HC Deb 02 February 1995 vol 253 cc1233-74 4.20 pm
The Minister for Social Security and Disabled People (Mr. William Hague)

I beg to move, That the draft Social Security (Incapacity Benefit) (Transitional) Regulations 1995, which were laid before this House on 30th January, be approved. I understand that with this it will be convenient to discuss motion No. 2: That the draft Social Security (Incapacity for Work) (General) Regulations 1995, which were laid before this House on 30th January, be approved. The regulations provide for the introduction of the new incapacity benefit, which will replace sickness benefit and invalidity benefit from 13 April 1995. The Social Security (Incapacity for Work) (General) Regulations describe the own occupation test and the new all work test of incapacity and how they will be applied. The transitional regulations describe the arrangements for preventing cash losses when current invalidity benefit and sickness benefit recipients transfer to incapacity benefit.

Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarfon)

I am grateful to the Minister for giving way so early in his speech; he is very patient. Is he aware that no fewer than 160,000 people in Wales are dependent on invalidity benefit, largely as a result of the old industrial structures and the industrial diseases that went with them? Will he give a categorical assurance that none of them will be out of pocket as a result of the changes? If he cannot do so, will he say what proportion of those 160,000 people will lose out?

Mr. Hague

I can certainly give an undertaking that there will be no cash losses at the point of change; the Government have explained that on many occasions and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is familiar with our undertaking.

People may be tested subsequently under the all work test—although about half the current recipients will be exempt from the test—who will not receive incapacity benefit in future because they are found to be capable of work, just as people are discovered to be no longer eligible for invalidity benefit after a certain period. They will be entitled to receive other benefits, and I shall describe some of the arrangements that will be made. I assure the hon. Gentleman that there will be no cash losers at the point of change.

The hon. Gentleman asked how many existing recipients may not receive incapacity benefit in future because of the operation of the new test. I have published a figure of 220,000 for the whole country for the first two years of operation. I am not sure whether figures are available specifically for Wales, but if they are I will give them before the end of the debate.

It is important to remind the House of the background to the changes. Invalidity benefit is the fastest growing contributory benefit. The number of people in receipt of it has doubled in the past decade from 740,000 in 1983 to 1.6 million in 1993, and expenditure has more than doubled in real terms in the past 10 years from £3.1 billion to £7 billion in 1993-94. That dramatic growth has occurred at a time when the nation as a whole is becoming healthier. There is widespread concern that invalidity benefit now goes to people for whom it was never intended originally. No responsible Government could allow that growth to continue unattended. If we did so, spending could increase to up to £10 billion by the end of the century. That is why the provision of invalidity benefit was the first area that we examined in our long-term review of the social security system.

The Social Security (Incapacity For Work) Act 1994 introduced the Government's reforms to incapacity benefit provision. It provides the structure and powers for creating a more coherent, affordable and sustainable system of incapacity provision, with better targeting of benefits on those who are genuinely incapable of work because of their medical condition.

The tests of incapacity for work set out in the draft Incapacity For Work (General) Regulations 1995 will be used to determine entitlement to incapacity benefit, severe disablement allowance and the disability premium in the income-related benefits, where paid on the grounds of incapacity.

Mr. Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston)

As the transition, the new test and the 32-page application form for new claimants will require considerable staff training and patient explanations to applicants, will the Minister give a categorical assurance that there will be no repeat of the shambles that accompanied the introduction of the disability living allowance?

Mr. Hague

The Department recognises the great difficulties that accompanied the introduction of DLA, from which a good many lessons were learnt. Much of the expertise gained in resolving those difficulties is being put to use in preparing for incapacity benefit. Much time and effort is being devoted to the matter, and the hon. Gentleman will find that the administrative and other procedures will work efficiently and properly, as the House intended. I will spend a good deal of my time ensuring that they do.

Mr. Ted Rowlands (Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney)

I understand that 140,000 appeals are expected in the next few months. Will the same speed and efficiency that the Minister claims for adjudication and testing apply to the appeals procedure?

Mr. Hague

Appeals will be largely in the hands of the independent tribunal service. It is well aware that there is likely to be a considerable increase in appeals and is preparing for that eventuality. I hope and intend that appeals will be considered expeditiously.

In most cases, for the first 28 weeks of sickness a person's capacity will be judged, as now, against their ability to do their own job. After 28 weeks, the new all work test will apply. Consideration of all work is not new. In the current system, after a reasonable period, capacity is assessed against a wider range of work. The new all work test is the key to our reforms. Our main objectives are to focus provision on those who are genuinely unfit for work, to provide a simpler, fairer and more objective assessment of incapacity and to meet the expressed concerns about the current role of general practitioners as gatekeepers to the new benefit.

The all work test is the culmination of an extensive programme of development work undertaken over nearly two years. After initial in-house studies using nearly 1,000 case studies and open consultation with a wide range of interested parties, a panel of 80 experts was convened to assist the development work. The group consisted of experts in fields relevant to incapacity for work— practitioners from various disciplines in medicine and occupational health, academics specialising in disability issues and members of disability organisations. The panel took part in a series of exercises to help establish an accurate means of measuring functional impairment and gauging its effect on capacity for work.

The data that emerged from the panel's work were used to devise a method of assessment that was tested in two evaluation exercises involving nearly 900 existing invalidity benefit claimants. The sample of volunteer claimants used was broadly representative of the normal flow of cases called for medical examinations. The Government are most grateful to the members of the expert panel for their help in designing the detail of the all work test. All the data that they produced were taken into account in the final proposals.

In developing the mental health assessment in the new all work test, we were advised by and have carefully taken into account the views of representatives of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. We are grateful for that help and intend to keep in touch with the Royal College of Psychiatrists about the new test when it is implemented.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

I am interested to hear that the Government set up a panel of experts to look at changing the system of benefits, and that they are investigating people who, it was suggested, were not sick. Is the Minister aware that there are two different classes in our society? Some people have to work for a living and do not get paid if they do not attend. Many of them finish up on invalidity benefit when they are sick. Can the Minister tell me how many of the experts who sat on that panel ascertaining whether a working man or woman was fit or unfit for work were those who had to work for a living, and whom do not get paid if they do not attend? If a Member of Parliament does not come to work, he or she still gets paid. If a miner does not go, he does not get paid. I find it more than odd. It is hypocritical that the Government chose that group of people, as probably none of them has experienced the problem of having to work hard, suffer losses and claim invalidity benefit. Yet they are the very people who decide what kind of benefits are given to those wealth creators. How many?

Mr. Hague

Let me clarify something about the panel. The purpose of the panel was not to decide who was sick or incapable of work but to help in drawing up a test that would be fair and objective and to take into account the expertise of people on that panel. Many members of the panel would resent the suggestion that they have never had to work hard—

Mr. Skinner

I did not say that.

Mr. Hague

At one point I think that the hon. Gentleman said that.

The hon. Gentleman asked a specific question about the way in which members of the panel were paid for their regular employment. I am not familiar with the way in which each member was paid, but if information is available on that I shall certainly let the hon. Gentleman have it. I am sure that he will be extremely interested in it.

I am trying to show that the development of the new test has been an open process. We have consulted widely. We have involved outside experts—

Dr. Jeremy Bray (Motherwell, South)

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Hague

I shall give way once more, but then I must make some progress with my speech.

Dr. Bray

The consultation and treatment of the mentally ill has been continuing, as the Minister says, and I hope that it will continue. Is he satisfied that the manuscript addition of a mental illness in regulation 10 is the only amendment required to cover the ground that he has been discussing with the Royal College of Psychiatry, or are there other amendments on, for example, the disqualification for misconduct and so on, which seem to overlap with other legislation on the treatment of the mentally ill?

Mr. Hague

I believe that the insertion of severe mental illness in that regulation is the only change necessary, but no doubt if the hon. Gentleman manages to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, he may have other changes to advocate, and I will listen carefully to what he has to say.

The all work test will assess the effect of a person's medical condition on his or her ability to carry out work-related functions. It will focus on medical factors alone—the only relevant consideration of medical incapacity for work. Non-medical activities, such as education, skills and experience, may affect the ability to get a job, but they are not a cause of medical incapacity. It is the medical condition that distinguishes the long-term sick from the unemployed. To include non-medical factors in the assessment would reintroduce the problems of the current system. It would mean that incapacity benefit would be paid to people because they are unemployed rather than incapable of work. We have protected the position of the most seriously ill and disabled by making them exempt from the test. We have consulted leading disability organisations on the list of exemptions. Again, I am most grateful for the help that we have received.

We have recognised the particular problems caused by mental illness by designing special procedures for claimants with a mental health problem. Those with a severe diagnosis will be exempt. Those with a mild to moderate problem will be interviewed by a Benefits Agency medical services doctor who will have received special training in this area. There are arrangements to ensure that the claimant's own doctors will be able to give full relevant information on each case, including, if relevant, the possible effects of being found fit for work. We have also made provision for the small number of conditions where incapacity cannot be measured functionally. The arrangement here will cover such things as people awaiting major surgery or who could be suffering from a previously undiagnosed condition or who have an uncontrolled or uncontrollable condition.

In most cases, claimants will be able to give their own assessment of the effects of their medical condition in a questionnaire. Their doctors will be asked to provide a statement of diagnosis and of the principal disabling effects of the condition. If necessary, we will ask doctors to provide further information. I want to make it quite clear that any information given by claimants' own doctors will be taken fully into account in the assessment, but we will no longer ask the GP for an opinion on capacity for all work. That change meets the concerns that GPs and others have expressed about their current gatekeeper role.

The majority of claimants will be asked to attend an examination by a Benefits Agency medical services doctor, who will have been fully trained for his crucial role in the assessment. An independent adjudication officer will weigh all the evidence—from the claimant, his doctor and the Benefits Agency doctor—and will apply the all work test to find out if the claimant is capable of work.

We will ensure that there are effective sanctions for those customers who do not comply with the requirement to return the questionnaire for the all work test or to attend a medical examination, if this is necessary. If they fail without good cause to do either, they will be treated as capable of work. There will be six weeks to return the questionnaire and at least seven days' notice of an examination unless they agree to a shorter period of notice. However, we will ensure also that no one will be disallowed where good cause exists.

We recognise that sick and disabled people may have difficulty in complying because of their condition. Good cause is not defined in legislation, but existing case law explains that consideration should include any facts that probably would have caused a reasonable person to act as the claimant did—for example, the claimant's knowledge of the social security system and information that the claimant has received or could have obtained.

In addition, regulation 9 of the general regulations introduces a requirement, when considering good cause, to include whether the person was outside Great Britain at the relevant time, the person's state of health and the nature of their disability.

Mr. Frank Field (Birkenhead)

The Minister explained that many of our unemployed constituents have managed to get themselves on to this benefit. Many of us know that before the 1987 election there was an enormous drive in employment offices to get people off unemployment benefit and on to this benefit so that the electorate could see falling unemployment rolls before they went to the polls. The advantage of our constituents drawing this benefit is that not only is it slightly higher than they would otherwise get, but it allows their wives to work and therefore to raise family income.

The Minister has told us of the savings that he expects to make, largely as a result of kicking unemployed people off this benefit roll. Did he ask his Department to undertake a similar calculation of what would be the fall in the number of beneficiaries if the Government managed to reduce unemployment to its level in 1979 when they took office?

Mr. Hague

As we have seen during recent months, the Government are making huge progress in reducing unemployment. In the past year, an additional 220,000 people have taken up full-time work. Employment in almost all or all regions is substantially improving.

That does not get us away from the fact that invalidity benefit and incapacity benefit, as it is to be from April, is intended for people who are medically incapable of work. The reforms are designed to reassert that and to assure that for the future. The Government believe that that is what we have to do if the budget for incapacity benefit is not to run out of control and if taxpayers are to be assured that the money is being properly used.

Mr. Frank Field

The Minister has not answered my question. We accept the line that he is putting to us, but might he not achieve his objective of a fall in the number of claimants if unemployment fell substantially—back to the level of 1979, when the Tories took office?

Mr. Hague

If we agree, as I think we do, that some people are now receiving invalidity benefit because they are unemployed rather than because they are medically incapable of work, an improvement in employment— particularly one on the scale of the current improvement—would have an impact on the number of recipients of invalidity benefit as it is currently designed. We are discussing a long-term reform of the system, however, and we cannot anticipate every future movement in the economic cycle. We may be entering a period of much better prospects in the employment market, which will help the overall budget, but we cannot be sure that economic developments occurring several years later would not produce the contrary effect. We cannot base the future of the benefit on the calculations that the hon. Gentleman encourages me to make.

