HC Deb 03 November 1999 vol 337 cc305-63

Lords amendment: No. 42, to leave out clause 57.

3.56 pm
Mr. Darling

I beg to move, That this House disagrees with the Lords in the said amendment.

Madam Speaker

With this, it will be convenient to take Government amendments (c), (a), (b) and (d) related thereto, Lords amendment No. 43 and Government amendments (c), (a), (b), (d) and (e) related thereto, Lords amendments Nos. 44 and 45, Lords amendment No. 46 and amendments (a) to (d) in lieu thereof, and Lords amendment No. 183.

Mr. Darling

This part of the debate covers our proposed reforms of incapacity benefit and severe disablement allowance. The proposals, originally made by the Government and now amended by the House of Lords, are part of a wider package of support for disabled people.

I want to set our proposed amendments in lieu of the Lords amendments in their proper context. They are part of a wider package that will provide more help for disabled children through increased benefits, with an extra £37 for severely disabled three and four-year-olds; and up to £26.40 more for people disabled at birth, or from an early age. Both those increases are made possible by the Bill.

The new disability income guarantee will provide £5 more a week for single people and £8 for a couple. The disabled persons tax credit is worth at least £155 a week, underpinned by the new deal for disabled people. We are also providing £140 million to help carers and introducing new pension rights.

As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said earlier this afternoon, the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 has now been implemented and the Disability Rights Commission set up to secure civil rights for disabled people. That has all been delivered by this Labour Government and opposed by the Conservative party.

In two years, we have done more to help disabled people than the Tories did in 18, and we have a lot more to do. It is important for the House to understand that there are two principles underpinning our approach and our reforms. The first is that we need to do more for people who need help most and the second is that we need to build a welfare state that reflects both the world of today and the needs of tomorrow, promoting work for those who can—including the 1 million disabled people who want to work—and providing far more security than in the past for those who cannot.

Mr. Steve Webb (Northavon)

Of those 1 million disabled people who want to work, how many will receive the disabled persons tax credit?

Mr. Darling

That of course depends on the take-up. Let me tell the hon. Gentleman in the nicest possible way that if he had had his way there would not be a new deal for disabled people. He opposed the new deal. He cannot have it both ways. We are providing help that has never been there before; it would certainly not have been there under a Conservative Government, and the Liberals have also opposed the key measures that we have taken.

I want to deal with our proposals on severe disablement allowance. The existing SDA is inefficient and poorly targeted at those whom it was originally meant to help. It is worth remembering that nearly 70 per cent. of people on SDA are on income support. The allowance was meant to help various groups, and children in particular, but I do not believe that it does so. The first thing that our reforms will achieve is to do more for people who need help most. Right now the system is not doing enough, but this Bill starts to put that right.

We want to do more for the many people disabled from birth, and in childhood, who have had no chance to work and no chance to make national insurance contributions. Today, those children get so little—£54.40 a week—that they need income support for the rest of their lives. No decent Government can tolerate that and certainly no Labour Government can tolerate it.

We are reforming SDA and providing more help for disabled young people by giving them incapacity benefit without asking them to satisfy the usual conditions. That will mean that they will get nearly £27 more every week. That is the right, decent and fair thing to do and it will mean that 175,000 people will be better off. The reform is long overdue and should be supported. I urge my hon. Friends to support it.

Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarfon)

I accept without reservation the need for those young people to get additional help, but why has that to be at the expense of other disabled people? Should not the reform be funded from the 1p that the Chancellor took off income tax instead?

Mr. Darling

The right hon. Gentleman should remember two points. First, as I have said, severe disability allowance is so low that nearly 70 per cent. of those in receipt of it rely on income support and only a minority see any benefit from it. I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman welcomes the additional help that we are providing for young children. The second point concerns spending, and many of my hon. Friends have also asked about that. It is true that the measures before the House today will, in the long term, achieve savings. That is of necessity, because of the way that the system works. However, as a result of measures that the Government have taken in the past two years, we are spending £195 million on the new deal for disabled people; £79 million on the new ONE service, which gives better help and guidance through the benefits system; £30 million on rehabilitation and retention pilots; £15 million on disabled children; and £40 million on the disabled person's tax credit. We have also introduced new linking rules to help people try out work and not lose their benefit entitlement. We have introduced the disability income guarantee and are spending £140 million on the carers strategy. In the long term, £7 billion will be credited to disabled people and carers through the new state second pension.

The Government are happy to spend more money on disabled people. That is the right thing to do. It is what the public expect us to do, but they also expect us to examine the social security system from time to time and ask whether it is up to date and reflects modern conditions, so that we make sure that all the money we spend goes to those whom the public want to be supported. They want the new deal and they want carers and the severely disabled to be helped. We are doing that, and I am proud of the fact that a Labour Government will spend more this Parliament, and more in years to come, on disabled people. That is what people elected us to do, but they also asked us not to shrink from examining the system and bringing it up to date.

Mr. Eric Pickles (Brentwood and Ongar)

Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that people with incomes above income support levels are wealthy? Is not it true that if someone with 80 per cent. disability has £3,000 of savings, £8,000 of capital or a spouse who works, he or she will not receive anything?

Mr. Darling

I am certainly not saying that people on income support are wealthy. The hon. Gentleman mentioned the capital limits, about which he made no protest for some 12 years during the Tory Government. In our pensions Green Paper, published last December, we said that we wanted to do something about the capital limits, because we want to encourage people to save and to be better off. It is far better to ensure that we provide real help, properly directed, to those children who lost out.

Mr. Pickles

Will the Secretary of State give way?

Mr. Darling

No, I shall not let the hon. Gentleman back in, as he knows that this debate is timetabled. However, if he is so bothered about people who are disabled or on low incomes, he must ask himself why he was part of a Government who, for years, did nothing about that problem.

I give way to the one member of the Conservative party who is sitting on the Opposition Back Benches.

Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury)

As the Secretary of State knows, I served all the way through the Standing Committee considering the Bill. He has made the point about achieving value for money in welfare spending, but does he accept that there is no surer way to boost welfare spending unproductively than through the introduction of more and more means tests, which discourage people from helping themselves and from saving?

Mr. Darling

The Tories doubled means testing in their 18 years in power, and the hon. Gentleman did not object once. Another way to boost welfare spending without achieving any sense of direction is through the tabling of amendments in another place that would cost £4 billion. That is what the Tories have done, even though they cannot fund the costs incurred and cannot explain how those amendments would be paid for. The Government are ensuring that help is directed to those people who need it most. At the same time, we are ensuring that the benefits system is up to date.

I turn now to the two changes that we are introducing to incapacity benefit. The first thing to emphasise—and I shall do so repeatedly, as it is so important—is that the proposed changes are for the future. No existing beneficiary at the time when the changes are introduced—probably in 2001—will be affected by anything that we propose today.

Our proposal is that some of the early retirement income—the occupational pensions—that people on incapacity benefit draw down should be taken into account. Anyone designing a benefit system today would make sure that it provided most help for those most in need. I do not believe that we can ignore the fact that times have changed. Fifty years ago, only a minority of people had private pension cover: today, the majority have. The result is that many people now leave the labour market early with good incomes from private cover.

As I said earlier, it is right that the Government should examine the social security system to make sure that it reflects such changes. That is what will happen in the future. People have occupational pensions—good pensions, in many cases—and draw down on them to replace income in precisely the same way that people took up the original incapacity benefit. It is right that the cost of that early retirement should be shared and that account be taken of the income that those people receive.

I have listened to the concerns about the threshold that have been raised by hon. Members of all parties, and I have paid particular attention to what has been said by Labour Members. I said that I would reflect on what hon. Members had to say after the Bill left this House in May. I have done that, and have tabled further proposals. However, I remind the House of what we have already done, and of what we now propose.

We are already exempting people with the severest disabilities—the group for whom disability income guarantee is intended, and to whom the rules simply will not apply. However, we are going further than that. We are raising the threshold that I originally proposed from £50 to £85.

What will be the effect of that? It will mean that an occupational pension drawn down early will not be taken into account until all income—that is, incapacity benefit and income from a private pension—exceeds £151 a week. People will not lose all their incapacity benefit until their pension income reaches nearly £220 a week. For couples, the figure will be about £15,000 a year; for people with two children, it will be about £18,000. The House should remember that some of the people involved, depending on their condition, will get non-means tested disability living allowance on top of that. That allowance is worth up to £72 a week.

By raising that threshold to £85 a week, a further 100,000 people will be exempted from my original proposal. I believe that this measure ought to be supported by hon. Members of all parties. It is a significant change, and it is the right thing to do.

It is important to remember that about one third of people receiving incapacity benefit have occupational pensions, and that half of them are in the top half of the income bracket. It is right to take that change into account. The majority of people on IB will not be affected as they do not have occupational pensions, and not many of them have pensions of more than £85 a week. Because we want to spend far more on people who have lost out in the past, we need to examine the system to see whether it reflects modern conditions. The Government should not ignore the fact that half the people receiving IB who have occupational pensions are in the top half of the income bracket. However, I repeat that people who do not have income from a private pension of £85 a week or more will not be affected.

Mr. Frank Field (Birkenhead)

When my right hon. Friend says that the majority of people are in the top half of the income scale, is that before or after they are paid benefit? Will the means test be based on households or on individual earnings?

Mr. Darling

I am talking about individuals, and about their total income.

I should like to say a word about the amendment originally tabled in the other place by Lord Ashley.

Mr. Alan Williams (Swansea, West)

We very much appreciate all that is being done to help disabled people. But if the £85 is a set figure, it will reduce in value by 25 per cent. over 10 years, and by 50 per cent. over 20 years. Therefore, progressively fewer people will benefit from it. Can my right hon. Friend explain what the then Under-Secretary—now the Financial Secretary to the Treasury—could not at the last vote? Why do we think it impossible for a millionaire to pay more than 40 per cent. of his income in taxation, while it is all right for a retired disabled person to lose 50 per cent. of the value of his income and then to pay tax on the remainder?

Mr. Darling

Let me deal first with my right hon. Friend's comment about the taper. I do not think that it is right to compare the tax rates with the tapers in the benefit system. As my right hon. Friend well knows, the tapers operated in the benefit system are generally much higher than 50 per cent. The housing benefit taper is 65 per cent., and the taper of 50 per cent. proposed in this measure is one of the lowest in the system. Even the working families tax credit which is, quite rightly, very generous, has a taper of 55 per cent.

My right hon. Friend also raised a very important point about the figure of £85. Let me repeat what I said about the original proposal of £50 when the matter was last before the House. The figure of £85 is provided for in the Bill—that is the minimum. The Government will review that figure every year to ensure that it does not steadily erode the value of people's occupational pensions, as my right hon. Friend suggests. I believe that the Government's proposed increase from £50 to £85 is right—it is about the level of an average occupational pension. I give the House a clear, unequivocal commitment that we will keep that figure under review to ensure that it is increased and does not erode the value of people's savings.

4.15 pm
Mr. Alan Williams

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend, and accept the sincerity of his offer. However, future Secretaries of State of other denominations may not be as kindly disposed. To achieve his objective, could he not provide for this most readily by including in the Bill the indexation of this sum?

Mr. Darling

My right hon. Friend raises a pretty fundamental point, and I am sorry that I do not have an answer. I do not know any way of putting in legislation a provision that cannot be tampered with by succeeding Governments. If there were any way of doing that, many Governments would have done it. The Conservatives are pledged to slash social security spending if they get back into office. Given their commitment to reducing everybody's income tax and corporation tax every year, it does not take much imagination to realise that they will have to cut social security spending with a vengeance.

Our proposal is better than indexation, which might make only a small difference to the figure of £85. I assure my right hon. Friend on behalf of the Government and those of my successors that I can bind, that we shall keep the figure under review to ensure that its value does not erode and thus adversely affect people's savings. Indexation would mean that the increase might be a lot less than that which the Government might want to introduce in future. Therefore, I give my right hon. Friend an undertaking to review the figure, but I cannot go further.

Dr. Lynne Jones (Birmingham, Selly Oak)

The Bill will not be implemented until 2001. Will my right hon. Friend give a commitment to review the figure of £85 upwards to take account of increases in earnings or prices between now and 2001? Will he also give a commitment at least to annual uprating to take account of price movements?

Mr. Darling

I cannot add anything to my previous reply that I shall review the figure annually to ascertain whether we should raise it to avoid eroding the value of people's increased savings.

I did not realise that my hon. Friend was a fan of price uprating only. If she is, she tempts me to follow her. She probably expects us to do something better than that from time to time, but, if she will settle for price rating, I may one day follow her down that road—if not any other.

Dr. Jones

Will my right hon. Friend answer my question about uprating between now and 2001, when the Bill is introduced? The sum of £85 will not be worth as much in 2001 as it is today.

Mr. Darling

I have answered that question. The Government will keep the figure of £85 under review. The increase that we have made from £50 to £85 is right, but we will review the figure every year. We do not promise to uprate it every year, but we will review it to ensure that it does not adversely affect people's savings.

I want to comment briefly on the amendment that was tabled in another place by Lord Ashley. I want to focus on those in greatest need, and give them the most help. If the amendment were accepted, people who took early retirement and claimed incapacity benefit would continue to receive it until their private pensions reached £435 a week. The Government's proposals are sensible and right, and they should be supported.

The second change is our proposal to restore the link between incapacity benefit and work. We shall make two significant changes to our original proposals. First, we shall take account of the problems of people who suffer from degenerative conditions, such as multiple sclerosis or Parkinson's disease, which steadily reduce the ability to work. Both Houses expressed the fear that people in that position might lose entitlement to incapacity benefit. Our proposals will ensure that people who get the disabled person's tax credit and earn below the lower earnings limit will be able to get credits into the national insurance system and receive incapacity benefit. We have already done that for carers who receive invalid care allowance. Both groups will get incapacity benefit even if it is more than three years since they contributed.

I tabled the second change to our original proposals on Monday. It provides that contributions in the previous three—not only the previous two—tax years will count. Both changes will make a great difference to cases that have been raised with me in the House and elsewhere. For example, if the provision were in place now, someone who claimed incapacity benefit next month could receive it on the basis of contributions paid in April 1995. The contributions would be satisfied by 12 weeks of work for someone on the national minimum wage and a mere four weeks for someone on average earnings.

We have also introduced new linking rules, which mean that people who have received incapacity benefit, try out a job and find that it does not work, will not lose their entitlement to incapacity benefit. The one-year linking rule—two years for those receiving the disabled persons tax credit—ensures that.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

Is it true that the mechanics of operating the Government's scheme will be markedly more expensive than the proposals put forward by Lord Ashley? Can my right hon. Friend provide to the House the technical advice that he has received from actuaries and others about the sheer cost of the mechanics of operating the Government's proposals?

Mr. Darling

No, I do not think that the operation of our scheme will be more expensive. The mechanics of operating the system are the same no matter what the monetary limits happen to be. I am more than happy to allow my hon. Friend to speak to Government actuaries. I am sure that they would relish the opportunity to engage him for many hours, if he so wished, on the subject, although the Benefits Agency will probably have to implement the proposals. If he wants further information on that, I shall provide it. I do not think that it makes any difference whether the monetary limits are £85, £95 or £120; the mechanics of implementing the system are exactly the same.

Mr. Swinney

I do not wish to interrupt the dialogue on the faculty of actuaries' next consideration of these issues, but may I return the Secretary of State to his point about the concessions that he announced on Monday night? Will he share with the House what persuaded him of the merits of moving to include the last three years, and not the last two years, of contributions? Why did his proposal not go further?

Mr. Darling

On the move from two to three years, my objective when I published the proposals about 12 months ago was to ensure that there was a recent connection between someone working and his claiming incapacity benefit. Incapacity benefit was originally designed to replace income for people who were out of work. There is no exact science behind the choice of two years or three years, but I believe that three years is a sensible link. As I said, the period between someone having worked and his claiming incapacity benefit might effectively be four and a half years.

There is another important point. The Tories' only answer to long-term unemployment was incapacity benefit. There was no other help. Too often, people who came out of work were left to languish on the dole queues. The conditions of many of them deteriorated and they went on to incapacity benefit. This Government have introduced a large range of measures to help people who lose their jobs to get back into work. We have not only introduced tax and benefits changes, but provided help through the new deal and through the new ONE service. That help was never available in the past. We do not believe that, if people lose their jobs because their employer closes down or because of structural changes, that should be it and they should left high and dry with only one option available to them. They should not have to become sick so that they can get enough money to make ends meet. That can never be a humane policy response to the problems that they face.

Mr. Alan Simpson (Nottingham, South)

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will remember the briefing notes that he sent out about how the new proposals would work. In them, he cited several examples of the way in which welfare reforms would affect different people. One of the examples in the original briefing referred to Dave, an unemployed binman who had been made redundant six years earlier and then suffered a stroke. However, Dave disappeared from the corrected version that was published later. Will the circumstances of someone with an intermittent employment record be covered by the proposed framework that my right hon. Friend now intends to put in place?

Mr. Darling

I shall set about a search for Dave as soon as I sit down, but I do not think that he has disappeared. I shall try to answer my hon. Friend's point—if not for Dave, then for Dave's mates or his replacement.

As I said to the House a few moments ago, the contribution conditions can be satisfied by someone on average earnings having completed four weeks' work in the preceding three years. The period is 12 weeks for someone on the minimum wage. I have also said that, when someone is trying out work after perhaps having been on benefit, he will be able to be credited back into the system through the credits that we are offering. In addition, people with degenerative conditions will also be helped because of the changes that we are making through the disabled persons tax credit.

