HC Deb 10 January 2000 vol 342 cc19-20
19. Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

What representations he has received from organisations representing the disabled on the operation of incapacity benefit. [102949]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Social Security (Mr. Hugh Bayley)

We regularly receive representations about benefits from organisations representing disabled people, including on matters relating to incapacity benefit.

Mr. Dalyell

Albeit that the Government have—rightly or wrongly—got their way on incapacity benefit, do they recognise that the controversy has not gone away? Problems remain. Would it not be a good idea if, in a year or 15 months, there were a formal review of what was taking place, with formal evidence requested from the disability groups that are still so uncertain as to what is happening?

Mr. Bayley

My hon. Friend knows that the process by which legislation is made by the House is one of debate and amendment, and the Government did indeed listen to voluntary bodies, hon. Members and Members in another place, and changed our proposals on incapacity benefit in several ways. The final amendments raised the disregard for occupational pensions from £50 to £85, and extended from two to three years the period during which people could pay the qualifying national insurance contributions.

When the Government published our strategy to combat poverty last autumn, that was widely welcomed, but we will not achieve our aim of dramatically reducing poverty and, in particular, of eliminating child poverty, unless we make it a priority to give more help to the poorest. That, of course, is what our disability benefit reforms are doing by increasing by up to £26 a week the benefits for people who are born severely disabled or who are so severely disabled early in life that they never have the opportunity to earn and pay national insurance contributions or to contribute to an occupational pension. They are the poorest, and they must be the priority.

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