The detail of the test is laid out in part III of the general regulations, and was also set out in a report entitled "The Medical Assessment for Incapacity Benefit", which we published in September. I do not propose to dwell on the detail of all the provisions in the regulations, which are explained in the guide "Notes on Regulations". The regulations describe the circumstances in which the two tests will apply, the information and evidence required in connection with the test and the structure and scoring system. There are, however, a number of provisions that I wish to cover in some detail.

Part II of the regulations introduces the exemptions from the test for claimants who are terminally ill or suffering from one of a specified list of serious conditions. The exemptions ensure that the most severely disabled— in whose cases incapacity for work can never be in doubt—will not be subject to the test. I make it clear that the exemptions cover people suffering from severe mental illness. It was always our intention to exempt them, but because of the varying nature of some of the conditions we originally intended to achieve that procedurally. We have now decided to put the matter beyond doubt, and to include severe mental illness in the list of exemptions. That is why we withdrew the original draft of the regulations and submitted new ones early this week.

Mr. Miller

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Hague

I have already given way generously, and many hon. Members wish to speak. I may give way before the end of my speech, but I must make some progress; otherwise I shall take up a lot of time. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) is anxious to speak.

Part II also makes provision for claimants to retain incapacity benefit while doing a limited amount of therapeutic work on doctor's advice, doing voluntary work or serving as a member of a disability appeal tribunal or the Disability Allowance Advisory Board. We have made arrangements to ensure that the hours limit does not apply to certain people undertaking therapeutic work, and that when the limit does apply it can be averaged over a number of weeks. I know that those arrangements have been welcomed by hon. Members and by many people outside the House who have worked actively for the introduction of such provisions. With the associated improvements in disability working allowance, they demonstrate our desire to provide help for those who want to try to return to work.

Much concern has been expressed, in the House and elsewhere, about the potential for a "black hole" or "twilight zone", as some have called it, between incapacity benefits and benefits for the unemployed. I wish to reassure the House on that. The threshold for benefit in the new all work test is not the point at which a person can do no work at all; it is the point at which a person should not be expected to work. We all know of people who are blind or use a wheelchair, but who are perfectly capable of, and do, full-time work. We do not think that those people should be required to register for work if they need to claim social security benefits. We think it important, however, that disabled people should have a choice: there will be special arrangements to ensure that people who are judged incapable of work by the test, but who choose to register as unemployed, can be deemed capable.

Let me reassure the House that a decision on capacity will apply across the social security system. If a person is judged capable by the new test and then chooses to register as unemployed, the adjudication officer in the Employment Service cannot then decide that that person is not capable of work. A claimant must, of course, be available for and actively seeking work to qualify for unemployment benefits. That does not mean that claimants must be able to do every possible type of job; minor impairments that restrict ability will be recognised within the system and accepted by the adjudication officer. Everyone looking for work will be offered an initial in-depth interview with an Employment Service client adviser. A person who had some difficulty walking, for example, would not be expected to take a job as a postman.

Mr. Miller

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Hague

I will give way to the hon. Gentleman once more.

Mr. Miller

I am grateful to the Minister. Before he leaves the subject of this complicated series of procedures, may I take him back to the question of definitions? What is the definition of severe mental illness? Would, for example, a schizophrenic who could not get a job because employers—regrettably—treat such people as unemployable be considered to have passed the test? How are such people expected to find their way through the reams of regulations that the Minister has described?

Mr. Hague

The severity of such conditions can differ greatly from case to case, but those concerned must be diagnosed as suffering from a severe mental illness. I do not think that we shall encounter any difficulties, because those people will be exempted from many of the arrangements; and procedures have been carefully set out for people who suffer from mental illnesses but do not fall into that category, so that they are properly and sympathetically assessed.

Our overriding aim is to ensure that no one on sickness or invalidity benefit will experience a reduction in benefit at the point of change. When incapacity benefit is introduced on 13 April, existing sickness and invalidity benefit claimants will be transferred to short-term and long-term incapacity benefit respectively. Claimants will retain entitlements to allowances paid under the sickness benefit and invalidity benefit schemes. For those who were in receipt of invalidity benefit, the benefit will continue to be upgraded annually, with the exception of the earnings-related additional pension, which will be frozen. In addition, the incapacity benefit paid to those who were in receipt of invalidity benefit will not be subject to income tax.

The regulations provide for the entitlements of nearly 2 million people. They are necessarily very technical and complex, to ensure that there are no cash losers when incapacity benefit is introduced. Part VI of the regulations contains provisions for the new all work test of incapacity for work to be applied to existing cases.

The process will take place over a ? period of two to three years. It would not be right to exempt all existing cases from the test when there is widespread concern that some people are capable of work and should not be receiving invalidity benefit. Those people are in the minority, and the new test will identify such cases fairly.

The new arrangements may create anxiety among people currently on invalidity benefit who are genuinely unable to work because of their medical condition. Some have been on the benefit for many years. Let me reassure them. Regulation 31 introduces an exemption from the test for existing claimants continuously in receipt of invalidity benefit since 1 December 1993—the date on which the changes were announced—and aged 58 or over on the day on which the new benefit comes into force. That is in addition to the exemptions from the test that are set out in the general regulations, to which I have already referred.

Mr. Alan Duncan (Rutland and Melton)

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Hague

I will give way for the last time.

Mr. Duncan

Does not the introduction of the all work test allow my hon. Friend to give some reassurance to general practitioners who, in the past, were the unfortunate judges of whether their patients should be eligible for benefit? The all work test is a great improvement on the previous system.

Mr. Hague

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The current test has placed GPs in an invidious position on many occasions; under the new system, their views and information will still be taken very much into account, but they will no longer be in that difficult position.

I was referring to the exemptions from the test set out in the regulations. The exemption in regulation 31 of the transitional regulations reflects our recognition that loss of benefit would inevitably cause greater difficulties for people who are near to pension age. In choosing the age of 58, however, we also had to take account of the growth in the number of people aged over 50 who were receiving invalidity benefit, and the evidence that the benefit was being paid to some who were not medically incapable of work.

Nearly 50 per cent, of existing claimants will not be subject to the new test. Of those who do take it, we believe that the majority will satisfy it. We shall ensure that no one will be found capable of work by the new test without first having had, or been offered, a medical examination by a Benefits Agency medical services doctor. There will be, of course, a right of appeal against any decision to disallow benefit after the application of the new test. In any appeal where the all work test is in question, the social security appeal tribunal will be assisted by an independent medical assessor. Those facts should help to reassure people who are currently on invalidity benefit and who are genuinely incapable of work.

The reforms that we have introduced represent a major change to the way in which we make provision for people who are incapable of work. Implementing such a change is a major undertaking involving complex computer programmes, thousands of civil servants and hundreds of departmental doctors. However, it also involves about 2 million of our fellow citizens.

I wish to emphasise the Government's continuing commitment to a contributory, income-replacement benefit, paid to those who are unable to work because of sickness or disability. It is only by focusing resources on those people who need them most that we can provide an affordable system that will be sustainable into the next century. The regulations before us today would ensure that that aim and commitment can be met and I commend them to the House.

4.51 pm
Mr. Donald Dewar (Glasgow, Garscadden)

The Opposition social security ranks often labour apparently in vain. Therefore, I shall allow myself a small indulgence and congratulate my hon. Friends who serve on the Committee considering the Jobseekers Bill who today achieved a concession from the Government. My right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) moved an amendment to ensure that carers in receipt of invalid care allowance will get credits so that when they cease caring they will almost certainly be entitled to the—admittedly rather reduced—jobseeker's allowance. Carer groups have been pressing for that concession for a long time, so I congratulate my colleagues on the Committee on their success.

The regulations deal with an area of real difficulty. I am not one of those who would pretend that it is a simple matter to strike the right balance. It is clear that a great deal of thought has gone into the matter, not just in the Department—although it has reached some mistaken conclusions—but among the many groups of people who have been involved in the consultations and debates.

I hope that the Minister will not make the mistake of assuming that because people of genuine expertise and good will have had the staying power to remain in the panel system that reviews these matters—despite the fact that they might have fundamental disagreements with it— in the hope that they might at least wring some improvements out of the process, that in some way means that they endorse the principle of what we are discussing. I hope that the Minister understands and accepts that point.

One of the problems with regulations is that they come on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. All that we can do tonight is to state our concerns during the debate and underline the strength of them in the Lobbies. In doing so, we are reflecting a good deal of unhappiness and the wide sweep of informed opinion.

The simple starting point—I speak only for myself—is the belief that the change has been designed purely to exclude from benefit people who have previously enjoyed entitlement to it. In some cases, there will be victims who should not be victims. The casualty list will be lengthy and the wrong people will be on it. If we look objectively, there can be no argument about that.

The Minister and I are at one on some of the figures; it is always satisfying to be able to quote his figures for the scale of the problem. Over the next two years some 220,000 people currently receiving invalidity benefit will lose entitlement because they do not measure up to the new incapacity test. Some 55,000 new claimants over the same period will fail the test, although they probably would have been entitled to invalidity .benefit under the present regulations.

I say genuinely to the Minister that I am not trying to raise unnecessary fears, but there is no doubt that there is a great deal of anxiety about this matter. Although I get many letters to which I think I can honestly respond that I believe it unlikely that the right to benefit is threatened, there are many cases where I cannot do that. I know from personal experience that the issue is causing a great deal of worry and anxiety.

I recognise that the exemptions are important. The last figure I was given for that was 850,000.1 accept that that represents a substantial and important group of people. A large number of people aged over 58 in receipt of invalidity benefit on 1 December 1993—on an almost continuous, if not continuous, basis—will be relieved of a great deal of worry. There are other specialist groups and I welcome their inclusion, but the figures that I have just quoted will not entirely relieve public anxiety and concern.

Mr. Rowlands

If some of the guesstimates are right, the problems could be much larger than we already fear. One local assessment is that only about one third of those currently in receipt of invalidity benefit are aged 58 and over. I find difficulty in reconciling that figure with the claim that about half the recipients of invalidity benefit will be excluded from the process.

Mr. Dewar

There is a great deal of room for debate, discussion and local variation in the process. We will not know all the results until the system shakes down and we can call on what I fear will be bitter experience. My hon. Friend represents a south Wales constituency and I suspect that there are very specific problems in that area. One hon. Member earlier quoted the figure of 160,000 people on invalidity benefit; figures I have been given suggest the number to be nearer 175,000. Whichever figure is right, it is well above what we would usually expect on a population-per capita basis. We are all aware of the problems of the mining industry, which is a particular characteristic of people on invalidity benefit in my hon. Friend's area.

The test is meant to be a narrow gate. It is easy to mock it and its descriptors; it is easy to make fun of the new numerical totting up system. I do not want to do that, but there are problems. For example, I find it rather quaint that we are told that if someone cannot raise one arm above his head to reach for something, he is entitled to no points on the scoring system. If someone has no problem with reaching, not surprisingly he is entitled to no points on the scoring system. That appears to be redundant information and there are other similar examples.

However, rather than making fun I believe it to be more important to examine the general principle. We are concerned that there is a confusion between capacity for work and a loss of facility. Of course, medical condition is an important component, but the Government admit that other matters are also important—for example, age. Research produced by the Department suggests that once someone has passed 50, the aging process becomes a conditioning and important practical factor. I would be prepared to give personal evidence about that, as, no doubt, would some of my contemporaries.

The selection of the age of 58 is arbitrary. It was plucked out the air for no obvious reason. Nevertheless, age is a factor. Also, if there is no work that a person can reasonably be expected to do, in the real and practical world that factor cannot be entirely ignored.

There is still great concern about whether the test will be sufficiently sensitive and flexible to take account of diseases where remission is a problem or where pain is a presenting problem. There are the problems of describing severe as distinct from other forms of mental disability.

There are hon. Members in the Chamber who took part effectively in the Second Reading debate. I remember being annoyed when the Secretary of State—who is something of a stranger to our debates these days—said: Our new test has already been welcomed."—[Official Report, 24 January 1994; Vol.236, c. 38.] He managed to give the impression that if people were not exactly burning bonfires outside the offices of Disability Alliance, the Disablement Income Group and other such organisations, they were near to that. It was not a fair impression.

The Secretary of State prayed in aid one witness, the National Back Pain Association. It had happened to write to him and he had interpreted its views as being very much in favour of tests. As the association was the one example that the Secretary of State gave, I took the trouble to contact it a couple of days ago. It could hardly be described as a hostile witness, given that it was the only friend that could be produced in court on the original occasion. It may interest the Minister to know—it is not the most stringent of criticisms, but it is interesting given the source—that the association is concerned as to how the assessors will measure pain as a functional limiter. We feel that many chronic back pain sufferers will have difficulty in sustaining the level of activity necessary to return to work—pain is invisible and not always observable. A back pain sufferer could perform the test satisfactorily but at what cost and is it sustainable? I make that point because it is typical of many of the points that have been made by organisations with experience in the matter. I was glad, therefore, to return to them for further thoughts. I remind the Minister that, despite the nice ruled lines and dried ink, and the dotting of the i's and crossing of the t's in the Department, genuine concern still exists outside in the real world.

