HC Deb 17 July 1995 vol 263 cc1388-412

8.9 pm

Mr. Keith Bradley (Manchester, Withington)

I beg to move, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Housing Benefit (General) Amendment Regulations 1995 (S.I., 1995, No. 1644), dated 28th June 1995, a copy of which was laid before this House on 29th June, be annulled.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Geoffrey Lofthouse)

I understand that with this, it will be convenient to discuss the following motion: That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Social Security (Income Support and Claims and Payments) Amendment Regulations 1995 (S.I., 1995, No. 1613), dated 26th June 1995, a copy of which was laid before this House on 29th June, be annulled.

Mr. Bradley

One set of regulations deals with restrictions on housing benefit and the other deals with restrictions on income support for mortgage interest payments. I intend to deal with the latter first as they have already provoked considerable comment and concern both inside and outside the House. They could not be better summed up than by a quotation from an article by the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) who, unfortunately, is not with us tonight. In Roof magazine in March 1995, he said: The proposals to reduce income support for mortgage interest are poor economics, weak housing policy and bad politics. All Opposition Members agree with that sentiment.

Let us consider the main changes. First, most borrowers with existing agreements at 2 October 1995 will get no income support for their mortgage interest during the first eight weeks of a claim and will get only 50 per cent. during the next 18 weeks. At present, most borrowers get 50 per cent. during the first 16 weeks. In effect, two weeks are added on to that period, with an eight-week period with no income support mortgage interest payments at the beginning.

Secondly, most borrowers who take out new agreements after 2 October will get no income support mortgage interest payment for the first 39 weeks of a claim. That is completely new. Thirdly, income support mortgage interest payments will, in future, be paid only at a standard rate that may be less than the actual rate that a borrower has to pay to the lender. Fourthly, the regulations tighten up definitions of repairs and improvements that are eligible for any payment.

Throughout our deliberations on the matter, the Government have given a clear signal that they want private insurance to replace public provision for mortgage holders who fall on hard times. Indeed, in their memorandum to the Social Security Advisory Committee, the Government referred to their proposals as the "first steps". Surely we must ask where the first steps are leading. Logically, they must be leading to the abolition of income support mortgage interest payments, particularly given some of the Government's arguments in support of the changes. It seems likely that, at the very least, the new restricted periods will be extended in the future.

In fact, the regulations are not the first steps. Over the past few years, the Government have introduced many measures reducing protection. Since 1987, for example, claimants under 60 have had only 50 per cent. of their interest met for the first 16 weeks of a claim. Only interest on loan capital up to £100,000 is now met and new or increased loans to claimants who have been on income support during the previous 26 weeks are now generally excluded. Those are just some of the measures that the Government have already taken to restrict such payments.

We do not argue that there is no place at all for private provision in mortgage protection schemes. However, we believe that the Government have an important role to play in the protection of home owners who fall on hard times. A home cannot be compared with any other commodity; it is the bedrock of family life and personal security. The consequences of losing one's home are devastating, especially when children are involved. The fear of losing one's home must put an intolerable strain on relationships and on health. Falling into mortgage arrears, which will inevitably be a heightened risk under the new proposals, often triggers a spiralling descent into debt from which it may be impossible for many to extricate themselves.

The Government clearly wish to make savings in the social security budget. What are the real reasons for the growth in that budget? The large rise in the income support mortgage interest payment budget over the past decade and a half is not due to any relaxation in the rules governing it; indeed, the reverse has been the case. The rise is due to the growth in home ownership, especially among those on low incomes who may be more susceptible to unemployment. It is also due to the boom in house prices and the relaxation of credit controls that fuelled it. In addition, there were periods of high interest rates during preceding years. Many of those factors are the direct result of Government policy. They have certainly been outside the control of borrowers who now suffer under the new rules.

Let us now consider what the Government's proposals are to replace income support mortgage interest payments. Let us look at the inadequacy of mortgage protection policies on which the Government rely to protect people. First, certain groups are not covered. The Association of British Insurers, for example, admits that several groups are not able to buy adequate or, indeed, any protection at present. Examples are part-time, seasonal and contract workers, the self-employed and those with pre-existing conditions, especially those who are HIV positive. It is also not possible to insure against the risk of separation. The Government have made no concessions for the various groups of casual workers. That is especially ironic, given that they have been actively encouraging the casualisation of the labour market in recent years—a trend that will, no doubt, continue with the introduction of the jobseeker's allowance next year.

Secondly, there is difficulty in renewing cover. Even when people are initially able to obtain cover, they may not be able to renew it or will be able to renew only on prohibitive terms. Mortgage protection policies offer only short periods, typically 12 months, whereas mortgages are a long-term commitment, usually 25 years. At the end of each 12-month period, the insurer has the option of whether to agree to renew. If the insured has in the meantime developed a chronic illness or is now in less secure employment, the insurer is at liberty not to renew or to make the terms of the policy and the new premium even more stringent. Meanwhile, the insured person retains his or her liability under the mortgage. The Government just do not seem to address the crucial point of the interrelationship between the mortgage terms and the mortgage protection policies that are on offer. I would be grateful for the Minister's comments on that point.

Thirdly, there are disproportionately larger premiums for particular groups of people. I am grateful for the mound of evidence on that point, which has come from many voluntary organisations, such as the Disability Living Alliance, the Child Poverty Action Group and citizens advice bureaux. Those larger premiums affect especially vulnerable groups, such as disabled people or people who have been in and out of work. They are able to obtain insurance, but are likely to have to pay larger premiums. At present, the cost through the mortgage interest system is spread among all taxpayers on the normal principles of equity. That benefit will be lost under the new arrangements.

The Council of Mortgage Lenders has estimated that the proposals will add 10 per cent. to the annual cost of home ownership. For many people who are already struggling to keep their homes, that increased burden may tip the balance and stop them being able to keep their property.

There is also the difficulty of making a claim; much case study work has been done on that. Again, I am grateful to organisations such as the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux for providing the Opposition with the relevant material. It is not surprising that insurers insist on relying on the small print when they pay out on their policies. Obviously, the companies are there to make a profit and the commercial reality is that the fewer claims that have to be met, the greater their profits. Although insurers may, for public relations reasons, be keen to portray themselves as prompt payers and willing, as they say, not to make a drama out of a crisis, the reality can be very different for many people who try to make a claim.

Whatever the position of insurers, hardly any policies pay out for the first 60 to 90 days of unemployment. In their response to the Social Security Advisory Committee report, the Government do not even pretend that people will be able to insure for the first eight weeks when existing borrowers will have no income support mortgage interest payments. So how do they justify the rule that prohibits payment during those eight weeks? The Government say that private insurance should cover that, but admit that they have no answer to the claim that that first period is uninsurable.

In many previous debates on the matter, we have heard about the wonders of the Skipton building society. The Labour party recently undertook a survey of building societies, to see exactly what picture is now emerging. The results are, to say the least, interesting. The Nationwide building society, for example, said: The first point to make is that research indicates that less than one third of customers in arrears could have claimed on a private insurance policy. Offering free insurance which provides insufficient cover therefore is misguided. There are categories of borrowers, such as the self-employed, for whom aspects of this insurance would be inappropriate and therefore expensive. In fact, it is likely that policies which do not cover divorce or separation, or cater for the ending of a fixed term contract, will be of little value to many customers. It goes on to say: We believe the effect on the market place of the new regulations will be to further reduce confidence in the housing market, at a time when this is least appropriate. Without the benefit of ISMI, more borrowers will unfortunately find themselves in arrears, and repossessions could increase. That is just one typical example from the comments that we have received from many building societies that represent the bulk of the market, and the Government should take note. I should be grateful for the Minister's comments on that.