Our objective is to ensure that, as far as possible, people who can work are helped to do so through a variety of means. We also want to ensure that when a person is working intermittently, the contribution conditions are such that if. eventually, they cannot continue to work, they are not stopped from receiving incapacity benefit.

The reforms are part of a wider package of support for disabled people. The disability income guarantee, the disabled person's tax credit and the Disability Rights Commission are all welcomed by most people—although they are all, of course, opposed by the Tory party. The reforms are also part of a wider welfare reform Bill before the House. We are introducing new measures to help people to get back to work because we are not prepared to put up with people being left with absolutely no help, through no fault of their own, because they have lost their job.

The Bill also introduces stakeholder pensions, which will help people with an intermittent work record. It delivers pension rights on divorce. It delivers new help for bereaved families with young children. It is worth noting that about 175,000 people disabled from birth or a young age will gain, and that nearly 175,000 other people will gain from the disability income guarantee. About 40,000 women will gain from the proposed bereavement changes. About 25,000 women will benefit from the extension of statutory maternity pay to low-paid women, and 960,000 people—nearly 1 million—on low pay will benefit from the changes that we are making in national insurance contributions. Some millions will benefit from the stakeholder changes.

The Bill delivers real help for disabled children, and others who have never had help. It is part of a package that delivers real reform, real help, all of it delivered for the first time ever by this Labour Government, all of it opposed by the Tories. Their opposition tonight is based, not on principle, but on naked opportunism of a sort that we have not seen for many years.

I believe that the Government should be supported. We have a record to be proud of. The Bill should be supported, and the amendments that I put before the House should be supported. I commend them to the House.

Mr. Willetts

The Secretary of State has spoken as though he is bravely reforming an Attlee welfare state that has not been touched or reviewed or reformed for 50 years. That may be why he is so dismissive of the rebels on his own side and of the position that we, in the Conservative party, have adopted. He was pretty rude about his own rebels. He was quoted in The Guardian as saying: There are some in the Labour party who would vote against four sheets of blank paper.

Mr. Darling

I am used to good old-fashioned political knockabout, but what the hon. Gentleman just said is not true.

Mr. Willetts

If the right hon. Gentleman is denying the quote that appeared in The Guardian, I am happy to accept that correction.

The rebels can speak for themselves. I shall keep my remarks short so that as many as possible of them have an opportunity to speak. I want to tackle head on what the Secretary of State said at the end of his speech about what he described as the "naked opportunism" of our approach. I remind the Secretary of State that we constructed incapacity benefit. The benefit that he is messing around with tonight was introduced in 1995. That benefit was introduced while my right hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley) was Secretary of State for Social Security. Conservative Members are perfectly entitled to defend a benefit that we constructed.

The Secretary of State is not suddenly examining disability benefits that have not been touched for 50 years: he is undermining a benefit that was introduced in the House and implemented only a few years ago.

As a result of the changes that we introduced when we were in office, both the number of incapacity benefit claimants and expenditure on incapacity benefit are falling. When the benefit was introduced, the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends attacked us for cutting expenditure, but we deliberately and carefully constructed a benefit that we thought correctly balanced the control of expenditure and fairness to disabled people.

4.30 pm
Mr. Terry Rooney (Bradford, North)

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that, in fact, the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 enacted a change of name and up to a 50 per cent. reduction in benefit? He did not construct a benefit; he destructed a benefit system.

Mr. Willetts

Over time, reductions in entitlement to benefit were introduced and, certainly, one of our biggest single changes was to remove the earnings-related supplement to the previous invalidity benefit. The reason why we did that—it was explicitly set out at the time—was that there was an increasing shift towards pension provision among people who left work early as a result of their growing disability. My predecessors—Secretaries of State in the previous Conservative Government—explicitly put that argument before the House. The justification for the measure was precisely that it would be part of a mixed economy in which there would be increasing access to pension savings. We oppose what the Secretary of State is doing because he is attacking part of our vision of the development of the social security system. We are defending exactly the argument that we used when we introduced the benefit only a few years ago.

Mr. Tom Levitt (High Peak)

The hon. Gentleman is defending a system that left some disabled people too poor to qualify for incapacity benefit.

Mr. Willetts

I will not say that the system in 1997 was ideal. I am explaining that there was a logic to my right hon. and hon. Friends' construction of the benefit—consciously aiming at a mixture of occupational and personal pension provision and benefit. I thought that the vision of people increasingly having access to savings from pensions alongside benefit was one of the Government's principles too.

I have a copy of the Government's so-called "key messages on welfare reform". What does it say on the very front page? One of the bullet points refers to Providing for the future with new stakeholder pensions and encouragement for those who can save to do so. I should like to hear the Secretary of State explain how the measures before the House are consistent with that statement from him of the Government's commitment to encouraging savings. It is simply inconsistent.

Mr. Darling


Mr. Willetts

If the right hon. Gentleman wants to intervene to explain how penalising people for having an occupational pension is compatible with encouraging savings, I shall be very interested to hear him.

Mr. Darling

Of course it is the Government's objective to encourage saving for pensions and other eventualities in later life. However, it has always been a principle of the social security system that there comes a point at which we take into account people's means. It is a bit rich for a member of a party that vastly extended the way in which the Government take into account people's savings to criticise such an eminently sensible proposal. When people draw down good early-retirement pensions, we should take some of them—over a threshold—into account.

Mr. Willetts

I remind the Secretary of State of what he said in "A New Contract for Welfare". I know that the document causes him considerable embarrassment, as his actions are increasingly departing from the principles that he set out in it, but principle 2 is as follows: The public and private sector should work in partnership to ensure that, wherever possible, people are insured against foreseeable risks and make provision for their retirement. That is the argument for people who are on incapacity benefit not being penalised for their entitlement to a retirement pension.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham)

The Secretary of State's last intervention was woefully inadequate to meet the needs of the case. Does my hon. Friend agree that, in view of the more than halving of the savings ratio—from 10.6 per cent. to under 5 per cent—in the first quarter of 1999, as a direct consequence of the Government's policy decisions, the Secretary of State at least owes the House an explanation of what assessment he has made of the likely impact of the incapacity benefit changes on the savings ratio which he has been busily running down?

Mr. Willetts

My hon. Friend is right. We have not heard from the Secretary of State any assessment of the long-term impact on behaviour of measures such as the one proposed. We have all learned from the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) that long-term implications for behaviour must be considered, as well as short-term apparent expenditure savings.

It is highly unlikely that the provisions will save the Secretary of State money. They will merely affect the way in which occupational pensions are provided and the terms on which people are entitled to them. My hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) is right. The measure will deter people from occupational pension provision.

I shall risk another quotation from The Guardian. The Secretary of State may not disagree with it. It is from a document that was apparently circulating during our term in office. Clearly, ideas such as the one proposed by the Secretary of State were circulating under the previous Government. I shall quote from The Guardian the response of my right hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley), the then Secretary of State for Social Security: I do not favour this approach. Apart from the disincentives to make private provision it would introduce, I think it would raise some very difficult questions about the future of the contributory benefit system before we have fully thought through the direction we want to take. The then Secretary of State for Social Security was saying that measures such as the present Secretary of State is introducing were wrong because they would attack private occupational pension provision and undermine the contributory principle. My right hon. Friend was right then, which is why he won the argument then.

The Secretary of State is not engaged in some bold Blairite reform of the welfare state. He is taking the tired old options from the Treasury cutting room floor of five years ago, and recycling them as though they were part of some bold vision for the future of social security. They are not. They are the options that were rejected then. We deliberately and consciously rejected them. They were not part of the model of incapacity benefit as we introduced it. We were right to reject them then, and that is why we shall vote against them again tonight.

Sir Nicholas Lyell (North-East Bedfordshire)

I have just joined the debate, but I heard my hon. Friend refer to bold Blairite options in social security. Does he know of any such thing?

Mr. Willetts

The gap between the rhetoric in the document and the tired and desperate measures before the House lead one to doubt whether there is any such thing.

Let me scrutinise in more detail the means test proposed by the Secretary of State to penalise people for their occupational pensions. It is a means test hitherto unknown in the social security system. It does not take account of people's income in general. It simply takes account of one form of income. It penalises people only if they have an occupational or personal pension. They can have as much money as they like in a building society account and they can have PEPs, TESSAs and other financial savings. The one thing that they must not have is an occupational pension. That is a bizarre route for a Government who claim that they want to encourage occupational pension provision.

Mr. James Plaskitt (Warwick and Leamington)

There is a gap in the hon. Gentleman's argument. If he is arguing that the measures are an attack on savings and occupational pensions, why did he support his right hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley) in 1994, when the legislation introducing the benefit was going through? The right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden said: Too many people regard invalidity benefit as a readily available supplement to their occupational pensions when they take early retirement."—[Official Report, 24 January 1994; Vol. 236, c. 37.] If that was an argument for reform then, why does not the hon. Gentleman support the argument for reform now?

Mr. Willetts

That was the argument for removing the earnings-related supplement. That is precisely the point. The argument was that people could not have the earnings-related supplement plus occupational pension provision. That is why we moved to a benefit that has a flat rate rather than an earnings-related element. That is precisely the reason for the benefit as it is currently constructed, as I tried to explain to the House a moment ago.

Mr. Rooney


Mr. Willetts

I have already accepted an intervention from the hon. Gentleman. [Interruption.] The Secretary of State's Parliamentary Private Secretary, the hon. Member for Stockport (Ms Coffey), is urging me to accept the hon. Gentleman's intervention because she does not want any of her colleagues to speak in the debate. The fact that she wants me to accept the hon. Gentleman's intervention is another argument against doing so.

I referred briefly to the means test. I shall refer to two other pernicious aspects of the Government's proposals—the combined impact of the 50 per cent. rate of withdrawal, and the fact that the benefit is taxable. We accept that the benefit is taxable, of course. We regard as unacceptable the combined rate of 73 per cent. It will impose much higher rates of combined benefit withdrawal and taxation on people on low incomes than the Government say they are prepared to accept for people on high incomes.

The attack on the contributory principle is unacceptable. No private insurance company or private pension scheme could get away with changing the conditions for entitlement in the way that the Government propose. They would probably be breaking the law and would certainly be named and shamed by Ministers. People have a legitimate expectation, on the basis of their national insurance contributions, which the Government are undermining with no clear assessment of the distributional impact. There is no targeting or focusing on people with low incomes. They are simply changing the contributions test for receipt of the benefit in order to save money and, despite what the Secretary of State said, there is no assessment of the overall distributional impact of their measures.

We have made it clear that we are willing to look at ways in which further savings can be achieved in incapacity benefit—even though the measures that we introduced are already reducing the amount of expenditure on it. That should be done by properly policing the entitlement to benefit in the first place. That is what the all work test is supposed to do. The Disability Benefits Consortium is right to say: If the Government believes that there are people on IB who are not sick or disabled then the way to deal with this is through the design and operation of the All Work Test. That would have been the right way to set about achieving what the Secretary of State claims is his objective. These random measures, plucked from the cutting room floor of the Treasury, will have a distributional impact that he cannot defend. They will have a long-term effect on behaviour that will be perverse and damaging. They will undermine people's confidence in the contributory principle in which the Secretary of State claims he believes. They are measures that the House should reject.

Mr. Roger Berry (Kingswood)

I would love to spend some time attacking the Tories' record on disability issues, but I am here to speak in support of amendments in my name and those of my right hon. and hon. Friends. Should the opportunity arise, which I am pretty certain it will not, I should like to press them to a Division later.

I ask myself why the Government are pursuing this course of action on incapacity benefit. What are the problems? The first problem is that the Government's proposals will reduce benefit for disabled people who are unable to work. Those disabled people, as future claimants, will have paid the existing national insurance contributions and been judged unfit for work according to a medical test with criteria set down by the Government of the day. Why should future claimants who have paid the current contributions and satisfied that medical test be worse off? For the life of me, I cannot answer that question.

I can say how many people will be affected. Even under my right hon. Friend's revised threshold, 310,000 disabled people who are unable to work will be worse off as a result of the proposals. A total of 110,000 will be worse off because of the restriction on the entitlement conditions whereby contribution has to have been made in the past three years, and 200,000 will be worse off because of the means test on those who are able to access incapacity benefit. That is my first problem with the proposals. Why are we making disabled people who are unable to work worse off? I cannot understand it.

The second reason why I cannot understand the proposal is that it is distracting attention from the path-breaking and progressive policies of this Government in support of disabled people. No Government have been as radical and progressive on rights for disabled people as this Government have been. The new Disability Rights Commission provides support, through the new deal and the disabled persons tax credit to enable disabled people to get back to work, and measures in the Bill provide increased benefits for severely disabled people. Those and many other measures show that this is the most progressive, ground-breaking Government on the rights of disabled people. I cannot for the life of me understand why they have allowed all that to be cast in the shadow of these cuts in social security benefits.

4.45 pm

Like many of my colleagues, I spent the summer attending meetings to promote the Disability Rights Commission. Within 20 seconds of my sitting down, people asked me why cuts were being made in invalidity benefit. I am concerned that those cuts are damaging the Government's wider programme.

I have not received a letter, a fax, a telephone call or an e-mail in support of the proposals. I do not know of an organisation of or for disabled people that supports them; indeed, I do not know of any organisation that supports them. I cannot find a member of the Government's disability rights task force who supports them. I have had some difficulty finding hon. Friends who honestly support these proposals. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Until today perhaps.

It has been said that those of us who feel strongly about this matter reject the notion of welfare reform. That is not true. I am a passionate supporter of welfare reform, including most of the measures that the Government have introduced. I checked my dictionary about the meaning of the word "reform", and it says that to reform is to improve. Parliamentary reform and reform of the House of Lords is an improvement in the way in which Parliament and the House of Lords reflect the wider community in which we live. I cannot see how reducing benefit entitlement to disabled people who are unable to work can be described as an improvement. It is not an improvement for them.

Let us be clear: we are talking about incapacity benefit of £66.75 a week. We are not debating the case for a higher level of benefit. It is a debate about retaining the benefit for people who have paid contributions under the current system and are judged unfit for work according to criteria set down by the Government.

What reasons have been given for the measures? We were told that the previous Government used incapacity benefit to disguise unemployment, and that is why something must be done about it. That is an irrelevant point, because the Bill relates to future claimants. It does not matter what the previous Government did.

We were then told that spending on incapacity benefit was increasing. It is not: it is decreasing. It has been falling consistently since the benefit was introduced in 1995. We were told that we should means-test incapacity benefit because more people now have occupational or personal pensions. That was the justification used in 1995 when the previous Government removed the earnings-related component. That is a matter of public record.

The same argument could be made about the basic state pension. Many pensioners have occupational or personal pensions, not least because all Governments rightly encourage people to make personal provision for their retirement. The Government are opposed to means-testing the basic state pension. Why? Because that would penalise those who have saved for retirement, it would discourage future saving, and it is a contributory benefit.

The same is true of incapacity benefit. More means testing further reduces the incentive to save. It reduces benefit take-up, encourages dishonesty, and is costly to administer.

The Minister of State, Department of Social Security (Mr. Jeff Rooker)

I have been listening carefully to what my hon. Friend has been saying, and I think that it should be knocked on the head at an early stage. He erred in this respect: at Question Time the Prime Minister gave an unambiguous answer, making it clear that there was no thin end of the wedge, and that there was no thought that the retirement pension would be means tested through the taking into account of occupational pensions.

Mr. Berry

I did not mean to suggest that. Indeed, I did not suggest that. I specifically said that the Government were entirely opposed to means testing of the basic state pension, and expressed my strong support for their opposition. I raised the matter in order to suggest that the principles involved in not means-testing the basic state pension were the same as those involved in not means-testing incapacity benefit.

We are told that incapacity benefit was never intended for people who have been unemployed. In fact, it has always been the case that people can move from unemployment benefit to incapacity benefit, provided that they meet the contribution conditions and have the relevant medical test. The benefit was intended specifically to protect those whose health deteriorated while they were unemployed. If the benefit was never intended for those who had been unemployed, why did the contribution conditions never reflect that fact? The present contribution conditions are the same as those for invalidity benefit, which preceded incapacity benefit, and the same as those for sickness benefit, which was introduced in 1948.

Finally—this is not the final point that I want to make, but I know that others wish to speak—we are told that the proposal is all about helping those in the greatest need; that it is about helping the most severely disabled. On 20 April, however, the Under—Secretary of State for Social Security, my hon. Friend the Member for City of York (Mr. Bayley), said: We are not introducing the changes because we want to make savings to pay for improvement of other benefits for disabled people. We are introducing the changes because we believe that each one is right and proper and will improve the welfare of disabled people."—[Official Report, Standing Committee D, 20 April 1999; c. 874-75.] Both those arguments cannot be correct, but one of them must be, and I think that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State is right. The argument that savings in incapacity benefit are needed for help to be concentrated on the most severely disabled does not stand up. There will still be about £450 million worth of savings in incapacity benefit as a result of the most recent proposals—far more than the very welcome extra spending on disabled children and young people.

In any event, what would be the moral justification for increasing help for disabled children and young people, and reducing the benefits of other disabled people on low incomes to pay for it? Does not the whole of society have that responsibility?