One should not argue these matters in terms of hard cases. I became a little irritated—I am sure that some hon. Members here will remember it—with the level of some of the debate on Second Reading of the Jobseekers Bill. The Secretary of State told us about the case of someone on invalidity benefit being caught cleaning the windows of the Benefits Agency office from which he received his benefit. We were told about javelin contest winners who were on invalidity benefit. The hon. Member for Southport (Mr. Banks) conclusively established the Government's case with the rather curious fact that the man who waved the flag at the Grand National was on invalidity benefit. I do not think that any of that does any service to these difficult issues.

No doubt exists that one of the reasons why we are in this position is that the Government believe that the health of the nation is improving and that, therefore, we should be able to do without many of the people on invalidity benefit. The famous phrase from the Prime Minister was that the figures "beggar" belief. Complicated attempts were made to suggest that, because the number of peptic ulcers in society had halved, a similar reduction should be seen in invalidity benefit. I remember having exchanges with the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth) about the Policy Studies Institute report.

To remind the House, it is interesting that the institute's analysis was that about 29 per cent. of the increase in the number of people on invalidity benefit arose because pensioners were staying on invalidity benefit after retirement age to enjoy the fact that it was tax free; if they took the same money under pension eligibility, it would be taxed. Most hon. Members with the persistence to stay for the debate will know that that choice has been removed in the legislation, and that many pensioners will have increased tax bills as a result. No doubt the Government will say that they have reduced invalidity benefit figures substantially because those people will have lost that right. Another 16 per cent, of the increase was due to the increase in the number of women in the labour market. Those factors have nothing to do with fraud or abuse. I hope that the Government accept that.

One of my worries relates to the problem of the black hole or twilight zone, as I think the Minister called it. Inevitably, a large number of people will be displaced. They will become dependants in their own homes. They will live on savings, if they have any. If they do not, they will be thrown on to non-contributory jobseeker's allowance, or, before that comes into being, on to income support. The Government's current estimates are that in 1995–96, 95,000 people will be displaced from invalidity benefit by the changes. In 1996–97, the figure will be 190,000 in 1996–97. Those people will have to sign on. Almost inevitably, they will end up on means-tested benefits because they are unlikely to have a contributions record that will allow them, even for the six months, to claim what is left of jobseeker's allowance.

The Government have been critical of the growth in means-tested benefits and of the damage and dangers of those benefits. I find it a strange inconsistency that so much of what they are introducing in terms of incapacity benefit and jobseeker's allowance will significantly force up the number of people on means-tested benefits. More important, it will create in many communities a bitterness, a feeling of failure and a hopelessness, which will not be good for morale, and which will lead to many personal problems.

I think too of single men who may be especially vulnerable—or single women; but let us take single men for the example. If they are on their own, they may have to fall back on basic income support. They will be in a position that is an odd reversal of the normal career because they will be on basic income support for 10 or perhaps 12 years and their income will improve only when they retire, because at least they will then have the pensioner's premium. For that long period, we are creating a substantial social problem and making no attempts to deal or to wrestle with it.

May I turn briefly, as I recognise that many of my hon. Friends wish to speak, to the interesting and important point that was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Mr. Miller). Administration has been the bugbear of much of the change in the social security sector. I am concerned about some of the figures that are already beginning to emerge because of the changes made in the administration of incapacity benefit. To illustrate that theme, I want to use the example of growth in appeals.

To take one criteria, let us consider what has happened since 1993. The House will remember that, in that year, the Government announced that there would be improvements—an interesting term—in medical control arrangements and that they hoped to save £240 million over a two-year period. In 1991, 4,852 appeals were decided and the number rose in 1992 to 53,088. In 1993, when the new regime was introduced, the number jumped to 9,422. The latest figures show that, in the first quarter of 1994, the number continued to grow, with 4,005 appeals decided. I know that this matter is open to argument about interpretation, but the success rate of appellants has increased from 49.6 per cent, at the beginning of the period to which I referred, to 58 per cent. It is worth remembering that, back in 1979, it was 21 per cent. There is a tale there and some deductions can be drawn from it.

It is not just the past trend that is worrying; the continuation and perhaps dramatic acceleration of that trend also worries many of my colleagues. Just before I came into the Chamber, I obtained a briefing note from the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux. It said that its offices in many parts of the country were being inundated with people who were worried about their position vis a vis the changes that have not yet come into effect. A real danger exists of administrative chaos.

In 1993—these are the most recent figures that I could find that have a statistical base—23,105 appeals on incapacity benefit were lodged. The Minister told me the other day that he was expecting 140,000 in 1995–96. That is a quantum leap. I know that he will say that the Government have put more money and resources into the medical advisory service; he will tell us that they are all geared up to deal with it. I hope that he does not think that I am a cynic, but if he is right in his expectations— on all experience, he is probably in the right ball park— the system will seize up under that strain and under the other administrative problems that are reflected in the expected dramatic jump from 23,000 to 140,000. That is a measure of the problems that we may face.

My hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands) referred to the nightmare of the introduction of the disability living allowance. We must be concerned about what is happening.

Mr. Miller

Did the Minister in the same conversation tell my hon. Friend the expected cost of the increased volume of appeals? I should imagine that it will be horrendous.

Mr. Dewar

I cannot tell my hon. Friend. I should be able to give him some relevant information but I have forgotten it. I myself received an answer to the effect that the added expenditure on the Benefits Agency's medical service was, I think, £3 million or £4 million. The Minister may be able to help later. In any event, I hope that I have made the point fairly.

When I was first involved in these debates—they seemed to have begun long ago—I referred to a "petty change" producing "minimum savings" for the Government. I was rapped over the knuckles by the Secretary of State on Second Reading of the Social Security (Incapacity for Work) Act 1994. He compared my approach to that of the late John Smith who had launched a fierce attack on the whole issue. As we now know, John Smith was right and the rap on my knuckles was well justified but no one who now considers the scale of the financial switch and the number of people who will be displaced could possibly argue that it is a petty change. It is a major change and one which I think will cause major problems for the Government.

Let us consider the impact of the test alone, leaving aside the difference in benefit levels. The savings are expected to be £210 million in 1995–96, rising to £700 million in 1996–97 and to £1 billion in 1997–98. That is a great deal of money to take out of this particular budget.

The test must be seen as part of a package. How will that package be perceived by the public? There are other adjustments involving many examples of how the rate of benefit will be lowered for those who are on the new incapacity benefit as against those who remain on invalidity benefit—the basic rate will be lower between 29 and 52 weeks, the age-related increases will no longer exist and the adult dependency increases will be lower in the middle period and, even when restored after 52 weeks, will be available only to those looking after children or who are over 60. The many changes will be noticed because people notice nothing more particularly than the shortage of the pennies that they want to count in their purse or pocket. My fear is that other people's fears are real and growing. One tries to reassure but it is often difficult.

I happened to be in south Wales last night—as hon. Members can probably imagine, it was rather quiet. I attended a public meeting and was struck by the fact that, at the end, more people came to me to discuss their worries about incapacity benefit and the changes than asked questions about something which to an observer would have been the big issue of the meeting which, the Minister will not be surprised to know, was the Child Support Agency.

I fear that there may be a parallel between the CSA and incapacity benefit. The trouble with the CSA is that it is perceived to be unfair and unjust. Despite all that the Minister has said, I believe that there is a real danger that the new incapacity benefit system will in the end be seen as unfair and unjust.

The Minister will no doubt say that once the transitional arrangement has run its course and the reviews have all been carried out there will be no unfairness, but the answer that he will receive is that it is very little consolation to be told that the system is uniformly unfair, which I think is how people will regard it. In other respects, it will be seen as arbitrary as well as unfair. It will be easy to find two applicants in the same town who are comparable in terms of finance, family circumstances, physical disability and loss of faculties but who may receive different levels of benefit because of the date of their first application. Of course, they will also be subject to dramatically different tax treatment. That is not a happy prospect and I think that the Minister has greatly underestimated the problems and trouble that it will produce.

When the system is fully operational, we shall be taking a total of £1.5 billion from the present budget. It cannot be a painless process because it is not simply a matter of administrative reform. Many people will be hit, and hit hard. It can only reinforce the Government's reputation, of which they should not be proud, for introducing change that is unrelated to the needs of the people whom the system is supposed to be helping.

On Second Reading, the Secretary of State, who is not here today, said: The Bill is not an attack on the sick and disabled; it is the very reverse. It is designed to protect their benefit against those who abuse it."—[Official Report, 24 January 1994; Vol.236, c.35.] I do not believe that abuse is the test, but, in any event, very few people will agree with the sentiment that the Act is a way to protect and help the sick and disabled. Once we have experienced the Act, no one will believe it. I predict that Ministers will have to rethink their position and I hope that they will be prepared do so before too much damage is done.

5.15 pm
Mr. Alan Howarth (Stratford-on-Avon)

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) reminded us of the Second Reading debate on the Social Security (Incapacity for Work) Act 1994 just over a year ago on 24 January 1994. Looking back at Hansard, I noted with some embarrassment that I had made an inordinately long speech, so I shall not today rehearse in detail all the reasons why I am unhappy about this measure and the regulations that flow from it, which we are now invited to approve.

I make no complaint about—indeed, I applaud—the Government's determination to retrieve and bring back into balance our public finances. I congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor on the progress that he has already made. What I cannot, however, approve is the fact that the cost of continuing this process should be borne by members of our society whom we must recognise as disadvantaged and in need of our help. Whatever the reasons may have been, it was certainly not the fault of the long-term sick and disabled that in the second half of the 1980s we allowed expenditure and inflation to take off; nor was it their fault that we then deflated the economy so severely and ran up the borrowing requirement.

Under this legislation, it is people who should have a special claim on public support who are asked to make the biggest sacrifice relative to their means and opportunities. The device whereby people are to be selected to make this sacrifice—the so-called "all work test"—is a contrivance that I cannot believe satisfies the rigorous and fastidious intellects of my right hon. and hon. Friends. As I have argued before, the proposition that there can be an objective medical test of capacity for work—for all work—is fundamentally misconceived.

My right hon. and hon. Friends know very well that an individual may be capable of some kinds of work and not others. They know that a person's capacity for work is a function not only of his state of health but of factors such as education, training, skills, experience and, of course, the jobs on offer and their accessibility. All those factors should be weighed together, as they have been since the Conservative Government introduced invalidity benefit in 1971.

The notion of an all work test is a fig leaf for the Treasury's determination, regardless of near-term distress or long-term cost, to cut planned expenditure. I am not interested in—I am deeply opposed to—gaining tax cuts at the expense of the long-term sick and disabled. I suspect that many voters share my view.

The long-term sick and disabled are not very good at organising protests and making their voices heard. The media gave no coverage at all to the Social Security (Incapacity for Work) Bill when it was going through Parliament, yet the Act and the regulations are major legislation in terms of their fiscal and human implications. The Government expect to take £410 million from the social security budget in the forthcoming year and £1,720 million by 1997–98 by dint of, among other things, excluding from incapacity benefit 220,000 people who at present can claim invalidity benefit.

Let us be clear about the fact that these people are disadvantaged. A few claimants may indeed be abusing the system, and I do not condone that. But the Department's own research reveals that by far the greater number are poor and—surely my right hon. and hon. Friends will agree—deserving.

Under the medical test which we are asked to approve, one has to score 15 points to qualify for incapacity benefit. Someone who is partially sighted and cannot see well enough, even when wearing spectacles, to discern a friend on the other side of the room, scores 12. If she lives in a rural area without buses, she certainly could not drive to work. She would receive invalidity benefit now, but if she were under 58, she would not receive incapacity benefit under the new system.

A person with myalgic encephalomyelitis—ME—who has problems with gross and fine motor control, cannot bend down and then straighten after picking something up, and cannot tie his shoelace scores only 13 and does not qualify. It used to be thought that polio and multiple sclerosis were hysterical conditions. Is that still the view of the Department and the Benefits Agency medical service on ME?

What clarification has been given, to enable us to understand the implications of our vote this evening, as to the calibration under the test of cerebral palsy or multiple sclerosis? Which sufferers from those conditions will qualify for incapacity benefit and which will not? The: principle of objectivity presumably means having the facts on the table.