Another example is from the head of lending at the Woolwich building society. He said: The housing market is suffering from a dearth of confidence. People are reluctant to take on (or increase) commitments, given the uncertainty over job security, interest rate movements, etc. The restrictions on income support merely serve to further undermine confidence. The general manager of the Halifax building society said: The changes will not be good for the housing market. Despite all that evidence, the Government are determined to plough ahead with their arrangements.

The Government made some concessions during the consultation period but, at best, the changes that they made could be described as minimal. They may be better described as mean-spirited. New borrowers with pre-existing medical conditions or HIV whose mortgage protection claim is rejected would not be subject to the 39-week no-income-support rule. However, that takes no account of people who cannot obtain insurance in the first place, or cannot renew it, because they will be subject to the eight and 18-week rule. They will be treated like existing borrowers and therefore left without protection for those periods.

In respect of HIV, much work and lobbying has been done by important organisations such as the Terrence Higgins Trust, and the Social Security Department recognises in incapacity benefit the need to deal with that group of people sensitively. Why have the Government rejected the claims and representations made on that point so far? I would value the Minister's comments on that important issue, which is causing immense difficulty for many people who are trying to take out normal commercial insurance.

Similarly, new borrowers who are lone parents and who have been deserted or bereaved will be subject to the eight and 18-week rule at a time when they face emotional and financial pressures. The Government accept that it is not possible to insure against the risk of separation, but make no concession to partners left alone who do not have children, despite the Social Security Advisory Committee's recommendation to the converse. Although carers are exempt from the 39-week rule, they will be subject to the eight and 18-week rule. If they have given up work to look after disabled relatives, they will fall outside mortgage protection insurance because they will have become unemployed voluntarily. There are more and more examples of where minor concessions that the Government have made during the consultation period do not add up to a bean. In practice, they are worthless because insurance policies will not cover key groups of people. The Government must respond to those difficulties.

I shall deal briefly with the introduction of the new standard rate of interest that will apply when calculating income support mortgage interest. In future, interest will generally be paid at a standard rate, not the actual rate that borrowers must pay. In their consultation document, the Government said that there will inevitably be gainers and losers with a system based on an average. Some potential gainers—those with rates of under 5 per cent.—will get income support mortgage interest at their actual rate and will therefore not gain. All potential losers will, by contrast, lose. The Government are putting administrative simplicity before fairness and borrowers with interest rates above the standard rate will inevitably be placed in difficulty.

Moreover, the Government specifically rejected the Social Security Advisory Committee's recommendation that, where borrowers remortgage so that they can get a lower rate, they should be treated as existing borrowers in relation to the new arrangements and therefore be subject to the eight and 18-week rule, not the 39-week rule. The Government insist that they must be subject to the 39-week rule. How do they justify that proposal?

Let us look at the overall effect of the changes. The Council of Mortgage Lenders has estimated that a further 12,000 to 24,000 repossessions a year will take place as a direct result of the changes. Already, nearly 1,000 repossessions take place every week. In addition, the number of borrowers in arrears—currently well over a quarter of a million people are more than six months in arrears—is bound to increase. One can imagine the catalogue of human misery that will result.

The irony is that the savings to the Exchequer are likely to be minimal. The Government estimate that annual savings will eventually be some £200 million. They have provided no detailed costing showing how that figure is arrived at. However, even if it proves accurate, it takes no account of the extra expenditure that other parts of the Government budget, national and local, will have to bear, for example, the housing budget through more homelessness and additional housing benefits, and perhaps the health and social security budgets.

The Government should tackle those problems and the serious problems of repossessions, arrears and negative equity. They must do something to stimulate the housing market rather than pursue these mean-minded measures. I offer a final thought on this subject—a quotation from a recent book of memoirs: I was acutely conscious of what interest rate changes meant for those with mortgages … borrowers' lives can be shattered overnight by higher interest rates. My economic policy was intended to be a social policy. It was a way to a property owning democracy. And so the needs of home owners must never be forgotten". That is a quotation from Margaret Thatcher's memoirs, "The Downing Street Years", pages 698–99. Why do the Government no longer want to support home owners in the spirit of their former Prime Minister?

On the Housing Benefit (General) Amendment Regulations, it should be pointed out that those changes have been deferred from October 1995 to January 1996, presumably to avoid administrative chaos. Will the Minister confirm that all the computer systems for the changes will be in place and operational, ready for the new implementation date? We are well aware that the new system poses a number of difficult questions relating to operational matters: how rent officers will determine average rents; how the interface between rent officer service and the housing benefit authorities will work; how the review process will function; the practicalities of running the new and old systems side by side; and so on. I understand that the housing and public services section is involved in detailed discussions with the DSS and the rent officer service on those points, to minimise the problem. Will the Minister give us some details tonight about how those discussions are going, to ensure that we do not run into administrative chaos when the scheme is finally introduced?

There are several other key points in the regulations that are causing particular concern: first, the introduction of the local reference rent; secondly, the abolition of guaranteed protection for vulnerable groups; and, thirdly, the impact on supported housing schemes.

First, the local reference rent level may be less than a reasonable market rent. The shortfall between the housing benefit paid and the property's market rate is likely to increase financial hardship, rent arrears and eviction. Furthermore, there may be no suitable alternative accommodation at the local reference rent for the person to move to. That could mean a significant increase in homelessness. Again, we have had example after example of how people are unable to meet the shortfall between the rent that they are asked to pay and housing benefit levels. They are expected to pay the shortfall from other meagre benefits, which is unacceptable.

Secondly, at present, certain vulnerable groups, essentially elderly or disabled people and families with children, are exempt from housing benefit high-rent restrictions, unless suitable alternative accommodation is available and it is reasonable to expect the claimant to move. That protection will be abolished and housing benefit authorities will be given a cash-limited grant instead to use to offset, in part or in whole, the effects of cuts in cases of exceptional hardship.

The key purpose behind that proposal is clearly to make savings. On current figures, the Department of Social Security contribution to local exceptional hardship funds will be about one third of the amount that the Department estimates will be necessary to protect the groups currently defined as vulnerable. Housing benefit authorities will be permitted to put in a similar amount from their own resources. The remaining third are presumably expected to move or to persuade their landlords to reduce the rent. DSS estimates show that the savings from those cuts in respect of vulnerable groups—and I stress that we are dealing with such groups—will be £53.1 million at 1995–96 prices. The Social Security Advisory Committee commented in its report on the regulations: the cash-limited nature of the proposal appears to make it inevitable that some people who merit extra help will not receive it". Many organisations have compared that cash-limited budget with the social fund, where the time of the year one goes through the door determines whether one receives help. Again, many vulnerable people will be affected.

Thirdly, there is concern over supported housing schemes. On that point, I and my hon. Friends have received many representations from concerned organisations. During the consultation, the Government made some welcome concessions in respect of accommodation provided by housing associations, registered charities or voluntary organisations that support, supervise, care and provide for the particular needs of a resident, but the new rules pose a particular threat to supported lodgings, including "adult placement" type schemes in the private rented sector. They are not included in the concessions recently extracted from the Government.

As service charges will be counted against the local reference rent, the great majority of such supported lodgings can be expected to be subject to housing benefit cuts in respect of new cases. I am informed that Department of Social Security officials are in communication with the Department of Health on that policy area, but as we are debating the regulations tonight, no details have yet been forthcoming. Will the Government give us information tonight about why they have excluded supported housing schemes in the private rented sector, what discussions are going on with the Department of Health in relation to community care schemes, where the private rented sector is in use by local authorities and approved of by the Government, and why those schemes have been excluded from the concessions that have been made by the Government for other types of supported schemes?

