HL Deb 12 July 1973 vol 344 cc903-23

6.45 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Aberdare.)

House in Committee accordingly.


Clauses 1 to 9 agreed to.

Schedules 1 to 3 agreed to.

Schedule 4 [Amendment of Schedule 2 to Ministry of Social Security Act 1966]:

BARONESS PHILLIPS moved Amendment No. 1: Page 16, line 22, leave out from beginning to end of line 42.

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 1, with the permission of the Committee my noble friends and I would like to speak to Amendment No. 2 as well because in fact it deals with the same philosophy but it is an attempt to deal with the matter in a slightly different way.

When a Bill is introduced which purports to make improvements in the lives of the folk for whom it is catering, as this Bill does, it is important to make certain that these are real improvements, and in the Schedule that we are discussing this evening we are talking about the long-term allowance. This is intended to cover the needs of elderly pensioners who will draw supplementary benefits for the rest of their lives, and for those below pensionable age who have been on benefit for one or two or more years and are not required to register for work.

In the matter of the exceptional circumstances allowance for heating it is good to note that in future this will not be offset against the long-term allowance. But the special diet or laundry costs or any other additions will still be offset. I think your Lordships will appreciate this best if I give as a practical example a case given to me quite recently. If a couple were given 90p for heating, £1.32 for extra diet and 65p for laundry they would receive a total of £2.87. Under the new arrangements nothing would be taken off the 90p for heating, but 50p would be taken off the further allowances, so that they would receive long-term benefit of £12.85 plus £2.37 and not £2.87. It seems quite obvious that the greater the number of claims that are made by anyone in this section the more important it is to have the maximum.

The Help the Aged Group spoke quite recently to a patient in hospital who, when he was at home, was given 83p extra: 50p was taken off the long-term allowance, leaving him with 30p. As he was on a very special and expensive diet this man was literally living at starvation level, and each time he was discharged from hospital his weight fell rapidly. When the Minister was challenged on this point, namely that the heating allowance was treated differently from the diet, he said that the Supplementary Benefits Commission had discretion. This is true. At the moment the Supplementary Benefits Commission use discretionary powers, but it is very significant that this Bill surely removes this discretion. As I read it, from October 1, if the Bill becomes law then, any exceptional circumstances addition given for heating will not be subject to being offset, but exceptional circumstances allowance for any other purpose will automatically have the deduction applied, and because it will be statutory—namely, written into the Bill —and not discretionary, even the Tribunal will not be able to exercise its powers in individual cases as it can do at present. The cases which come under this particular section I suggest would never be large in number, but they will be singularly pathetic in character. Yesterday I was privileged through another splendid group, the Poverty Action Group, to meet four people who I suggest are classic examples of the people we are dealing with under the Bill. The first thing I noticed about them was that they were not complaining; indeed in my experience the people most hardly treated very rarely complain. Perhaps if they complained a little more they would get a little more.

The second point that was very noticeable was that they did not understand how their extra allowances were made up. In each case they told me the total amount they received, but when asked, "Was this for diet or heating?" they could rarely sort it out. One dear old lady rather patiently said, "It seems to me that they give with one hand and take away with the other". I will not go through all the cases, but I think it would be useful to give your Lordships at least one example—and I ask you to remember that these are selected because they are typical examples. Mr. Roche is 78, has bronchitis and a fractured spine. His wife, a little younger, suffers from at least four different diseases, and she has had a coronary thrombosis. Therefore, they each receive a dietary allowance, a laundry allowance and a heating allowance, making their total of extra allowances £2.82. The heating allowance, therefore, is not taken into account, but if the others are taken into account in the long term addition, in fact they would be very little better off—I think it is about 10p.