I hope that the House will tolerate my once again quoting Dickens, because he would undoubtedly have had something to say about the all work test and the 80 experts whom my hon. Friend the Minister mentioned. The House will remember chapter two of "Hard Times": Thomas Gradgrind ‖ A man of facts and calculations. A man who proceeds upon the principle that two and two are four, and nothing over, and who is not to be talked into allowing for anything over … With a rule and a pair of scales, and the multiplication table always in his pocket, Sir, ready to weigh and measure any parcel of human nature, and tell you exactly what it comes to. It is a mere question of figures, a case of simple arithmetic. There was also Mr. Gradgrind's utilitarian colleague: A mighty man at cutting and drying, he was; a government officer. The Department of Social Security certainly produces facts. I commend my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on his willingness to publish research even when the findings do not validate his policy. Research report 20, a longitudinal study of new recipients of invalidity benefit by Bob Erens and Deborah Ghate, demonstrated that the great majority of new recipients of invalidity benefit were poor and earned in their last job, in 1991 or 1992, between £2 and £5 an hour. They were likely to have been manual workers. The most common causes of their invalidity were industrial diseases and other work-related factors. Only 17 per cent, of them had stayed in full-time education beyond the age of 16, and 48 per cent, had no educational qualifications at all. Once over 50 years old, their chances of returning to employment were very poor indeed.

Those recipients of invalidity benefit are the victims not only of injury and ill health but of recession—all too often, people in poor health are the first to be made redundant—and economic change. Where are the jobs in today's economy for people in their 50s with little education, few skills and a poor health record? They have paid national insurance contributions to provide precisely for the contingency in which they find themselves. Indeed, my right hon. and hon. Friends and the House have recently increased the contributions of those people by 10 per cent; yet, by way of these regulations, we would lessen or even remove that benefit altogether. It is not a good thing to do.

My hon. Friends are invited to believe that invalidity benefit has been a wholesale rip-off. It is pointed out, in the relentless repetition of propaganda—my hon. Friend the Minister for Social Security and Disabled People said it again this afternoon—that the cost of invalidity benefit has been soaring, even as the health of the nation has been improving; so, we are supposed to conclude, claimants have been swinging the lead.

I am glad that, overall, the health of the nation has been improving, but averages are deceptive, as we might have been told in an interesting essay, had it not failed to appear in the new edition of Social Trends, and as we have just been told by the school of advanced urban studies in Bristol. The health of the nation is chequered geographically and correlates with the unevenness of socio-economic factors. Poorer people, particularly in the older, industrial areas, experience worse health.

The growth in claims, as the hon. Member for Garscadden reminded us, has been analysed by the Policy Studies Institute. It found, as the hon. Gentleman said, that 29 per cent, came from claimants choosing invalidity benefit rather than the pension, as they were entitled to do; 16 per cent, from the increase in women in the labour market paying national insurance contributions; and 13 per cent, from the increase in disabled people in relevant age groups. Some 42 per cent, was due to the growth in the number of genuinely disabled people. The key to that is that they could not get off benefit because there were no jobs for people with their disabilities and skills, or lack of skills. There was no evidence to suggest that they did not want to be in work. Their benefits were a poor substitute for their earnings. The system has provided no feather bed for idleness. Four out of five claims questioned by officials of the Benefits Agency medical service were, indeed, made by people who were incapable of work.

What will happen to the existing claimants of invalidity benefit? The most severely ill have rightly and properly been exempted from the test. My right hon. Friend is allowing recipients aged 58 and over to be passported through to incapacity benefit. However, he estimates that about 220,000 people will be found to be capable of work over the next two years.

I welcome his assurances that there will be a right of appeal, that those who are found capable of work and decide to register as unemployed will have a full advisory interview and receive special guidance and help, and that additional places on programmes are being funded with extra resources given to the Employment Service and to the placing assessment and counselling service.

To do all that is, of course, right, but I hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends will think carefully and sympathetically about the requirements under the rules of the job seeker's allowance for people suffering from long-term sickness and disability—conditions all too real, although not severe enough to score 15 points—and especially older people. I apprehend that only a fortunate few—very few—will get jobs. It may take them a long time.

Only 41 per cent, of all men aged between 55 and 64 are in employment. The long-term sick and disabled will be competing with people in good health for jobs which, despite all the Government's good efforts to promote job creation, are far too scarce. Let us please refrain from imposing insensitive requirements on them, which will be hard for them to bear, through jobseekers' directions. Let us think very carefully about what requirements in terms of actively seeking work ought to be imposed on the long-term sick and disabled. Let us be as positive as we can, for example, in accommodating a commitment to voluntary work, which many people with a degree of disability will willingly and most valuably undertake on a part-time and flexible basis.

What about the appreciable number of people who will not qualify for incapacity, but who, because of their disability, will not be able to satisfy the more rigorous qualifying conditions for the jobseeker's allowance? My hon. Friend the Minister sought to offer reassurance, but I remain fearful that some—too many—will disappear into the proverbial black hole which he mentioned. It would not be acceptable were that to happen.

Those people are the victims of circumstances beyond their control. They have been unlucky in their health. They have been dispossessed of work opportunities by the colossal changes wrought by technology and globalisation, the restructuring of the British economy and the widening of inequalities in our society. But they are members of our society, fragmented though it is, and we cannot wash our hands of them. We should not for a moment wish to do so or consider doing so. It is fine for the Conservative party to encourage talent and success, but it can be no part of our ideology—I am sure that it is no part of my lion. Friend the Minister's ideology—to let the devil take the hindmost. We cannot neglect the responsibility articulated by the Tory party long ago to elevate the condition of the people—all the people. We must not abandon those who, under the present proposals, will lose entitlement to benefit.

At a cost that we could well afford, we could passport through from invalidity benefit to incapacity benefit all existing claimants over the age of 50. In a parliamentary answer on Monday, my hon. Friend the Minister of State told me that it would cost an extra £45 million in 1995–96 if all claimants over 50 were exempted from the test on the same basis as claimants aged over 58. My right hon. Friends should soften their rigour to that extent. Our economy is quite strong enough to sustain that concession. If they are unwilling to do that, they can at least extend the exemption to people aged over 55—the people who we know have the poorest prospects of finding work—for a cost of only £15 million.

The greater the insecurity of the world in which we live, the more we have a duty to offer care to the vulnerable. That should be a principle common to all parties in the House. As it is, the regulations express a policy which cold-shoulders the vulnerable and I cannot support them.

5.30 pm
Mr. Ted Rowlands (Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney)

It is a rare, if not unique, occasion for the Member of Parliament for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney to rise and say that he rather wished that he had made the speech that the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth) just made. It was a privilege to listen to the sensitivity combined with close reasoning that the hon. Gentleman brought to the debate.

I do not want to engage in a general debate. I want to tell the Minister what I fear will happen in the communities that I represent as a result of the proposed changes. I seek a basic, simple and fundamental assurance from the Minister and I hope that he will be able to respond to my comments at the end of the debate.

Irrespective of the national average figures, the Welsh figures, and particularly the figures for the communities that I represent, are of a different order from those that were presented to the House as the norm. According to written parliamentary answers, 10 per cent, of the male population of working age in Wales receives invalidity benefit. That is 2 per cent, higher than in any region in England.

In addition, the 1991 census figures revealed a frightening, disturbing and continuing pattern of ill health in households in the valleys constituencies. Of the top 12 constituencies with the highest ratio of limiting long-term illness in households, 10 are south Wales constituencies. They have the highest ratios in the country. Poignantly, the constituency at the bottom of that league is Wokingham, the constituency of the Secretary of State for Wales.

That gulf is a sad comment on us all. After 50 years of post-war effort, there is still an enormous gulf—which is partly historic and continuing—in respect of the social divisions reflected in the figures to which I referred and in the number of recipients of invalidity benefit.

I am most concerned about the figures. I am worried that they are guesstimates. I do not know on what they are based. As I understand it, the Minister rested his case on the fact that half the existing recipients will be excluded from the process. One of the problems is that benefit districts in relation to invalidity benefit do not coincide with constituencies or local authority districts. However, I understand that in respect of the benefit district area that covers my constituency and beyond it— the Merthyr, Cynon and Rhymney district—24,000 people receive invalidity benefit. I am literate, I hope, but I am not very numerate. I am therefore worried about the figures and I would be grateful if the Minister would confirm them.

If 24,000 people are in receipt of invalidity benefit in that benefit district, that represents a much higher percentage of the population of working age in receipt of that benefit than any of the averages about which we are talking. The Welsh average is between 7 and 10 per cent., but the percentage in that benefit district is infinitely higher. A much higher percentage of the people in the area that I represent receives invalidity benefit than the Welsh or English averages.

As I understand it, only about 8,000 of those 24,000 people are aged 58 or over; that means that one third would be excluded from the total. I would be grateful if the Minister would confirm my figures. In addition, we must consider those who would be excluded who would qualify under the exemptions; they would account for 16,000 of the 24,000. I have great difficulty in believing that an additional 4,000 fall into that category. That would mean that half the recipients in my area were exempt.

I hope that I am wrong. I hope that the figures can be qualified, altered and changed in a way that allows me to go home and tell the communities which I represent that at least the Minister is arguing that half the existing invalidity beneficiaries in my areas would be excluded from the process. At the moment, on the guesstimates, I believe that rather fewer than half—and perhaps significantly fewer than half—would be excluded.

I want now to consider the implications of a written answer that the Minister sent me about where the savings are to be made. In the reply, it was admitted that 41 per cent, of this year's savings, and 48 per cent, of next year's savings—we are talking about huge figures—are to come from disallowing existing recipients from the benefit. The savings will not be made as a result of new claimants or tax changes. In year two, 48 per cent, of the savings will result from withdrawing and refusing benefit in respect of those who are already receiving it. By any standards, that is a huge withdrawal of financial support from families and communities.

The hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon took us back to Dickens. I do not want to go back even to the 1930s. The qualitative difference between recession 1930s-style and recession 1980s-style in Merthyr Tydfil is that we still managed to spend in the 1980s. Consumption collapsed in the 1930s and that is what led to the absolute deprivation of the 1930s.

The relative impact of the 1980s recession was cushioned in post-war Merthyr Tydfil, which had enjoyed a reasonable degree of permanent or full-time employment for the lifetime of one generation, and people had qualified for occupational pensions and for contributory benefits. When the redundancies occurred in the 1980s, with the double whammy of the collapse of manufacturing and mining, there was, fortunately, a cushion of occupational pension rights, redundancy rights, payments rights and contributory benefits rights for a generation of people who had been "shaken out" of the economy.

In many respects, the figures conceal the true depth of economic inactivity. In my area, about 40 per cent, of men of working age are economically inactive. About 20 per cent, of them are registered as unemployed—depending on which bands we consider. If the 1991 census figures are to be believed, another 20 per cent, are economically inactive. Within that 20 per cent, are a very large number of people who receive invalidity benefit.

We are not talking about taking £1 or £2 away from people; we are talking about taking £60, £70, £80, £90 or £120 from people, because the benefit is earnings related. It is related to one's contributions and to one's earnings. We are talking about taking between £60 and £120 a week from the family budget. Almost at a stroke, the decision of an adjudication officer will mean that those people will spend months trying to appeal against the loss of benefit.

Let us take a conservative estimate, and say that perhaps 5,000 of the 24,000 people who are in receipt of invalidity benefit lose that benefit within the next two years as a result of the changes. If those people lose on average some £70 a week, we are talking about a loss in the purchasing power of the local economy of £15 million to £18 million a year. There will be serious consequential effects, not only to individual families but to the prosperity of the whole economy.

The contributory benefits which came as a result of the reasonably permanent full employment which lasted from the late 1940s through into the 1970s saved local economies and communities of the kind and character I represented during the 1980s. Much of that money was immediately recycled back into the local economy.

I can think of many families where the man or woman who is in receipt of invalidity benefit probably props up an unemployed son, daughter or married couple for insurance, clothing and a host of the other expenditures which occur in relatively close-knit communities of the kind I represent. Among those communities, invalidity benefit has played a very important social and economic part. Withdrawal of the benefit on the scale proposed worries me, as it could have a serious effect on not only individual families but the collective purchasing power of the community.

I do not believe that Ministers have thought the measure through. They will say to me that people can apply for unemployment benefit, the new jobseeker's allowance or income support. I suspect that a large proportion of those who lose benefit will be people in their 50s who, because of redundancy, have left work. They will not have made the contributions necessary for them to be able to claim unemployment benefit, or the job seeker's allowance from next year. They may not be able to claim income support either, because they have modest lump sums left over from their redundancy money and a small occupational pension which takes them outside the limit. They will, therefore, not only lose the benefit but not qualify for any other benefit.