All those changes will have a fundamental impact on housing, whether it be through the income support or housing benefit reductions. One must ask whether those housing benefit changes are necessary. The argument for introducing the changes involves the need to stem the rising cost of that subsidy, which totalled £10 billion in 1994–95. That sum, however, includes benefit paid to local authority tenants and housing association tenants. From 1989 to 1993–94, private sector rents rose by 117 per cent., but local authority rents rose by 77 per cent. and housing association rents by 65 per cent. That shift from bricks and mortar subsidies to personal subsidies in the public sector, along with the deregulation of the private rented sector, has been the real reason for the increased cost of housing benefit.

Further to that, under regulation 11 of the Housing Benefit (General) Regulations 1987, local authorities already have the ability to restrict benefit where the accommodation is over-large or unreasonably expensive. In its report to the Secretary of State, the Social Security Advisory Committee states that, in 1993–94, 17 per cent. of properties referred to rent officers in England and Wales were deemed "over-large" and 33 per cent. of private sector rents referred following housing benefit applications were deemed to be above the market level. We can already see that powers are there for rent officers and local authorities to use existing legislation for proper restrictions on housing benefit where it is clearly inappropriate.

The way in which the Government are tackling these matters is particularly unsound. They will affect vulnerable groups, and create hardship, arrears and further repossessions. We shall vote against the regulations because there are better ways forward. A move towards bricks and mortar subsidy, to provide social housing at rents people can afford, is the best way to restrict the housing benefit budget. The changes to the income support regulations do no more than seriously undermine people's security, and further depress the housing market.

8.36 pm
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Social Security (Mr. Roger Evans)

On 13 July, the right hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) was quoted in The Times as saying that he intended not to increase the social security budget, but to change the way in which it was spent. If that be right, we certainly saw no sign of a change in policy in the speech by the hon. Member for Manchester, Withington (Mr. Bradley). He described an expenditure of £200 million a year as minimal—I use his very words—and he has completely overlooked the fact that the Government currently spend £18 billion of taxation a year to support housing. The majority, about £11 billion last year, was distributed through the benefit system.

Expenditure through the benefit system on housing has more than doubled since 1988.

Mr. Nick Raynsford (Greenwich)

It is your fault.

Mr. Evans

It is amusing to hear the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Raynsford), the Opposition housing spokesman, say, "It is your fault," by which I take it that he means my and the Government's fault rather than yours, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We had an indication of that in the closing remarks by the hon. Member for Withington. Is the Labour party really going back to the dyed in the wool, 1950s bricks and mortar type subsidy, the sort of expenditure that put a family in a house for 50 years? They were in need on the day that they moved in, but 10, 20, 30, 40 years later they were not in need. The whole thing was absurd. The housing queues built up because no one and no Labour local authority would evict tenants. The Conservative party took the right view that people in council houses who no longer qualified under social need should have the right to buy those homes. That has been vastly popular.

Let us turn to the question of income support mortgage interest payments. I shall deal with the matters in the order that the hon. Member for Withington raised them. The point about this proposal is that the existing system is plainly not supporting the housing market adequately. It is all very well to refer to the income support mortgage interest safety net, but 70 per cent. of those people who have been repossessed did not qualify for income support. Three out of four borrowers in arrears are not in receipt of income support.

Mr. Henry McLeish (Fife, Central)

So what?

Mr. Evans

The "so what", if the hon. Gentleman wishes to hear it, is simply that if one is talking about devising a safety net, it is a pretty inadequate safety net if it leaves 70 per cent. of people outside the scope of its protection.

Dr. Lynne Jones (Birmingham, Selly Oak)

The Minister has claimed that the fact that certain people are not covered is an excuse for withdrawing or certainly reducing the safety net. Does he not agree that that safety net could be enlarged by offering universal housing benefit to help with mortgage interest payments? That may cost the Exchequer more money, but it would be cheaper for the person in the street, whether a taxpayer or someone paying an insurance premium, to have to pay a little bit extra in his or her taxes than to have to pay about £5 a week to take out private insurance for the average mortgage.

Mr. Evans

"A little bit extra on your taxes" is what the Labour party always says when it proposes an enormous extension of state expenditure. A mortgage-housing benefit scheme was costed by the Rowntree Trust in 1992 at £600 million a year. There is no doubt that the kind of schemes that have been proposed by various people involve even greater sums than that. There is a better way forward—one which encourages private responsibility and encourages people to take out insurance.

The Labour party is stuck in the mould of the one male householder supporting his family, but 62 per cent. of mortgages these days are taken out on double incomes.

Dr. Jones


Mr. Evans

Let me finish my point and then I shall give way to the hon. Lady.

Should a couple take out a mortgage based on a double income and one of the couple becomes unemployed, the earnings of the other could make the couple ineligible for income support but there will still be a gap in the payments that threatens their home. Income support is not intended to meet that kind of provision. We suggest that there should be a provision for private insurance, where it is necessary to take that out. Not everyone needs to take out private insurance. Some people have some savings; some people have larger amounts of equity; but for a large number of people mortgage protection insurance offers an imaginative and important means of feeling more secure in their homes.

Dr. Jones

With respect, the Minister has not answered my question. It would be cheaper to offer an improved safety net through the Government than to force people—you are now forcing people—to increase their housing costs substantially by taking out private insurance.

Mr. Evans

I am sure, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you are doing no such thing, even if I may stand accused of that.

The point at stake is simple. A private insurance scheme is not necessarily more expensive. The Skipton building society is introducing one free. As for the promises of greater public expenditure from the Labour party, we know that their historic cost is always enormous and much more than the party promised in the first place. It always means the extension of state control at the expense of the hard-earning couple who are working hard to pay their mortgage. Those are the people expected to pay an extra few pounds a week to support socialist taxation.

The Government have sensitively listened to the problems of various groups who may face difficulty with obtaining cover. That is why new borrowers who are carers; those with pre-existing medical conditions or HIV-related illnesses; remand prisoners and deserted partners who have care of children will be treated as existing borrowers.

The new scheme will come in slowly in stages. If people make a decision to move and buy a new house after 2 October, they know what they are taking on and what their responsibilities and problems are. There is opportunity for someone to take out insurance or to make such other provision as is satisfactory to that person's position. At the same time, an existing claimant will continue to be protected. There is, of course, a halfway house for those who do not move but fall into difficulty.

The essential point is that we are talking about new borrowers facing disqualification or non-payment after 2 October for nine months. That is a finite period. Insurance is, classically, suited to meeting finite risks that can be quantified and evaluated by the market and a price properly put upon them. The Government have no proposals to go beyond the stage that we have suggested and nine months is an eminently insurable proposition.

We have carefully clarified the definition of new borrowing to avoid the perverse effects of what happens if someone wants a remortgage on his existing property. We have introduced a 26-week linking period where requalification periods for insurance may leave borrowers uncovered. We have introduced special rules to "start the clock", if I may put it like that, on the restricted period for those who are not entitled to income support because of excess income or capital. Above all, once housing costs become payable, they will be paid direct to lenders participating in the mortgage direct scheme. That will help to control arrears by ensuring that benefit paid for housing costs is used for that purpose.

The measures that we have set out in the regulations represent the right balance between benefit and insurance provision and ensure that the two mesh together to provide more comprehensive cover for borrowers.

What the hon. Member for Withington has spelt out, with, to be fair, less than the Caledonian gloom of his colleague, the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) is that somehow or other the changes are bound to have an adverse effect upon the housing market. Compared with our debate on 13 June, what the hon. Member for Withington said was much more measured—

Mr. Donald Dewar (Glasgow, Garscadden)

More cheerful.

