HC Deb 21 July 1986 vol 102 cc19-29 3.30 pm
The Minister for Social Security (Mr. Tony Newton)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a statement about single payments of supplementary benefit.

I first simply set some facts before the House. Between 1974 and 1979, under the previous Government, what were then called exceptional needs payments rose from 0.8 million to 1.1 million, and their cost from £11.5 million to £38 million. These numbers were already a matter of concern, and one of the objectives of the review carried out from 1976 to 1978 was better control of such payments.

In 1980 the present Government made changes which it was hoped would overcome the problem, and which indeed took account of the recommendations of that earlier review. Initially they appeared to have had some success, but by 1983 the number of payments was virtually double the 1979 figure, at nearly 2 million, and expenditure had almost quadrupled, to over £140 million. By 1985 both figures had more than doubled again—to more than 4 million payments at a cost of over £300 million—and the growth shows no sign of diminishing.

This trend cannot be explained by the increase in the number of claimants. The rate of payments per claimant has itself more than doubled since 1979. Nor can it be explained by changes in weekly benefit levels. The weekly scale rates rose in real terms by some 6 per cent. between November 1978 and November 1985. There have also been other significant improvements — for example, in some of the payments for children; in the amount and scope of regular additional heating payments, especially for pensioners; and in the rules concerning benefit for the long-term sick and disabled.

Against that background, our firm conclusion in the recent social security review was that the present system of single payments could be neither justified nor sustained. It is incompatible with sensible planning and efficient administration, as is shown by the fact that, although only some 5 per cent. of supplementary benefit expenditure goes into single payments, it accounts for nearly 50 per cent. of all supplementary benefit decisions and over 50 per cent. of appeal hearings.

More fundamentally, it is clearly not achieving what Parliament intended. Despite elaborate regulations and adjudication, wide discrepancies occur from one area to another. It is increasingly perceived as unfair by others on incomes little or no higher than supplementary benefit, to whom no comparable help is available. There is unacceptable scope for exploitation and abuse, yet at the same time insufficient flexibility to meet the real needs of genuine claimants.

As the House knows, it is for these reasons that the Government have brought forward in the current Social Security Bill proposals for an improved structure of regular weekly income support, coupled with a clearly distinct social fund designed to give appropriate help with genuine special occasional needs in a more practical, manageable and flexible way. We believe those proposals are essential to the proper working of the benefit system as a whole.

Meanwhile, however, the growing unworkability of the present single payments system could not simply be ignored. In February, therefore, we put for consultation to the Social Security Advisory Committee draft regulations making a number of changes within the existing structure, as an interim measure. The principal elements were to restrict furniture and bedding payments to more clearly defined categories of need; paying particular attention to the needs of pensioners, the sick and disabled, and those leaving hospital after a long stay; to introduce time rules for repeat claims for items of furniture; to set standard sums for specific items such as cookers, and standard amounts to cover a range of miscellaneous household items which can at present be individually listed; and to introduce a standard pattern of help with maternity needs.

We have now given very careful consideration to the committee's report, which is laid before Parliament today, together with my right hon. Friend's response. The report clearly recognises the difficulties to which the Government are seeking to respond. It also recognises the effort that has been made to take account of the needs of those thought to be most vulnerable, and welcomes in principle the introduction of standard payments and lump sums. While making it plain that the committee does not endorse the proposals as a whole, it nevertheless suggests a number of specific modifications which it would wish to see if the Government should decide to proceed.

For the reasons that I have given, the Government continue to believe that action is needed. Moreover, those considerations have been greatly strengthened by the continued escalation of single payments in recent months. The most recent figures, for the four weeks to 3 June, were equivalent to an annual rate of 5½ million payments and at least £400 million. Many local authorities and other bodies are mounting campaigns to stimulate further claims, for example by circulating leaflets containing extensive "tick lists" of items under some such slogan as "Closing Down Sale". Apart from anything else, the consequent growing burden on DHSS offices, despite the additional staff that we are making available, is seriously detrimental to the interests of claimants themselves.