Mr. Darling

My hon. Friend must not persist in the argument that, by increasing spending on the most vulnerable, we are somehow removing money from other disabled people. We are not. The savings that we shall make by this means are long-term. As I said earlier—I am sure that my hon. Friend was present—we are spending more money now to help the very people whom he and I want to help. That is extra money, new to the system.

Mr. Berry

I was referring to provisions in the Bill. Of course I acknowledge the extra spending that the Government are undertaking elsewhere.

The Secretary of State has indicated that he will raise the means-test threshold from £50 to £85 a week, but that the taper will remain at 50p. I think that that will leave many disabled people who are unable to work on very low incomes—they will be significantly worse off. The means test would begin with a total income of less than £8,000 a year, and all incapacity benefit would be lost at a little over £11,000. Pensioners paying the standard rate of income tax would lose not 50p but 73p in the pound.

Mr. Tony McWalter (Hemel Hempstead)

May I make a purely mathematical point? I agree with the drift of what my hon. Friend is saying. The clawback is high, but with a 22 per cent. tax rate the figure would be 61p, while with a 23 per cent. rate it would be 61.5p. One would have to do a bit of double accounting to arrive at 73p.

Mr. Berry

My understanding of the Bill is that the 50 per cent. relates to gross pension income. I am prepared to re-read the Bill; perhaps I have misunderstood it. Whichever figure it is, however, those people will effectively pay more marginal tax than a millionaire: they will effectively pay far more tax than people on much higher incomes.

As the House will have gathered, I am not happy about the principle of means-testing incapacity benefit. I am deeply unhappy about it, but, like Lord Ashley and others in the other place, I have supported a compromise position, which is on the Order Paper. Its purpose was to reduce the impact on disabled people and to bring the matter to an end. Our threshold would be the level of the disability income guarantee—£128—which would provide a mechanism for uprating and safeguard the income of any disabled person with an income of less than £195 per week. I do not believe that, in this day and age, that is too generous. Reducing the taper to the standard income tax rate is not too generous, either.

It has been said that the proposal would exempt nearly everyone. That is not true. About 400,000 incapacity benefit recipients have a pension of over £50 a week—the original threshold level. The compromise would have rescued the poorest two thirds of those incapacity benefit recipients, while halving the Government's original savings. It was an honest attempt to meet the Government halfway.

I am sorry that the Government have felt unable to support that compromise, or anything near it. The Bill will return to the other place. I feel that, unfortunately, the best way for Members to show that they would like the Government to think again is to vote against the Government's motion to disagree with the Lords amendment. I feel that I have no alternative but, with very great regret, to vote against the Government's motion. I urge other right hon. and hon. Members to do the same.

Mr. Webb

It is a privilege to follow the hon. Member for Kingswood (Mr. Berry), who has a reputation for fighting on behalf of disabled people. Tonight, he is doing the same again and deserves to be listened to. On a recent BBC radio programme, he and I were bracketed together by the Secretary of State as "the forces of conservatism", which is news to both of us. I will not lavish any further praise on the hon. Gentleman lest I undermine his position.

The hon. Member for Havant (Mr. Willetts) discussed the history of the attempt to means-test incapacity benefit and rightly pointed out that it was considered and rejected by the previous Secretary of State, the right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley). Given what happened yesterday, the hon. Gentleman coyly failed to mention which person tried to foist on the previous Secretary of State the means-testing of incapacity benefit: one M. X. Portillo.

In the circumstances, perhaps the hon. Member for Havant does not want to remind the House that Mr. Portillo, who hopes to re-enter the House shortly, tried to persuade the right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden to means-test incapacity benefit. All I can say is that the Secretary of State is doing what Michael Portillo wanted to do and the right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden dared not do. It is a sad day when the Labour party has to deliver Michael Portillo's agenda.

We have discussed the marginal tax rates under the means test. The hon. Member for Kingswood was right. We clarified the position with the Library yesterday. It rang the Department of Social Security, which said that the 50 per cent. rate will apply to gross occupational pension income. If I am wrong, I will be happy to be interrupted by the Secretary of State. That 50 per cent. is on top of the income tax rate of 23 per cent., so, for every pound above the threshold, whatever it should be, someone who has saved through an occupational pension will lose 73p.

The Secretary of State told us that the taper of 50 per cent. was low for the benefits system—the Department of Social Security could be much nastier in means-testing. It set one of 50 per cent. or more on the working families tax credit and 60 per cent. on housing benefit. It is set one of 73 per cent. for people who save through company pensions—[Interruption.] The Minister of State says that the taper could be 100. Yes—if the price is right, and the Department really puts its mind to it—it could be 100.

5 pm

Does the hon. Gentleman, who has responsibility for pensions, really think that a 73 per cent. taper gives people an incentive to make more occupational savings? If he were in his 50s—

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Social Security (Angela Eagle)

He is.

Mr. Webb

I was not going to speculate on that. However, given that he is in his 50s, if he anticipated that early retirement might at some point be forced on him—who knows—does he think that, faced with a 73 per cent. marginal rate, it would be sensible for him to put extra money into an occupation pension? Clearly, it would not be sensible to contribute more, as the marginal rate is undoubtedly a disincentive to save.

Modernisation has been the Secretary of State's principal defence of the policy, which the Government say is designed to reform the welfare state and bring it up to date. What is the central tenet of that reform, as we march confidently into the new millennium? It is means testing. The Secretary of State has discovered a new strategy for a new millennium, to build a new welfare state, founded on a bright new vision for dealing with today's realities. That vision and that strategy is means testing. How can means testing be modernisation?

I thought that one of Labour's proudest boasts was about the post-war Labour Government and their role in establishing the welfare state, of which contributory social insurance was an integral part. There is no doubt that the Secretary of State is playing an instrumental role in dismantling the welfare state.

Mr. Brazier

I am listening very carefully to the hon. Gentleman's speech. Every time a Conservative Member makes a point on the principle of means testing, we hear, "That's what you did", but receive no coherent answer about the Government's policy. It will be very interesting to see whether the hon. Gentlemen receives a proper answer from the Government to his excellent question.

Mr. Webb

I should be most grateful for an answer to the question. Although the Government could easily point out that the Tories doubled means testing—which is true, but regrettable—what is the Secretary of State's answer to my question? In a modern welfare state, why is it desirable to force more people on to the means test by limiting the contribution rules, means-testing occupational pensions and phasing out severe disablement allowance? How can that be the face of a modern welfare state? Is that the shape of things to come? We hear no answer.

The hon. Member for Kingswood raised the issue of means-testing the retirement pension. We all heard the Prime Minister say that he would not means-test the retirement pension, and I entirely welcome that assurance. However, once the principle has been breached, his successors, and those of the Secretary of State, will be able to tell the House, "We already means-test contributory benefits". All the arguments that the Secretary of State has used on incapacity benefit will be true in spades when applied to the retirement pension.

Angela Eagle

What about the jobseeker's allowance?

Mr. Webb

I am not sure why the Minister raises that, but assume that she does so because that was an example of the previous Government weakening the contributory principle. I expect that she opposed that change. Now, however, Ministers are engaged in a further undermining of the contributory principle.

I am sure that, in this Parliament, the Government will not means-test the retirement pension.

Dr. Lynne Jones

I might be able to enlighten the hon. Gentleman on that point. In 1987, in a debate on the Social Security Act 1988, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, in opposing the means-testing of contributory unemployment benefits, said that those affected had shown thrift and foresight in providing for themselves"—[Official Report, 2 November 1987; Vol. 121, c. 671.] and that he opposed the means-testing of unemployment benefit.

Mr. Webb

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for drawing the House's attention to a previous comment by a leading member of the Government. The comment was true then, and it is true now.

My concern is not that the Government will means-test the retirement pension in this Parliament—we have the Prime Minister's assurance on that. However, what might happen in 10 or 15 years? The Minister of State has said that people retiring on the retirement pension will be living in penury. It is difficult enough to justify the current level of the retirement pension, but, after 10 or 15 years of price indexation, it will have fallen so far below the poverty line that there will be huge political pressure to put more money into it. At that point, a future Government may well say, "We will put money into the retirement pension, but do not want to do so for people with occupational pensions of £30,000 a year."

If we give in to the principle today, we shall be laying the future open to means-testing the retirement pension.

The Secretary of State has defended his attack on disabled people who have occupational pensions or dodgy contribution records by referring to the good things that the Government are doing for some other disabled people. More times than I care to remember he has mentioned the disabled persons tax credit, which was an afterthought of Government policy. Disability working allowance—its predecessor—went to just 16,000 people. The bright, shiny new disabled persons tax credit, which is the Government's in-work strategy for disabled people, will go to an extra 6,000. If anyone wants to intervene and correct me on that, I shall be happy to give way.

Mr. Levitt

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that there are 2 million disabled people in employment and a further 1 million who are not in employment but would like to be. It is certain that a significant proportion will qualify for the disabled persons tax credit—far more than for the DWA.

Mr. Webb

The Government's projections for spending on the tax credit assume 22,000 recipients. Even if the figure were 30,000 or 50,000, what is that compared with the 1 million whom the Government say want to work and cannot? It is a drop in the ocean—a fig leaf to cover the huge cuts that the Government are making for people who are unfit to work.

The spurious argument about the situation being a form of hidden unemployment has been raised yet again. If there are people on incapacity benefit who should not be, why not stop them claiming it in the first place rather than introducing measures that affect not just those who should not be claiming, but those who have every right to claim?

There is a fundamental principle of universality involved. When someone turns up at an NHS hospital, we do not tell them to go away because they are well off or have BUPA cover. Everyone is in the system. They have paid their taxes and their contributions, so they have a right to treatment on the NHS. That principle underlies social insurance. People make contributions during their working life and when they need help it is there for them. The rules do not change at the end of the game. The Government cannot say afterwards that someone is not entitled because they have made extra provision for themselves. Either provision is universal or it is not.

The Government say that they do not accept universality. They are moving towards mass means testing. If it was wrong of the Tories to double means testing, why is it right for the Government to extend it further?

Mr. Darling

I have been listening to this nonsense for some time. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the Government's proposals for the reform of the state second pension, which is a contributory pension, will mean that more people will get an increased amount. We are doubling the amount of money that people on £9,000 or below will get from that contributory benefit. We have a mixed social security system involving means-tested and contributory benefits. I have given an example of a contributory benefit that we are increasing. If the hon. Gentleman's argument was right, contributory benefits could never be changed or improved. When he sits down and thinks about that he must realise that it is nonsense.

Mr. Webb

I am sure that you will not allow me to stray too far in talking about the state second pension, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I should like to address that point. For the next 20 years, contributory pension expenditure on the state second pension plus the state earnings-related pension will be lower because of the Government's policies. In 2050 or after another total eclipse they will be spending more, but, within 20 years, there will probably be no state second pension because some other Government will have ripped up the unfunded promise. It is the coming years that are relevant to people currently in their 50s and 60s. By 2050, plenty of us here, let alone today's pensioners, will be dead. In the next 20 years, the Government will be spending less on the contributory retirement pension than would have been the case without their reforms.

The Secretary of State mentioned benefits for carers under the state second pension. It will be 50 years before people can get a full state second pension. That is how long the reform will take, yet the Secretary of State justifies cuts to invalids over the coming five to 10 years on a promise 20 or 30 years down the line.

Mr. Darling

Utter rubbish.

Mr. Webb

Does the Secretary of State have the arguments to back that up? Heckling is easy, but has he brought an argument to the House?

Many Labour Members have difficult points to make—no one enjoys voting against their own party—and they deserve to be heard. The Secretary of State can easily dismiss the Tories because of their record, and he can choose to dismiss us. However, he has said that he will listen to his own Back Benchers who, I believe, are deeply dissatisfied with the direction of the Government. Means testing is not the future, it is the past. It is time that the Secretary of State thought again.

Kali Mountford (Colne Valley)

We have heard some outright nonsense this afternoon, and I cannot resist addressing much of it. The welfare state was created 50 years ago, and times have changed. We are asked why it is right to look at this matter—it is right because the conditions are different. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Havant (Mr. Willetts) says—from a sedentary position—that the system was introduced in 1995. He is trying to mislead the House. We are looking at the whole benefits system, and the Tory reforms merely tinkered and renamed the system. We must look back to the system in 1991 and, prior to that, at sickness benefit, which was the precursor to the proposals that we are debating.

Sickness benefit is an income-replacement benefit. We are debating today—in a changed world—what we mean by that, and how we focus benefits. I support the proposals because I think that they are right. I do not do so because I wish to eke out some meagre resources, but because the proposals make sense. They make sense in terms of the national insurance contributory principle and in terms of how we use that principle now and in the future.

We must look at the link between the contribution and sickness benefit. We talk about national insurance contributions as if they pay only for that benefit, but we pay national insurance contributions for a range of things, and we get a great deal out of it. Some people get more out of it than others, but that is part of the redistribution within the system.

People talk as if we all had an individual fund. One of the problems is that there never was a fund. There is no state pension fund from which we get our pension. We have no fund for our hospital care. We have no personal fund if we become sick, disabled or unemployed. We pay today for today's recipients. To talk about a fund that does not exist is misleading, and to suggest that no one gets anything from his national insurance contributions is not true. We get a great deal.

On incapacity benefit, we must look at the poorest recipients, who are on income support. The debate has dismissed people on income support as if they were invisible. That is nonsense—they do exist. For the purposes of accounting we cannot simply act as though they do not exist, when clearly they do.

We must look at how we focus resources. Do we focus them on the most disabled, or the worst off? The Government's proposals contain an element of both. The most severely disabled are exempt from the measures and are protected. Consideration has been given to degenerative conditions, so that people need not have concerns about such a condition while they are in work. As their condition worsens and they can work less, credits will be made available. The national insurance system is being upheld yet again.

There is also the linked period between work and the receipt of a benefit—a reasonable period of three years which, depending on when one works and then makes a claim, can run to four to five years in some circumstances. To act as though the Government are introducing an onerous qualifying period is ridiculous. The tight link between the period of work and the receipt of benefit makes more sense.

5.15 pm
Mr. Pickles

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Kali Mountford

I cannot resist the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Pickles

I have to tell the hon. Lady that she is not alone in that thought. [Laughter.] I am enjoying her speech, in which she has said that the three-year period is perfect. In Committee, she gave the same speech, but said that a two year period was perfect. Why is two years now wrong and three years better?

Kali Mountford

The hon. Gentleman will recall that I did not use the word "perfect"—I said that it was reasonable. The proposal is all the more reasonable now because we are witnessing—the hon. Gentleman may not be used to this—a Government who have listened and responded. I will try to resist him from now on.

Another problem with the debate has been the constant reference to the all work test. Some colleagues have not been watching what has gone on. I recall that people have been dissatisfied with the all work test, which was anathema to many—including those who have been lobbying for disabled people.

The all work test took no account of people's abilities, and that must be wrong. We have to change the system to one that recognises that people with disabilities also have abilities. In the past, we have had a national insurance contribution system from which benefits have developed. We must look to the future and at how we want society to be. We do not want a society that says that if someone becomes ill or disabled, we will simply write them off. Opposition Members may have heard me say that in Committee, but I say it because I believe it.

It cannot be right to have a system that discourages people from developing their full potential. We must look at this measure in the context of all the other measures that relate to it. People are applauding the new disability tax credit—it is a method by which we can support people who are getting back to work. If anyone thinks that a life on benefits—be it incapacity benefit at its slightly higher rate than jobseeker's allowance—is a joy for anybody, they have not lived on benefits.

Dr. Lynne Jones

Is living on £160 a week any great joy?

Kali Mountford

My hon. Friend is not considering the full implications of the proposals. We must look at the disability income guarantee and at how we get people back to work. People working for only 16 hours a week will now be able to get the disability tax credit.

Does someone on income support deserve less consideration than someone with an occupational pension? My answer is no. It has been said that people have made provision through their occupational pension for such circumstances. Lots of us have done so—not because we think that we will retire at 50, 55 or 60, but because we want to make provision for our old age.

People are pretending about what has gone on in the workplace, where there have been actions that we cannot condone. Employers have been looking at incapacity benefit and others as a top-up to get people out of the system altogether.

Mr. Brazier

If the hon. Lady's allegation is true—I believe it has some truth—surely the answer is to tighten the medical criteria, as we suggested in Committee, rather than to take it out on perfectly legitimate disabled people who have saved or earned a little more than the limits proposed by the Government.

Kali Mountford

The hon. Gentleman obviously was not listening to my arguments about the all work test. We have to consider how we can accommodate people who have medical conditions or disabilities and allow them to move into work and off benefits. The Conservative proposals could even trap them into benefit for much longer than any of us would have envisaged.

I do not want to make allegations about people cheating the system. People with genuine problems would be better off staying in their jobs with support rather than being told that we will find a way of getting them out because it would be more convenient. The fact that they have a genuine condition does not mean that it is right for them to rely solely on benefits. We should try to help people to stay in work if they are employed and to find work if they are not.

No one would try to pretend, however, that that is the solution for everyone. We will never have a perfect economy with 100 per cent. employment, but we should aim for it. People currently claiming incapacity benefit have a right to be part of the new economy and the growth that we expect to arise from other marvellous measures introduced by the Government. I could not resist saying that.

I want to challenge the Opposition on the notion that, because a declining number of people are in receipt of benefit and the expenditure is declining, it would not be right to consider changing the benefit. It is right to change the benefit and the conditions to tighten the link between qualifying for the benefit and the period of work, which consolidates the contributory principle of national insurance and focuses help on those who need it most, providing more help for the most disabled.