Mr. Evans

Oh, it will be cheerful. I do not know whether the hon. Member for Garscadden saw the report in The Herald on 29 June, which said: The Edinburgh Solicitors' Property Centre called its first new conference in 24 years to allay fears of negative equity and present a new report with an upbeat picture of the Scottish housing market … chairman George Clark said the volume of misinformation, based on serious problems experienced in the south of England, had reached such a level that it had been decided to take action … 'We do not have a problem in Scotland with negative equity … He said where people owed more to the bank or building society than their house was worth, it was generally due to them borrowing more than 100 per cent. on the loan or falling into problems with repayments. 'Scotland's property market is definitely not in the doldrums, but our fear at this time is that all this doom and gloom can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.'

Mr. Dewar


Mr. Evans

The hon. Member for Garscadden, to whom I shall happily give way in a moment, may wish to become the doomster of the Scottish property market, but that is not the view of that particular group, which is heavily involved in it.

Mr. Dewar

I am delighted to say that I have no wish to crack jokes with the Minister. Does he not accept that the report of the Edinburgh property centre, which I saw, made one important point, that Scotland's property market was out of line with the experience in the rest of the country? Although I regard Scotland as an enormously important part of the United Kingdom, it represents only about 9 per cent. of the population and probably rather less than that of the property markets.

Mr. Evans

I do not think that any of us noticed on 13 June that Scotland was excepted from the general gloom propounded by the hon. Gentleman about the housing market.

If we are talking about general gloom, I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman also saw the report in the Financial Times by Mr. Kaletsky on the question of how the "myth of negative equity" has arisen. [Interruption.] Those were the words in the headline in that newspaper. That is why a parliamentary answer was given by the Department of the Environment to the effect that that idea is being looked at. The question is a simple one. It is a question of how, statistically, the figure of over 800,000 households quoted by the Minister at the Department of the Environment somehow has become inflated to well over 1 million people in other reports and other arguments. The point at stake, methodologically, which is significant, is that the definition of negative equity currently used by some commentators appears to have left out the value of the collateral security in the form of the endowment policy, which is an important part of the equation. It is a real asset, which exists to meet the liability.

The arguments about negative equity are a typical example of the unnecessary and highly negative view of the housing market that we have heard from the Opposition, who seem to glory in talking it down. At this point in the business cycle, houses have never been cheaper.

Mr. Dewar

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Evans

No, I am about to conclude.

Housing has never been cheaper. The opportunities to buy houses have never been better and the relationship between average earnings and average house prices is highly favourable. It is typical that the Labour party has somehow forgotten, or somehow does not seem to understand, the phenomenon of the trade cycle, which has been analysed by commentators for the past 250 years. The point is that recovery will come.

I turn quickly, because I have spoken for longer than I intended, to the second part of the argument: housing benefit. I shall deal with the first question asked by the hon. Member for Withington about the introduction of the new arrangements in January. We have had discussions with local authority representatives and associations. We were persuaded by listening to their careful and reasoned arguments about the difficulties of developing the various—and they are various—computer software systems that they needed longer than we had originally intended to provide. We believe that it was right to accede to their request and we have been assured by them that they will be able to meet smoothly the January 1996 start date.

Mr. Bradley

On that point, can the Minister assure the House that all the information on the subsidy arrangements and changes for new claimants is now available to the software companies so that they can introduce the systems for the local authorities?

Mr. Evans

I am slightly puzzled by that question in the sense that we are debating the very regulations which provide the legal framework for the computer software. I do not understand to what possible additional matter the hon. Gentleman may be referring. As I understand it, we are debating the very regulations which define the scheme in law and from which the software may be written.

Both the regulations—I shall invite my hon. Friends to reject the prayers to annul them—represent a fair balance between defending people's homes and encouraging private responsibility, and the needs of the taxpayer.

8.51 pm
Mr. Michael J. Martin (Glasgow, Springburn)

I was interested in what the Minister had to say about Scotland. He appears to have second-hand information from the solicitors of Scotland.

Mr. Dewar

The Edinburgh solicitors.

Mr. Martin

The Edinburgh solicitors, as my hon. Friend says. They are not exactly experts in the suffering endured by some people in Scotland or, indeed, in the rest of the United Kingdom. Houses which used to be sold in a matter of weeks now take nine or 10 months to sell. The Minister and other Ministers have spoken about the mobility of labour and how young people should be able to move around the country to follow jobs. How can they follow jobs to other parts of the country if they cannot sell their homes?

It is easy for the Minister to talk about insurance and mortgage protection, but he must know that many young couples are finding it more and more difficult to get a mortgage, let alone insurance to go with it. Building societies and banks had their fingers burnt over evictions. This Government's policies meant that people found themselves unemployed and could not pay their mortgages, so building societies got into serious difficulties.

When young couples apply for a mortgage they are now asked more and more probing questions, especially about their employment prospects. Both parties in a marriage are asked whether their jobs are secure. As a result, sometimes young couples have to settle for brokers who charge higher interest charges rather than getting help from bigger building societies. They have to shop around to try to find a firm prepared to take them on.

Where I come from, it is not so easy for a young engineer to be able to say that he has a job for life—far from it. Many engineers in the west of Scotland work for employers who may be reasonable, but make it clear to those engineers and to other workers that their jobs are not permanent. That means that it is harder for such people to get a mortgage and very hard for them to get insurance. No insurance company will take on someone who is, for example, on a fixed-term contract for three or four years, and the Minister must know that.

The Minister also states that benefit will cover those who have been deserted by their spouses. But he should be improving the situation and trying to give more assistance to those who have been deserted, particularly deserted wives. If in good faith a wife takes out a joint mortgage with her husband and he leaves her, she has the children to worry about, the emotional stress of her marriage breaking up and she will soon have to try to cope with mortgage payments as well. The Minister must know that that is very difficult.

Surely the Minister should be more interested in weeding out from the housing benefit market unscrupulous landlords who charge tenants well over the odds for property. The tenant does not always have a choice of landlord. The Minister knows that sometimes when a person from Scotland loses his job, say down here in England, he moves back up to Scotland because even without a job, at least he is back in the family circle receiving support from relatives. Sometimes that means the person has to rent a place from a private landlord. Some landlords leave a great deal to be desired. They charge terrible rates for accommodation.

A recent report showed that young students were living in dangerous conditions in my native city of Glasgow. In fact one young student lived in a fire trap, and when fire broke out, he had to jump from a two-storey building. He has been disfigured for life because of an unscrupulous landlord. The Minister should be going after those landlords, not people who are easily exploited.

I know that other hon. Members want to speak, so I shall not speak for too long. Scottish Homes, which is responsible for the housing association movement in Scotland, has brought in a system known as assured tenancies. When a new tenant moves into a housing association property and becomes an assured tenant, he is not able to go to the rent officer. The Minister will also know that those housing associations are getting involved in what is known as joint ventures, where private sector money is being invested in new build. Part of that deal is that the private sector is always able to get its money back.

If the tenants are assured tenants and have no recourse to the rent officer, they face a double problem. They cannot go to the rent officer, so if their rent increases, those who are unfortunate enough to be on social security will not receive any assistance from the Minister's Department. It is time that the Minister tried to help people who are in difficulties rather than trying to hinder them.

8.58 pm
Ms Liz Lynne (Rochdale)

The announcement by the Secretary of State for Social Security last month that he was to backtrack on some of the proposals for income support mortgage interest payments and housing benefit was welcome, even though the concessions were only very small. He should not have thought about penalising carers, the sick, remand prisoners, people suffering from AIDS or deserted partners with children in the first place. It is scandalous that he proposed to remove income support and tighten up the housing rules for those people. The housing association charities and the voluntary organisations that provide care and support will, fortunately, be able to function. But, again, the Secretary of State should not have thought of penalising them in the first place.