The Government therefore propose to proceed with new regulations, but with a number of important modifications to meet detailed suggestions which the Committee has made. These include further steps to protect the position of refugees, women who have been subject to domestic violence, and young people leaving local authority care; a lengthening of the qualifying period for maternity payments; the extension of lump sum payments for miscellaneous items to childless claimants setting up home; and, perhaps most important, a doubling of that lump sum from £25 to £50 for each dependant. Regulations incorporating those changes have been laid today, with a view to bringing them into effect on 11 August.

Mr. Michael Meacher (Oldham, West)

Does it not indicate the extreme and justified embarrassment of the Government that they have for weeks put off laying this measure—one of the harshest in all their years in office—until after the Newcastle-under-Lyme by-election, and that they are now trying to rush it through in the last weeks before the recess? Indeed, I understand that they are proposing to table it for debate on Wednesday—the day of the royal wedding—in order, they hope, to minimise public awareness. Is it not characteristic of the Government that they have chosen a day of national festivities to hammer the poor with extra rates payments of £300 million, and now cuts in single payments, which, on the figures that the Minister gave today, amount to no less than £180 million?

Will the Minister acknowledge that supplementary benefit levels are insufficient to pay for—and were never intended to pay for major items such as furniture, bedding, blankets, cookers, fridges and clothes, and that the effect of these regulations must therefore be to push many families more deeply into poverty?

Does the Minister accept that cutting back expenditure on single payments to the 1984 level, as the Government intend, is wholly arbitrary and it fails to take account of the causes of the growth in demand for single payments, namely, the rise in unemployment, the growing number of long-term claimants, who inevitably have higher needs, and the steady erosion of claimants' other resources, such as savings or spouse's earnings?

Will the Minister acknowledge that the Government's SSAC said: The representations we received suggest that while some of this growth may be attributable to increasing awareness among claimants of their legal rights it may equally be accounted for by the existence of a reservoir of unmet need which is only now being recognised. The Government's response has been to propose much tighter conditions of eligibility and a greatly limited range of items. This response, because it seeks to attack the symptoms (increased public expenditure) without fully analysing the causes, must necessarily run the risk of causing widespread hardship amongst claimants who are already living at what is generally recognised as the poverty level."? Those are the committee's words.

Will the Minister acknowledge that his criticism today of local authority take-up campaigns implies a lack of concern about the real problem of under-claiming that exists and shows that in the Government's view a high level of unmet need is acceptable? Will he confirm that the SSAC opposes these plans to reduce help for buying furniture, for meeting the costs of newly born babies and for making urgent payments to people in need? Will he confirm that the definition of chronically sick and physically, or mentally, disabled is being made much more restrictive in order to limit claims? Will the Minister confirm that the Government's revised list for help with furniture now omits tables, chairs, cupboards, floor coverings and carpets? Will he acknowledge that financing the repair or replacement of those items without assistance or recompense will chiefly hit lone-parents and unemployed people? Is he aware that scrapping regulation 28, by which back payments can be made where benefit has been underpaid, will have damaging effects, as will withdrawing protection from pensioners and many other vulnerable claimants during extremely cold weather?

Is the Minister aware that the modifications to the original draft regulations which he has made today, in the face of deep hostility from the SSAC are minuscule and cosmetic? Is he aware that these regulations will cause intense and widespread hardship? Is he aware that this is the latest and, perhaps, the harshest measure to be brought in by the Government, taking the country back to a restrictive and inadequately financed system of poor law support, which we in the Labour party unequivocally reject?

Mr. Newton

It will not surprise the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) to know that I accept little of what he said. We have made it clear that we expect about £100 million to be saved in a full year compared with the expenditure in 1985–86. However, it is difficult to make firm estimates in this area at present precisely because of the rapid escalation in expenditure that is going on.

I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's suggestions about the creation of intense and widespread hardship. As the Social Security Advisory Committee acknowledged — I did not attempt to disguise the fact that it does not endorse the proposals as a whole — a deliberate and careful attempt has been made to protect those whom we see to be priority claimants and cases, to ensure that they continue to receive help.

Let me give the House one example to set against what the hon. Gentleman said. A lone-parent, with two children, setting up home after a marriage breakdown will still be able to get help of about £800 to assist in that connection. That is not unreasonable. It is a sensible provision for those most in need.

Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington)

The Government gave it all away to the rich last Thursday, on the Finance Bill.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) must not interrupt from a sedentary position.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

The Government do not care.