The Opposition suggest that we should change benefits only when they are too costly to the state. To take that to its logical conclusion begs the question whether they are suggesting that if expenditure on incapacity benefit rose, they would cut it.

Mr. Pickles

Not really.

Kali Mountford

I heard only a few moments ago the argument that expenditure on incapacity benefit was dropping, so it was not right to cut it. That sounds ridiculous to me.

Mr. Pickles

It was him over there who said it.

Kali Mountford

It was not my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood (Mr. Berry) who said it; it was the hon. Member for Havant (Mr. Willetts). He said that we were changing the benefit because its cost was rising, but that is simply not the case. We are changing it because to do so strengthens the system and provides proper protection for those who need it. I shall certainly oppose the Lords amendment tonight.

Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough)

I wish that the hon. Member for Colne Valley (Kali Mountford) had been at the meeting of the Social Security Committee this morning, where she could have heard an impassioned two-hour defence of the contributory principle by the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field), whose face during the last few minutes of her speech was a delight to watch.

I hesitate to take part in this debate. I understand that at the Labour party conference—I could not be there, as I was not invited—Bill Morris said: Reform cannot be a private conversation between the few at the expense of the many. I hesitate, because this debate is really between the Labour party establishment and those who feel passionately about poverty. I realise that I do not have the record of the hon. Member for Kingswood (Mr. Berry) in standing up for disabled people, but it is important for some of us to take part in the debate to show that we, too, feel passionately about the contributory principle. I agree with the right hon. Member for Birkenhead that it is the bedrock of society.

I sympathise with the Government's position, because they promised at the general election to reduce the costs of social failure, yet they find that the welfare budget is set to rise by more than £38 billion over the next three years. I do not criticise them for that, because all Governments have had to face the same problem. Until we have the courage to return to the contributory principle, we will not get any long-term reduction in the welfare budget. The Government have to find savings.

I also understand the Government's argument on incapacity benefit. To be fair, they are supported by recent research published by Sheffield Hallam university, arguing that three quarters of the 1.7 million people on incapacity benefit, costing £7.8 billion a year, are capable of work. Labour Members have often argued that incapacity benefit and its predecessors have been used to disguise the true level of unemployment. We know that to be true and that there is a scandal of many people who could work using the benefit; but is not the solution not to attack the contributory principle but to have a harder test and ensure that the all work test—or whatever it is renamed—identifies those who are capable of working, which does not happen at present?

Many have spoken of the position of those who have not paid their full national insurance contributions in one of the previous two or three years. I cannot understand the argument about whether it should be two, three, four or five years. It is a principle. Why is it right that people can pay full contributions for 30 years and be denied incapacity benefit if they stop paying them for one, two, three or four years? I cannot for the life of me see the logic. If one believes in the contributory principle, one believes that it confers a right.

There must be many cases in which people are afflicted with a gradually worsening condition, desperately try to stay in work and do not maintain their full contributions. They have contributed to society but the reform discriminates against them. Is that fair or right? There is a fundamental principle at stake.

Mr. Levitt

Those are exactly the circumstances in which the disabled persons tax credit would click in and assist the person involved.

Mr. Leigh

The hon. Gentleman reinforces our point. The mechanisms are simply churning the money around and increasing means testing. I am not suggesting that the Government are increasing poverty. I respect the fact that Labour Members are concerned about poverty and the disabled. Our concern is that the Government are increasing means testing, which cannot be right.

Why, too, are we penalising people with very modest occupational or personal pensions? Why are the Government telling people in occupational pension schemes that may bring in a modest remuneration—be it £50 or £80 a week—that they will be penalised? That cannot make sense.

I hope that as many hon. Members as possible will lay aside for the moment their party loyalties and come to the conclusion that if we truly aspire, as I hope we do, to create a society in which everybody is encouraged to save for their retirement, for sickness and for the various vicissitudes of life, we must vote down the Government's so-called reforms.

Mr. Tom Clarke (Coatbridge and Chryston)

On one major point, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I agree—that our debate in May was excellent. I worried a little today at the beginning of the debate whether that quality would continue, until I heard from more of my right hon. and hon. Friends and, to be fair, from the Liberal Democrats. It has continued, but, with great regret, I have to tell the hon. Member for Havant (Mr. Willetts) and his colleagues that I cannot find it in my heart to respond to their contributions or to take lectures from them, in the knowledge that I sat year after year watching Conservative Members talk out civil rights Bill after civil rights Bill, including those introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood (Mr. Berry)—who made an excellent speech today—by my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Derbyshire (Mr. Barnes) and by Alf Morris, who is now in the other place. I therefore address my remarks to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and to the House, but in particular to my hon. Friends as this important debate continues.

5.30 pm

I have been proud to be supportive of a Government who, in two short years, have done so much to benefit the lives of millions of our disabled fellow citizens, honouring the commitment I gave on behalf of the shadow Cabinet at the party conference before the general election. Of course, I warmly support many of the measures that the Government have introduced to help disabled people, many of which have been mentioned by my right hon. and hon. Friends. I welcome those measures, because it is right that those disabled people who can work should be given the opportunity and the help so to do. Like so many others, I have campaigned for years for those very principles and I am glad to see them being applied.

That said, it is important to establish that the measures we are discussing today concern some hundreds of thousands of disabled people who are incapable of working. That is the issue and the challenge. A job for them is a distant, elusive dream. If the Bill is passed tonight as it stands, all the evidence is that those people will be significantly poorer. I shall explain why.

Under the proposals, disabled people start to lose their weekly incapacity benefit when their annual income is less than £8,000 a year, which is below even the poverty line of half average income. Worse still, the benefit would be withdrawn at a penal rate—I respect the views of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, but that it is the only way to describe it—of 50p in the pound. We are talking about people's incomes so it would be, in effect, a tax rate; but no other person in the land—not even the richest millionaire—is asked to pay such a rate.

The hon. Member for Northavon (Mr. Webb) made an excellent speech, but if we genuinely believe that the present system is exploited, is it right to give a guarantee of continued income to those who we claim are only on the benefit because the Tories were massaging the unemployment figures, but to withhold the payments from new claimants? Given the problems of the all work test presented to me in surgery after surgery—I cannot believe that I am alone in that—it is not easy to qualify for that benefit, and I am not persuaded that the medical profession are so devious as to mislead the House of Commons or those whom they refer for the benefit.

Those who expected more from our Government are likely to feel deeply betrayed when they realise that people will be penalised for putting aside money to help build a nest egg over many years. The disincentive to save is so obvious that Conservative Members have pointed it out. My constituents have also asked me about it. People are bound to ask why they should save when it will mean that the benefits to which they are entitled will be cut. This goes against everything the Government are trying to encourage and will lead to more people than ever relying on state handouts, which I thought we were trying to avoid. Where is the logic in that?

I have also to ask the Government why they have made no proposals in the Bill for uprating the £85 threshold. By the time April 2001 comes around, the value of that figure is bound to have been substantially reduced by inflation. I did not get the impression from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State that he intends to change the level this side of April 2001. In my view, it is essential that a formula for uprating be built into the Bill, similar to the commitment commendably given to uprate the disability income guarantee annually.

The House is at its best when we discuss issues that our constituents are following, including perhaps some even now in their living rooms. That is how they judge us and why I wish to put to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State—I give him credit for listening—the views of MIND. In its briefing to all hon. Members, MIND says: People with a mental illness experience fluctuations in their symptoms, often preventing them from sustained employment. Labour market flexibility for this group means the ability to move in and out of work, as their mental health allows, with the minimum of financial penalty. This cannot be achieved if entitlement to National Insurance benefits is restricted. Mind also described an individual case: John worked for ten years before developing a mental illness. When recovered he found it difficult to find another job, and three years later became ill again. Under the Government's proposals, John would not be entitled to Incapacity Benefit, despite his years of contributions. That cannot be fair, but John is not alone. I suffered from ME, but I was fortunate that it was only for 20 months. Many people suffer from it for eight, nine, 10 or more years. Those people may have worked for 10, 20 or more years in transport, in local government, in the civil service or in education, but they would be excluded from incapacity benefit. I cannot find that fair.

Dr. Lynne Jones

Does my right hon. Friend agree that people who suffer from mental illness find it difficult to get a job because of the stigma associated with that problem?

Mr. Clarke

My hon. Friend is right, and Mind makes that point elsewhere in its briefing. I make these points in the knowledge that my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench are listening, and all of them have been helpful to me on constituency cases in the past. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and all my hon. Friends on the Front Bench have responded commendably on individual constituency cases. However, that does not mean that we should not get the Bill absolutely right before we send it back to another place. That is also the view of the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux.

Before the election, I was proud to campaign up and down the country, in my shadow role, on the Labour party's manifesto pledges to Britain's 8 million disabled people. Today, I have to say in all candour that I am worried about the gulf that has developed between disability organisations and a Government whom I am happy to support. That development could have been avoided, and I am convinced that it is still not too late to bring both sides together in partnership, as they have been on almost every other issue to do with disability over the past two years. That would benefit the Government and disabled people.

What are the disability organisations saying today? I take no pleasure in reading the view of the Royal National Institute for Deaf People, which has stated: Unless the Government goes significantly further in its concessions to this Bill, its overall record towards disabled people will be permanently tarnished.

The Disability Benefits Consortium, which represents more than 250 disability organisations covering our 8 million disabled people, has called the Government's position on these narrow issues "morally repugnant". I find that deeply saddening. It is easy to dismiss newspapers, and especially leading articles in The Guardian, but in the light of all the Government's other splendid achievements on disability it is genuinely worrying when that newspaper can say that Ministers should not be robbing the poor to help the very poor". I know that that view is widely shared.

This debate is not about bringing down the Government, nor is it about defeating the Bill. The Government will still get the Bill through in time for its implementation date, which I understand is still April 2001. The worst scenario would be that, as happened with the Bill that became the European Parliamentary Elections Act 1999, the measure would go straight into the next Session of Parliament in a matter of weeks, and be given Royal Assent under the Parliament Act 1911. However, we plead with the Government to take our concerns on board.

5.45 pm
Mr. Rooker

I hope that I did not misunderstand, but my right hon. Friend mentioned the Parliament Act 1911. That legislation can be used to push a Bill through the House on a fast-track basis only if the Bill takes the same form as it took when it was introduced originally. Therefore, if that mechanism were used, none of the changes that we propose today—nor any of the amendments that have been accepted in Committee, on Report or in another place—would be included.

We must knock on the head the idea that anything can be fast-tracked through and recognise that, in the eventuality to which my right hon. Friend refers, stakeholder pensions would not be in place before the next election. The Parliament Act does not work in the way described by my right hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Chryston (Mr. Clarke). The proof of that, as he will know, is that the War Crimes Bill had to go through the House in 1991 without any amendment. The reality, as the Clerks will confirm, is that the Parliament Act cannot be used to push through the amended Bill.

Mr. Clarke

As I said earlier, I have enormous respect for my hon. Friend, but I spent most of the afternoon with the Clerks. The advice that they gave to me is the same as that which I am giving the House. If my hon. Friend will forgive me for the moment, I shall stand by the advice that the Clerks gave me.

However, there is no need for the Bill to spill over into the next Session. The Government are the managers of their own business. They can get the Bill through if, as I recommend, they involve themselves in dialogue with those Labour party members—our Friends—who are in another place.

This debate is about asking Parliament to accept that it is not beyond the wit of modern, sophisticated, inclusive Government to reach agreement in another place with rebels such as Lords Ashley, Morris and Barnett. Jack Ashley, Alf Morris and Joel Barnett are hardly three closet militants determined to wreck everything that the Government set out to achieve. There is no reason why a reasonable outcome to the debate—which is surely what we all seek—cannot be achieved.

I regret to have to say it, but the truth is that there is no popular support for the Government's position on these particular issues. There is, however, support for the rest of the Bill and for the Government's many achievements on disability. It is not as though we are in a dispute about a crucial manifesto commitment. No pledge was made about incapacity benefit. That benefit is worth £66.75 a week, but for poor people that amount represents a fortune, a fact to which many of my constituents will attest. Our decision is therefore absolutely crucial to them.

Even now, I plead with the Government and the House to give serious thought to the amendments tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood (Mr. Berry). I sincerely believe that they offer a real chance of a solution that could so easily unite the Labour party and restore the confidence of our people in the role of Parliament and in the democratic process.

Mr. Andrew George (St. Ives)

I shall be brief, given the large number of hon. Members who wish to speak in the little time that remains. I shall confine my remarks to our concern about the Government's response to Lords amendment No. 46, which would continue severe disablement allowance.

The existence of a safety net for the most vulnerable is a matter of fundamental principle for Liberal Democrat Members. We sought and failed to find justification for the proposals in the Bill in the Labour party's pledge card or in its election manifesto. In the Government's much-trumpeted and proper commitment to challenge the causes of social exclusion we were unable to find any justification for the abolition of severe disablement allowance.

The proposal does not modernise the benefit system. It removes an essential safety net for a small but significant number of people. I am sure that Ministers are aware that, although income support will cover many people who will be unable to take up severe disablement allowance when it is abolished, many people will fall through the net. Women and carers will be especially hard hit, as they often are unable to build up the level of contributions necessary to secure incapacity benefit.

If the Government are concerned about low-income groups, benefits should be aimed at those groups. We need to recognise that women, carers and people in part-time work will find themselves in difficulty as a result of the proposals. People who become disabled and who previously worked as lollipop men or women, or who work at the supermarket checkout or as part-time caretakers at the local school, are often unable to achieve sufficient insurance contributions to secure incapacity benefit. At least in those cases the safety net of severe disablement allowance still applies.

The Government, thankfully, take the view that young people under 20 who are entitled to SDA now and in the future will have that support passported into incapacity benefit come their 20th birthday. Young carers looking after elderly or disabled relatives or anyone else who receives invalid care allowance will not be treated in the same way as those who have paid national insurance contributions and are also receiving the allowance. Young people who were previously entitled to SDA when they were under 20 are entitled to receive incapacity benefit when they get older but young carers are not. That anomaly must be ironed out.

Such examples have been brought to the Government's attention throughout the passage of the Bill, but they have failed to respond. Either the Government do not believe that such cases exist, or they do not care. We believe that there should be a safety net, but there are still gaps in it. The Government must sort out which side of the line they are on. This is a fundamental principle. Many severely disabled people—who have to be 80 per cent. disabled—will fall through the net and be considerably worse off.

We are told that adults receiving SDA will not be affected. Well, not yet—the Government will deal with them individually. Many people on SDA are worried by the Bill's message. Given the experience of the all work test and the other hurdles that they will no doubt have to overcome, they fear that their SDA will be taken away from them. Ministers may well shake their heads and say that that is not the intention. However, disabled people believe that the Government want to do away with SDA as quickly as possible, and that individual cases will be dealt with later.

It seems prophetic. First the Government came for the asylum seekers; then the Home Secretary sought to make scapegoats of the travellers, and now we fear that the Government will go for disabled people. We look forward to hearing the voice of conscience in this debate. Ministers may consider that their Back Benchers are an electoral liability, but they will be an electoral asset in future. On this issue, the Government need to be saved from themselves.

Mr. Sam Galbraith (Strathkelvin and Bearsden)

With regard to the closing remarks of the hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. George), every time I hear a politician talk about conscience, I run for my sick bag. We are all trying to act for the best, and no one has a monopoly on conscience.

This is a highly emotional subject and hon. Members on both sides of the House have made detailed contributions. The arguments seem to be a cross between metaphysics and statistics and, as I know little about either subject, I shall stick to the principles involved.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Chryston (Mr. Clarke) said that if the benefit were related to a pension it would somehow stop people having a pension and make them claim benefit. Nothing could be further from the truth. I agree that facts are not available to prove the case, so we must stick to opinions.

I do not usually use myself as an example, but I should like to tell the House something from my own experience. I do so because the hon. Member for Northavon (Mr. Webb) asked what a 54-year-old man with a disability would do if he had to give up his job. There is no need to hypothesise—I am that man. I have lived with a disability for 10 years since I had a lung transplant for respiratory problems. The idea that my pension may be taken into account when considering this benefit and that I would reduce my pension contribution is utter nonsense. On the contrary, I would increase my contributions to accommodate my disability. I say that from my experience, as a person who fulfils the hypothetical case, and I am only one. The hon. Gentleman was trying to make a principle fit a hypothetical case, but I am a real case.

Mr. Webb

The hon. Gentleman speaks from experience, which I respect. Might I suggest, however, that he sacks his personal financial adviser? He should be putting his money into a vehicle that is not means tested by the Government—any form of saving other than a pension. As people realise that that is how the system works, it will create a distortion. Is that desirable?

Mr. Galbraith

As my friends know, I know absolutely nothing about money or finance. The Prime Minister said that he never considered me for a Treasury job, and that was probably a good idea.

So the point about my pension being taken into account when considering such a benefit must be nonsense. The idea that the contributory principle is inviolate and must never be touched is no longer true, although it may have been true in the early days of the welfare state.

Dr. Lynne Jones

I respect what my hon. Friend has told us from his experience and his proposals to deal with it. If he does not accept that means testing changes behaviour, I suggest that he reads the report of the social justice commission. It explains that means testing is not the way to ensure that people in need get the benefit they need.

Mr. Galbraith

That is another issue. We are discussing whether consideration should be given to other factors when making decisions on benefit. Let me knock on the head once and for all the idea that pensions should not be taken into consideration, and that if they are, people will reduce their contributions. Nothing could be further from the truth, so let me lay that ghost once and for all.