Vulnerable groups will still face tremendous problems, especially in relation to income support mortgage interest payments. The Secretary of State has accepted only certain of the Social Security Advisory Committee's proposals. I welcome the fact that he has accepted them, but he has not accepted the proposals for seasonal workers and part-time workers. He has not thought about deferring the changes until April 1996, as the Social Security Advisory Committee proposed. He has not introduced help for existing borrowers who switch to a new lender.

The main problem concerns seasonal workers and part-time workers. If people take a job for 12 weeks in the summer and are then out of work, they will lose their benefit. If they do not take that job they will lose their benefit anyway, so they cannot win. Their unemployment benefit will be cut. The Association of British Insurers said that it would not cover seasonal workers and part-time workers, remand prisoners or deserted partners. The Government have made an exception in two of those cases; why not in the third? Why have they not made an exception for seasonal workers and part-time workers? What will happen to that group of people? They will not be able to obtain benefit and they cannot obtain insurance. They will face repossession and homelessness. It will cost the taxpayer more in the long run.

As for the time scale, the Under-Secretary of State seems to have a blind faith in the fact that everything will be in place by October. Is he seriously telling the House that someone who becomes unemployed in October will be able to receive cover? I should appreciate it if he would clarify that when he answers tonight. The number of people claiming income support for mortgage interest has fallen since 1993, so one would have thought that the Government might have considered the position to be under control. It is a cost-effective way of keeping families housed.

Another stupid policy that the Government have introduced is to penalise those who switch lenders to receive a lower interest rate. All that will happen is that those borrowers will stay with their existing lender and will not switch. In the long term that will cost the Treasury more.

On the subject of housing benefit, I welcome the Government's decision to exempt non-profit-making accommodation offering care, supervision and support, but the Government lack courage. They are not facing up to what has happened and the reasons why the bill for housing benefit has soared. The cost of housing benefit has soared because the Government have forced up council rents and housing association rents and there has also been an increase in rents in the private sector. I know that the Minister will try to deal with that problem, but the growth in housing benefit is a deliberate Government policy. If it were not, why would the Government have introduced policies that have contributed to it? The subsidy for bricks and mortar was removed and given to the individual for housing benefits. The Government's approach is that of a motorist who blames the temperature gauge when the car overheats.

I am concerned about private tenants because they do not have any negotiating strength. What do they do if the landlord will not bring down the rent? They have to move or make up the shortfall from their meagre benefits or low income. The Minister is placing them in an impossible position. There will be a growth in rent arrears and homelessness. According to Shelter's research, in 1993, 19 per cent. of its clients came to see it about rent arrears and housing benefit problems. One fifth of homeless families come from the private rented sector. The reduction in housing benefit for landlords will mean that they will stop performing essential maintenance work. They will say, "We're not getting enough money, so we will not do the repairs." A lot of private rented accommodation is already in an appalling condition. People who cannot afford it may be forced out of rented accommodation and there is often no other low-rent accommodation in their areas.

The Government could assist by releasing the council housing receipts so that local authorities could build more low-rent housing. The Secretary of State for Social Security groans about that but, in trying to shift more people out of local authority housing and into the private rented sector, he has introduced measures that will penalise people in the private rented sector. The Secretary of State is taking entirely the wrong approach.

Local authorities can restrict housing benefit if people are in over-large accommodation or if the accommodation is too expensive. They have the power to do that at present. The Government reforms fall between two stools: they hit the vulnerable and they do not save the taxpayer any money. I oppose the regulations because I believe that they will cause real hardship and increase homelessness. The Government have yet again failed to see the knock-on effect of their actions. Until that lesson is learned, the taxpayer and the most vulnerable in society will continue to suffer.

9.6 pm

Dr. Lynne Jones (Birmingham, Selly Oak)

Earlier today the Minister accused my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) of being gloomy and doom-laden. However, I listened to the Minister's speech and I detected a rather strong rose-coloured tint to his glasses. He seems completely oblivious to the insecurity and misery that his Government have created among people on average and below-average incomes. The measures that the Government have introduced tonight will do nothing to relieve that sense of insecurity.

The Minister talked about the economic recovery, but the improvements in the market and in the economy that occurred after black Wednesday are now slowing down. There is no wonderful recovery—unless the Government seek to stimulate it artificially with tax cuts, which is presumably what the measures are about. As I attempted to suggest in an earlier exchange, any tax cuts that the Government may hand out before the next election will not compensate for the tax increases that they have imposed already. Nor will they take into account the extra charges that people will have to meet as a result of tonight's measures.

Like his right hon. and hon. Friends, including the Prime Minister, the Minister mentioned the Skipton building society. It has received a lot of free advertising courtesy of Conservative Members in recent weeks. He did not respond to the suggestion that, contrary to what the Minister and his colleagues try to promote, all may not be well in the building society sector. I have been in touch with the 17 building societies that are as large as or have a larger asset base than the Skipton building society, and there is little evidence that they are rushing to follow its lead. The Bradford and Bingley building society said: The Society is concerned that the Government is seeking to transfer obligations from the public to the private sector especially when those involved are potentially the most vulnerable in society". The Nationwide building society said: We have no plans to offer 'free' insurance on an ongoing basis as this is not sustainable; the cost involved would have to be covered by borrowers in one way or another". The Portman building society said that it already offers mortgage protection insurance, and added: We currently charge for these services and have no plans to change that policy. A person with an average mortgage who is worried about insecurity or losing his job is faced with charges of about £5 a week—far more than the Government will give to people on average or below-average incomes in any tax giveaway. The Government seem more concerned about doing away with inheritance tax than helping those on low incomes. I support everything that has been said by Opposition Members in opposition to these mean-minded regulations.

On housing benefit, the Government again will create more misery and will put people at risk. The measure is contradictory to the Government's espoused policy of promoting the private rented sector. In the recent White Paper, the Government recognised that small landlords were worried about ensuring that rent is paid regularly. People on low incomes find it easier to find accommodation if landlords can be confident that rents will be paid. What will the measures do to improve that confidence?

The Government are also promoting rent guarantee schemes, and I am involved in such a scheme in Birmingham. These schemes will be put at risk, as landlords will not be willing to take on people on low incomes if they know that the housing benefit will not cover the rent. Benefits at the moment are not sufficient to enable people to meet any shortfall that may exist.

It is common on the continent for the benefit system not to cover the full cost of rental, but basic benefit on the continent is much more generous than it is here. That may be a practice that we could follow. If we looked at the base amounts of benefit and gave people more money in their pockets, it really would give those people choice. The Government talk about choice, but what choice do people on low incomes and seeking rented accommodation have in Tory Britain? Very little.

Finally, housing associations are extremely concerned about whether the housing associations as managing agents initiative—a ministerial initiative from 1991—can continue. The initiative is a good idea, and was designed to help bring empty private properties back into use. The housing associations say that the scheme will be put in jeopardy unless it is given an exemption from the measure, and they call for the introduction of a mechanism to appeal against rent officer determinations. I have been pretty unkind to the Minister, but perhaps I could finish by asking him—in the nicest possible way—if he will consider exempting such schemes from the regulations, if nothing else.

9.12 pm
Mr. Bradley

I shall be brief in summary. We have had an interesting, if short, debate. I say to the Minister that we are as keen as the Leader of the Opposition to reduce the housing benefit budget. We believe that the problem has been caused by the Government deregulating rents in the Housing Act 1988, and by the way in which they have allowed housing subsidies—through a transfer to the individual from bricks and mortar—to take the strain of their policies. That could be quickly rectified by allowing houses to be built at rents that people can afford. The housing benefit budget would then reduce.