This Bill is partly to meet the cost which is rising all the time. I would remind your Lordships that if one is on a special diet, which is invariably expensive, one shops in the same market as the millionaire. There is no special price for steak, even if one person buys it as part of a diet and the other because he wants to. If prices rise for the wage-earner, they certainly rise for those people who are at the very end of the scale. In our Amendments we seek to do one of two things. First, we would remove the automatic deduction of the 50p from the exceptional circumstances addition. This would make the thing logical; namely, we should be back to where we are now. It would relieve the officials from what I can only call the cruel mathematical exercise of having to tell someone that they are giving them an extra 30p, an extra 10p, and an extra 10p, and in the next breath telling them they are having to take certain amounts off. This can be absolutely tragic because some people apply only when they are in desperation and few of them understand the system of how they appeal or how they deal with this problem.

The second Amendment seeks to add the heating expenses, the special diet expenses, the laundry or laundrette expenses and so on; in other words that each of these could be offset as is the case with the heating allowance. I know that the heating allowance concession is to be applauded. We know, unfortunately, that last winter there were elderly people who actually died from cold. What a terrible commentary in a so-called civilised society. Nobody would criticise the Government for their splendid attempt to help this group. What I am suggesting is that it would be desperately unfair if those who, through other causes, incontinence or special dietary allowances, were put at a disadvantage. I have a feeling that the Government may well understand this, and perhaps at the end of the Session we are going to receive a lovely surprise when the Minister will rise and say that he will accept either one of our Amendments. But in the event, I beg to move the first Amendment.

6.56 p.m.


If I may add a few words to what the noble Baroness has said, I think the Government have not sufficiently taken into account the factor that she has mentioned. Although she has already mentioned that we should applaud the exemption of the heating allowance from the deduction which is to be made from other supplementary benefits we cannot see the logic in the way that the Government have tackled it. They say that heating allowances are to be placed in a special category, but that people with multiple deprivations, as the noble Baroness so rightly expressed it, people who have heating, dietary and laundry needs so they are by definition much worse off than the person who needs heating alone, will have the equivalent of the long-term addition deducted from their benefit. So in many cases they are no better off. The noble Baroness has also mentioned that we saw four people yesterday all in this situation, two of whom were visited, I believe, by the Secretary of State, in connection with the question of heating allowances. Therefore, the Secretary of State is in full possession of the details of these cases and must be well aware that they are not only dependent on receipt of an allowance for heating, but also for diet and laundry in each case. The noble Baroness has mentioned the circumstances of Mr. Roche and his wife which I think illustrate the purpose of this Amendment very well.

Just to reinforce what the noble Baroness has said, may I refer to another case which was drawn to my attention, that of Mr. Thompson who comes from Birmingham, suffers from a prolapsed disc and arthritis of the spine, whose daughter needs special shoes and who, instead of receiving exceptional needs payments when she needs a new pair, has been awarded a special exceptional circumstances addition of 25p weekly. If we ignore the basic pension changes—and I think we are right to do this—we must dispute the contention of the Minister in another place that these people are benefiting from Government largesse generally. So is everyone else, but these people are in a unique situation, otherwise they would not have been awarded the special needs allowances in the first place.

We must consider the special needs allowances in isolation, apart from any increase in pensions or supplementary benefit awarded to everyone irrespective of need. Mr. Thompson had the following allowances: diet, 60p, heating, 30p, laundry, 35p and special shoes 25p, making a total of £1.60. Then you have to deduct the 50p long-term allowance making £1.10. If the Bill is unamended, the situation will be precisely the same for him. He will get the diet allowance of 60p and the laundry allowance of 45p; from that will be deducted 50p long-term scale rate and after that you have to add on heat and shoes. Having done that, one finds that he finishes with £1.10, the same as he receives at present. He is no better off. I thought that the purpose of this Bill, as the Tory Party has always claimed, was to help those in greatest need, but we find that that is not the case at all. As the noble Baroness says, when the Minister was talking about this in another place he said that the Supplementary Benefits Commission have a discretionary power to pay more when necessary, but we all know that in practice this discretion is not exercised and that even the full amount of dietary allowances are not paid. The Minister referred in particular to people who need an expensive diet because they are suffering from kidney failure. A case has been brought to my attention by the Child Poverty Action Group where it has been medically established that the person needs a special diet costing £4 and is receiving only £3.50. So in any case, quite apart from this Amendment, we are not paying the full amount of these people's needs. In addition, we are going to deduct the long-term allowance from whatever they receive.

