61 of the 102 authorities surveyed. Moreover, it has been estimated that children in more than 100,000 families would lose the benefit of free or subsidised meals.

The effect of the legislation goes in many directions. It is not just that the children will go without school meals; the school meals workers whose jobs depend on the number of children requiring school meals will lose their jobs. That is one reason why the National Union of Public Employees, the union that sponsors me in the House, is joining many other organisations in opposing this legislation.

The 20 per cent. of rates that will be charged to those in receipt of housing benefit is another problem. We are aware that the rates system is unfair. It is made much more unfair by the Government's rate-capping policy. Today's document does not hold out any hope for the people who live in areas that need the most public expenditure. They will have an added burden. I hope that we can consider these matters in the detail that they deserve in Committee.

I wish finally to mention the social fund and the way in which it will operate. The Secretary of State was unclear as to how the social fund will operate. He said that it will not be means-tested and that local offices will have discretion. If there is to be discretion over a means-tested and cash-limited fund, how on earth will it operate if it is to mean anything? The Secretary of State should be clear about the fund. It is designed to create an intimidatory atmosphere in which claimants will not claim because they will be hauled before the local manager who will decide whether they are fit to claim benefit.

I do not know about other Members, but my blood ran cold when the Secretary of State said that he would pursue those people who could not pay for funerals as a charge against the estate. We are means testing the dead when they are in the ground. It is a most disgraceful proposal.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

Is my hon. Friend aware that, according to the Government's figures, in London there is about £100 million of benefit unclaimed every year? Would it not be better for the Government to spend time and effort trying to raise the level of awareness of those who are entitled to claim rather than to attack those who are claiming?

Mr. Corbyn

Indeed, the GLC and other councils have done a great deal of work in getting people to claim in full the benefits to which they are entitled. Instead of receiving praise from the Government for telling people of their rights, they are told that they cannot do that and are threatened with legal action for trying to do it.

The Bill is, in many ways, a step backwards from all the legislation passed since 1945. It is being strongly opposed by pensioners' organisations, claimants' groups, trade unions and tenants' associations. Thousands of people who are directly affected are well aware of what is going on and will join in opposing the Bill. That opposition will continue and will grow.

In opposing the Bill, I do not defend the existing system, because I do not defend a system that makes it complicated for people to claim their benefits, where there are enormous queues, and there are problems of lost files, under-staffing and under-payment of staff in offices. I look forward to a social security system that is designed to eliminate poverty, not to return us to the era of the poor law and the means test, which is what the Bill is about.

The alliance parties call for an all-party consensus on this matter. There can be no all-party consensus because the Conservative party and now the alliance are determined to push the legislation through to make life worse for the poorest people, ignoring the problems of poverty, instead of promoting a campaign to eliminate it. Self-satisfied Members could walk for 20 minutes and see people sleeping rough in Waterloo station, and other stations. That is the degree of poverty and deprivation in London.

The Bill does nothing to eliminate poverty. [Interruption.] Conservative Members are stirring rather nervously now. They should go to Waterloo station and see the poor people who are sleeping there. They should see the degradation that has been forced on them by the Government's policies.

We shall fight this Bill all the way in Committee, and the next Labour Government will remove it in its entirety.

11.6 pm

The Minister for Social Security (Mr. Tony Newton)

Allowing for an interesting difference in style, the first and last contributions to this debate were in a sense almost identical. The hon. Members for Ross, Cromarty and Skye (Mr. Kennedy) and for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) both agreed that they did not like the present social security system or the Bill, and both agreed that they did not have the foggiest notion what to do instead.

The hon. Member for Ross, Cromarty and Skye started by saying that he was going to vote against the Money Resolution because he wanted more clarification of figures and details. He then perpetrated some of the worse waffle about pensions policies that I have heard for a considerable time. That takes some nerve. I should like to ask either of the alliance representatives—the hon. Members for Ross, Cromarty and Skye and for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood) what they mean by the reference in the reasoned amendment to increasing the state retirement pension in the context of SERPS.

I have yet to be persuaded that any alliance Member, including the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen), realises that the SERPS proposals do not immediately release a vast total of resources, because we are not tampering with people's immediate pension expectations. Hon. Members persistently talked about how modification of SERPS somehow unlocked a huge pot of gold that permitted an immediate increase in the basic retirement pension. Sooner or later, they will have to face up to precisely how they will pay for some of their commitments.

I refer hon. Members to paragraph 3.57 of the White Paper, and to the serious and important comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester) about the earnings rule. Paragraph 3.40 makes it clear that the change in the earnings rule will be monitored and reconsidered in the light of experience of its operation. That reconsideration will embrace the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe made about reducing the qualifying period for one year.

I shall not attempt to follow the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett) down the track of talking about students, in that whatever else I say is in order on this money resolution. I find it difficult to believe that students are, because there is no provision in the Bill relevant to any of the points on which the hon. Gentleman touched. However, we think that he failed to give sufficient weight to the housing benefit disregard which is contained in the package and to the grant increase following from some social security proposals that we have made.

The most important point to come up in the debate was that raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe, echoed in different language by a number of hon. Members, about the long-term unemployed. The evidence that simply being on benefit in the long term by itself creates additional needs is inconclusive. The need for long-term unemployed families with children is clear. That need is shown in all our surveys and is reflected in the family premium proposed in the income support scheme. That premium will produce average increases of £1.70 a week for lone parents arid £1.40 a week for couples with children.

I ask all those hon. Members who have referred to single payments in this context to reflect on the extent to which large numbers of families do not gain any benefit from the single payments system. That must be borne in mind. On the latest information we have, about two thirds of families with children, including lone parents, receiving benefit at the time of the survey had not received a single payment in the previous 12 months. A system of single payments which is as random and uncertain in its effect as that, and from which large numbers of families evidently receive no benefit, is not a sensible substitute for a clear, proper set of weekly benefit rates and our proposals for an improvement in those regular weekly benefit rates for families with children. That is a much more sensible way of ensuring that people can get the help we want them to have. We shall continue to proceed down that track.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Social Security Bill, it is expedient to authorise the following—

(1) the payment out of money provided by Parliament of— (a) any sums payable by way of the following—

  1. (i) income support;
  2. (ii) family credit;
  3. 899
  4. (iii) rate rebate subsidy;
  5. (iv) rent rebate subsidy;
  6. (v) rent allowance subsidy;
(b) payments by the Secretary of State into the social fund; (c) any sum payable under the Act to a person whose entitlement to the sum depends on his being entitled or treated as entitled to a qualifying benefit payable out of money provided by Parliament; (d) payments by way of adjustment; (e) any sums falling to be paid by the Secretary of State under or by virtue of the Act by way of travelling expenses; (f) any other expenses of the Secretary of State attributable to the Act; and (g) any expenses of the Lord Chancellor attributable to the Act; and (h) any increase attributable to the Act in the sums payable out of money provided by Parliament under any other Act;

(2) the charging on and payment out of the Consolidate Fund of any increase attributable to the Act in the sums to be charged on and paid out of that Fund under any other Act;

(3) the making of payments into the Consolidated Fund: and in this Resolution—

  1. (a) 'Act', when not used in relation to any Act resulting from the Social Security Bill, includes an Act of the Parliament of Northern Ireland; and
  2. (b) other expressions shall be construed in accordance with any Act resulting from the Social Security Bill.