The Minister redefined negative equity for us tonight. It was a useful new concept. He said that mortgage holders must take account of the proceeds of their endowment mortgage which they may get in 25 years' time if they manage to make all the payments during that period and if they have not moved in the meantime to a house whose price was lower than the mortgage they wanted. That was some new evidence on negative equity, for which the public outside will be grateful. They now know that they are not in negative equity, even if the figures that they have for their mortgage and for their current house price would tend to confirm that they are. I am grateful to the Minister for his new analysis of that matter.

I must press the Minister on two issues. First, will he confirm that most private insurance policies do not pay out for the first 60 or, more usually, 90 days? How are people to take out private insurance to cover the first eight-week gap that the Government are creating by their change in policy?

Secondly, and most important, the Minister did not comment on private rented supported housing schemes. I asked him a number of questions, but why did he not answer them? Why have such schemes not been included in the concessions? Many bodies such as local authorities use organisations like Barnardo's which then use high-quality, carefully monitored, private sector housing schemes, especially adult placement schemes. Why will these now be subject to benefit cuts under the new regulations? I must press the Minister for answers.

As I said, we shall be voting against the regulations because they are a testament to the Government's inadequate response to people's real needs, whether they be in the private rented sector or own their own homes.

9.15 pm
Mr. Roger Evans

The hon. Member for Manchester, Withington (Mr. Bradley) should treat Mr. Kaletsky with a little more care. Significantly, Mr. Kaletsky's point was that statisticians have assumed for the purpose of negative equity that repayment mortgages are 100 per cent. of the market whereas we know that they were less than 20 per cent. at the material time. Statistically that is rather important. People's endowment policies after, say, five years—most of the mortgages that went wrong were taken out five years ago at the height of the boom—have a substantial value. It is nonsense to compare like with dislike. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman appears wholly unaware of the fact that quite apart from cashing them in, or surrendering them with a penalty, one can assign such things. They do have a value and are perfectly acceptable security. He is simply showing ignorance of the commercial world.

The hon. Gentleman also asked me about private insurance and why there was a 60 or 90-day waiting period. Lending institutions have already accepted that such a pause at the beginning is not going to be a ground for repossession. The hon. Gentleman should understand that when one takes out insurance, the longer the waiting period for which one opts—it may be a matter of choice if one has savings or equity—the cheaper the insurance. That is sensibly a matter for individual judgment and negotiation.

The hon. Member for Rochdale (Ms Lynne) mentioned the cost of insurance. Building societies' margins are at a historic two-decade high of 2 per cent., which is why the Skipton building society is able to offer this insurance free. It is also why, despite a private Labour party survey from which we heard only two examples and a private enterprise survey of which we heard from another Labour Member, we are assured by the Association of British Insurers that insurance will be in place for the October start date. The Association of British Insurers would be very unhappy about any deferment.

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Martin) expressed concern about landlords. However, the Government are concerned that under the existing arrangements some landlords in some circumstances have been dealing neither ssensibly nor fairly with tenants or taxpayers. The purpose of the local reference rent system is to introduce an element of control.

Question put:

The House divided: Ayes 234, Noes 256.