When the long-term allowance was first initiated in 1966 it had the purpose in mind that people who had been on supplementary benefit for a considerable period had needs which were greater than those who had only just lost their income, either by reason of unemployment or retirement or whatever; that the longer you exist on the small income that you receive from supplementary benefit the greater your needs become. I think that is obvious to anyone who has had contact with old people or people who are chronically unemployed or sick. Their needs do become greater with time. That is entirely independent of the question of whether their health requires special diet or whether they need expensive laundry facilities for some other reason, and arises entirely from the fact that they have been on benefit for a long time. It follows quite logically from the consideration of the circumstances. The Minister himself said that the Government accept that there are people with multiple needs, and he said they will benefit from the improvement in the rates of benefit. One can see from the figures that have already been quoted that this is not in fact the case.

It is all very well to say that opponents of the Government have distinguished heating as something which should be given high priority. I agree with the noble Baroness that it is a most appalling thing that old people should die from hypothermia because they have not been given proper heating allowances. But would it not be just as bad if old people were to die because they could not afford the proper diet, which is allowed for in the supplementary benefit rates but taken away with the other hand? It is quite true, as the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, said, that the old people who are victimised by this policy simply cannot understand it. They know that a total amount has been given to them which is inadequate for their needs and that they are not going to benefit, in distinction from what the Minister said in another place, from the Bill now going through this House, apart, of course, from the basic increases in pension, which, as I say, are not relevant in this context.

I hope the Minister will think again on this matter, because if he does not enormous suffering will be created for a small number of people, and, as was pointed out in another place, we shall save a mere £6 million. The Government can give away £15 million to help owner-occupiers by subsidising interest rates for three months, and this to a group of people who, by definition, are better off than those on social security, who could not possibly afford to buy their own houses. If they can give away £15 million to people buying their own houses, they can surely afford £6 million to take account of the dietary and laundry needs of this most deprived section of the community, and they must do this if they really believe in the Tory policy of helping those most in need.

7.4 p.m.


I welcome the extra allowance for heating, but, unfortunately, in some cases this is not nearly enough to cover the rise in costs. To-day, concerning this Amendment, we are not speaking of disabled people who want incentives to work and a much needed tax relief to offset the extra expenses which all disabled people incur. Your Lordships are considering a totally different group. They are people without drive and the needed energy to compete in life. They are people with exceptional expenses. They are just trying to survive in an increasingly expensive and complicated society. They are not treated in the civil and courteous way in which the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, deals with us; they are hounded before tribunals and told to go to bed early if they are spending too much money on lighting.

In this Amendment the noble Lords who are supporting it are asking Her Majesty's Government to treat the extra expenses of special diet, and laundry and laundrette expenses, in the same way as heating. I have watched people who are continually returning to hospital for treatment, and it is evident that most of them come from the lower income groups. I am sure that diet has a great deal to do with it, and in some cases a special diet is vital to their lives. The noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, because he has an elegant figure, will not know personally the extra expense of high protein foods. I do. My noble kinsman has a weight problem and must not eat the cheaper foods such as pastas and sausage rolls. My housekeeping bills are therefore very high. Instead of deducting this mere 50p or 75p in cases of the over eighties, it seems to me that even if the amount granted was £5, it would be common sense and economically worth while to grant it, as the most expensive result of all is to have these people in hospital. The same goes in regard to laundry. Most of your Lordships will agree with me that sending clothes to the laundry these days is a sure way of halving the life of the clothes and therefore incurring yet another extra expense. These unfortunate people who are incontinent feel very embarrassed sometimes when they have to plead with their social services for special laundry allowances.