Should those people bother to sign on for the jobseeker's allowance? They will have to do so to keep their credits for their pensions, and they will have to try to fill the hole left by the loss of benefit. As the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon said forcefully, they will have to compete for the same pathetic collection of jobs with younger adults and the long-term unemployed, of whom we have a rather large percentage. People in their mid-50s who have a disability of one kind or another and who will be shaken out by the new test will be competing for the pathetic, poorly paid jobs available at my local jobcentre. Let me tell the Minister what I am talking about. Someone brought to my attention a job as a security guard that was advertised as paying £1.80 an hour—bring your own dog". We are talking about pathetic rates of pay, and I am not exaggerating.

I do not understand where the national income averages come from, as I have searched in vain through the jobs advertised in the local newspapers for one salary which matches the average income. A considerable differential in earnings has been occurring during the past decade in communities such as mine.

The Secretary of State for Social Security gave a most interesting and, I thought, sensitive lecture in Northern Ireland a few weeks ago, in which he drew attention to the social consequences of what he called the disparity of earnings. He was talking about the social consequences of that disparity, while at the same time introducing regulations which will drive thousands of people in their mid-50s into the labour market to compete with other adults and young unemployed people who have been waiting and hoping for a job.

Mr. Duncan

I have been following the hon. Gentleman's argument closely, and I am perplexed. He seems to be in favour of keeping those people on benefit, rather than letting them compete in the labour market. Even if that is not his view—frankly, it seems that it is— he also seems to be at odds with the Disability Discrimination Bill, which wishes not to discriminate against such people in their search for a job.

Mr. Rowlands

One consequence of the measure will be to drive people who had virtually accepted that they were in retirement—men and women of about 57—and who have been in receipt of invalidity benefit for two or three years back into the labour market. My hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) made an effective intervention, when he described what happened during the 1980s. The Government understood and approved of invalidity benefit as being part and parcel of a whole process which allowed people almost to go into semi-retirement in their mid-50s, rather than scrambling for a job that they were not fit enough to do. The Government are now bringing in a new objective test with a huge retrospective character which will force people back into the labour market.

I must tell the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan) that a large number of people in their mid to late-50s have accepted that they are unable or likely to go back into employment. The loss of benefit will force them into the labour market. They will not feel deprived of their rights—that is the hon. Gentleman's argument— but they will most certainly feel deprived and angry as a result of the retrospective character of the test that is proposed in the regulations.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

My hon. Friend is making an excellent case against the measure. Does he accept that those people will also be angry when they find the levels of wages of the jobs for which they will be told to apply? Is he not making a strong case for a national minimum wage to end the obscenity of slave labour rates?

Mr. Rowlands

I shall not be tempted by that topic, as you might stop me if I pursued the argument of a minimum wage, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We can have those arguments elsewhere on other occasions. I am simply trying to describe what I fear will be a consequence of the regulations, and the impact they will have on families and communities. I am also concerned about the impact which the measure will have on local purchasing power, which has sustained communities such as mine during two major recessions within a decade.

The hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon produced some fascinating figures. He said that, for merely £45 million, the Government could exclude everybody over the age of 50. That is an astonishing figure. It may turn out to be incorrect and, in communities such a mine, we may find that the regulations have a disproportionate effect. We have heard the assuring figures that more than half the people concerned will be exempt and that the majority of them will have their benefit maintained. That brings us down to about a quarter of existing claimants losing their benefit, as opposed to the rather more serious figures which we fear. If our more worrying and draconian view of the regulations turns out to be true, will the Minister review them?

It was right and proper of my hon. Friend the Member for Garscadden to speak about the experiences of the Child Support Agency and the disability living allowance. We have been through those administrative problems, although we accept that Governments occasionally cannot analyse in detail what the direct consequences of their actions or legislation will be. I fear that the number who will lose benefit will be larger than the Minister suggested. My mental arithmetic worked out that he implied that only about a quarter of those currently in receipt of invalidity benefit would lose it. I hope that, if those figures turn out to be inaccurate during the next one or two years, he will promise to undertake a fundamental and urgent review. I also hope that we do not end up with people suffering as a result of the Government's economic mismanagement, as we fear.

5.49 pm
Mr. Barry Field (Isle of Wight)

I will not follow the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands) and his anecdotal evidence about the advertisement for a security guard which stated "Bring your own dog". It would be no good if it were my dog— his idea of intimidating an intruder is to lick him to death.

I shall be brief as I certainly do not have the depth of knowledge of my namesake on the Opposition Benches. First, I must declare an interest, which is not in the Register of Members' Interests, as I am the president of the Isle of Wight branch of the Multiple Sclerosis Society. My concern is that, although the pain, stress, fatigue and variability of the condition will be taken into account, the questionnaire to be completed before examination by a Benefits Agency doctor does not appear to provide for describing the effects of a variable condition such as MS, or for the effects of fatigue after performing some function.

Severe and progressive neurological diseases are exempt from all work tests. I want to know precisely how claimants who fall into exempt categories will be identified. As I am sure the Minister is aware, multiple sclerosis is a complex and unpredictable condition. It takes different forms, which include relapsing, remitting and chronic progression. Doctors are unable to provide a prognosis for the path that someone's MS will take, so how will agency staff determine whether a claimant's MS is severe or progressive enough to exempt them from the test? Will someone automatically fail if his or her MS is in remission at the time? Will the right of appeal be available for those who are not exempted, but who believe that they should be?

I broadly support the Government's thrust to reform social security legislation and this is an important part of the reform. I simply remind the House that one of our former Members of Parliament, Mr. Rob Hayward, was an MS sufferer. Happily, I understand that the condition was dormant and he fought the by-election in Christchurch. I am sure that among the fraternity of Members of Parliament no one would suggest that fighting a by-election would make one unfit for work, yet those of us who know about multiple sclerosis and are aware of the ways in which the disease can progress, know that it can suddenly accelerate and make someone incapable of work. I see my hon. Friend the Minister nodding—in agreement, I hope.

Fatigue is also associated with that horrible disease. Those of us involved in the Multiple Sclerosis Society hope that, before long, someone will not only discover the reasons for this terrible disease but a cure—the same is true of cancer. In the mean time, I hope that when I vote with the Government tonight I can do so knowing that the Minister will keep a careful eye on this matter. All our regulations and statutes—everything that the House does with the printed word—have to be in black and white, but I hope that the Minister will remember these few words of mine and will ensure that the regulations are implemented with a sensitive and human touch.

5.53 pm
Ms Liz Lynne (Rochdale)

As other hon. Members have said, the medical test for incapacity benefit is crude and unfair. It is crude because it tests functional ability only and a task that is done once, not over and over again, which is what many people have to do when they are employed.

As has been said, we need a proper definition of work—the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth) mentioned that. I know that the other place tried to change the ruling. I want the legislation to include the definition of work used by the private insurance industry: that to which someone is suited by education, training and experience. The Bill would benefit from the inclusion of that definition, but the Lords amendment was defeated by 124 votes to 107.

The Bill is also unfair because people have been paying national insurance contributions. The benefit is based on one's national insurance contribution record, which is extremely important—as it is with the jobseeker's allowance. People are being asked to pay more national insurance, but services are being cut and they are receiving less in benefits.

The Bill is also unfair because the Government are changing the rules and people will get less money than they do at present. It will be the same for the first 28 weeks—£43.45 a week—but, between 28 and 52 weeks, invalidity benefit is £57.60, whereas incapacity benefit will be £52.50. That is a saving of £5.10. The measure is a means to claw back tiny amounts to try to save the Treasury money, but when one adds it all together, it amounts to a considerable sum.

The full rate will be payable after 52 weeks and the terminally ill will not be included, for which I am grateful. The Government are also clawing back money from age allowance and dependence allowance, and so it goes on. They are reducing the age bands from three to two and the full rate will be payable after 52 weeks and not 28. At present, the under-40s receive an extra £12.50, those between 40 and 49 an extra £7.60, and those between 50 and 60, an extra £3.60. With incapacity benefit and the change to two bands, the under-35s will receive £12.15 extra, and those between 35 and 45, an extra £6.10. There will be nothing extra for anyone older.

As has been said, with incapacity benefit, the adult dependant will have to be over 60, or looking after children, whereas age is irrelevant with invalidity benefit. Claimants will also receive less money. One can claim invalidity benefit for five years after retirement, but that is not the case with incapacity benefit, which is available until retirement age only. Invalidity benefit is not taxable, whereas incapacity benefit is. The list goes on and on and the changes are totally unfair.

If the Minister taxes incapacity benefit, will he introduce a proper benefit or allowance for those with special needs? The Disablement Income Group estimates that it will cost £87 a week for special needs and I hope that he will take that into consideration.

The Minister estimated that 50 per cent, of claimants might have to be reassessed. The Government said that it was likely to be 85 per cent. He also said that it was thought that about 220,000 would be deemed fit for work after the tests, which I find extraordinary. The Department of Social Security has initiated some sort of test and says that one in four of those on invalidity benefit will be deemed fit for work.

The new test will be the same as the current test for the first 28 weeks, whether it is for sickness benefit or new incapacity benefit. But after that, claimants must complete an unwieldy questionnaire of some 72 pages. They will need a considerable amount of help to fill it in and citizens advice bureaux are already receiving many inquiries about problems with it. Their case load will increase dramatically. Members of Parliament, too, will be inundated with people coming to see them about their problems, just as we did with disability benefit and child support. In six months or a year's time, the Minister will have to come back to the House to announce changes in the Act, just as happened with the Child Support Act 1991. I hope that the problem does not go that far, but I fear that it will. Conservative Back Benchers will complain to the Minister, just as we are complaining now.

The tests are also unfair. For example, a person who can carry a 5 lb bag of potatoes is awarded eight points; and a person who can turn on a tap with one hand is awarded 6 points. But many disabled people overestimate what they can do and do not want to admit that they cannot do certain tasks. So those filling in the questionnaire may say that they can do something whereas they cannot.

I welcome the fact that the Minister said that people with severe mental illness will be excluded. But the section on "mental disabilities", as the Government call them, is still woefully inadequate.

The section on the partially sighted is also woefully inadequate. Will the Minister reassure me—I know that he has had representations about this in addition to the incapacity benefit and medical test—that the wording of the test will be changed so that it says that partially sighted people should be able to read on a sustained basis, rather than just be able to read words? He may have reached some agreement on that, but will he say something about it when he sums up tonight? The medical test should also include the ability to scan and focus areas of text and the words functionally useful field of vision". If claimants manage to fill in those forms, many of them will be seen by doctors from the Benefits Agency medical service, but those doctors will not know the patients. The Government may say that that is a good thing as it will ensure that the system it not open to abuse, but if doctors do not know the patients they will not know the patients' real history or the problems that they have experienced. Furthermore, will doctors who must review cases be trained in the relevant specialities, for instance, in mental health? Under the industrial injuries compensation review, many doctors are brought in from specialist fields. I know that that would be expensive and I doubt whether the Government will take the suggestion on board, but they should be aware of the various specialities. A doctor should not simply be asked to say whether someone with mental illness or a disability is unfit for work. They must have been trained in a particular speciality.

Filling in the questionnaire will present great problems for the mentally ill, many of whom will not bother to fill it in and claim benefit. Some of them are unable to concentrate or have given up their jobs because of panic attacks. Imagine a mentally ill person presented with all those questions. They will make him or her panic even more.

Some people will fall through the net between the incapacity and jobseekers benefits. In a written answer, the Minister of State, Department of Employment said that the problem will not have a great effect and will be taken into account under the new jobseeker's allowance in a similar way to unemployment benefit. But citizens advice bureaux already say that people are falling through the net as a result of the new medical test on invalidity benefit. They try to get unemployment benefit but end up getting no benefit whatever. I can imagine the arguments at the Benefits Agency about what should be excluded from the "area of work", because that point is being argued already. I hope that the Government will think again about the medical test. They seem to be simply clawing back money for the Treasury.

Another key point is that many people will seek advice. If the Government think that people can rely on citizens advice bureaux, they must ensure that the CAB are given the funds and wherewithal to deal with all the cases that are brought to them, or the Government will have to provide an alternative.

I wish that the Government had decided to simplify the invalidity benefit rather than complicate it and introduce a benefit that would advantage disabled people. The incapacity benefit simply penalises disabled people. Disabled people's organisations throughout the country and hon. Members on both sides of the House want the Minister, even at this late stage, to change his mind and review the medical test and, if possible, the incapacity benefit.

6.6 pm

Mr. Alan Duncan (Rutland and Melton)

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for calling me once again. I have sat across the Floor from the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) in many social security debates and was, unusually, gearing up to pay him a compliment. I am sorry that he is no longer in his place to witness it. The manner in which he has approached this matter has been fair-minded. He is always a master of detail and I always learn something when he speaks. He makes broad and encouraging comments in addressing the overall problem of social security and an ever-rising budget. He said in 1992: The Labour Party recognises the inadequacies of the present system … any government is entitled to review policy and spending patterns". So they are. He also said on the television series "On the Record": I certainly don't take the view that the answer to the problems of the Social Security Department is just spending more money within the framework of the present system". Indeed, and I commend the hon. Gentleman for both those observations.