Division No. 206] [9.18 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Donohoe, Brian H
Adams, Mrs Irene Dowd, Jim
Ainger, Nick Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Eagle, Ms Angela
Allen, Graham Eastham, Ken
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Etherington, Bill
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale) Evans, John (St Helens N)
Ashton, Joe Faulds, Andrew
Austin-Walker, John Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Flynn, Paul
Barnes, Harry Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Barron, Kevin Foster, Don (Bath)
Battle, John Fraser, John
Bayley, Hugh Fyfe, Maria
Beckett, Rt Hon Margaret Galbraith, Sam
Beith, Rt Hon A J Gapes, Mike
Bell, Stuart Garrett, John
Benn, Rt Hon Tony George, Bruce
Bennett, Andrew F Gerrard, Neil
Bermingham, Gerald Godman, Dr Norman A
Berry, Roger Godsiff, Roger
Betts.Clive Gokding, Mrs Llin
Blunkett, David Graham, Thomas
Boateng, Paul Griffiths, Win (Biidgend)
Bradley, Keith Gunnell, John
Bray, Dr Jeremy Hain, Peter
Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E) Hanson, David
Brown, N (N'c'tle upon Tyne E) Hardy, Peter
Burden, Richard Harman, Ms Harriet
Byers, Stephen Harvey, Nick
Caborn, Richard Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Callaghan, Jim Henderson, Doug
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Hill, Keith (Streatham)
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Hinchliffe, David
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Hodge, Margaret
Campbell-Savours, D N Hoey, Kate
Cann, Jamie Hogg, Norman (Cumbernauld)
Chidgey, David Hood, Jimmy
Chisholm, Malcolm Hoon, Geoffrey
Church, Judith Howarth, George (Knowsley North)
Clapham, Michael Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Clark, Dr David (South Shields) Hoyle, Doug
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian) Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Clelland, David Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Hutton, John
Coffey, Ann Illstey, Eric
Cohen, Harry Ingram, Adam
Connarty, Michael Jackson, Glenda (H'stead)
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Jackson, Helen (Shefld, H)
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Jamieson, David
Corbett, Robin Jarnner, Greville
Corbyn, Jeremy Johnston, Sir Russell
Corston, Jean Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side)
Cousins, Jim Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Cox, Tom Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)
Cummings, John Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW)
Cunliffe, Lawrence Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE) Jowell, Tessa
Darling, Alistair Keen, Alan
Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral) Kennedy, Jane (L'pool Br'dg'n)
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'I) Khabra, Piara S
Denham, John Kilfoyle, Peter
Dewar, Donald Kirkwood, Archy
Dixon, Don Lestor, Joan (Eccles)
Dobson, Frank Lewis, Terry
Litherland, Robert Raynsford, Nick
Livingstone, Ken Rendel, David
Loyden, Eddie Robinson, Geoffrey (Co'try NW)
Lynne, Ms Liz Roche, Mrs Barbara
McAllion, John Rogers, Allan
McCartney, Ian Rooker, Jeff
Macdonald, Calum Rooney, Terry
McKelvey, William Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Mackinlay, Andrew Ross, William (E Londonderry)
McLeish, Henry Rowlands, Ted
McMaster, Gordon Ruddock, Joan
McNamara, Kevin Sedgemore, Brian
MacShane, Denis Sheerman, Barry
McWilliam, John Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Madden, Max Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Maddock, Diana Short, Clare
Mahon, Alice Skinner, Dennis
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Smith, Chris (Isl'ton S & F'sbury)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S) Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Martin, Michael J (Springburn) Smyth, The Reverend Martin
Martlew, Eric Snape, Peter
Maxton, John Spearing, Nigel
Meale.Alan Spellar, John
Michael, Alun Steel, Rt Hon Sir David
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Steinberg, Gerry
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute) Stevenson, George
Milbum, Alan Strang, Dr. Gavin
Miller, Andrew Straw, Jack
Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby) Sutcliffe, Gerry
Molyneaux, Rt Hon James Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Moonie, Dr Lewis Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Morgan, Rhodri Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Morris, Rt Hon Alfred (Wy'nshawe) Timms, Stephen
Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon) Tipping, Paddy
Mowlam, Marjorie Touhig, Don
Mudie, George Turner, Dennis
Mullin, Chris Tyler, Paul
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
O'Brien, Mike (N W'kshire) Wareing, Robert N
O'Brien, William (Normanton) Watson, Mike
Olner, Bill Welsh, Andrew
O'Neill, Martin Wicks, Malcolm
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
Pearson, Ian Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
Pendry, Tom Winnick, David
Pike, Peter L Wise, Audrey
Powell, Ray (Ogmore) Worthington, Tony
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle) Wray, Jimmy
Primarolo, Dawn Wright Dr Tony
Purchase, Ken Young, David (Bolton SE)
Quin, Ms Joyce Tellers for the Ayes:
Radice, Giles Mr. Joe Benton and
Randall, Stuart Ms Estelle Morris.
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Beresford, Sir Paul
Alexander, Richard Biffen, Rt Hon John
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) Booth, Hartley
Allason, Rupert (Torbay) Boswell, Tim
Amess, David Bottomley, Peter (Eltham)
Arbuthnot, James Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Bowden, Sir Andrew
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv) Bowis, John
Ashby, David Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes
Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E) Brandreth, Gyles
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Brazier, Julian
Baker, Rt Hon Kenneth (Mole V) Bright, Sir Graham
Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset) Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Baldry, Tony Browning, Mrs Angela
Banks, Matthew (Southport) Bruce, Ian (Dorset)
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Burns, Simon
Bates, Michael Burt, Alistair
Batiste, Spencer Butcher, John
Bellingham, Henry Butler, Peter
Bendall, Vivian Butterfill, John
Carlisle, Sir Kenneth (Lincoln) Horam, John
Carrington, Matthew Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)
Carttiss, Michael Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Cash, William Hughes, Robert G (Harrow W)
Chapman, Sir Sydney Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)
Clappison, James Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Hunter, Andrew
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Coe, Sebastian Jack, Michael
Colvin, Michael Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Congdon, David Jenkin, Bernard
Conway, Derek Jessel, Toby
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st) Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Jones, Robert B (W Hertfdshr)
Connack, Sir Patrick Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Cran, James Key, Robert
Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire) ' King, Rt Hon Tom
Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon) Kirkhope, Timothy
Davies, Quentin (Stamford) Knapman, Roger
Day, Stephen Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)
Deva, Nirj Joseph Knight, Greg (Derby N)
Devlin, Tim Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n)
Dicks, Terry Knox, Sir David
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen Kynoch, George (Kincardine)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Dover, Den Lamont, Rt Hon Norman
Duncan, Allan Lawrence, Sir Ivan
Duncan-Smith, Iain Legg, Barry
Dunn, Bob Leigh, Edward
Durant, Sir Anthony Lennox-Boyd, Sir Mark
Dykes, Hugh Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Elletson, Harold Lidington, David
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter Lightbown, David
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield) Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Evans, Jonathan (Brecon) Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Evans, Roger (Monmouth) Lord, Michael
Evennett, David Luff, Peter
Faber, David MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Fabricant, Michael MacKay, Andrew
Fenner, Dame Peggy McLoughlin, Patrick
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick
Forth, Eric Madel, Sir David
Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring) Maitland, Lady Olga
Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley) Malone, Gerald
Freeman, Rt Hon Roger Mans, Keith
French, Douglas Marland, Paul
Gale, Roger Marlow, Tony
Gallie, Phil Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)
Gardiner, Sir George Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Garnier, Edward Merchant, Piers
Gill, Christopher Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair Mitchell, Sir David (NW Hants)
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Moate, Sir Roger
Grant, SirA(SWCambs) Monro, Rt Hon Sir Hector
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Nelson, Anthony
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N) Neubert, Sir Michael
Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Hague, Rt Hon William Nicholls, Patrick
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archibald Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Hampson, Dr Keith Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley
Hanley, Rt Hon Jeremy Oppenheim, Phillip
Hannam, Sir John Ottaway, Richard
Harris, David Page, Richaid
Haselhurst, Sir Alan Paice, James
Hawkins, Nick Patnick, Sir Irvine
Hawksley, Warren Patten, Rt Hon John
Hayes, Jerry Pawsey, James
Heald, Oliver Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Heathcoat-Amory, David Porter, Barry (Wirral S)
Hendry, Charles Porter, David (Waveney)
Hicks, Robert Powell, William (Corby)
Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence Renton, Rt Hon Tim
Hill, James (Southampton Test) Richards, Rod
Riddick, Graham Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Robathan, Andrew Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)
Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S) Temple-Morris, Peter
Robinson, Mark (Somerton) Thomason, Roy
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne) Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent) Thornton, Sir Malcolm
Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela Thurnham, Peter
Sackville, Tom Townend, John (Bridlington)
Sainsbury, Rt Hon Sir Timothy Townsend, Cyril D (Bexl'yh'th)
Shaw, David (Dover) Tredinnick, David
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey) Trend, Michael
Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian Trotter, Neville
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Twinn, Dr Ian
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge) Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Shersby, Sir Michael Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Sims, Roger Walden, George
Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick) Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Waller, Gary
Spencer, Sir Derek Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs) Waterson, Nigel
Spink, Dr Robert Watts, John
Spring, Richard Whitney, Ray
Sproat, Iain Whittingdale, John
Squire, Robin (Hornchurch) Widdecombe, Ann
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John Wiggin, Sir Jerry
Stephen, Michael Willetts, David
Stern, Michael Wilshire, David
Stewart, Allan Wolfson.Mark
Streeter, Gary Yeo, Tim
Sumberg, David Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Sweeney, Walter
Sykes, John Tellers for the Noes:
Tapsell, Sir Peter Mr. Timothy Wood and
Taylor, Ian (Esher) Mr. Bowen Wells.

Question accordingly negatived.

Motion made, and Question put,

That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Social Security (Income Support and Claims and Payments) Amendment Regulaions 1995 (S. I., 1995, No. 1613), dated 26th June 1995, a copy of which was laid before this House on 29th June, be annulled.—[Mr. Dewar.]

The House divided: Ayes 236, Noes 252.