I have another area of expertise to bring to the debate. It has been said that the all work test, which involves medical criteria, should be used as a better policing gateway, and I agree with that. But the tests are not rocket science; they are not even purely objective. I have done many such tests and they are quite subjective. We must consider all the possible mechanisms, without regarding the doctors' criteria as the only or final ones.

Finally, I wish to deal with the issue of years without work. My right hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Chryston gave some examples, but I can come at them from the opposite direction. Are people who worked for 10 years but not for the past 20 entitled to the benefit? According to my hon. Friend they are, according to me surely they are not. We have to make a judgment. Those are difficult calls to make and I agree that we do not always get them right.

It is not an exact science, but we have to make a judgment and set the dividing lines. We are confronted by dividing lines throughout our lives, and it is difficult for those who fall on the wrong side of them. It seems unfair because they are close to those who fall on the other side of the line. However, we have to make such judgments. I ask all hon. Members to consider that when they make their decisions tonight, and to not get lost in a fog of principle that does not apply.

I am grateful to the Government for their concessions on three years and the significant increase from £50 to £85, which is more than I expected. Therefore, I am happy to support the Government in the Lobby tonight.

6 pm

Miss Julie Kirkbride (Bromsgrove)

I shall speak briefly, because I suspect that Ministers are more likely to listen to the arguments—with which I agree—of Labour Members who oppose the Government's proposal than to those of Conservative Members.

Many of us find it astonishing that the Government's welfare reform proposals will cut the benefits of disabled people and widows. People who voted in a Labour Government at the last election did not suspect that those categories would be the target of the Government's welfare reform proposals. The Government spend more on social security than on health and education combined, but the increase in spending does not benefit those whom many people would consider to be the most deserving—the disabled and widows.

My hon. Friend the Member for Havant (Mr. Willetts) set out our reasons for opposing the Government's so-called reform of incapacity benefit, in contrast to a few months ago when, in a similar debate, we supported the Government's measures on lone parent benefit. My hon. Friend pointed out that, when we introduced incapacity benefit in 1995, we considered means testing but rejected it because we believed it to be unfair. We continue to believe that.

We would all hate to retire before retirement age—some years hence for some of us, not so far away for others—and have to rely on incapacity benefit. Our future is part of the great lottery of life, but none of us wants that to happen. The insurance principle of making a contribution and benefiting from it is important and should be maintained in incapacity benefit.

With due deference to the hon. Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden (Mr. Galbraith), the Government's proposals will damage the principle of saving for a pension because those who make provision for themselves will be less eligible for state benefits. When I bang on doors in Bromsgrove, I am confronted by people who feel resentful because they have saved and receive little or nothing, while their neighbours, who did not make the same provision for themselves, receive all the state benefits. They represent a further tranche of seething resentment, which is felt by many whom the Government do not benefit. While I sympathise with the hon. Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden for what happened to him, Members of Parliament retire on considerably more than the £8,000 a year for which the Government are introducing a means test. That makes a great difference to our financial status in later life. It is different for those who retire on very little.

The right hon. Member for Coatbridge and Chryston (Mr. Clarke) quoted an article in The Guardian, which stated that the Government's welfare cuts made the poor pay for the very poor. That is true of the proposals that we are considering tonight. People who are forced, through disability, to retire early on a pension with many years of life—albeit disabled life—ahead will have their right to incapacity benefit truncated by the means test. That is unfair because they live on modest incomes, if the £8,000 a year trigger for the means test is correct. Even if the figure is a few thousand pounds out, it is a low income on which to retire for a long time.

Although we approve of the Government's promise not to raise the top rate of income tax, if I were a Labour Member, I would find it galling that relatively poor people are being made to pay for very poor people's benefits while the richer members of the community are not being asked to increase their contribution. That happens because the Government are increasing the social security bill. The reforms are unnecessary, as is increasing the social security budget. If I were a Labour Member, I would consider disgraceful the Government's method of introducing benefit cuts for some people.

Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley)

The Labour party fought the last election on the slogan, "Things can only get better". Does my hon. Friend agree that many disabled people, whose benefits will be removed, will be aghast at what is happening this evening? At the next election, disabled people, who have been so badly let down, will give Labour Members short shrift. Things can only get better unless one happens to be disabled.

Miss Kirkbride

My hon. Friend makes a valid point. I shall underline it by telling the House about a telephone call that I received recently from a lady in Bromsgrove who worked for 30 years and is now on incapacity benefit. I was glad to be able to reassure her that the Government's iniquitous proposals will not affect her because they do not apply to existing claimants. [HON. MEMBERS: "Tell the truth."] Conservative Members tell the truth, unlike the Government.

Many other ladies and gentlemen will retire in the same condition as my constituent, who is obliged to sell her house because she can no longer afford to live there on her reduced income after being forced to retire on incapacity benefit. Others in her condition will find the Government's policies deeply offensive.

I am equally offended by Government proposals to cut entitlement to incapacity benefit for those who have contributed for only three years as opposed to a lifetime. I think of my constituents who suffer from multiple sclerosis and who are desperate to continue working but do not receive beta interferon despite promises that a new Labour Government would fund the drug and enable sufferers to work for longer. They will be offended by the Government's proposals. Their entitlement will be much reduced because the qualifying period will be only three years. [Interruption.] Labour Members can protest as much as they like, but that will happen.

Audrey Wise (Preston)

I want to speak mainly about severe disablement allowance. I agree with the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood (Mr. Berry) and of my right hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Chryston (Mr. Clarke) about incapacity benefit. They made a good case.

Severe disablement allowance is under attack. That is a paradox, because the allowance was introduced under a different name by the last Labour Government. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said that it was poorly targeted, but Barbara Castle described the target when she introduced the allowance. She said that the benefit will provide new, non-means-tested help for those of working age who are deprived of the opportunity to earn their living and who have no rights under existing contributory … schemes. That was the target and it has been met. She described it as a brand new benefit and added: This is quite an historic moment. We have made an important breakthrough here. She also referred to the fact that it would bring a new non-means-tested security to nearly 250,000 people whose needs we have neglected for far too long".—[Official Report, 21 November 1974; Vol. 881, c. 1555.] Disabled people needed that benefit—it is now the severe disablement allowance—when it was introduced, and they still need it. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said that many of them are on income support despite receiving SDA. That is an argument for increasing SDA, not abolishing it. We have not even asked for an increase. Our aims have been so modest that we simply say, "Let's preserve it." However, as long as a benefit exists, there is the potential for increasing it, and as my right hon. Friend clearly recognises that the allowance is inadequate, he should go down that road—keep it and increase it. Barbara Castle was right—it was an historic moment. I am glad I was present in the House at the time. I am not glad to have to defend the allowance against this Labour Government now. In 1974, I would have been astonished had such a development been forecast.

Of course, I am glad that the Government are passporting those aged under 20, and sometimes under 25, on to incapacity benefit, which is worth more. We are all glad about that. However, that is no excuse for taking SDA away from the rest. My hon. Friends and I have tabled an amendment that would somewhat mitigate that action by increasing the categories of exemption. However, there is no realistic prospect of that amendment being called to a vote, and I have to admit that by far the simplest and best action would be to keep SDA for those over 20. That is exactly what Lords amendment No. 46 would achieve.

No case for abolition has been made. There has been much discussion about whether the Government's proposals will pay for improvements for others. I do not understand what the motivation is, and I am not imputing bad motives. However, I know that, if one increases benefits for some disabled people and decreases benefits for others, conclusions will be drawn. It is, in fact, a redistribution—whether it is intended to be so or not.

I believe very strongly that we who are able bodied and healthy should pay the whole cost of funding improvements for disabled people. I do not believe that there is any disabled person who is in too good a position in our country now, and that argument still applies even if savings are made and redistribution is carried out in the long term.

I do not want to put the cuts into an order of ranking. In some ways, however, the abolition of SDA is even worse than some of the other proposals. Certainly, the minority of people who are fortunate enough to be above the breadline should not have their benefits means tested. Those who at present qualify for the non-contributory benefit, SDA, and who have 80 per cent. long-term disablement should not be told that, if they are hard up, they might receive means-tested income support. That point was made in May when the Bill was before the House. Of course, married women with working husbands do not qualify for income support anyway, so their only independent income will be removed by the Bill. It might not be a good enough income, but it is their only independent income. One of the reasons for introducing the allowance was to give disabled people the dignity of an independent income by right.

6.15 pm

We are twitted that we shall be in the same Lobby as the Tories. As a Conservative Member helpfully pointed out, that applied on 10 December 1997 when the Government, the Leader of the Opposition and some Labour Members went into the same Lobby in the vote on lone parents. Some of us were in the other Lobby. Tonight, okay, our Lobby will be made impure by the presence of some Opposition Members. However, I remind hon. Friends, and especially the Minister of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker), that we have some experience of that. He will remember that vividly, because it was quite an experience. My hon. Friend and I stood out alone—we did not receive the comfort of our hon. Friends—in a Finance Bill Committee against the massed weight of those on the Government Front Bench. Remember, it was a very tight House and threats to bring down the Government perhaps carried more weight. However, we did not bring down the Government, but argued that we were improving the Chancellor's Budget—and the population agreed with us. Our proposal become mainstream, because no one could argue against increasing tax thresholds at least in line with inflation.

I commend to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State the words "at least". As my hon. Friend the Member for Perry Barr will tell him, if he does not already know, that was the phrase that we used to improve the position of taxpayers in 1977 and for many more years to come. After the issue received the exposure that we gave it, no Chancellor dared do other than raise the tax thresholds. [Interruption.]

Mr. Rooker

Conservative Members may joke, but my hon. Friend and I have no regrets and do not need to apologise for any action that we took in Committee Room 9 on 14 June 1977. We intended to defeat the Government not just as a token and with a bleeding heart on our sleeve, but because the Government had flatly refused to move or listen at any time during our discussions with them. That does not apply to this Bill.

Audrey Wise

My hon. Friend has vindicated what some Labour Members did on 20 May this year. Would the Government have made any movement—even a minuscule one—had there not been 67 Labour Members in the Lobby? My hon. Friend is encouraging people to have the courage of their convictions, so that we can achieve more concessions. There is still time for more movement. As we have managed to obtain a slight advance for disabled people by what we have done so far, why not continue? Why do we not encourage the Government to do as my right hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Chryston suggested and reach an accommodation with such well-known rebels as Jack Ashley, Alf Morris and Joel Barnett. Joel Barnett, for goodness sake, was one of the heavy mob against Jeff—I mean my hon. Friend the Member for Perry Barr—and me. The position is so clear that those noble Friends have taken the same view, and we have formed a very broad alliance that has been informed entirely by our concern for people with disabilities.

I encourage my right hon. and hon. Friends to join us in the Lobby and vote against the motion to disagree, because on this occasion the Lords amendment protects the interests of disabled people who are under attack. My hon. Friends should take courage from the experience of my hon. Friend the Member for Perry Barr and me. My hon. Friend says that he has no regrets; I certainly have none. We can do it. We can improve the Government's policies and we can live perfectly happily with a clear conscience ever after.

Mr. Swinney

I find it difficult to follow that speech, which was as stimulating as every other contribution that the hon. Member for Preston (Audrey Wise) makes to debates in which the House wrestles with difficult issues on welfare reform.

Many of the arguments that I intended to make were eloquently made by the right hon. Member for Coatbridge and Chryston (Mr. Clarke). I shall focus on the arguments made by the hon. Member for Preston in relation to the Government's concessions and whether those concessions really have been—in the words of the hon. Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden (Mr. Galbraith)—generous and substantial.

The right hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams) intervened on the Secretary of State to ask for firmer commitments in relation to the uprating of the £85 threshold for incapacity benefit, and for a commitment that, as a minimum, the threshold would be uprated to the year 2001 when the provisions come into effect, but ideally for a longer period. Understandably, the Secretary of State said that he was not in a position to commit other Governments to protecting that threshold. However, he could certainly have said that he could amend the Bill to provide for some indexation.

Countless measures that pass through the House provide for the indexation of specific figures on the face of a Bill. It is not a new measure that has been invented for the purposes of the debate, to cause discomfort to the Government, but an integral part of the way in which we legislate. As a minimum, the Secretary of State should have been able to give the right hon. Member for Swansea, West a more substantial answer, and to give a commitment that the Government would index that figure at least to 2001, and perhaps thereafter. That commitment was not there, so I suggest that the points made by the Government on what has been trumpeted as a major concession do not amount to much. The Government could have gone further, and they could have advanced further toward the position that was arrived at in the other place.

The second concession on which I want to focus relates to the extension from two to three years that is implicit in the proposal announced by the Secretary of State the other day. In an intervention, I asked the Secretary of State why he had decided to move from two to three years, not from two to four years; why the period of two years was originally chosen; and why the period could not be extended from two to seven years, as envisaged in amendment (a), tabled by the hon. Member for Kingswood (Mr. Berry). The Secretary of State said that one just has to arrive at a position, and that no particular science is involved.

The hon. Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden said that there must be dividing lines. Of course there must, but if the Government were genuinely trying to bridge some of the gaps which have developed between them and the disability campaign organisations in this debate, they would have moved a great deal further to close the gap between the three years in their proposals and the seven years envisaged in the proposals from the House of Lords.

The hon. Member for Kingswood has tabled reasonable amendments to the Government's proposals—amendments on which the Government could have engaged in a better and more considered debate. As we have heard, the Government have arrived at a position that is not rooted in the history of this Labour Government—not rooted in the way in which the Government found and obtained their mandate from the people of the United Kingdom. It is a position that has been invented during the development of the Bill, and the development of a Government strategy that does not have its roots in the mandate that they sought from the United Kingdom electorate.

I said that I wanted to make a short speech on the substance of the concessions that the Government have made. The Government's proposals do not go nearly far enough to address the genuine concerns that exist in our community, so they should be rejected.

Mr. Levitt

Like many hon. Members, I believe that the debate has been of high quality. However, that has not been true of all the debate that has taken place outside the Chamber in the past few months. I am afraid that, in many cases, it has produced more heat than light.

For example, people in the country have been led to believe that, if they are now claiming benefits, there is a risk that they will lose them under the proposals in the Bill. That is not the case, although those fears have been cynically manipulated by Conservative Members who do not even have the decency to stay for the last few minutes of the debate.

Kali Mountford

More of them have just arrived.

Mr. Levitt

Indeed; there are as many Members on the Conservative Benches now as there have been at any time in the debate.

Outside this Chamber it has been said that the Bill is a "cuts" Bill—which it is not. Thankfully, no one has said that in tonight's debate, because, as has been said from time to time today, there may be changes to different budgets but the overall effect of the package, of which the incapacity element is only part, is to increase spending on people with disabilities in the years to come, to increase spending on welfare reform and, generally, to improve the lot of the worst-off, especially those with disabilities.

I believe that welfare reform, when looked at in its simplest form, should involve a debate about how we use the available resources to bring most help to the people who most need it. Of course we can talk about generating more help, and about having a bigger pot from which to draw—we shall do so, and we are doing so—but we have been led into a debate about the philosophy underlying the national insurance contribution system.

That debate has not been especially helpful. It has drawn attention to a great many difficulties, inconsistencies and anomalies in the national insurance contribution system. I was surprised but pleased that my hon. Friend the Member for Preston (Audrey Wise) alluded to some of the inconsistencies in that system.

I take one good example. As a result of the contributory system, some women whose income is too low have not qualified for maternity benefits. We put that right in the Bill and, by doing so, we flew in the face of the contributory system. We set that system to one side, by giving maternity benefits to women who would not previously have qualified. There has been no outrage about that.

Angela Eagle

The Conservatives voted against it.

Mr. Levitt

Indeed they did. Is that a sell-out of the national insurance contribution system?

In the past few months, the debate has become bogged down in such minutiae instead of encompassing all the Bill, which covers a range of Government policies.

Mr. Oliver Letwin (West Dorset)

I have been listening to the hon. Gentleman with increasing astonishment. Is he entirely unaware of the work of his right hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field)? Is he entirely unaware of the importance of trying to shift social security towards a system of contributions and away from a system of means testing?

Mr. Levitt

The contributory system accounts for only about 40 per cent. of the benefit system, and I am aware that there are varying views about how it should develop.

I want to say a quick word about some of the debate on incapacity benefit that has been taking place outside the House, because I believe that some of the issues are of interest only in the House, in the other place or to the higher echelons of some groups outside. Pressure groups exist to get the best that they can for their members. That is the job of the disability movement. That is the job of pressure groups. It is absolutely right that they should push the Government for more and more concessions in their interests, and they have won such concessions. But our job as a Government is different from that of pressure groups. Our job is to balance the needs of different groups and different individuals with the resources that are available to us, and to ensure that we target those resources, as we have done in the past week with the disabled person's tax credit, where they will give the most help—where they will be the most efficient in relieving poverty and improving welfare.

On the occupational pension link with incapacity benefit and the clawback, incapacity benefit is, undeniably, not the principal disability benefit that people claim. From time to time, it has been said outside this place that disability benefits are under attack. Disability living allowance is the main disability benefit. It is not changing at all, except that there will be some improvements for people on DLA in relation to the rest of the system. We must therefore ask what is the purpose of incapacity benefit. It is to compensate, on a more or less flat rate, for the loss of income that is caused by having to leave the work force early owing to incapacity.