Our problem, however, is in moving from those generalities to specifics and I regret that, even before we had a chance to study the details of the Bill, he dismissed it simply as a conspiracy to undermine the welfare state. It is not a conspiracy to do so. Rather, the reforms before us tonight, and the specific matters in the statutory instruments that we are debating, address and fit well within the context of the long-term problems of social security with which Governments must wrestle.

On Second Reading, the Secretary of State said: The Bill has three objectives: first, to ensure that the huge and rising sums devoted to sickness benefits are properly focused on those who are genuinely too unwell to work; secondly, to ensure that the cost is affordable; and thirdly, to provide a more rational structure of benefits."—[Official Report, 24 January 1994; Vol. 236, c. 35.] That is a good rule of thumb for almost any reform to the social security system and is in tune with the issues with which the Select Committee on Social Security has dealt.

The current structure, which has been changed by the regulations, is inadequate. It is complicated and running out of control. There are currently two main benefits for people who are away from work for short periods because of sickness—statutory sick pay and sickness benefit.

When we consider long-term incapacity we find that most people who have been entitled to either statutory sick pay or sickness benefit become entitled to the contributory invalidity benefit after 28 weeks of incapacity until they claim state retirement pension or are able to work again. They have to provide evidence of incapacity—normally to their own doctor. The invalidity benefit currently consists of an invalidity pension paid at the same rate as retirement pension, an invalidity allowance—an age-related addition that is paid to people qualifying for invalidity pension who become incapable of work more than five years before pensionable age— and an additional pension that is based on people's earnings between 1978–79 and 1990–91. The Government have already reformed the additional pension so that no further entitlement arises on earnings beyond April 1991. That measure was part of the package introduced from 1991 to improve the balance of incapacity benefits.

The existing severe disablement allowance is non-contributory and goes to those people who are incapable of work for more than 28 weeks. But the flaws of the existing structure became completely overwhelming and there was increasing and widespread concern that benefits for those incapable of work have been going to people for whom they were never intended. There has been a rapid growth in invalidity benefit at a time when the nation's health has been recorded as improving. The number of people in receipt of invalidity benefit has almost trebled over the past 15 years—from 550,000 to about 1.8 million.

Mr. Alan Howarth

My hon. Friend alluded to what he described as increasing concern that invalidity benefit was going to people to whom it should not. What evidence has he of that concern? What evidence has he that the concern may be justified?

Mr. Duncan

It is self-evident that, if the health of the nation is improving while, at the same time, the number of people deemed to be disabled and in receipt of benefit is increasing dramatically, there is something inconsistent in the way that disability benefit is delivered. I shall tell my hon. Friend the figures with which one has to wrestle.

Expenditure on benefit has more than doubled over the past 10 years, even after allowing for inflation. It more than trebled in cash terms—from £1.6 billion in the financial year 1982–83 to £7 billion in 1993–94. If the system remained unreformed, the estimate is that spending could rise to £10 billion by the end of the century. It has become the largest contributory benefit after the state pension and one of the fastest-growing areas of expenditure in the system. I commend the Government for addressing the problems of a set of circumstances with which it is increasingly impossible to live.

Those who are capable of work, but unemployed, should not be in receipt of incapacity benefit. Instead, they should receive benefits designed for those who are unemployed and, in particular, they should be designed to help such people back to work. Long-term dependence on incapacity benefit reduces motivation, causes skills to deteriorate and makes it harder for the recipient to take employment when work becomes available. It entrenches a distortion in the labour market which is severely detrimental to the long-term welfare and prosperity, not just of the country, but of the individuals involved.

Another problem with the system was that general practitioners were experiencing severe difficulty fulfilling their role as the gatekeeper to invalidity benefit. The current system has placed them in an unfair position—a nasty and invidious position—in relation to their patients.

It is almost impossible for a GP to maintain a cordial relationship with a patient for whom he has care and a duty of care when he is also asked to be the effective vetter of the patient's right to a state-provided benefit. It is as well that the GP's role has been significantly reduced to a more administrative one.

The new system to be introduced in April amalgamates the myriad benefits into a single new benefit. It will be contributory and paid as of right, irrespective of means, to everyone who satisfies the necessary conditions. I think that the eligibility conditions have been fairly drawn. For the first 28 weeks of incapacity, people will be able to receive incapacity benefit if they are incapable of working in their own occupation. After 28 weeks, a new medical test of incapacity for all work will apply. It will apply in respect of both incapacity benefit and other benefits paid on the basis of long-term incapacity.

There will be three rates of payment. The lowest will be payable for the first 28 weeks of sickness, when many people have occupational sick pay and other resources to call on, and will be paid at a rate equivalent to existing sickness benefit. After 28 weeks, an intermediate tier will be payable, set at the current higher rate of statutory sick pay. It will ensure that the benefit level is maintained for those who have been receiving statutory sick pay. The highest rate of incapacity benefit will be payable after 52 weeks of incapacity and will be set at the current basic rate of invalidity benefit.

Existing claimants will continue to receive the rate of benefit in payment at the time of the change. In recognition of the overlap that now exists between state and private provision, the earnings-related additional pension on invalidity benefit will be abolished for new claimants and frozen for existing claimants. The Government have also undertaken to continue to uprate the remainder of the benefit. Many people undertake voluntary and therapeutic work, and certain changes contained in the measure will assist them. From April, all recipients of incapacity benefit will be able to undertake voluntary work for up to 16 hours a week while receiving benefit.

Under the existing system, many factors are considered when taking decisions on incapacity. Such factors include age, skills, education, experience and something dubbed "other social factors". But the trouble is that the list precludes a tight definition of incapacity and makes it difficult to determine precisely whether someone is eligible to receive the benefit.

The new system has considerable advantages and, under it, for the first 28 weeks of incapacity, people will be able to receive the lower rate of incapacity benefit if they are incapable of working in their own occupation. After 28 weeks, a new medical test of incapacity will apply. That medical test will involve the claimant, the claimant's GP and the departmental doctor. In an assessment of the claimant's ability to carry out a range of work-related activities, certain tests will apply. A significant advantage over the former system is that the GP will be involved only in a limited role and in supplying purely medical information.

The regulations that we are considering are detailed and the hon. Member for Rochdale (Ms Lynne) has quibbled with some of the tests included in the questionnaire—I can see why in many respects. The own occupation test and the all work test which are defined in the instruments have been researched extensively. In seeking to define them, the Government have received more than 350 responses since the publication of their consultation document on 1 December 1993. The Government have evaluated all the information and they have come up with detailed, clear and undeniably workable guidelines.

The methods of dealing with those who suffer from mental health problems—with which the hon. Member for Rochdale is intensely concerned; indeed, she raised the matter during the proceedings of the Disability Discrimination Bill this morning—have been addressed and the provisions have been designed properly. I have read them in considerable detail and assessed how they will replace the existing system and I commend them to the House.

6.20 pm
Dr. Jeremy Bray (Motherwell, South)

The hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan) is concerned, quite correctly, about avoiding the ghettoisation of the unemployed and the handicapped. He has advanced proposals in support of a scheme which at least makes a return to employment possible; that is a laudable objective. However, I wonder whether he is being entirely realistic.

I shall deal first the plight of those who suffer from mental illness—in either severe or moderate forms— which is not exempt from the test. People generally refuse to acknowledge their illness and they take violent exception to the suggestion that they may, in any way, be mentally ill. Therefore, those who suffer mental illness often make a very traumatic entry into the health service. The argument about whether people are mildly or severely mentally ill is totally irrelevant.

If such people lose their jobs and are then forced to deal with the most difficult aspects of social security provision, a temporary breakdown could easily become a permanent disability. When we identify the support mechanisms available to the mentally ill, it is obvious that the overwhelming burden of responsibility falls on community care and the health service. However, I do not think that the social security system can wash its hands entirely of its responsibilities.

I welcome the exemption of the severely mentally ill from the work test, but the fact that the mildly mentally ill will be subject to the test poses all sorts of problems. Regulation 18(l)(b) states: where a person x2026; fails without good cause to attend for or submit himself to medical or other treatment … he shall be disqualified from receiving benefit". That provision may overlap with the Government's proposals in the legislation dealing with the supervised discharge of the mentally ill and with community care arrangements. Have the Government thought about how regulation 18 will operate when community care arrangements vary hugely from one health authority to another and when the attitudes and the understanding of social security staff vary a great deal from one office to another? There is a standard system, but practical interpretation of it varies widely. I do not think that Motherwell is in the worst position in that regard, but I do not think that we fare particularly well either.

In building up the community care provision, it is essential that the Departments of Employment, of Health and of Social Security work together very closely. The Department of Employment supports many admirable access-to-work schemes for the mentally ill which are run by people who have been mentally ill themselves. Mentally-ill people receive a sympathetic hearing from departmental staff and they are encouraged to take on more and more work. However, there is a danger that they will take on too much work, which may have disastrous consequences. It could prove beneficial to link the access-to-work schemes more closely with the health service—in terms both of national policy and of the local delivery of that policy.

It is in the softer aspects of the organisation and provision of opportunities to return to work, rather than the hard, practical rules which are considered by the House, that the greatest progress will be made. Returning people to work successfully requires constructive and sensitive organisation and the regulations should be drafted in such a way as to achieve some flexibility. I do not think that that flexibility is achieved in the regulations as they stand at present and they overlap with legislation which is yet to come before the House. I trust that the Minister and his departmental colleagues will continue to give careful attention to those matters.

6.26 pm
Mr. Keith Bradley (Manchester, Withington)

We have had a thoughtful debate, and I commend the effective contributions from both sides of the House, which will form a major part of the on-going debate on the regulations. They will continue to come before the House for a number of years and we shall be able to monitor their effects.

However, I must immediately take issue with the contribution of the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan). He said it was self-evident that, because the health of the nation is improving, the number of people on invalidity benefit should be falling. If he looks carefully at the research undertaken by the Department of Social Security—

Mr. Duncan

I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way. I did not say that. I said that if the health of the nation is improving, it is curious that the number of disabled people appears to be increasing as fast as it is.

Mr. Bradley

I accept the hon. Gentleman's rewording of what I thought he said. Even so, I should be grateful if he would read the research from the Department of Social Security before making such assumptions. DSS statistics and independent research show clearly that the growth in the number of claims is more to do with people spending longer periods on benefit than with an increase in the number of people making claims.

My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) and the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth) referred to research conducted by the Policy Studies Institute which shows that demographic trends account for much of that increase. The trends include: an increase in the number of women paying national insurance contributions; an increase in the number of people above pension age; and a gradual increase in the number of people with disabilities, with a significant rise over the period of the increase. In future, I hope that the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton will look at the statistics more carefully before making rather broad-brush assumptions about why the number of claims for benefit has increased.

The regulations give us the opportunity to debate for the first time the new test of incapacity for work and the transitional arrangements. They are crucially important for thousands of people who are disabled and chronically sick and for those who will be so affected after April this year. The provisions are wide-ranging as they apply not only to incapacity benefit, which replaces sickness benefit and invalidity benefit, but to the assessment of incapacity for severe disablement allowance, income support and credit only cases. They range further than merely the assessment for incapacity benefit.

The reasoning behind the new test—to cut the increasing number of claims—has been perceived as a problem only in the case of invalidity benefit and not for the severe disablement allowance and for income support.

This is the first and last time that the House will have the opportunity to debate the details of the new incapacity test before it is implemented. We complained during the passage of the Social Security (Incapacity for Work) Act 1994 that no definition of the medical test appeared in the Bill, so we could not debate it. Considerable concern was expressed in both Houses about the nature of the test. No details of the new definition were available because consultation and development were being undertaken simultaneously. We did not have the benefit of understanding that process while considering the Bill to implement the test.

It eventually became clear that the test would deal only with functional ability and would not be more wide-ranging. A person's incapacity is reduced to a set of formulas that omits other factors relevant to incapacity, which are used in the formulas for invalidity benefit— age, education, work experience and skills.

The October 1994 consultation document confirmed that the exclusion of relevant factors was a particular concern of many respondents to the February 1994 consultation. Even some members of the expert panel established to advise on development of the test expressed their concern. The test did not enjoy a consensus among all panel members but was the subject of considerable disagreement. That has not been properly explained in the House or elsewhere.

Professors of rehabilitation, for example, were not asked to participate as members of the panel, but expressed their considerable concern about the development of the test. They wrote to The Times on 12 April 1994 to express their grave doubts about the way that the matter was handled.