Mr. Speaker


Mr. Newton

In view of the glowing terms in which the hon. Member for Oldham, West referred to the take-up campaigns of local authorities, I should tell the House that I have in my hand the "tick list" that was submitted by a claimant in the Strathclyde region. [interruption.] If the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) will listen for a moment, he may—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. If the hon. Member for Workington cannot contain himself, I shall have to ask him to leave, and I should not want to do that.

Mr. Newton

I have in my hand the "tick list" that was submitted by a claimant in the Strathclyde region, listing literally dozens of items for which she was making a claim, starting with four single beds, bedding for the whole family, three fires, three fire guards and four hot-water bottles. Also, I have the letter that that claimant wrote to the local DHSS office a few days later, which said that her social worker had been to visit her and told her that she could claim, had filled in the form, posted it and had given her a copy. The claimant wrote: Most of the things I don't need, so I am writing to let you know the items I do need, and could you ignore the letters he has sent?

Mr. Martin M. Brandon-Bravo (Nottingham, North)

Does my hon. Friend not regard the multi-purpose forms to which he referred in his opening statement, which is similar to the one issued by the North British Housing Association, which begins Dear Manager, Pay me a grant for these things", as a total abuse of the purpose of the single payment? Is it not a fact that this kind of leaflet and this kind of approach clog up the whole system of both the normal payment and the appeals procedure, to the detriment of the very people whom the system was designed to help? In the light of what has been happening during the last 12 months, is there not an unanswerable case for the new system that my hon. Friend is proposing?

Mr. Newton

I agree with my hon. Friend. I have some examples here, including the one that the Oldham social services department is circulating under the heading: Claim it while you can. One local office in Sheffield, serving 21,000 claimants, recently received 4,000 claims for bedding within a few weeks and 2,500 claims for furniture within four days. What is happening is clogging up the system, is detrimental to the interests of claimants themselves and needs to be checked.

Mr. David Alton (Liverpool, Mossley Hill)

Does not this latest attempt to shift the benefit goal posts augur badly for the new family credit system, which will no doubt be abolished if too many claimants take it up? Does the Minister not agree that this is just grinding the poor further into the ground? How will the poor contrast this decision to save £100 million with the decision to give away £1.5 billion in tax cuts? How will the poor contrast this decision to try to pick up a few petty offences with the Government's failure to do anything about racketeers and profiteers who are abusing hundreds of millions of pounds of housing benefit?

Mr. Newton

The hon. Gentleman should be aware that family credit has nothing whatever to do with this, except in one sense, namely, that the object of family credit is to do more to help low-paid families in work and to create a fairer system between those in low-paid employment and those on benefit. That is part of our purpose with these proposals.

Mr. Roger Sims (Chislehurst)

Is my hon. Friend aware that the state of affairs that he has described cannot be allowed to continue and that his proposals will be warmly welcomed on this side of the House? Does he not think that the abuse of the single payments system, as deomonstrated by the campaigns in the benefit shops that have been set up all over the country, illustrates the logic and the fairness of incorporating these resources into the proposed income support scheme? Would that not ensure that what is, after all, taxpayers' money goes to the people who are really in need and not to those who simply know how to manipulate the system?

Mr. Newton

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I agree with every word that he has said.

Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West)

How does the Minister have the brass neck to come to the House and make this statement, thereby saving £100 million, which will rob the poor of money that they desperately need for items with which to exist, and blame the poor for claiming what is theirs by right? How many Treasury Ministers have attacked sleazy accountants for running seminars to advise people on how to save considerable sums of money through tax avoidance schemes? How many Ministers have blamed the rich for exerting their rights and claiming their rights by every legitimate means? Why does the hon. Gentleman come to the House to attack those who are properly advising the poor on their rights and how to claim them? Is it not a disgrace to come to the House with this statement which is robbing the poor of £100 million, when the Government have given millions upon millions to the richest people, who do not deserve it and do not need it?

Mr. Newton

I am saying no more than that the system is manifestly lending itself to manipulation and exploitation on a scale beyond what Parliament ever intended, and that is not in the interests of claimants and is leading to delays in the proper processing of genuinely urgent applications. I do not believe that any Government would continue to live with this situation.