Division No. 207] [9.31 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Brown, N (N'c'tle upon Tyne E)
Adams, Mrs Irene Burden, Richard
Ainger, Nick Byers, Stephen
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Cabom, Richard
Allen, Graham Callaghan, Jim
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale) Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)
Ashton, Joe Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Austin-Walker, John Campbell-Savours, D N
Banks, Tony (Newharn NW) Cann, Jamie
Barnes, Harry Chidgey, David
Barron, Kevin Chisholm, Malcolm
Battle, John Church, Judith
Bayley, Hugh Clapham, Michael
Beckett, Rt Hon Margaret Clark, Dr David (South Shields)
Beith, Rt Hon A J Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)
Bell, Stuart Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Clelland, David
Bennett, Andrew F Clwyd, Mrs Am
Bermingham, Gerald Coffey, Ann
Berry, Roger Cohen, Harry
Betts, Clive Connarty, Michael
Blunkett, David Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Boateng, Paul Cook, Robin (Livingston)
Bradley, Keith Corbett, Robin
Bray, Dr Jeremy Corbyn, Jeremy
Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E) Corston, Jean
Cousins, Jim Lestor, Joan (Eccles)
Cox, Tom Lewis, Terry
Cummings, John Litherland, Robert
Cunliffe, Lawrence Livingstone, Ken
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE) Loyden, Eddie
Darling, Alistair Lynne, Ms Liz
Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral) McAllion, John
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'I) McCartney, Ian
Denham, John Macdonald, Calum
Dewar, Donald McKelvey, William
Dixon, Don Mackinlay, Andrew
Dobson, Frank McLeish Henry
Donohoe, Brian H McMaster, Gordon
Dowd, Jim McNamara, Kevin
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth MacShane, Denis
Eagle, Ms Angela McWilliam, John
Eastham, Ken Madden, Max
Etherington, Bill Maddock, Diana
Evans, John (St Helens N) Mahon, Alice
Faulds, Andrew Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S)
Flynn, Paul Martin, Michael J (Springburn)
Foster, Rt Hon Derek Martlew, Eric
Foster, Don (Bath) Maxton, John
Fraser, John Meacher, Michael
Fyfe, Maria Meale, Alan
Galbraith, Sam Michael, Alun
Gapes, Mike Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Garrett, John Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
George, Bruce Milburn, Alan
Gerrard, Neil Miller, Andrew
Godman, Dr Norman A Mitchell, Austin (Great Grimsby)
Godsiff, Roger Molyneaux, Rt Hon James
Golding, Mrs Llin Moonie, Dr Lewis
Graham, Thomas Morgan, Rhodri
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Morris, Rt Hon Alfred (Wy'nshawe)
Gunnel, John Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon)
Hain, Peter Mowlam, Marjorie
Hanson, David Mudie, George
Hardy, Peter Mullin, Chris
Harman, Ms Harriet Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Harvey, Nick O'Brien, Mike (N W'kshire)
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy O'Brien, William (Normanton)
Henderson, Doug Olner, Bill
Hill, Keith (Streatham) O'Neill, Martin
Hinchliffe, David Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Hodge, Margaret Pearson, Ian
Hoey, Kate Pendry, Tom
Hogg, Norman (Cumbernauld) Pike, Peter L
Hood, Jimmy Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Hoon, Geoffrey Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Howarth, George (Knowsley North) Primarolo, Dawn
Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd) Purchase, Ken
Hoyle, Doug Quin, Ms Joyce
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N) Radice, Giles
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Randall, Stuart
Hughes, Roy (Newport E) Raynsford, Nick
Hutton, John Rendel, David
Illsley, Eric Robinson, Geoffrey (Co'try NW)
Ingram, Adam Roche, Mrs Barbara
Jackson, Glenda (H'stead) Rogers, Allan
Jackson, Helen (Shefld, H) Rooker, Jeff
Jamieson, David Rooney, Terry
Janner, Greville Ross, Ernie (Dundee West)
Johnston, Sir Russell Ross, William (E Londonderry)
Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side) Rowlands, Ted
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C) Ruddock, Joan
Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O) Sedgemore, Brian
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW) Sheerman, Barry
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham) Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Jowell, Tessa Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Keen, Alan Short, Clare
Kennedy, Jane (L'pool Br'dg'n) Skinner, Dennis
Khabra, Piara S Smith, Chris (Isl'ton S & F'sbury)
Kilfoyle, Peter Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Kirkwood, Archy Smyth, The Reverend Martin
Snape, Peter Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Spearing, Nigel Wareing, Robert N
Spellar, John Watson, Mike
Steel, Rt Hon Sir David Welsh, Andrew
Steinberg, Gerry Wicks, Malcolm
Stevenson, George Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
Strang, Dr. Gavin Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
Straw, Jack Winnick, David
Sutcliffe, Gerry Wise, Audrey
Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury) Worthington, Tony
Taylor, Matthew (Truro) Wray, Jimmy
Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck) Wright Dr Tony
Timms, Stephen Young, David (Bolton SE)
Tipping, Paddy
Touhig, Don Tellers for the Ayes:
Turner, Dennis Mr. Joe Benton and
Tyler, Paul Ms Estelle Morris
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Deva, Nirj Joseph
Alexander, Richard Devlin, Tim
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) Dicks, Terry
Allason, Rupert (Torbay) Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen
Amess, David Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Arbuthnot, James Dover, Den
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Duncan, Alan
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv) Duncan-Smith, Iain
Ashby, David Dunn, Bob
Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E) Durant, Sir Anthony
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Dykes, Hugh
Baker, Rt Hon Kenneth (Mole V) Elletson, Harold
Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset) Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Baldry, Tony Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)
Banks, Matthew (Southport) Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)
Bates, Michael Evans, Roger (Monmouth)
Batiste, Spencer Evennett David
Bellingham, Henry Faber, David
Bendall, Vivian Fabricant, Michael
Beresford, Sir Paul Fenner, Dame Peggy
Biffen, Rt Hon John Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Booth, Hartley Forth, Eric
Boswell, Tim Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Bowden, Sir Andrew Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)
Bowis, John Freeman, Rt Hon Roger
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes French, Douglas
Brandreth, Gyles Gallie, Phil
Brazier, Julian Gardiner, Sir George
Bright Sir Graham Garnier, Edward
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Gill, Christopher
Browning, Mrs Angela Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair
Bruce, Ian (Dorset) Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Burns, Simon Grant, Sir A (SW Cambs)
Burt, Alistair Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Butcher, John Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Butler, Peter Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)
Butterfill, John Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Carlisle, Sir Kenneth (Lincoln) Hague, Rt Hon William
Carrington, Matthew Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archibald
Carttiss, Michael Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Cash, William Hampson, Dr Keith
Chapman, Sir Sydney Hanley, Rt Hon Jeremy
Clappison, James Hannam, Sir John
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Harris, David
Coe, Sebastian Haselhurst Sir Alan
Colvin, Michael Hawkins, Nick
Congdon, David Hawksley, Warren
Conway, Derek Hayes, Jerry
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st) Heald, Oliver
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Heathcoat-Amory, David
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Hendry, Charles
Cormack, Sir Patrick Hicks, Robert
Cran, James Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence
Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire) Hill, James (Southampton Test)
Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon) Horam, John
Davies, Quentin (Stamford) Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)
Day, Stephen Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Howell, Sir Ralph (N Norfolk) Powell, William (Corby)
Hughes, Robert G (Harrow W) Renton, Rt Hon Tim
Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W) Richards, Rod
Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne) Riddick, Graham
Hunter, Andrew Robathan, Andrew
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Robertson, Raymond (Ab'dn S)
Jack, Michael Robinson, Mark (Somerton)
Jackson, Robert (Wantage) Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Jenkin, Bernard Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)
Jessel, Toby Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Sackville, Tom
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Shaw, David (Dover)
Jones, Robert B (W Hertfdshr) Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian
Key, Robert Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
King, Rt Hon Tom Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Kirkhope, Timothy Shersby, Sir Michael
Knapman, Roger Sims, Roger
Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash) Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Knight, Rt. Hon. Greg (Derby N) Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Knight, Darne Jill (Bir'm E'st'n) Spencer, Sir Derek
Knox, Sir David Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Kynoch, George (Kincardine) Spink, Dr Robert
Lait, Mrs Jacqui Spring, Richard
Lamont, Rt Hon Norman Sproat, Iain
Lawrence, Sir Ivan Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)
Legg, Barry Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Leigh, Edward Stephen, Michael
Lennox-Boyd, Sir Mark Stern, Michael
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe) Stewart, Allan
Lidington, David Streeter, Gary
Lightbown, Sir David Sumberg, David
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter Sweeney, Walter
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham) Sykes, John
Lord, Michael Tapsell, Sir Peter
Luff, Peter Taylor, Ian (Esher)
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Taylor, John M (Solihull)
MacKay, Andrew Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)
McLoughlin, Patrick Temple-Morris, Peter
McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick Thomason, Roy
Madel, Sir David Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Maitland, Lady Olga Thornton, Sir Malcolm
Malone, Gerald Thurnham, Peter
Mans, Keith Townend, John (Bridlington)
Marland, Paul Townsend, Cyril D (Bexl'yh'th)
Marlow, Tony Tredinnick, David
Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel) Trend, Michael
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Trotter, Neville
Merchant, Piers Twinn, Dr Ian
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Mitchell, Sir David (NW Hants) Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Moate, Sir Roger Walden, George
Monro, Rt Hon Sir Hector Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Waller, Gary
Nelson, Anthony Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Neubert, Sir Michael Waterson, Nigel
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Watts, John
Nicholls, Patrick Wells, Bowen
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Whitney, Ray
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Whittingdale, John
Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley Widdecombe, Ann
Oppenneim, Phillip Wiggin, Sir Jerry
Ottaway, Richard Willetts, David
Page, Richard Wilshire, David
Paice, James Wolfson, Mark
Patnick, Sir Irvine Yeo.Tim
Patten, Rt Hon John Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Pawsey, James
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Tellers for the Noes:
Porter, Barry (Wirral S) Mr. Timothy Wood and Dr. Liam Fox.
Porter, David (Waveney)

Question accordingly negatived.