6.30 pm

Some people—increasing numbers over the years—have catered for such an eventuality by taking matters into their own hands and investing in occupational pensions. Some of them—a tiny number, I admit—receive occupational pension incomes that are higher than the salary of Back-Bench Members of Parliament. I do not begrudge them that. [HON. MEMBERS: "How many?"] It is a tiny number.

When we are guaranteeing to our pensioners a minimum income of £75 a week, to a disabled person in work a minimum income of £132 a week, to a person on the national minimum wage who works a 40-hour week a wage of £144 a week, and to a working family—by definition, a minimum of two people—an income of £200 a week, through the working families tax credit, why on earth should we top up with replacement benefits the incomes of single people who have no dependants and who receive incomes that are already in excess of £150 a week and, often, considerably more than that?

The minimum guaranteed income for a person with an occupational pension of £85 a week who receives £66.75 a week incapacity benefit is £151.75. That assumes that the person is on short-term incapacity benefit—it is bigger if he is on the long-term benefit—has no dependants and does not receive the age allowance. Let us consider how that compares to all other guaranteed incomes. It is the most generous of all.

I am not particularly worried about how many people have incomes of £20,000, £30,000 or more from occupational pensions and are claiming incapacity benefit, because it is not our job as a Labour Government to look after them when we are not guaranteeing the same income to people in the other groups that I have mentioned.

Mr. Berry

Would my hon. Friend remove all benefits from people on those incomes?

Mr. Levitt

We are talking about an income-replacement benefit. We have also mentioned the disability living allowance, which is not related to income. If such people qualified for DLA, they would get it.

Mr. Gordon Prentice (Pendle)

My hon. Friend and I disagree about numbers. I have in my hand a letter from the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux, which has been circulated to all hon. Members, which reminds us that only 2.3 per cent. of incapacity benefit recipients have an occupational pension of more than £200 a week. A tiny number of people receive these allegedly super-generous occupational pensions.

Mr. Levitt

That is the figure for now, not for the future. Also, we are guaranteeing to people with an occupational pension of £85 a week a top-up to a basic income of more than £150. We are talking not only about people who have an income of more than £200 or £300 a week, but about those who receive more than £150-odd a week, which is higher than the income which we guarantee to any other group in the population.

I remind the House that the proposed taper for occupational pensions in the Government's amendment is the second most generous in the entire benefits system. Housing benefit tapers at 65 per cent., working families tax credit and disabled persons tax credit at 55 per cent., and jobseeker's allowance, and even the old-age pension, at 100 per cent.—one loses pound for pound on those. Only council tax benefit, which tapers at 20 per cent, is more generous.

Although I shall not ask now, because I am running short of time, I should like to know whether my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood (Mr. Berry) thinks that the 23 per cent. taper that he is advocating for incapacity benefit should be applied to all benefits. If so, has that proposal been costed, and would it be a justified use of resources in helping people who need such help most?

At a meeting on Monday night, my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) asked what else would be lost if the Bill were to fall on the incapacity benefit issue. The answer is very simple: we would lose the highest rate of disability benefit ever paid to young people who have severe disabilities; DLA for three and four-year-old children; the stakeholder pension, with its protection for those on low pay and with broken contribution records; bereavement benefits for widows; maternity benefits for women on low pay; and the single gateway.

All those proposals are in the Bill, and if we play ping-pong with the Lords over the next few days on tiny issues surrounding the so-called principle of national insurance contributions and whether one supports the contributory system or thinks that there are alternatives—that is what we are talking about—we shall do a disservice to all those who would benefit.

The Government will win this vote and the issue will return to the Lords. I hope that that will be the end of the matter for now; however, there must be a constructive debate—in our party especially—about the role of the contributory system in benefits provision.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Lord)

Order. The hon. Member must address the Chair.

Mr. Levitt

I beg your pardon, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

My hon. Friends must accept that there are people such as me who are cynical about the value of the contributory system. Our views need to be heard as well.

I make a special plea to Lord Ashley—a man whom I have admired throughout my political life and who has generated in me a concern for deafness that has led to our sitting together as trustees of a major organisation that works in the interests of deaf people in this country. Because of his position, and the respect for him in another place and in this one, he has the power to inflict considerable damage—perhaps even fatal damage—on the Bill.

If Lord Ashley did that, there would be a cost. There would be a cost to disabled people, who will genuinely benefit from the Bill; a cost to the political credibility of the Government whom both he and I support; and a cost to the entire legislative programme. If this Bill has to be reintroduced in its original form, and its passage in the next Session takes up the time that it occupied in this one, it will certainly impact on other issues on which the Government will be wanting to legislate.

It would be profoundly wrong to take this issue further and to play ping-pong with the other place. That will not achieve anything. We have aired the issues; there have been compromises and some progress on ensuring realistic levels relating to the contribution period and for occupational pension rules. I commend the Government's position to the House, and I hope that this is the last debate on the Bill in this Session.

Mr. Pickles

It is a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for High Peak (Mr. Levitt), who served on the Committee that considered the Bill. I have great respect for his views, but to speak of the Parliament Act 1911 and ping-pong with the Lords, when we should be talking about disabled persons, is amazing. Frankly, I am not very impressed by the macho treatment of the other place. If the Government are prepared to listen, we shall be a long way away from such action. If they listen, ping-pong will not be necessary.

The hon. Member for High Peak is right that this has been a good debate of a high standard. I am thinking not least of the marvellous teaching of the hon. Member for Preston (Audrey Wise) that the best way in which an ambitious Back Bencher can become a Minister is to rebel, and of the Minister's dawning realisation that, after facing Lord Barnett after the 1977 rebellion, it is probably pay-back time.

One Labour Member said that he knew nothing about pensions or finance. That strikes me as a prerequisite for voting for the measure today. I am not impressed with the negotiations that seem to be taking place on the Floor of the House with regard to the other place, nor with the teachings about the Parliament Act, particularly as Ministers seem to be wrong.

We heard good speeches from my hon. Friends the Members for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh) and for Bromsgrove (Miss Kirkbride), who spoke of the experience of constituents. The hon. Members for St. Ives (Mr. George) and for Preston dealt with severe disablement allowance.

At the last Social Security questions, the Secretary of State produced a rather innocuous letter from me, which had been leaked to him. It seems that leaking occurs both ways, as I have received a copy of his briefing to Back Benchers. In response to the question why the Government are reforming severe disablement allowance, the answer given is that SDA is not targeted at the most severely disabled, but is a non-contributory version of incapacity benefit that is paid at a lower level. The briefing goes on to state that SDA is ineffective, and for 70 per cent. of recipients must be topped up with income support.

Severe disablement allowance is supposed to be non-contributory. It was designed specifically to meet the needs of housewives who, through no fault of their own, were unable to pay national insurance contributions. It was a unique benefit to be paid solely on the grounds of disability.

Audrey Wise


Mr. Pickles

The hon. Lady disagrees, but I believe that I am right. SDA was to be paid in cases of at least 80 per cent. disability. The Government have made a concession to allow young people with no chance of employment and no prospect of paying national insurance contributions to receive it.

Audrey Wise

I intervene in the interests of accuracy. The hon. Gentleman is wrong when he suggests that the primary target of SDA was housewives. Initially, it was made more difficult for housewives than for men and single women to receive SDA. It affected everyone. After a bit of push, the benefit was extended to housewives on an equal basis. Recipients would qualify without a means test.

6.45 pm
Mr. Pickles

I stand corrected, but I was paraphrasing Lord Ashley, who made the point in another place.

The Government tell us that to pay for the concession to young people, SDA must be abolished. They propose to take away from one disabled group to give to another disabled group. They will remove one inequality by creating another.

In another place, the Minister, Lady Hollis, said: I believe that that is the right focusing of the benefit—not continuing to give it to people who have chosen not to build up a contributory record, as in the case of some married women, or who would not need access to means-tested benefits because they have sufficient finances coming into the household."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 13 October 1999; Vol. 605, c. 461.] The principal losers will be women. There are 2.4 million women who earn less than the national insurance threshold and cannot build up contributions. Lord Morris said in another place that the proposal represented not so much the reform of the benefit system as an attempt to put the clock back. He gave a number of moving examples to show how people would be affected.

I raised the matter with the Secretary of State. A disabled person who has £8,000-worth of capital or £3,000-worth of savings or a spouse who is earning will receive nothing, yet the purpose of the measure was to give disabled people some financial independence. When the point was put to the Secretary of State, all that he could do was bluster.

The Government's argument is that everyone above income support level is well off and should not receive SDA. The suggestion is that people with savings of more than £3,000 or capital of £8,000 or a spouse in employment should not receive it. If a wife who has taken time off to look after children becomes disabled during that period, she will receive nothing under the Government's proposals.

The Government say that if people do not make contributions, they are not entitled to receive benefit, yet the Government also say that if people make contributions, they are not entitled to benefit. The Government are predetermining according to their whim the level of benefit that people should receive.

The Secretary of State told us this afternoon that he intended to ensure that the Tories would be prevented from cutting social security benefit. There was a time not long ago, before the general election, when it was the proud boast of the Labour party that the Tories would cut benefits. In a few moments the House will be asked to vote on a measure that the Tory party considered too harsh. If that is new Labour, good luck to it.

Mr. Rooker

It is traditional to say that we have had an interesting debate. We have, but it has not been entirely accurate.

For obvious reasons, the detailed history of the Bill is much better known to many of my hon. Friends than it is to me. However, as I made clear earlier, this is not the Bill that was originally introduced or which left the House after Third Reading, and the Government are entitled to take some credit for that. There has hardly been a period when the Government have not been listening. Colleagues on both sides of the House could claim that we have not listened enough to meet all their demands, but no one will be able to vote against the Government tonight and claim that we have not listened. That would simply not be true.

I shall repeat another point, now that the hare is running. It ran for me first on Monday evening, secondly on the letters page of The Guardian today, and thirdly with one of my hon. Friends today when the issue of the retirement pension was raised. I repeat without apology that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made it unambiguously clear at Question Time today that the retirement pension is not in anyone's sights. It is not an intellectually honest argument to say that the changes in incapacity benefit are the thin end of the wedge, and that the retirement pension will be next in line.

There is no possibility of that happening under a Labour Government, irrespective of who the Prime Minister is. It is not part of our agenda, and we have made that clear. To set that hare running causes untold worry and unnecessary concern to those outside the House who watch or listen to our proceedings. To make claims that everyone knows are not true adds nothing to the argument about welfare reform. That point must be made again on the record.

There has been constant reference to cuts in benefit. It must be repeated that no cuts in benefit are planned. When hon. Members face the electorate, whatever arguments they may have in respect of future changes, the people whom they meet will be on the same benefit or will receive more under the Bill. That is the reality. As my hon. Friend the Member for High Peak (Mr. Levitt) said when he read out the list of measures in the Bill, there will be extra money for many people. That is at risk if the Bill falls. It is not true to say that the Bill is only about changes to incapacity benefit and that that is where the concentration is.

I must tell my right hon. and hon. Friends that nobody needs to apologise for raising these important issues. No one can gainsay the fact that there was concern in the original debates; we are not saying that there was not. That is proved by the fact that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made it clear at the time—I was not in this Department, but I was in the House—that he would listen, take the matter away and rethink some points in the Bill. That is what happened during the parliamentary recess, and the same is true of the debates in the other place.

Therefore, it is wholly reasonable for us to say that we have made changes. Some of my hon. Friends might say that they are not enough and that there is no rigid formula for how we arrived at the figure of £85. That is true; there is no formula because it was not possible to use one. There was an original figure of £50, which is not in the Bill, and I understand that there were demands for it to be £105. We looked at the good trade union principle of splitting the difference, but £75 was not enough because it did not protect enough people. That is why we went to £85; it is as simple as that. There is no magic formula. We looked at all the issues and decided that with £85 being as near as dammit to the average occupational pension received by someone on incapacity benefit, more people would gain than under the median figure of £75. In order to reinforce that, we have put the figure in the Bill.

I will not be able to respond to all the detailed points raised in the debate, but I ought to try to respond to some of them, if only for the sake of accuracy. My right hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Chryston (Mr. Clarke), in an interesting and powerful speech, talked about people with intermittent illness. If what he said was true, we would have cause for concern, but it is not. I want to put this on the record. Since last October—I remind my hon. Friends that there was a Labour Government then—when we extended the linking rules for incapacity benefit from eight to 52 weeks, disabled people have been assured that they can try for work for periods of up to one year with a guarantee of being able to return to the same level of benefit should they fall ill again. The same rules also mean that they will be able to meet the new contribution test. For people who receive the new disabled persons tax credit, the linking period is extended to two years. Rather than making it harder for people to try for work, we are making it easier.

For those not covered by the linking rules, we are making general provision for people to requalify without paying further national insurance contributions if they were on incapacity benefit in the last tax year. Nobody has to be continuously in work to qualify for IB. Someone on the minimum wage would pay the necessary contributions in 12 weeks, and on average earnings, four weeks would be enough. Someone in the circumstances described by my right hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Chryston would not be covered by the changes in the Bill. Such a person would still be protected.

During the first 20 minutes of this debate there was only one Conservative Member on the Back Benches and I see that the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh) has not returned to his seat. However, he did raise a point that has been laboured by many others. He talked about people who have made contributions for 30 years missing one year and being unable to claim. So many myths have built up over the years about the national insurance system that we have all come to believe them. We believe that it is a piggy bank, that there is a personal fund and that if stamps are paid over a number of years, there is entitlement to benefit. That has never been the case. Contributions or credits have been required in both the last two tax years for people to be able to qualify, no matter how many years they have paid. If they do not have those contributions or credits from the last two tax years, they fail to qualify for incapacity benefit. The Bill does not change that. The Bill puts a time limit on the use of credits when someone is unemployed because they have pulled out of the job market completely and claimed their occupational pension.

There was a letter in one of the newspapers today asking what would be the incentive for people in such a position to go on retraining programmes or to get back into work. It looks for all the world as if we are talking about people who are not in receipt of an occupational pension. We are talking about people who have withdrawn from the labour market under the retirement age for their own reasons. The myth that that includes all disabled people is nonsense. The hare gets out and starts to run simply because of a misunderstanding about the national insurance rules. There is nothing new about this.

The hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. George) said that some people believe that SDA will be taken away through the all work test. The existing SDA recipient will be receiving the allowance on the basis of being 80 per cent. disabled. Those who are 80 per cent. disabled are exempt from the all work test. These myths are suggested in letters from pressure groups with a legitimate axe to grind because they are in the business of getting more for a particular client group. Hon. Members come to the House and repeat those myths to strengthen their argument, without checking whether they are true. That devalues their contribution.

My hon. Friend the Member for Preston (Audrey Wise) made a contribution, but I do not have time to go into it now, except to say that, in 1977, the Government had not listened and were not intending to listen. There were no procedures for listening and my hon. Friend knows that because we both met my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashton- under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon) and Lord Barnett at the Treasury. The junior Whip on that Finance Bill is now the Chief Whip and she is well aware of the fact that the Government were not moving. This Government have moved.

It is true that no one political party owns the Lobbies in this place. There is not a Lobby for the Labour party and a Lobby for the Tory party. I must tell my right hon. and hon. Friends however, that they cannot go into the Lobby to vote against the Government saying that the Government have not listened. That is not true. The Government have moved. If my right hon. and hon. Friends do not want to support the Government, I hope that they will think twice before voting against. That would send the wrong signals to the other place and it is important to take that into account given the time limits under which we are operating. If a sufficient number of hon. Members vote against the Government, the other place might start playing ping-pong. There is no doubt that the Bill is under threat. That is not an idle point.

If the Bill is lost, all the good points, which were mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for High Peak, will be lost. I stand by what I said about the Parliament Act. Confusing the Parliament Act with carry-over motions might be a common occurrence, but I will not do it because I know the rules we used for the War Crimes Bill.

Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Rooker

No; the hon. Gentleman should not be stupid, I am not giving way with two minutes to go. We are on a guillotine.

The loss of the Bill would be highly damaging to the Government, to future pensioners, and to 5 million people currently at work who have no second pension provision and who are earning modest incomes of between £9,000 and £20,000 a year. We want to get them into a pension fund as quickly as possible under the stakeholder pension scheme. These measures cannot be brought back at a stroke and within a few short weeks because this House and the other place do not work like that.

The debates have been interesting, but I hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends will ask themselves whether, to their certain knowledge, everything that has been said is 100 per cent. accurate. They will know that, in Committee, on Report and here today, not all arguments adduced against the Government have been based on the facts of the Bill. We are making laws for our constituents, and we must get them right.

The Government are entitled to ask hon. Members to judge us on what is in the Bill, not on what they want to be in the Bill, what they think is in the Bill, or what they have been told is in the Bill by someone outside with an axe to grind. The Bill provides massive increases for hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens. It does not cut a single benefit from anyone currently receiving benefit. It is simply not true that it is based on cuts. It is based on reform, and I ask my hon. Friends to support the Government.

It being Seven o'clock, MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER put the Question already proposed from the Chair, pursuant to Order this day

Question put, That this House disagrees with the Lords in the said amendment:—

The House divided: Ayes 325, Noes 265.