It is nothing short of cruel that people found to be capable of work on functional grounds should be expected to find employment when there is no work for them to do. Regulation 27 acknowledges exceptional circumstances in which someone could fail the functional test but nevertheless be deemed as incapable of work, and is to be welcomed. However, the October consultation document suggested that the provision was made because the evaluation studies revealed that, in some cases, the functional assessment was not appropriate". If Benefits Agency medical service doctors found during clinical examination cases that could not be assessed on functional criteria alone, that must cast doubt on the validity of the test. Despite the BAMS reservations, the Government decided to go ahead with a clearly one-dimensional, functional test. One questions whether the principal rationale is to save money rather than to ensure accurate, proper and wide-ranging assessment of a person's incapacity.

Part III of the regulations, and particularly regulation 24, defines the all-work test as meaning an individual's inability to score a set number of points in the scale of descriptors in the schedule. Unlike the provisions for early assessment of incapacity for a person's own occupation in chapter I, which is applicable for the first 28 weeks, or for exempt work under regulation 17, part III contains no definition of "work" for the all-work test. That reduces someone's capacity to undertake all work to a crude assessment based on the performance of such functions as picking up a 2.5 kg bag of potatoes.

Incidentally, one change might be dubbed the metric meanness test. During consultation, the proposal to assess a person's ability to walk was based on yards, but that was changed to a metric measure, which will make it more difficult for the individual to score points.

Except for the estimated 15 per cent, of claimants who will be treated as incapable of work under regulation 10, most claimants will have to score at least 15 points in a test of physical or mental functions, or at least 10 in a test of mental ability alone. Many organisations throughout the country have expressed great concern about the score targets. We pay tribute to organisations such as the Disability Alliance, the Disablement Income Group, the citizens advice bureaux, MIND, the Multiple Sclerosis Society, the Child Poverty Action Group and many others, which provided a wealth of information that made our debates more effective. They clearly explained the problems that they envisage our constituents will present at our surgeries in future. We welcome the contributions of those organisations.

The arbitrary nature of the 15-point cut-off, with no other factors to be taken into account, means that a score of 13 or 14, while confirming substantial disability, would disqualify a person from incapacity benefit. The closeness of reaching the threshold will not be taken into account. That means that anyone who cannot stand for more than 30 minutes before needing to sit down and merits a score of seven, and cannot raise one arm to his head to put on a hat and merits a score of six, and so achieves a total score of 13, will be two points short of being eligible for the benefit.

Crucially, on the mental disability scale there could be people suffering from depression, anxiety or panic attacks who will also fail the test, but who would be unable to sustain the routine of work or travel to work. An individual with a mild or moderate mental health problem must score at least 10 points to qualify for benefit. Someone who frequently feels scared or panicky for no obvious reason and scores two, is scared or anxious that work would bring back or worsen his illness and too frightened to go out alone would score one point on each count, to achieve a total of only four, and not be entitled to incapacity benefit. I urge the Minister to reconsider wider matters.

Mention was made of problems associated with the interface between incapacity benefit and the jobseeker's allowance. We will monitor that carefully when the Bill introducing that allowance is enacted and its implications are clearer. Members on both sides of the House urged the Minister to reconsider the age factor. The passporting of people aged over 58 in the transitional regulations is recognition that age has an impact on a person's ability to undertake work. Age banding or some other mechanism should be used, rather than an arbitrary cut-off age of 58.

The regulations are before the House again because of the original failure to include severe mental illness. Can the Minister give an assurance that the amended regulations are not faulty? I shall give one example. I am sure that the Minister will be able to allay my fears, but on page 7 of the regulations, under the heading 'Treating as Capable, Disqualification" it sets out where a person should be treated in that respect as being under regulations 10 to 15 or 26". That is someone who is treated as capable for work. However, section 27 deals with the person's capability for work. I just want to ensure that that is my misreading of the regulations rather than an error.

I would like further assurance from the Minister that he will comply with the comments made by his predecessor, the right hon. Member for Chelsea (Sir N. Scott), who said: Regulations will, however, be made before the full commencement of the Act."—[Official Report, 21 June 1994; Vol. 245, c. 148.] As the Minister has agreed that there will have to be amendments to the regulations, and that those amendments will have to be affirmative regulations, will he assure us that they will be brought before the House before the Act is implemented, because flowing on from that is the guidance that the Benefits Agency staff and many other advisers throughout the country will require to ensure that the regulations and the benefit are properly administered? We do not want a repeat of the chaos that ensued following the introduction of the Child Support Agency. I urge the Minister to look carefully at the regulations and the guidance to ensure that the training and all the possible eventualities following the introduction of the benefit are properly addressed before the Act is implemented.

The points of concern over the regulations have already been identified. We are concerned that they contain a significant omission—that is, they do not take into account the effects of pain, stiffness, fatigue and the variability of functional limitations in fluctuating, relapsing or variable conditions. We heard examples of that from hon. Members on both sides of the House. I should like assurances that those factors will be properly considered by the Benefits Agency medical services when assessment is undertaken.

We want further assurances about exactly who will be included in the exempt group under regulation 10. A number of chronic conditions listed are described as "severe", but what precisely is severe? For example, what is a severe and progress neurological and muscle wasting disease"? At what point does a person's condition become severe? Will there be provision for people to move from not severe into the severe category? How will that be assessed? What certificates will be required to ensure that that transfer is included?

We would like assurances on the interaction between exempt groups and functional scoring. The dividing line between the two could be quite crucial. If someone falls outside the exempt group, he or she will have to go through the functional scoring test—for example, people with learning disabilities falling outside the "severe" category. The mental disability scale is totally inappropriate, as it involves descriptors, which are compared with someone's mental state at the time when the claim was made, rather than as the condition developed. That does not address the needs of people with learning disabilities who have not acquired a mental health problem. There are other examples of where the change in the circumstances and the functional scoring at the point of the claim is inappropriate, because the condition could have been with that person since birth.

It is important that all Conservative Members are quite clear about what they are voting on and of the effects that it may have on their constituents who eventually come to see them about the legislation. Let me give a concrete example of what effect the legislation will have in practice. It is of a person aged 55 and who been on invalidity benefit for five years. He has chronic emphysema and chronic bronchitis. He has worked as a miner for 30 years and has limited learning and writing skills. His children have grown up and left home, but he continues to live with his wife, who is not in work. Under invalidity benefit today, he would be entitled, with each of the elements, to £109.30 a week. After the uprating in April 1995—to be fair to the Minister—he will receive £111.45.

Let us look at a neighbour who has been through the same experience at work and has had to leave work, perhaps with the same chronic ailments, but has not yet claimed, so will be a new recipient of incapacity benefit. In the first six months, he will receive £52.50 in statutory sick pay. At 28 weeks, if he falls within the exempt group, he will be treated as incapable of work and therefore be entitled to benefit, but at the 28-week stage, his benefit remains at £52.50. Only when he has been incapable of work for a year does his benefit go up, this time to £58.85. He receives no age allowance, as he has become incapable of work after the age of 45. While his neighbour will be getting £111.45, he will get £58.85—a difference of £52.60 per week. Because of the delay in receiving the full rate of benefit, there will be a further loss of £152.40 in the waiting time of 24 weeks.

I want Conservative Members to be absolutely clear that tonight they are voting for a potential difference between the current invalidity benefit of £111.45 and the new rate. Someone who is in exactly the same position, has passed the medical test and so is a "genuine"—to use the term of the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton— claimant and recipient of incapacity benefit will receive £52.60 less per week. Conservative Members should not say that we have not told them. We have told them at every stage of the Bill—on Second Reading, Committee, Third Reading, and now on the regulations. That is the sort of case that Conservative Members will see coming through the doors of their advice bureaux. They should not come back to the House and say that we did not tell them.

6.47 pm
The Minister for Social Security and Disabled People (Mr. William Hague)

We have had an interesting and varied debate. Hon. Members on both sides of the House have asked me to respond to a number of questions. I will attempt to do that in the time available.

The hon. Member for Manchester, Withington (Mr. Bradley) asked me specifically about amendments to the regulations in future. Both he and I have had a number of discussions about that in recent times. I can tell him, as indeed he is already aware, that a number of amendments, which, I think, we would all want to make, have been identified since the regulations in their first draft were laid at the end of November. He is an extremely perceptive reader of the regulations in that he has spotted one of them—a 26 needs converting to a 27. There are others— very soon, he may be recruited as a civil servant to the Department of Social Security—such as the therapeutic earnings limit needing to be updated from £43 to £44, and so on. There are discussions with the Terrence Higgins Trust about the definition of immune deficiency. We want to ensure that we get these things right. Any such amendments will be laid in good time before the test comes into operation. They will be affirmative and none of them involves any policy change.

My hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan) gave a good summary of the case for reform of the current arrangements. He particularly referred to the position of GPs who, of course, for some time have been acting as policemen for the social security system. That can, as he said, undermine the doctor-patient relationship. The future restriction of GP involvement mainly to short-term claims will significantly reduce the burden upon them because they will need to complete many fewer statements of incapacity and the Department will be writing to them for further reports far less often.

My hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Field) particularly asked whether the questionnaire seeks advice on variable conditions. It contains space for claimants to give information on all the effects of their condition, including pain, stress, fatigue and variability. There is a question in each functional area and at the end it asks claimants whether there is anything that they want to say about pain or stress.

When the Benefits Agency medical services doctor assesses someone for the all-work test, he will take full account of the history and evolution of the medical condition, the effect that it has on daily life and normal tasks over a period of time and the limitations that are imposed by it. The doctor must also justify his choice of descriptors in terms of any variability or fluctuation of those effects and also the effects of pain and fatigue. I can assure my hon. Friend that that point is being emphasised in the training given to doctors. The test will not be a snapshot at a point in time but an assessment of variable conditions over a period.

Mr. Alan Howarth

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Hague

I shall give way once, but I have many questions to answer, including some from my hon. Friend.

Mr. Alan Howarth

Reverting to the role of general practitioners, will my hon. Friend confirm that it is unacceptable to the Government that GPs should charge claimants fees for their part in the process, that that really is outrageous where it occurs and that the Government regard it as completely inconsistent with the principles of the NHS?

Mr. Hague

General practitioners have to provide such a report free of charge and they have to respond to inquiries from the Department. If additional information is required, it is up to general practitioners whether they wish to impose a charge, but many would not wish to do so. They have to provide the basic information to their patients and to the Department free of charge.

My hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight was particularly concerned about multiple sclerosis. The Benefits Agency medical services doctor will advise adjudication officers on the basis of the report from the patient's doctor. The severity of symptoms and the care and treatment requirements of the person will all be carefully considered by a fully trained doctor who will be considering all the factors that I have described.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth) asked about the medical conditions that will confer entitlement. The new all-work test assesses the limiting effect of medical conditions. It does not depend on diagnosis. Some conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, are so severe that it is likely that a sufferer would be exempt from the test.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon and the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) pointed to research about the reasons for the growth in the invalidity budget and it was accepted that those reasons are complex. They must concede that, even in the PSI documents quoted, nearly half of the growth could not be accounted for by demographic factors, even taking a loose definition of demographic. Research in the Department and independent research shows that GPs are issuing medical certificates to people who are not sick, or who are at least not too sick to work. It is important that we deal with that.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon asked about the savings and referred to a written parliamentary answer that I gave him a few days ago about the change in expenditure that would result from extending the exemption from the test to existing claimants aged 55 and over or aged 50 and over. He quoted my reply accurately when he said that the amount involved would be £15 million if people aged 55 and over were exempted and £45 million in the coming year if people aged 50 and over were exempted. However, as I pointed out at the end of that written answer, the figure would be much higher for subsequent years. By the third year, the figures involved would be £105 million if all those aged 55 and over were exempted, or £210 million if all those aged 50 or over were exempted.

Those are huge sums of money, besides which it would scarcely be fair to new claimants of the benefit to exempt existing claimants on that scale, given the research that I have just quoted that seems to suggest that there are people receiving invalidity benefit who are capable of work.

I ask my hon. Friend to think about the pressures that are imposed on the rest of the social security budget if those sums of money are spent without confidence that they are focused on the people for whom they are intended. I ask him to think about where else we could make reductions of the scale that we are talking about here and that he advocated spending.

The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands) asked about the percentage of existing claimants exempt from the test. He referred a number of times to a figure of one quarter. The figure that I have given of 220,000 people among existing claimants being found incapable of work is nearer to one eighth of the total number who are currently receiving the benefit. About one half are exempt from the new medical test because of the combination, to which the hon. Gentleman referred, of those who are 58 and over and those who fit the other criteria set out in the regulations. It is not possible to come up with local figures from the national figures, but I have published the national figures in the past and can do so again. However, I do not have figures for the hon. Gentleman's constituency.