Mr. Tony Favell (Stockport)

Will my hon. Friend remind the Labour party that single payments do not drop off trees, and that the recipients rely on their neighbours to provide them?

Mr. Newton

I agree with my hon. Friend. One of the problems here is the perceived unfairness by those who cannot obtain these payments so readily. It is right to try to restore the balance between different groups in their claims on the taxpayer.

Mr. Kevin Barron (Rother Valley)

I represent an area where an increasing number of people are living on supplementary benefit, and where there has been a consistent rise in unemployment and all to do with it. Why are the Government not merely taking this £100 million from the poor people who need it, but not allowing an appeals procedure for the social fund so that an appeal can be made against any decisions taken?

Mr. Newton

The hon. Gentleman's question does not arise from the statement but will be the subject of debate in the House later this week.

Mr. Tim Smith (Beaconsfield)

For all this synthetic excitement from the Labour Benches, is it not clear from the figures that my hon. Friend gave, showing that the number of claims has doubled in two years, that the taxpayer is being ripped off by this gross abuse of the system? What checks are carried out before claims are made, and afterwards to see that the money is properly spent?

Mr. Newton

Our staff attempt to carry out proper checks, but not the least of the difficulties with the growing exploitation of the system and the burden that it is placing on officers is that it becomes increasingly difficult to administer the system properly. We are not prepared to tolerate that.

Mr. James Lamond (Oldham, Central and Royton)

The Minister said that he had a circular from the social services department at Oldham, which has—correctlybeen circulated to clients and those making claims for assistance. Why has the hon. Gentleman been so illogical as to claim that the system is clogged up—as it is, in Oldham—but not to deal with it properly by ensuring that there are sufficient staff to deal with the problem? Has not the lack of staff been pointed out time and again by the unions representing staff working in social service departments? Why has the hon. Gentleman sought instead to clear up the backlog by choking off those who are correctly asking for single payments, while, happily for him, by coincidence, reducing costs to the Government by taking £100 million from the poorest people?

Mr. Newton

The hon. Gentleman knows very well that we are in the process of putting a substantial number of additional staff into the social security system—some 5,000 in all — compared with what had been planned, because of the pressures on that system. I say to the House in all seriousness, because I believe that, in the end, it would be the view that Ministers in another Government would have had to take, that no system can sensibly cope with this kind of payment rising at the rate of 1 million payments a year.

Mr. Nigel Forman (Carshalton and Wallington)

Will my hon. Friend confirm that, in making these regrettable but necessary changes, he has followed the advice of the SSAC on many of the most salient points? Furthermore, if these changes are made in advance of the full implementation of the social fund, what will be the bridging arrangements between now and then?

Mr. Newton

As I made clear in the statement, the measures are seen as a means of ensuring the continued workability of the existing single payments system, pending the introduction of the social fund. That is a sensible approach, and it underlines the Government's proposals.

Mr. Gordon Wilson (Dundee, East)

Does the Minister accept that most applicants for such payments come from the areas of greatest deprivation, which have the highest numbers of long-term unemployed people? Does he not realise that they require certain items to furnish their houses? Does the hon. Gentleman not have any constituency experience of people coming to him for help? Would it not be better to deal with what is clogging up the system instead of abolishing it altogether?

Mr. Newton

The hon. Gentleman would be wrong to think that there is a clear correlation between deprivation and the number of applicants. One of the least satisfactory aspects of the system is the extraordinary variation to be found between areas when measured in payments per claimant. The rate of single payments per thousand claimants varies from 481 in one region to 1,540 in another. In Scotland, which will be of interest to the hon. Gentleman, the number of claimants per 100 unemployed varies from 38 in some offices to 291 elsewhere. Such variations must call into question the fairness of the present system and whether it is being operated sensibly.

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Grantham)

Does my hon. Friend agree that an eightfold increase in the value of the payments between 1979 and today is wholly unacceptable? Does he further agree that, as a general rule, such payments should be used for unforeseeable and exceptional needs, and that there is considerable evidence that claims are being made that do not fall within the general purpose of the regulations?

Mr. Newton

My hon. Friend is right. That is one reason why I am concerned that the interests of those claimants with genuine, unforeseeable, one-off needs are in danger of being swamped by some of the things that are happening throughout the country.