Division No. 282] [7 pm
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N) Blair, Rt Hon Tony
Ainger, Nick Blears, Ms Hazel
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Blizzard, Bob
Alexander, Douglas Blunkett, Rt Hon David
Allen, Graham Boateng, Paul
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Borrow, David
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale) Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Atherton, Ms Candy Bradshaw, Ben
Atkins, Charlotte Brinton, Mrs Helen
Banks, Tony Brown, Rt Hon Gordon (Dunfermline E)
Barron, Kevin
Battle, John Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)
Bayley, Hugh Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Beard, Nigel Browne, Desmond
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret Buck, Ms Karen
Begg, Miss Anne Burden, Richard
Bell, Martin (Tatton) Burgon, Colin
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough) Butler, Mrs Christine
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C) Byers, Rt Hon Stephen
Benton, Joe Caborn, Rt Hon Richard
Bermingham, Gerald Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Best, Harold Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Betts, Clive Caplin, Ivor
Blackman, Liz Casale, Roger
Cawsey, Ian Hepburn, Stephen
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S) Heppell, John
Church, Ms Judith Hewitt, Ms Patricia
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields) Hill, Keith
Clark, Dr Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands) Hodge, Ms Margaret
Hoey, Kate
Clark, Paul (Gillingham) Home Robertson, John
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S) Hoon, Geoffrey
Clelland, David Hope, Phil
Coaker, Vernon Howarth, Alan (Newport E)
Coffey, Ms Ann Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Coleman, Iain Howells, Dr Kim
Colman, Tony Hoyle, Lindsay
Cook, Rt Hon Robin (Livingston) Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Cooper, Yvette Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Corbett, Robin Humble, Mrs Joan
Corston, Ms Jean Hurst, Alan
Cox, Tom Hutton, John
Cranston, Ross Iddon, Dr Brian
Crausby, David Ingram, Rt Hon Adam
Cunliffe, Lawrence Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr Jack (Copeland) Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S) Jenkins, Brian
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Darling, Rt Hon Alistair Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield)
Darvill, Keith
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C) Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)
Dawson, Hilton Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark)
Denham, John Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Dewar, Rt Hon Donald Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Dismore, Andrew Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Dobson, Rt Hon Frank Jowell, Rt Hon Ms Tessa
Donohoe, Brian H Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Doran, Frank Keeble, Ms Sally
Dowd, Jim Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Drew, David Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey) Kelly, Ms Ruth
Eagle, Maria (L 'pool Garston) Kemp, Fraser
Edwards, Huw Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Efford, Clive Khabra, Piara S
Ellman, Mrs Louise Kidney, David
Ennis, Jeff King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
Fisher, Mark King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)
Fitzpatrick, Jim Kumar, Dr Ashok
Fitzsimons, Lorna Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Flint, Caroline Lawrence, Ms Jackie
Follett, Barbara Laxton, Bob
Foster, Rt Hon Derek Lepper, David
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings) Leslie, Christopher
Foster, Michael J (Worcester) Levitt, Tom
Foulkes, George Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Galbraith, Sam Liddell, Rt Hon Mrs Helen
Gapes, Mike Linton, Martin
Gardiner, Barry Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
George, Bruce (Walsall S) Lock, David
Gilroy, Mrs Linda Love, Andrew
Godsiff, Roger McAvoy, Thomas
Goggins, Paul McCabe, Steve
Golding, Mrs Llin McCafferty, Ms Chris
Gordon, Mrs Eileen McCartney, Rt Hon Ian (Makerfield)
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) McDonagh, Siobhain
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Macdonald, Calum
Grocott, Bruce McFall, John
Grogan, John McIsaac, Shona
Gunnell, John McKenna, Mrs Rosemary
Hain, Peter Mackinlay, Andrew
Hall, Patrick (Bedford) McNulty, Tony
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE) MacShane, Denis
Hanson, David Mactaggart, Fiona
Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet McWalter, Tony
Heal, Mrs Sylvia Mallaber, Judy
Healey, John Mandelson, Rt Hon Peter
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N) Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich) Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)
Martlew, Eric Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Maxton, John Shipley, Ms Debra
Meacher, Rt Hon Michael Short, Rt Hon Clare
Meale, Alan Singh, Marsha
Merron, Gillian Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Milburn, Rt Hon Alan Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Miller, Andrew Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)
Moffatt, Laura Smith, Miss Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Moonie, Dr Lewis
Moran, Ms Margaret Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Morley, Elliot Snape, Peter
Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley) Soley, Clive
Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon) Southworth, Ms Helen
Mountford, Kali Spellar, John
Mowlam, Rt Hon Marjorie Squire, Ms Rachel
Mudie, George Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Mullin, Chris Steinberg, Gerry
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood) Stevenson, George
Murphy, Rt Hon Paul (Torfaen) Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Naysmith, Dr Doug Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Norris, Dan Stinchcombe, Paul
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton) Stoate, Dr Howard
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks) Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
O'Hara, Eddie Straw, Rt Hon Jack
Olner, Bill Stringer, Graham
O'Neill, Martin Stuart, Ms Gisela
Organ, Mrs Diana Sutcliffe, Gerry
Osborne, Ms Sandra Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Palmer, Dr Nick
Pearson, Ian Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Pendry, Tom Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Perham, Ms Linda Temple-Morris, Peter
Pickthall Colin Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Pike, Peter L Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Plaskitt, James Timms, Stephen
Pollard, Kerry Tipping, Paddy
Pond, Chris Todd, Mark
Pope, Greg Touhig, Don
Pound, Stephen Trickett, Jon
Powell, Sir Raymond Truswell, Paul
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E) Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Primarolo, Dawn Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Prosser Gwyn Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Purchase, Ken Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Quin, Rt Hon Ms Joyce Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Tynan, Bill
Quinn, Lawrie Vaz, Keith
Radice, Rt Hon Giles Vis, Dr Rudi
Rammell, Bill Walley, Ms Joan
Rapson, Syd Ward, Ms Claire
Raynsford, Nick Watts, David
Reed, Andrew (Loughborough) White, Brian
Reid, Rt Hon Dr John (Hamilton N) Whitehead, Dr Alan
Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW) Wicks, Malcolm
Roche, Mrs Barbara Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Rooker, Jeff
Rooney, Terry Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W) Wills, Michael
Roy, Frank Wilson, Brian
Ruane, Chris Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Ruddock, Joan Woolas, Phil
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester) Wray, James
Ryan, Ms Joan Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Salter, Martin Wyatt, Derek
Sarwar, Mohammad
Savidge, Malcolm Tellers for the Ayes:
Sawford, Phil Mr. Mike Hall and
Shaw, Jonathan Mrs. Anne McGuire.
Abbott, Ms Diane Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey) Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E)
Allan, Richard Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Amess, David Austin, John
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael Baker, Norman
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James Baldry, Tony
Ballard, Jackie Evans, Nigel
Barnes, Harry Ewing, Mrs Margaret
Beggs, Roy Faber, David
Beith, Rt Hon A J Fabricant, Michael
Benn, Rt Hon Tony (Chesterfield) Fallon, Michael
Bennett, Andrew F Fearn, Ronnie
Bercow, John Field, Rt Hon Frank
Beresford, Sir Paul Flight, Howard
Berry, Roger Flynn, Paul
Blunt, Crispin Forsythe, Clifford
Boswell, Tim Forth, Rt Hon Eric
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W) Foster, Don (Bath)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Brady, Graham Fox, Dr Liam
Brake, Tom Fraser, Christopher
Brand, Dr Peter Gale, Roger
Garnier, Edward
Brazier, Julian George, Andrew (St Ives)
Breed, Colin Gerrard, Neil
Browning, Mrs Angela Gibb, Nick
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Gibson, Dr Ian
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Gill, Christopher
Burnett, John Godman, Dr Norman A
Burns, Simon Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Burstow, Paul Gorrie, Donald
Butterfill, John Gray, James
Cable, Dr Vincent Green, Damian
Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies (NE Fife) Greenway, John
Grieve, Dominic
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Gummer, Rt Hon John
Canavan, Dennis Hague, Rt Hon William
Cash, William Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Caton, Martin Hammond, Philip
Hancock, Mike
Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet) Harris, Dr Evan
Harvey, Nick
Chaytor, David Hawkins, Nick
Chidgey, David Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)
Chope, Christopher Heath, Rt Hon Sir Edward
Clapham, Michael Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David
Clappison, James Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas
Clark, Dr Michael (Rayleigh) Hopkins, Kelvin
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Horam, John
Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge) Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S) Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Hunter, Andrew
Clwyd, Ann Illsley, Eric
Collins, Tim Jack, Rt Hon Michael
Colvin, Michael Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Connarty, Michael Jenkin, Bernard
Corbyn, Jeremy Johnson Smith, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Cotter, Brian Jones, leuan Wyn (Ynys Môn)
Cousins, Jim Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Cran, James Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch) Keetch, Paul
Cunningham, Ms Roseanna (Perth) Kennedy, Charles (Ross Skye)
Key, Robert
Curry, Rt Hon David King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Dalyell, Tam Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Davey, Edward (Kingston) Kirkwood, Archy
Davidson, Ian Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Lansley, Andrew
Davies, Quentin (Grantham) Leigh, Edward
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice & Howden) Letwin, Oliver
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Day, Stephen Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Dobbin, Jim Lidington, David
Donaldson, Jeffrey Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Duncan, Alan Livingstone, Ken
Duncan Smith, Iain Livsey, Richard
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter Llwyd, Elfyn
Etherington, Bill Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
McAllion, John Soames, Nicholas
McDonnell, John Spelman, Mrs Caroline
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Spicer, Sir Michael
McIntosh, Miss Anne Spring, Richard
MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Maclean, Rt Hon David Steen, Anthony
McLoughlin, Patrick Streeter, Gary
Madel, Sir David Stunell, Andrew
Maples, John Swayne, Desmond
Marek, Dr John Swinney, John
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Syms, Robert
Marshall-Andrews, Robert Tapsell, Sir Peter
Mates, Michael Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Maude, Rt Hon Francis Taylor, Rt Hon John D (Strangford)
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian Taylor, John M (Solihull)
May, Mrs Theresa Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley) Taylor, Sir Teddy
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute) Thompson, William
Moore, Michael Tonge, Dr Jenny
Morgan, Alasdair (Galloway) Townend, John
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N) Tredinnick, David
Moss, Malcolm Trend, Michael
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck) Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Nicholls, Patrick Tyler, Paul
Norman, Archie Tyrie, Andrew
Oaten, Mark Viggers, Peter
O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury) Wallace, James
Öpik, Lembit Walter, Robert
Ottaway, Richard Wardle, Charles
Page, Richard Wareing, Robert N
Paice, James Waterson, Nigel
Paterson, Owen Webb, Steve
Pickles, Eric Wells, Bowen
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle) Welsh, Andrew
Prior, David Whitney, Sir Raymond
Randall, John Whittingdale, John
Redwood, Rt Hon John Wigley, Rt Hon Dafydd
Rendel, David Wilkinson, John
Robathan, Andrew Willetts, David
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry) Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Ross, William (E Lond'y) Willis, Phil
Rowe, Andrew (Faversham) Wilshire, David
Rowlands, Ted Winnick, David
Ruffley, David Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Russell, Bob (Colchester) Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
St Aubyn, Nick Wise, Audrey
Salmond, Alex Wood, Mike
Sanders, Adrian Woodward, Shaun
Sayeed, Jonathan Worthington, Tony
Sedgemore, Brian Yeo, Tim
Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Shepherd, Richard
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S) Tellers for the Noes:
Skinner, Dennis Mr. Keith Simpson and
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent) Mr. Oliver Heald.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Lords amendment disagreed to.

Government amendments (c) and (d) to the words so restored to the Bill agreed to.

Lords amendment: No. 43, to leave out clause 58.

7.15 pm

Motion made, and Question put, That this House disagrees with the Lords in the said amendment.—[Mr. Kevin Hughes.]

The House divided: Ayes 320, Noes 262.

Division No. 283] [7.16 pm
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N) Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr Jack (Copeland)
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Alexander, Douglas Curtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire
Allen, Graham Darling, Rt Hon Alistair
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Darvill, Keith
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale) Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Atherton, Ms Candy Dawson, Hilton
Atkins, Charlotte Denham, John
Banks, Tony Dewar, Rt Hon Donald
Barron, Kevin Dismore, Andrew
Battle, John Dobson, Rt Hon Frank
Bayley, Hugh Donohoe, Brian H
Beard, Nigel Doran, Frank
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret Dowd, Jim
Begg, Miss Anne Drew, David
Bell, Martin (Tatton) Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough) Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C) Edwards, Huw
Benton, Joe Ellman, Mrs Louise
Bermingham, Gerald Ennis, Jeff
Best, Harold Fisher, Mark
Betts, Clive Fitzpatrick, Jim
Blackman, Liz Fitzsimons, Lorna
Blair, Rt Hon Tony Flint, Caroline
Blears, Ms Hazel Follett, Barbara
Blizzard, Bob Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Blunkett, Rt Hon David Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Boateng, Paul Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Borrow, David Foulkes, George
Bradley, Keith (Withington) Galbraith, Sam
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin) Gapes, Mike
Bradshaw, Ben Gardiner, Barry
Brinton, Mrs Helen George, Bruce (Walsall S)
Brown, Rt Hon Gordon (Dunfermline E) Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Godsiff, Roger
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E) Goggins, Paul
Brown, Russell (Dumfries) Golding, Mrs Llin
Browne, Desmond Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Buck, Ms Karen Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Burden, Richard Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Burgon, Colin Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Butler, Mrs Christine Grocott, Bruce
Byers, Rt Hon Stephen Grogan, John
Caborn, Rt Hon Richard Gunnell, John
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth) Hain, Peter
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Caplin, Ivor Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Casale, Roger Hanson, David
Cawsey, Ian Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S) Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Church, Ms Judith Healey, John
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields) Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Clark, Dr Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands) Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hepburn, Stephen
Clark, Paul (Gillingham) Heppell, John
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S) Hewitt, Ms Patricia
Clelland, David Hill, Keith
Coaker, Vernon Hodge, Ms Margaret
Coffey, Ms Ann Hoey, Kate
Coleman, Iain Home Robertson, John
Colman, Tony Hoon, Geoffrey
Cook, Rt Hon Robin (Livingston) Hope, Phil
Cooper, Yvette Howarth, Alan (Newport E)
Corbett, Robin Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Corston, Ms Jean Howells, Dr Kim
Cox, Tom Hoyle, Lindsay
Cranston, Ross Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Crausby, David Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Cunliffe, Lawrence Humble, Mrs Joan
Hurst, Alan Murphy, Rt Hon Paul (Torfaen)
Iddon, Dr Brian Naysmith, Dr Doug
Ingram, Rt Hon Adam Norris, Dan
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead) O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough) O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
Jamieson, David O'Hara, Eddie
Jenkins, Brian Olner, Bill
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle) O'Neill, Martin
Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield) Organ, Mrs Diana
Osborne, Ms Sandra
Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn) Palmer, Dr Nick
Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark) Pearson, Ian
Jones, Helen (Warrington N) Pendry, Tom
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S) Perham, Ms Linda
Jowell, Rt Hon Ms Tessa Pickthall, Colin
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Pike, Peter L
Keeble, Ms Sally Plaskitt, James
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston) Pollard, Kerry
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth) Pond, Chris
Kelly, Ms Ruth Pope, Greg
Kemp, Fraser Pound, Stephen
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree) Powell, Sir Raymond
Khabra, Piara S Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Kidney, David Primarolo, Dawn
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth) Prosser, Gwyn
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green) Purchase, Ken
Kumar, Dr Ashok Quin, Rt Hon Ms Joyce
Ladyman, Dr Stephen Quinn, Lawrie
Lawrence, Ms Jackie Radice, Rt Hon Giles
Laxton, Bob Rammell, Bill
Lepper, David Rapson, Syd
Leslie, Christopher Raynsford, Nick
Levitt, Tom Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S) Reid, Rt Hon Dr John (Hamilton N)
Liddell, Rt Hon Mrs Helen
Linton, Martin Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW)
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C) Roche, Mrs Barbara
Lock, David Rooker, Jeff
Love, Andrew Rooney, Terry
McAvoy, Thomas Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
McCabe, Steve Roy, Frank
McCafferty, Ms Chris Ruane, Chris
McCartney, Rt Hon Ian (Makerfield) Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
McDonagh, Siobhain Ryan, Ms Joan
Macdonald, Calum Salter, Martin
McFall, John Sarwar, Mohammad
McIsaac, Shona Savidge, Malcolm
McKenna, Mrs Rosemary Sawford, Phil
Mackinlay, Andrew Shaw, Jonathan
McNulty, Tony Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
MacShane, Denis Shipley, Ms Debra
Mactaggart, Fiona Singh, Marsha
McWalter, Tony Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Mallaber, Judy Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Mandelson, Rt Hon Peter Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S) Smith, Miss Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)
Martlew, Eric Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Maxton, John Snape, Peter
Meale, Alan Soley, Clive
Merron, Gillian Southworth, Ms Helen
Milburn, Rt Hon Alan
Miller, Andrew Spellar, John
Moffatt, Laura Squire, Ms Rachel
Moonie, Dr Lewis Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Moran, Ms Margaret Steinberg, Gerry
Morley, Elliot Stevenson, George
Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley) Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon) Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Mountford, Kali Stinchcombe, Paul
Mowlam, Rt Hon Marjorie Stoate, Dr Howard
Mudie, George Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Mullin, Chris Straw, Rt Hon Jack
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood) Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela Vaz, Keith
Sutcliffe, Gerry Vis, Dr Rudi
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury) Walley, Ms Joan
Ward, Ms Claire
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S) Watts, David
Temple-Morris, Peter White, Brian
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W) Whitehead, Dr Alan
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W) Wicks, Malcolm
Timms, Stephen Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Tipping, Paddy Wills, Michael
Todd, Mark Wilson, Brian
Touhig, Don Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Trickett, Jon Woolas, Phil
Truswell, Paul Wray, James
Turner, Neil (Wigan) Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE) Wyatt, Derek
Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Twigg, Derek (Halton) Tellers for the Ayes:
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield) Mr. Mike Hall and
Tynan, Bill Mrs. Anne McGuire.
Abbott, Ms Diane Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey) Clwyd, Ann
Allan, Richard Collins, Tim
Amess, David Colvin, Michael
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael Connarty, Michael
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James Corbyn, Jeremy
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Cormack, Sir Patrick
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E) Cotter, Brian
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Cousins, Jim
Austin, John Cran, James
Baker, Norman Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Baldry, Tony Cunningham, Ms Roseanna (Perth)
Ballard, Jackie
Barnes, Harry Curry, Rt Hon David
Beggs, Roy Dalyell, Tam
Beith, Rt Hon A J Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony (Chesterfield) Davidson, Ian
Bercow, John Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Beresford, Sir Paul Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice & Howden)
Berry, Roger
Blunt, Crispin Day, Stephen
Body, Sir Richard Dobbin, Jim
Boswell, Tim Donaldson, Jeffrey
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W) Duncan, Alan
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia Duncan Smith, Iain
Brady, Graham Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Brake, Tom Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Brand, Dr Peter Etherington, Bill
Brazier, Julian Evans, Nigel
Breed, Colin Ewing, Mrs Margaret
Browning, Mrs Angela Faber, David
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Fabricant, Michael
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Fallon, Michael
Burnett, John Fearn, Ronnie
Burns, Simon Field, Rt Hon Frank
Burstow, Paul Flight, Howard
Butterfill, John Flynn, Paul
Cable, Dr Vincent Forsythe, Clifford
Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies (NE Fife) Forth, Rt Hon Eric
Foster, Don (Bath)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Canavan, Dennis Fox, Dr Liam
Cash, William Fraser, Christopher
Caton, Martin Gale, Roger
Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet) Garnier, Edward
George, Andrew (St Ives)
Chaytor, David Gerrard, Neil
Chidgey, David Gibb, Nick
Chope, Christopher Gibson, Dr Ian
Clapham, Michael Gill, Christopher
Clappison, James Godman, Dr Norman A
Clark, Dr Michael (Rayleigh) Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge) Gorrie, Donald
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S) Gray, James
Green, Damian Norman, Archie
Greenway, John Oaten, Mark
Grieve, Dominic O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
Gummer, Rt Hon John Öpik, Lembit
Hague, Rt Hon William Ottaway, Richard
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie Page, Richard
Hammond, Philip Paice, James
Hancock, Mike Paterson, Owen
Harris, Dr Evan Pickles, Eric
Harvey, Nick Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Hawkins, Nick Prior, David
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome) Randall, John
Heath, Rt Hon Sir Edward Redwood, Rt Hon John
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David Rendel, David
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas Robathan, Andrew
Hopkins, Kelvin Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Horam, John Ross, William (E Lond'y)
Howard, Rt Hon Michael Rowe, Andrew (Faversham)
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot) Rowlands, Ted
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N) Ruffley, David
Hunter, Andrew Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Illsley, Eric St Aubyn, Nick
Jack, Rt Hon Michael Salmond, Alex
Jackson, Robert (Wantage) Sanders, Adrian
Jenkin, Bernard Sayeed, Jonathan
Johnson Smith, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Sedgemore, Brian
Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Jones, leuan Wyn (Ynys Môn) Shepherd, Richard
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak) Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham) Skinner, Dennis
Keetch, Paul Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Kennedy, Charles (Ross Skye) Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Key, Robert Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater) Soames, Nicholas
Kirkbride, Miss Julie Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Kirkwood, Archy Spicer, Sir Michael
Laing, Mrs Eleanor Spring, Richard
Lait, Mrs Jacqui Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Lansley, Andrew Steen, Anthony
Leigh, Edward Streeter, Gary
Letwin, Oliver Stunell, Andrew
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E) Swayne, Desmond
Lewis, Terry (Worsley) Swinney, John
Lidington, David Syms, Robert
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter Tapsell, Sir Peter
Livingstone, Ken Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Livsey, Richard Taylor, Rt Hon John D (Strangford)
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham) Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Llwyd, Elfyn Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Loughton, Tim Taylor, Sir Teddy
Luff, Peter Thompson, William
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Tonge, Dr Jenny
McAllion, John Townend, John
McDonnell, John Tredinnick, David
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Trend, Michael
McIntosh, Miss Anne Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew Tyler, Paul
Maclean, Rt Hon David Tyrie, Andrew
McLoughlin, Patrick Viggers, Peter
Madel, Sir David Wallace, James
Maples, John Walter, Robert
Marek, Dr John Wardle, Charles
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Wareing, Robert N
Marshall-Andrews, Robert Waterson, Nigel
Mates, Michael Webb, Steve
Maude, Rt Hon Francis Wells, Bowen
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian Welsh, Andrew
May, Mrs Theresa Whitney, Sir Raymond
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley) Whittingdale, John
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute) Wigley, Rt Hon Dafydd
Moore, Michael Wilkinson, John
Morgan, Alasdair (Galloway) Willetts, David
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N) Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Moss, Malcolm Willis, Phil
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck) Wilshire, David
Nicholls, Patrick Winnick, David
Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton) Yeo, Tim
Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield) Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Wise, Audrey
Wood, Mike Tellers for the Noes:
Woodward, Shaun Mr. Keith Simpson and
Worthington, Tony Mr. Oliver Heald.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Lords amendment disagreed to.