I should like to ask the Minister what the cost of administering this scheme would be. Would it not be nearly as cheap to let them keep the 50p or 75p? This would benefit the people who need it so much and would leave the hard worked Civil Service to get on with more important jobs. I believe that the Government were expecting more people to take up the constant attendance allowance than did so; therefore there must be some spare money around. The Government to-day have shown, by giving young people two duplicated employment services, under the Employment and Training Bill, how flexible they can be. I sincerely hope that Lord Aberdare will show also how flexible his Ministry can be. I do not know how your Lordships can have the heart to vote against this Amendment to-night.


In briefly supporting this Amendment, which has been so ably spoken to, I would begin by taking the opportunity of congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, on his patience, his skill and his humanity in piloting two major Bills through the House during this Session. I speak in this debate as one who is closely associated with the Disabled Drivers' Association, and indeed with the Disabled Income Group, and am conscious of the fact that we are living in a time when we are becoming more and more aware of the special needs of the various kinds of chronically sick and disabled. This Bill, the very Schedule we are talking about, takes care entirely —perhaps not adequately according to Lady Masham—of the heating problems of the old people by isolating that special provision from the cut-back which is made in an earlier part of the Schedule. What this Amendment seeks to do is to realise in the Schedule what is realised at present in administration: the needs of certain kinds of sick people for special expensive diet, the needs of certain kinds of sufferers for extra special laundry expenses. If these are provided, they are to be cut back under the arrangements made in the Schedule. This Amendment, if accepted, would allow these two special kinds of expenditure, which mean so much to so many special people, to be disregarded in the Schedule, as we disregard whatever special extra provision we make for heat. I sincerely hope that the noble Lord will accept this Amendment. It can cost very little, but it can mean a lot to a number of very unfortunate people.


I do not want to take up the time of the Committee unduly, and I will try to confine myself to one or two points which perhaps have not been adequately covered by other speakers in this debate. At the Second Reading I suggested to the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, that we might have to come to this Schedule at the Committee stage and deal with the off-set which is being made against allowances for exceptional circumstances. The noble Lord, with his usual wisdom and logic, said, "Well, of course, the supplementary benefit is given partly to pay for a person's food and, for that matter, his washing"—I will not say "his laundry", because he does not necessarily have to go to the laundry. He then said, "Therefore, is not it reasonable, if you are then to give him the cost of the special diet which he has to live on, that a little should be taken away from the basic supplementary allowance which had been given to him to include the ordinary needs of food?"

This very reasonable argument seems to me to have three rather major flaws to it. The first is the question of how these special allowances are calculated. I know in one case that the cost of a special diet was estimated, not by the pensioner but by the hospital dietitian, as £3.50. The pensioner was given £2.50. Either this was a bit of meanness or it was a perfectly logical exercise, in that he was probably already spending £1 in any case, and if the cost was going up to £3.50 the difference was £2.50. In other words, an off-set was already made when he was given that allowance. The Bill, as it stands, will now say that another off-set has to be made for exactly the same purpose. This seems to me to bring illogic into what at first seemed to me to be a perfectly logical argument.

The second major objection is the very bad effect on morale— and, may I say, to the Party at present in power, and therefore in votes. Because the ordinary person, especially the elderly, just cannot understand these regulations. He says, "You are giving me 90p for this, and then you are taking 50p away. I don't understand it." Even the ordinary "Peer in the street", as I call him, will find it almost impossible to understand this particular piece of legislation. It really has a devastating effect on the morale of the pensioner. The third objection is that it has a very bad effect on the people who have to administer this kind of thing. They may understand it and think that it is all perfectly fair and logical, but to the ordinary recipient you are giving with one hand and taking away with the other. I hope that the noble Lord will be able to assure us that the Government are going to have a new look at this matter and see whether the whole thing cannot be done in a better way.

7.14 p.m.