Mr. Hugh Brown (Glasgow Provan)

Many of us appreciate the fact that the regulations are to be debated on Wednesday, the day of the royal wedding. That must have been thought up by the Government's dirty tricks department, but may I ask a constructive question? I accept that there are abuses. The Minister referred to Strathclyde, and I should not be surprised if the letter referred to the office covering my constituency. Some of us recognise that there is a problem, but would it not be better to hold constructive talks with local authority representatives, with a view to looking at the take-up campaigns, which are legitimate, and at the abuses? One difficulty is that regional directors do not have the political know-how to deal with such situations.

Mr. Newton

We try to talk constructively to local authorities when they are considering take-up campaigns, to ensure that they are conducted responsibly and in a well targeted way, but that does not work with all local authorities, and some are easier to talk to than others.

Mr. Michael Hirst (Strathkelvin and Bearsden)

Does my hon. Friend agree that voluntary insulation groups have done a good job in insulating annually about 500,000 homes of the most disadvantaged members of society, often with help from a single payment? In view of his statement, can he offer any reassurance about the future of voluntary insulation groups?

Mr. Newton

The regulations that have been laid today do not affect single payments for draught-proofing. I have made it clear several times that we would not wish to make changes in that respect without being assured that there were adequate alternative arrangements to ensure the continuation and, indeed, development of those very valuable groups. We are discussing that with the other Departments involved.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

Instead of attacking local authorities and claimants' organisations which legitimately seek money from the DHSS, why does the Minster not improve the advice services of the DHSS? Is it not an abuse to say that those who are eligible to claim money, and legitimately do so, will henceforth be prevented from doing so for single payments? Will the Minister tell us when he last went through the indignity of trying to get a single payment to buy a secondhand cooker or an old bed or clothing or furniture? Has he been through that indignity? It is a disgrace that this week, when millions will be spent on the royal wedding, the Minister should come here to make the poor pay for the tax cuts and for the wedding that we are about to see.

Mr. Newton

We have significantly improved the DHSS advice services, and we attach great importance to that. Everyone recognises the value of the DHSS Freephone service, which is now operating throughout the country. One of the things welcomed by the Social Security Advisory Committee is the proposed introduction of standard lump sums for such items as cookers. That will improve the position of claimants.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Bearing in mind that this is an Opposition day, I shall allow questions to continue for a further five minutes, and then we must move on.

Mr. Michael Stern (Bristol, North-West)

Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the most welcome aspects of these regulations is the standardisation of payments? I hope he will agree that that will deal with a number of the racketeers who batten on to people who receive single payments. The effect of the regulations could be that more money will reach the people who need it.

Mr. Newton

I certainly agree. I think the Social Security Advisory Committee has recognised that our proposals are a real gain and will help to avoid some of the problems to which my hon. Friend has drawn attention.

Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarfon)

Does the Minister recall that earlier this year, in the Select Committee on Social Services, he warned us when we were pressing for more money to help disabled people and to provide care for old people that that could be achieved only at the expense of other items? In view of the Government's climb down on invalid care allowance and the passing of the Disabled Persons (Services, Consultation and Representation) Act 1986, are these regulations being rushed through so that the poor will have to pay for those two provisions? It is a matter of Peter paying Paul, and of the poor being clobbered on this occasion.

Mr. Newton

No, it is not. I know that the hon. Gentleman's anxiety is totally genuine, but I had hoped he would recognise the trouble that we have taken in the regulations to protect sick and disabled people, about whom he and we are concerned.

Mr. Gerald Howarth (Cannock and Burntwood)

Can my hon. Friend tell the House what proportion of those who are eligible to make single payment claims are doing so, and of those what proportion are repeat payments? I assure my hon. Friend that his statement will be welcomed by a large number of people.

Mr. Newton

Off the cuff I cannot give my hon. Friend the figures that he requires. It is certainly the case that alongside the regional and local office variations about which I spoke there are some astonishing variations between the numbers of claimants who receive a single payment, the numbers who receive many single payments and those who receive no payments at all.

Mr. Don Dixon (Jarrow)

The Minister said that refugees would not be affected by this robbery. Is he aware that in my area the vast majority affected by these cuts will be the industrial refugees, who are in that position because of the chaos inflicted by Government policies? Is he aware of the inquisition that people have to go through to get these single payments?