Government amendments (c), (d) and (e) to the words so restored to the Bill agreed to.

Lords amendments 44 and 45 agreed to [one with Special Entry].

Lords amendment: No. 46, to leave out clause 60.

7.30 pm

Motion made, and Question put, That this House disagrees with the Lords in the said amendment.—[Mr. Kevin Hughes.]

The House divided: Ayes 326, Noes 253.

Division No. 284] [7.30 pm
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N) Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Ainger, Nick Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Caplin, Ivor
Alexander, Douglas Casale, Roger
Allen, Graham Cawsey, Ian
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale) Chaytor, David
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary Church, Ms Judith
Atherton, Ms Candy Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Atkins, Charlotte Clark, Dr Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)
Banks, Tony
Barron, Kevin Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Battle, John Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Bayley, Hugh Clelland, David
Beard, Nigel Coaker, Vernon
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret Coffey, Ms Ann
Begg, Miss Anne Coleman, Iain
Bell, Martin (Tatton) Colman, Tony
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough) Cook, Rt Hon Robin (Livingston)
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C) Cooper, Yvette
Bennett, Andrew F Corbett, Robin
Benton, Joe Corston, Ms Jean
Bermingham, Gerald Cox, Tom
Best, Harold Cranston, Ross
Betts, Clive Cunliffe, Lawrence
Blackman, Liz Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr Jack (Copeland)
Blair, Rt Hon Tony
Blears, Ms Hazel Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Blizzard, Bob Curtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire
Blunkett, Rt Hon David Darling, Rt Hon Alistair
Boateng, Paul Darvill, Keith
Borrow, David Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Bradley, Keith (Withington) Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin) Dawson, Hilton
Bradshaw, Ben Denham, John
Brinton, Mrs Helen Dewar, Rt Hon Donald
Brown, Rt Hon Gordon (Dunfermline E) Dismore, Andrew
Dobson, Rt Hon Frank
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E) Donohoe, Brian H
Brown, Russell (Dumfries) Doran, Frank
Browne, Desmond Dowd, Jim
Buck, Ms Karen Drew, David
Burden, Richard Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Burgon, Colin Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Butler, Mrs Christine Edwards, Huw
Byers, Rt Hon Stephen Eftord, Clive
Caborn, Rt Hon Richard Ennis, Jeff
Fisher, Mark Kidney, David
Fitzpatrick, Jim King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
Fitzsimons, Lorna King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)
Flint, Caroline Kumar, Dr Ashok
Follett, Barbara Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Foster, Rt Hon Derek Lawrence, Ms Jackie
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings) Laxton, Bob
Foster, Michael J (Worcester) Lepper, David
Foulkes, George Leslie, Christopher
Galbraith, Sam Levitt, Tom
Gapes, Mike Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Gardiner, Barry Liddell, Rt Hon Mrs Helen
George, Bruce (Walsall S) Linton, Martin
Gilroy, Mrs Linda Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Godsiff, Roger Lock, David
Goggins, Paul Love, Andrew
Golding, Mrs Llin McAvoy, Thomas
Gordon, Mrs Eileen McCabe, Steve
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E) McCafferty, Ms Chris
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) McCartney, Rt Hon Ian (Makerfield)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grocott, Bruce McDonagh, Siobhain
Grogan, John Macdonald, Calum
Gunnell, John McFall, John
Hain, Peter McIsaac, Shona
Hall, Patrick (Bedford) McKenna, Mrs Rosemary
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE) Mackinlay, Andrew
Hanson, David McNulty, Tony
Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet MacShane, Denis
Heal, Mrs Sylvia Mactaggart, Fiona
Healey, John McWalter, Tony
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N) Mallaber, Judy
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich) Mandelson, Rt Hon Peter
Hepburn, Stephen Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Heppell, John Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)
Hewitt, Ms Patricia Martlew, Eric
Hill, Keith Maxton, John
Hinchliffe, David Meacher, Rt Hon Michael
Hodge, Ms Margaret Meale, Alan
Hoey, Kate Merron, Gillian
Home Robertson, John Milburn, Rt Hon Alan
Hoon, Geoffrey Miller, Andrew
Hope, Phil Moffatt, Laura
Howarth, Alan (Newport E) Moonie, Dr Lewis
Howarth, George (Knowsley N) Moran, Ms Margaret
Howells, Dr Kim Morley, Elliot
Hoyle, Lindsay Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford) Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N) Mountford, Kali
Humble, Mrs Joan Mowlam, Rt Hon Marjorie
Hurst, Alan Mudie, George
Hutton, John Mullin, Chris
Iddon, Dr Brian Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Illsley, Eric Murphy, Rt Hon Paul (Torfaen)
Ingram, Rt Hon Adam Naysmith, Dr Doug
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead) Norris, Dan
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough) O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
Jamieson, David O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
Jenkins, Brian O'Hara, Eddie
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle) Olner, Bill
Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield) O'Neill, Martin
Organ, Mrs Diana
Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn) Osborne, Ms Sandra
Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark) Palmer, Dr Nick
Jones, Helen (Warrington N) Pearson, Ian
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C) Pendry, Tom
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S) Perham, Ms Linda
Jowell, Rt Hon Ms Tessa Pickthall, Colin
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Pike, Peter L
Keeble, Ms Sally Plaskitt, James
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston) Pollard, Kerry
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth) Pond, Chris
Kelly, Ms Ruth Pope, Greg
Kemp, Fraser Pound, Stephen
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree) Powell, Sir Raymond
Khabra, Piara S Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Primarolo, Dawn Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Prosser, Gwyn Straw, Rt Hon Jack
Purchase, Ken Stringer, Graham
Quin, Rt Hon Ms Joyce Stuart, Ms Gisela
Quinn, Lawrie Sutcliffe, Gerry
Radice, Rt Hon Giles Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Rammell, Bill
Rapson, Syd Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Raynsford, Nick Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Reed, Andrew (Loughborough) Temple-Morris, Peter
Reid, Rt Hon Dr John (Hamilton N) Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Roche, Mrs Barbara Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Rooker, Jeff Timms, Stephen
Rooney, Terry Tipping, Paddy
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W) Todd, Mark
Roy, Frank Touhig, Don
Ruane, Chris Trickett, Jon
Ruddock, Joan Truswell, Paul
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester) Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Ryan, Ms Joan Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Salter, Martin Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Sarwar, Mohammad Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Savidge, Malcolm Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Sawford, Phil Tynan, Bill
Shaw, Jonathan Vaz, Keith
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert Vis, Dr Rudi
Shipley, Ms Debra Walley, Ms Joan
Singh, Marsha Ward, Ms Claire
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E) Watts, David
Smith, Angela (Basildon) White, Brian
Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S) Whitehead, Dr Alan
Smith, Miss Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale) Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Snape, Peter Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Soley, Clive Wills, Michael
Southworth, Ms Helen Wilson, Brian
Spellar, John Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Squire, Ms Rachel Woolas, Phil
Starkey, Dr Phyllis Wray, James
Steinberg, Gerry Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Stevenson, George Wyatt, Derek
Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles) Tellers for the Ayes:
Stinchcombe, Paul Mr. Mike Hall and
Stoate, Dr Howard Mrs. Anne McGuire.
Abbott, Ms Diane Breed, Colin
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey) Browning, Mrs Angela
Allan, Richard Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)
Amess, David Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael Burnett, John
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James Burns, Simon
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Burstow, Paul
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E) Butterfill, John
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Cable, Dr Vincent
Austin, John Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies (NE Fife)
Baker, Norman
Baldry, Tony Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Ballard, Jackie Canavan, Dennis
Barnes, Harry Cash, William
Beith, Rt Hon A J Caton, Martin
Benn, Rt Hon Tony (Chesterfield) Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet)
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul Chidgey, David
Berry, Roger Chope, Christopher
Blunt, Crispin Clapham, Michael
Body, Sir Richard Clappison, James
Boswell, Tim Claris, Dr Michael (Rayleigh)
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W) Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Brady, Graham Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Brake, Tom Clwyd, Ann
Brand, Dr Peter Collins, Tim
Brazier, Julian Colvin, Michael
Connarty, Michael Jones, leuan Wyn (Ynys Môn)
Corbyn, Jeremy Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Cormack, Sir Patrick Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Cotter, Brian Keetch, Paul
Cousins, Jim Kennedy, Charles (Ross Skye)
Cran, James Key, Robert
Cryer, John (Hornchurch) King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Cunningham, Ms Roseanna (Perth) Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Kirkwood, Archy
Curry, Rt Hon David Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Dalyell, Tam Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Davey, Edward (Kingston) Lansley, Andrew
Davidson, Ian Leigh, Edward
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Letwin, Oliver
Davies, Quentin (Grantham) Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice & Howden) Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Lidington, David
Day, Stephen Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Dobbin, Jim Livsey, Richard
Donaldson, Jeffrey Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Duncan, Alan Llwyd, Elfyn
Duncan Smith, Iain Loughton, Tim
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Luff, Peter
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Etherington, Bill McAllion, John
Evans, Nigel McDonnell, John
Ewing, Mrs Margaret MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Faber, David McIntosh, Miss Anne
Fabricant, Michael MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew
Fallon, Michael Maclean, Rt Hon David
Fearn, Ronnie McLoughlin, Patrick
Field, Rt Hon Frank Madel, Sir David
Flight, Howard Maples, John
Flynn, Paul Marek, Dr John
Forsythe, Clifford Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Forth, Rt Hon Eric Maude, Rt Hon Francis
Foster, Don (Bath) Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman May, Mrs Theresa
Fox, Dr Liam Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Fraser, Christopher Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
Gale, Roger Moore, Michael
Garnier, Edward Morgan, Alasdair (Galloway)
George, Andrew (St Ives) Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Gerrard, Neil Moss, Malcolm
Gibb, Nick Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Gill, Christopher Nicholls, Patrick
Godman, Dr Norman A Norman, Archie
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Oaten, Mark
Gorrie, Donald O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
Gray, James Öpik, Lembit
Green, Damian Ottaway, Richard
Greenway, John Page, Richard
Grieve, Dominic Paice, James
Gummer, Rt Hon John Paterson, Owen
Hague, Rt Hon William Pickles, Eric
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Hammond, Philip Prior, David
Hancock, Mike Randall, John
Harris, Dr Evan Redwood, Rt Hon John
Harvey, Nick Rendel, David
Hawkins, Nick Robathan, Andrew
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome) Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Heath, Rt Hon Sir Edward Ross, William (E Lond'y)
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David Rowe, Andrew (Faversham)
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas Rowlands, Ted
Hopkins, Kelvin Ruffley, David
Horam, John Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Howard, Rt Hon Michael St Aubyn, Nick
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot) Salmond, Alex
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N) Sanders, Adrian
Hunter, Andrew Sayeed, Jonathan
Jack, Rt Hon Michael Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Jackson, Robert (Wantage) Shepherd, Richard
Jenkin, Bernard Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Johnson Smith, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns) Walter, Robert
Soames, Nicholas Wardle, Charles
Spelman, Mrs Caroline Wareing, Robert N
Spicer, Sir Michael Waterson, Nigel
Spring, Richard Webb, Steve
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John Wells, Bowen
Steen, Anthony Welsh, Andrew
Streeter, Gary Whitney, Sir Raymond
Stunell, Andrew Whittingdale, John
Swayne, Desmond Wigley, Rt Hon Dafydd
Swinney, John Wilkinson, John
Willetts, David
Syms, Robert Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Tapsell, Sir Peter Willis Phil
Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton) Wilshire, David
Taylor, John M (Solihull) Winnick, David
Taylor, Matthew (Truro) Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Taylor, Sir Teddy Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Thompson, William Wise, Audrey
Tonge, Dr Jenny Wood, Mike
Townend, John Woodward, Shaun
Tredinnick, David Worthington, Tony
Trend, Michael Yeo, Tim
Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown) Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Tyler, Paul
Tyrie, Andrew Tellers for the Noes:
Viggers, Peter Mr. Keith Simpson and
Wallace, James Mr. Oliver Heald.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Lords amendment disagreed to.