I want to say just a few words in support of the Amendment that has been moved. I shall be talking mostly to some parts of the second Amendment, but as the Amendments are being taken together I do not think that that matters very much. Everything should be done, particularly in the case of old people, to ensure that those who are incontinent can get their laundry washed by all possible means. To take that service away seems to me very wrong. People will be quite content —their families will, and their friends will —to do the washing if it can be done in some kind of economical way. What really upsets people, lowers their morale and gets them down, is to be confronted by a large amount of filthy or foul laundry and have no means of washing it, because what money there might be to help them in that washing is not now going to be given them. I should very much like to support the Amendment mainly from that point of view, but the same thing applies to special diets. There are people who need a rather more expensive diet than some of their young contemporaries, and I am quite certain that nothing should be done to prevent them from having it. If they do not get their proper diet, if they do not get their laundry done properly, they are going to be moved for a long-stay either in hospital or in a local authority home. Not only is that going to be expensive, but it is against more modern ideas for the care of old people. I strongly support the Amendment before us.


I shall take just about one minute. I had the privilege of serving in the Ministry of Social Security when the Minister was Miss Herbison, and we were the first to introduce a grant for hypothermia. I know the difficulties involved in these cases. Nobody could be a kindlier person than the noble Lord speaking from the opposite Bench about social security. The great problem that a Government must ultimately solve is the battle between the Cabinet and the Treasury over the money side of this question. Here is a relatively paltry sum compared to other sums which are being paid out, such as the subsidy given for houses. During my period in office I saw this battle myself of the Minister against the power of the Treasury. When I use the word "illiterate" I do not mean unwise—people can be illiterate and be very wise—but it is hard for people who are illiterate and not accustomed to these tribunals to make appeals about things like incontinence and other sorts of disabilities, and for surgical belts or boots.

I had 26 or 27 years' experience as a Member of the other place, and everyone, on both sides of the House, had to deal with many constituency problems and knew the problems that had to be met. I appeal to the Minister—I do not want to repeat arguments that have been given —and I appeal to the Government to look at this matter again. Some power must be taken from the Treasury over the relativity of amounts. The small amount that would be given here for the comfort and succour of the disabled is hardly measurable compared with the money given out to big firms and those "lame ducks" who now have golden crutches.


I apologise for being late and not hearing the first part of the discussion on this Amendment. It is an Amendment about which I feel very strongly, so may I be allowed to contribute one or two words to this discussion. The people we are dealing with—and I think that this is the crux of the matter —are people who never have any hope of improving in health. They are people who will never benefit from the age of affluence in which we are living; they are people who will never have a large percentage rise in their wages, and they will depend entirely on the paltry sums that the Government are prepared to give them in order to have minimum comfort.

My right honourable friend in the other place and my noble friend in this House are well-known for their compassion and understanding of these problems, and it is in no way a criticism of them that I wish to make this plea. I realise that it will cost the Government a little money, but what is £9 million a year if it will make over 300,000 people live in a greater degree of comfort than they otherwise would? It is absolutely incomprehensible that we can allow extra money for hypothermia cases so that they will be warm, when they will be warm sitting between wet sheets. This seems to me quite illogical, and I would therefore plead with the Government, although I realise that it is difficult, to look at this point again to see whether 50p a week can be given—it is not even 50p a day that we are asking for—to enable people to have the minimum comforts which nobody would allow a dog to be without. Even if someone is over 80, it will come to only 75p. So it would be a gesture on the part of the Government to recognise that we should show compassion to those most in need, and we should support this Amendment.


I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Maybray-King, for saying some nice things about me at the beginning of his speech. One of the nice things that I have had the privilege of doing over the last few years is to introduce this annual uprating Bill, and I think we can be proud of the fact that we are the first Government to introduce an annual review of pensions and other social security benefits. It has always been a pleasant Bill to introduce because, being an uprating Bill, never before have there been any dissentient voices; and it is a little astonishing that, in a Bill which is designed to give everybody more, we should now be criticised for not having gone quite far enough. As noble Lords everywhere have acknowledged, we have —and I hope I shall make this clear in my remarks—made great improvements in the payment of the so-called heating allowance, which is a definite improvement and a move forward. But one learns by experience from speaking on social security matters in this House that if one gives a penny one is asked for a pound.