Mr. Newton

It is right that for single payments and for weekly payments of supplementary benefit local offices should seek to check that claims are genuine. I have not so far spoken about the removal of the so-called suitable alternative furnished accommodation rule, which has been generally welcomed. That rule was widely seen as disadvantaging many unemployed people who were trying to move out of board-and-lodging accommodation.

Mr. Peter Bruinvels (Leicester, East)

Does my hon. Friend accept that the careful and thrifty people in my constituency deeply resent these single payments, the absence of checks and the fact that beds are supplied every 18 months? Leicester city council has launched a scurrilous campaign aimed at giving more to just one section of society, while those who are entitled to more do not get it because the council does not care about them.

Mr. Newton

I note what my hon. Friend says, and I am not entirely surprised in view of the amount that Leicester city council must have expended in producing this "Closing Down Sale" leaflet, which is littered with massive "tick lists". I am sure that that will arouse in many people just the kind of resentment about which my hon. Friend has spoken.

Mr. Jim Craigen (Glasgow, Maryhill)

The regulations about which the Minister complains were introduced by this Government. Are we to assume that the upsurge in the number of single payment claims is a reflection of the social and economic policies that the Government are pursuing? Is the Minister asking the House to believe that the one example that he cited from Strathclyde—he did not tell us whether the person would have been eligible for the items claimed — convinced him to do what he is proposing?

Mr. Newton

If some social workers are filling in forms for people, getting the people to sign them and sending them off, and if it then emerges within a matter of hours that the claimants themselves did not perceive that they had those needs, that in itself is a form of manipulation of the poor. I do not suggest that all social workers do that.

Mr. George Park (Coventry, North-East)

Will the Minister accept that as unemployment stretches into years, inevitably household goods wear our and cannot be replaced on the amounts available through supplementary benefit? He is adding to the great hardship already suffered by some people. What happens when the cash limited social fund runs out part way through a financial year? Do people have to reapply at the beginning of the next financial year and hope that their names are further up the list?

Mr. Newton

As I have said, the social fund will be a matter for debate later in the week. The anxiety reflected in the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question is precisely why we have more generous rules in these regulations for those who have been on benefit for more than a year.

Mr. Peter Pike (Burnley)

Will the Minister accept that already many thousands of people do not get the single payments that they need because of the way in which the regulations operate? His statement is an appalling attack on the poorest and the most deprived sections of the community. The Government should accept that they are the guilty ones, because they created the unemployment and the deprivation. The Secretary of State for Social Services should use his influence in the Cabinet to deal with the real problems facing the country. The Government should not pursue this attack on poor and deprived people.

Mr. Newton

The statement means that as soon as the new regulations are in effect those claimants with genuine needs that ought to be met will have a better chance of getting them dealt with promptly and efficiently, because their claims will not be buried in this torrent of deliberately stimulated claims.

Mr. Harry Ewing (Falkirk, East)

Will the Minister confirm the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Craigen), that he, the Minister, voted for the regulations about which he is now so critical? Can the Minister explain to claimants the difference between those who take full advantage of the Chancellor's tax laws by employing a well-paid and well-heeled accountant, and social security claimants who are advised by well qualified social workers so that they can take advantage, of which they have more need, of these regulations?

Mr. Newton

It is appropriate for the Government to make sure that tax laws and social security laws operate in the way that they were intended, and that they are not wide open to abuse. Successive Governments have done that. We are determined to tackle abuse on both fronts.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Why does the Minister not listen to his own electorate? Does he not realise that millions of his supporters believe that by penalising poor people and giving money to the rich under Finance Bills the Government are wrong? They believe that that is wrong, and they object. Why do Government Back Benchers not stand up and represent middle-class opinion? Those people feel deeply ashamed of what the Government are doing. They know that the Government are wrong, and in all conscience they often write to their Members of Parliament and tell them that they object. They go to Conservative conferences to object, and yet the Government ignore them. [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman must not make a speech.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

The Government ignore them because they do not care.

Mr. Newton

I shall confine myself to saying that I had not hitherto seen the hon. Gentleman as a classic representative of middle-class opinion.