The hon. Members for Garscadden and for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney expressed concern about people being worried and citizens advice bureaux being inundated with inquiries. We have developed a strategy for advising existing claimants, advisers and the medical profession about the changes. Leaflets have been published and order books include relevant messages. Further steps will also be taken.

The hon. Member for Rochdale (Ms Lynne) made an important point about the ability for sustained reading. When a Benefits Agency doctor considers vision, he will also take into account the ability to read text on a sustained basis, rather than the ability to read individual letters or words; the ability to scan and focus on areas of text quickly and reliably. I hope that that reassures the hon. Lady.

The hon. Lady also asked about the questionnaire, which I think she said would run into 72 pages. That might scare people, but it is actually 20 pages long. It is clear and easy to complete. It has been put through market research with existing claimants and their comments particularly stress that it was easy to complete. The comments were most positive. Help will be available from specially trained staff for those who need assistance with the questionnaire.

One of the most frightening things about all our debates on these matters is that the Opposition, fully aware that an unreformed invalidity benefit budget would head to about £10,000 million by the end of the century, and knowing that the benefit is not as focused as it should be, still have no alternative policy for dealing with the problem. The House and the nation are left not knowing how the Labour party would respond to that after all the debates that there have been in Committee and on the Floor of the House. After tonight's debate we are none the wiser. The Opposition know the pressure on other social security programmes if we do not focus on those who need these benefits most. They know the difficulties created for other sectors of Government spending.

In the past few weeks, the Opposition have come to the House several times to vote against raising revenue; last night they came to the House to vote in a way that implied the spending of a great deal more money. They are going to do that again tonight. They oppose what we are suggesting—sensible and timely reforms—without having an alternative to put in the place of those reforms. We would receive more positive proposals, and more of an impression of awareness of the need to act, from the average ostrich than we receive from Opposition Front Benchers. Few things could better illustrate the Labour party's fiscal irresponsibility.

This is a necessary and timely reform. It focuses on the people who need benefit most—

It being Seven o 'clock, MADAM DEPUTY SPEAKER put the Question, pursuant to Order [27 January]

The House divided: Ayes 275, Noes 232.

Division No. 62] [7.00 pm
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Colvin, Michael
Aitken, Rt Hon Jonathan Congdon, David
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) Conway, Derek
Allason, Rupert (Torbay) Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st)
Amess, David Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Ancram, Michael Cope, Rt Hon Sir John
Arbuthnot, James Cormack, Sir Patrick
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Couchman, James
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grove) Cran, James
Ashby, David Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire)
Aspinwall, Jack Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Davies, Quentin (Stamford)
Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset) Day, Stephen
Baldry, Tony Deva, Nirj Joseph
Banks, Matthew (Southport) Delvin, Tim
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Dicks, Terry
Bates, Michael Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen
Batiste, Spencer Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Bellingham, Henry Dover, Den
Bendall, Vivian Duncan, Alan
Beresford, Sir Paul Duncan Smith, lain
Booth, Hartley Dunn, Bob
Boswell, Tim Dykes, Hugh
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham) Eggar, Rt Hon Tim
Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia Elletson, Harold
Bowis, John Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)
Brandreth, Gyles Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)
Brazier, Julian Evans, Roger (Monmouth)
Bright Sir Graham Evennett, David
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Faber, David
Brown, M (Brigg & Cl'thorpes) Fabricant, Michael
Browing, Mrs. Angela Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Bruce, Ian (Dorset) Fishbum, Dudley
Bums, Simon Forman, Nigel
Butcher, John Forsyth, Rt Hon Michael (Stirling)
Butler, Peter Forth, Eric
Butterfill, John Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Carlisle, John (Luton North) Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)
Carlisle, Sir Kenneth (Lincoln) Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)
Carrington, Matthew French, Douglas
Carttiss, Michael Gale, Roger
Cash, William Gallie, Phil
Churchill, Mr Gardiner, Sir George
Clappison, James Garel-Jones, Rt Hon Tristan
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Gamier, Edward
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Gill, Christopher
Coe, Sebastian Gillan, Cheryl
Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Mates, Michael
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Mawhinney, Rt Hon Dr Brian
Gorst, Sir John Mellor, Rt Hon David
Grant, Sir A(SW Cambs) Merchant, Piers
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) Mills, Iain
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N) Mitchell, Sir David (NW Hants)
Grylls, Sir Michael Moate, Sir Roger
Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn Monro, Sir Hector
Hague, William Moss, Malcolm
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archibald Needham, Rt Hon Richard
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Nelson, Anthony
Hampson, Dr Keith Neubert, Sir Michael
Hannam, Sir John Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Hangreaves, Andrew Nicholls, Patrick
Harris, David Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Haselhurst, Alan Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Hawkins, Nick Norris, Steve
Hawksley, Warren Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley
Hayes, Jerry Oppenheim, Phillip
Heald, Oliver Page, Richard
Heath, Rt Hon Sir Edward Paice, James
Heathcoat-Amory, David Patten, Rt Hon John
Hendry, Charles Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence Pawsey, James
Hill, James (Southampton Test) Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham) Porter, Barry (Wirral S)
Horam, John Porter, David (Waveney)
Hordem, Rt Hon Sir Peter Portillo, Rt Hon Michael
Howard, Rt Hon Michael Powell, William (Corby)
Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford) Redwood, Rt Hon John
Hughes, Robert G (Harrow W) Renton, Rt Hon Tim
Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W) Richards, Rod
Hunter, Andrew Riddick, Graham
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm
Jack, Michael Robathan, Andrew
Jackson, Robert (Wantage) Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn
Jenkin, Bernard Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)
Jessel, Toby Robinson, Mark (Somerton)
Jones, Robert B (W Hertfdshr) Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Key, Robert Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)
King, Rt Hon Tom Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela
Knapman, Roger Ryder, Rt Hon Richard
Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash) Sackville, Tom
Knight, Greg (Derby N) Sainsbury, Rt Hon Sir Timothy
Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n) Scott, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Knox, Sir David Shaw, David (Dover)
Kynoch, George (Kincardine) Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Lait, Mrs Jacqui Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian
Lamont, Rt Hon Norman Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Lang, Rt Hon Ian Shersby, Michael
Lawrence, Sir Ivan Sims, Roger
Legg, Barry Skeet, Sir Trevor
Leigh, Edward Soames, Nicholas
Lennox-Boyd, Sir Mark Spencer, Sir Derek
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe) Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset)
Lidington, David Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Lightbown, David Spink, Dr Robert
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham) Spring, Richard
Lord, Michael Sproat, lain
Luff, Peter Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Steen, Anthony
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Stephen, Michael
MacKay, Andrew Stem, Michael
Maclean, David Stewart, Allan
McLoughlin, Patrick Streeter, Gary
McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick Sumberg, David
Madel, Sir David Sweeney, Walter
Maitland, Lady Olga Tapsell, Sir Peter
Major, Rt Hon John Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Malone, Gerald Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Mans, Keith Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)
Marland, Paul Temple-Morris, Peter
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Thomason, Roy
Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel) Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)
Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N) Waterson, Nigel
Thurnham, Peter Watts, John
Townsend, Cyril D (Bexl'yh'th) Wells, Bowen
Tracey, Richard Wheeler, Rt Hon Sir John
Tredinnick, David Whitney, Ray
Trend, Michael Whittingdale,John
Twinn, Dr Ian Wiggin, Sir Jerry
Vaughan, Sir Gerard Wilkinson, John
Willetts, David
Viggers, Peter Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Waldegrave, Rt Hon William Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfeld)
Walden, George Wood, Timothy
Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Waller, Gary Tellers for the Ayes:
Ward, John Mr. Sydney Chapman and
Wardle, Charles (Bexhill) Mr. Timothy Kirkhope.
Abbott, Ms Diane Dewar, Donald
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Dixon, Don
Allen, Graham Donohoe, Brian H
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Dowd, Jim
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale) Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Armstrong, Hilary Eagle, Ms Angela
Austin-Walker, John Eastham, Ken
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Enright, Derek
Barnes, Harry Etherington, Bill
Barron, Kevin Ewing, Mrs Margaret
Battle, John Fatchett, Derek
Bayley, Hugh Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Bell, Stuart Fisher, Mark
Bennett, Andrew F Flynn, Paul
Bermingham, Gerald Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Berry, Roger Foster, Don (Bath)
Betts, Clive Foulkes, George
Boateng, Paul Fraser, John
Boyes, Roland Fyfe, Maria
Bradley, Keith Galloway, George
Bray, Dr Jeremy Gapes, Mike
Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E) George, Bruce
Brown, N (N'c'tle upon Tyne E) Gerrard, Neil
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Burden, Richard Godman, Dr Norman A
Byers, Stephen Godsiff, Roger
Caborn, Richard Golding,MrsLlin
Callaghan, Jim Gordon, Mildred
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Graham, Thomas
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Campbell-Savours, D N Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Canavan, Dennis Grocott, Bruce
Cann, Jamie Gunnell, John
Carlile, Alexander (Montgomery) Hall, Mike
Chidgey, David Hanson, David
Chisholm, Malcolm Harman, Ms Harriet
Church, Judith Harvey, Nick
Clapham, Michael Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Clark, Dr David (South Shields) Henderson, Doug
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian) Hill, Keith (Streatham)
Clarke, Tom (Monldands W) Hodge, Margaret
Clelland, David Hoey, Kate
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Hogg, Norman (Cumbernauld)
Coffey, Ann Home Robertson, John
Cohen, Harry Hood, Jimmy
Connarty, Michael Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Howarth, George (Knowsley North)
Corbett, Robin Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Corbyn, Jeremy Hoyle, Doug
Corston, Jean Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Cousins, Jim Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE) Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Darling, Alistair Hutton, John
Davidson, Ian Illsley, Eric
Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral) Ingram, Adam
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Jackson, Glenda (H'stead)
Denham, John Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)
Jamieson, David Pike, Peter L
Janner, Greville Pope, Greg
Jones, leuan Wyn (Ynys Mon) Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C) Prentice, Bridget (Lew'm E)
Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O) Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW) Prescott, Rt Hon John
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham) Primarolo, Dawn
Jowell, Tessa Purchase, Ken
Keen, Alan Quin, Ms Joyce
Kennedy, Charles (Ross,C&S) Randall, Stuart
Khabra, Piara S Raynsford, Nick
Kilfoyle, Peter Rendel, David
Lestor, Joan (Eccles) Robinson, Geoffrey (Co'try NW)
Lewis, Terry Rogers, Allan
Liddell, Mrs Helen Rooker.Jeff
Livingstone, Ken Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Lloyd, Tony (Stratford) Rowlands, Ted
Loyden, Eddie Ruddock, Joan
Lynne, Ms Liz Sedgemore, Brian
McAllion, John Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
McCartney, Ian Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Macdonald, Calum Simpson, Alan
McFall, John Skinner, Dennis
McKelvey, William Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Mackinlay, Andrew Smith, Chris (Isl'ton S & amp;F'sbury)
Maclennan, Robert Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
McNamara, Kevin Snape, Peter
MacShane, Denis Spearing, Nigel
Madden, Max Speller, John
Mahon, Alice Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W)
Mandelson, Peter Steel, Rt Hon Sir David
Marek, Dr John Steinberg, Gerry
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Strang, Dr. Gavin
Martin, Michael J (Springburn) Straw, Jack
Martlew, Eric Suteliffe, Gerry
Maxton, John Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Meacher, Michael Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Meale, Alan Timms, Stephen
Michael, Alun Tipping, Paddy
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Turner, Dennis
Milburn, Alan Tyler, Paul
Miller, Andrew Vaz, Keith
Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby) Walker, Rt Hon Sir Harold
Morgan, Rhodri Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Morley, Elliot Wareing, Robert N
Morris, Rt Hon Alfred (Wy'nshawe) Watson, Mike
Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon) Welsh, Andrew
Mowlam, Marjorie Wicks, Malcolm
Mudie, George Wigley, Dafydd
Mullin, Chris Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
O'Brien, Mike (N W'kshire) Wilson, Brian
O'Brien, William (Normanton) Wise, Audrey
O'Hara, Edward Worthington, Tony
Olner, Bill Wright, Dr Tony
O'Neill, Martin Young, David (Bolton SE)
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Patchett, Terry Tellers for the Noes:
Pearson, Ian Mr. Joe Benton and
Pickthall, Colin Mrs. Barbara Roche.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved, That the draft Social Security (Incapacity Benefit)(Transitional) Regulations 1995, which were laid before this House on 30th January, be approved.

Resolved, That the draft Social Security (Incapacity for Work) (General) Regulations 1995, which were laid before this House on 30th January, be approved.—[Mr. Wells.]