In this Bill the long-term scale rates contain amounts of 50p, or 75p for the over eighties, which correspond to the former long-term addition, which are specifically intended, like the long-term addition always was and is, to take the first strain of special expenses in long-term cases. In other words, special expenses up to 50p or 75p a week in longterm cases are already provided for in the scale rates, and an exceptional circumstances addition is appropriate only to the extent that such expenses exceed 50p or 75p. The justification for this is the same as it was in relation to the long-term addition: the fact that many long-term beneficiaries will have special expenses which should, up to a point, be provided for automatically without the need for detailed inquiries. This was the original reason for the longterm addition which was introduced in 1966 by the Government of noble Lords opposite. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, who, having spoken so violently, has now left us—


He is coming back.


—was quite wrong about the origins of the purpose of the long-term addition. It was not just to meet small expenses. If I may quote what the Minister said in the Second Reading debate on that occasion: The purpose of this long-term addition is a simple one. It is to remove in these cases the need to inquire into the small day-to-day expenses for which the bulk of the discretionary allowances are now made. In those days, every extra allowance had to be gone into in every individual case. Instead of that, the long-term addition was made available—and all credit to the Government for doing so—in order to avoid the need for going into all these details.

In strict principle, this should apply to all special expenses irrespective of their nature, but in practice the Bill provides three exceptions. Two of these, relating to rent additions for non-householders and children's special expenses, merely put into statutory form what the Supplementary Benefits Commission have always for good reason done on a discretionary basis. The third exception relates to additions for special heating expenses. This is a new provision and it is being introduced because we attach priority to the heating needs of the old and the longterm sick who are on supplementary benefit. We have frequently made clear our concern about this problem, and we have now taken positive action by improving the supplementary benefit provision for heating before next winter begins.

We have therefore decided to provide for heating additions to be paid in full on top of the long-term scale rate, instead of being offset against the long-term addition. This is a change which has been advocated by many people, including the Child Poverty Action Group and Age Concern. We cannot make any firm estimates on the matter, but we think that over 400,000 supplementary beneficiaries will receive more for heating as a result. There will be those with extra heating needs who now get no addition because their extra expenses are being covered by the long-term addition, and those who now receive a reduced heating addition because their extra expenses are partially covered. All will get heating additions in full and the estimated cost is something like £6 million a year, though in practice it will cost whatever is needed to implement this proposal. So heating expenses are being treated differently in relation to offsetting against the long-term scale rate, simply and solely as a matter of priorities.

We consider that the change made by the Bill is a simple and understandable way of giving extra help to people with heating needs. We do not accept that the change invalidates the general principle of a long-term addition intended to meet automatically special expenses up to 50p of 75p. -Consequently, it does not follow that, because heating expenses are now exempted from offsetting, all special expenses should be so exempted. Diet and laundry expenses up to 50p or 75p, along with other special expenses on such things as home helps and abnormal wear and tear of clothing, are provided for by the special expenses element in the longterm scale rates and, where necessary, by an exceptional circumstances addition where the expense exceeds that amount.

It is true that a proper diet can sometimes be as vitally important to a person's health and welfare as adequate warmth, or, to put it another way, that a given state of ill-health can produce both heating and dietary needs. On the basis of medical advice, the Supplementary Benefits Commission currently allow, subject to offsetting against the long-term addition, 92p where a person is suffering from a number of specified conditions such as diebetes and peptic ulcer, and 40p where a special diet is needed in other cases; for example, during convalescence following a major illness or operation. By no means all the circumstances in which diet additions are given are really "life or death" situations, and certainly this is not at all true of laundry additions. Most frequently it is a question of a chronic but not necessarily serious condition requiring extra nourishment. Where it is claimed that hardship exists, the Supplementary Benefits Commission are prepared to look into any case to see whether more help can be given under their discretionary powers: for example, by increasing the amount of the exceptional circumstances addition. For example, where it appears that a particularly expensive diet must be followed—for instance, in a case of kidney failure—the Supplementary Benefits Commission are prepared, on medical advice, to pay the actual cost, however high this may be. It is certainly not true, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Platt, suggested, that additions for special diets already made would be reduced by the Bill. The Bill will make no change in those allowances.

Given that the long-term scale rate will provide for special expenses up to 50p or 75p and that the Supplementary Benefits Commission's flexible discretionary powers are available to give help above this level, we consider that the present provision for special needs other than heating is adequate. We do not think it right to accord all special expenses the same priority as heating by providing for such additions also to be paid in full on top of the long-term scale rate. But the Supplementary Benefits Commission will always consider increasing benefit in individual cases, and the Commission will also keep under review the general levels of special additions for diet and the criteria on which they are given. We do know the number of people who at present have some special needs but whose needs are covered by the longterm addition, and who therefore have no exceptional circumstances addition to their benefit. It is consequently not possible to say accurately what the cost of the Amendment would be, but our estimate is that it would be not less than £15 million a year. Now the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, I think considers this to be a paltry sum.


if the noble Lord will forgive my interrupting, I am looking at the OFFICIAL REPORT of the Committee stage in the Commons, and the Minister there, Mr. Dean, said that if we were to go beyond the £6 million or so that the improved heating arrangements involved and on to what was proposed by the Opposition, which is substantially the same as what we are proposing here, we would need about £12 million. I do not know whether my arithmetic is correct, but if you take £6 million from £12 million you get £6 million, and not £15 million.


The £6 million is the cost of the heating allowances which we are already giving, but if, in addition, we did away with any offsetting against the long-term addition of any other need, it would then cost an additional £15 million as far as we can estimate it. This is not a figure that it is easy to set definitely, but it certainly could well be in the region of £15 million. If the second Amendment, which covers only laundry and diet, were to be put into effect, then the figure would probably be nearer £10 million. But at a time when there are so many demands on resources, and having made an important concession in the sensitive area of heating, we do not feel justified in going further and treating all special expenses in the same way, when these can already be met from the long-term scale rate plus an exceptional circumstances addition where that is appropriate. I hope that your Lordships will not agree to either of these two Amendments.

7.35 p.m.


I should like to thank the Minister for his reply. Of course, throughout the whole of this Bill he has on each Amendment told us that he sympathises. I was brought up on the old-fashioned idea that "fine words butter no parsnips". We appreciate the point that the long-term allowance is intended to cover these particular problems of diet and laundry. There seems to be no reason why a long-term allowance would not equally include heating; but even if we take into account all the arguments advanced—and, in the end, they are mainly monetary—we still come back to the fact that I can produce three sums here to show that in one case those concerned are getting only about 5p more and in another case they are not getting any more. If this Bill is to give everyone who is concerned with it a little uprating then it must apply equally to the people who are on supplementary benefit. This is my plea. If the pensioner is to get an extra £1, then it is equally true that these people must be uprated as well. But under this system, by the calculations we have made—there are only five or six cases, and they are not selected—in some cases these people will get only lop more and in others they will not get anything.

I feel that the Minister has not made out a case. He may say that every time he gives us one thing we ask for a little more. This is true, but this is an exceptional group. I pleaded, heaven knows!, for the pensioners, and I pleaded for the widows. But this is a group which is far worse off than any other group that we have pleaded for in your Lordships' House. I am fascinated by the figures which the noble Lord produced. I am always fascinated by the way Departments produce figures. We had quoted to us the figure for illegal immigrants. We did not know where they were, even; but they could tell us that they numbered something like 19,000. We were told how many widows could be affected by the abolition of the cohabitation rule, which conjures up wonderful ideas of how they are assessed. We are now told of this figure; but we do not know that every one of these people will take this amount up in total. This figure must be based on the assumption that everyone will take it up; and even if they did—and I have talked to a lot of people about this—this is the one group in the community for which most people would be happy to pay a higher contribution. In the end, as I said the other day, where does the money come from? It does not come from the Government; it comes from the people —and I believe that this is one group that the people would be happy to see assisted. I know that the battalions are gathering outside. I am not going to be put in the same category as my noble friend Lord Shepherd, and be accused of moaning and groaning. Those outside have not heard the force of these arguments, and I feel it would be to some measure against their conscience if they were to oppose these Amendments.


I had no intention to speak to this particular point, and I apologise for the fact that I have not heard all the argument, but the argument I have heard from both sides of the Committee has made me rise to my feet.

7.47 p.m.


I beg to move Amendment No. 2.

Amendment moved— Page 16, line 42, at end insert— For over 35 years I have worked very closely with the domiciliary service of the Queen's Institute of District Nursing, and I know exactly how much is known of the individual cases that need specific and special help. In spite of that, I like to think that perhaps in your Lordships' House I have not got a reputation for being a hard-faced, inhuman individual. I have great sympathy with the point of view that has been put forward by my noble friend to-night. I think that those people who are going to need the most help are going to get it. I think that it is not going to be available to everyone, and I think that is right; but if the domiciliary services, of which I happen to have very special knowledge, are going to report those cases that need help, I am perfectly happy to support my noble friend by not going into the Lobby on behalf of this Amendment.

7.38 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 1) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 29; Not-Contents, 34. ("(d) special diet expenses incurred through illness, (e) laundry and laudrette expenses incurred through illness, or incontinence, disability or infirmity or lack of facilities.")—(Baroness Phillips.)

Amulree, L. Hanworth, V. Platt, L.
Archibald, L. Henderson, L. St. Davids, V.
Avebury, L. [Teller.] Jacques, L. Seear, B.
Beswick, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. Serota, B.
Davies of Leek, L. Lloyd of Kilgerran, L. Shackleton, L.
Elles, B. Loudoun, C. Somers, L.
Gaitskell, B. Masham of Ilton, B. Swinton, E.
Garnsworthy, L. Maybray-King, L. Wise, L.
George-Brown, L. Monson, L. Wynne-Jones, L.
Greenwood of Rossendale, L. Phillips, B. [Teller.]
Aberdare, L. Davidson, V. Saint Oswald, L.
Auckland, L. Denham, L. [Teller.] Sandford, L.
Balfour, E. Drumalbyn, L. Selkirk, E.
Berkeley, B. Elliot of Harwood, B. Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Emmet of Amberley, B.
Brooke of Cumnor, L. Ferrers, E. Sudeley, L.
Brooke of Ystradfellte, B. Fraser of Lonsdale, L. Terrington L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Gowrie, E. Teviot, L.
Carrington, L. Monck, V. Wakefield of Kendal, L.
Coville of Culross, V. Monckton of Brenchley, V. Windlesham, L. [L. Privy Seal.]
Conesford, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L. Young, B.
Craigavon, V. St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]

Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.

On Question whether the said Amendment (No. 2) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 32; Not-Contents, 31.

Amulree, L. Hanworth, V. Rankeillour, L.
Archibald, L. Henderson, L. St. Davids, V.
Auckland, L. Jacques, L. St. Just, L.
Avebury, L. [Teller.] Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. Seear, B.
Beswick, L. Lloyd of Kilgerran, L. Serota, B.
Davies of Leek, L. Loudoun, C. Shackleton, L.
Elles, B. Masham of Ilton, B. Somers, L.
Gaitskell, B. Maybray-King, L. Swinton, E.
Garnsworthy, L. Monson, L. Wise, L.
George-Brown, L. Phillips, B. [Teller.] Wynne-Jones, L.
Greenwood of Rossendale, L. Platt, L.
Aberdare, L. Denham, L. [Teller.] Saint Oswald, L.
Balfour, E. Drumalbyn, L. Sandford, L.
Berkeley, B. Elliot of Harwood, B. Selkirk, E.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Emmet of Amberley, B. Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.
Brooke of Cumnor, L. Ferrers, E.
Brooke of Ystradfellte, B. Fraser of Lonsdale, L. Sudeley, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Gowrie, E. Terrington, L.
Colville of Culross, V. Monck, V. Wakefield of Kendal, L.
Conesford, L. Monckton of Brenchley, V. Windlesham, L. (L. Privy Seal.)
Craigavon, V. Mowbray of Stourton, L. Young, B.
Davidson, V. St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]

Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.

House resumed: Bill reported, with the Amendment.