§ 6.55 p.m.
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE, DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND SOCIAL SECURITY (LORD ABERDARE)
My Lords, I beg to move that this Report be now received.
§ Moved, That the Report be now received.—(Lord Aberdare.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ Schedule 4 [Amendment of Schedule 2 to Ministry of Social Security Act 1966]:
LORD ABERDARE moved as an Amendment:
Page 16, line 42, leave out paragraphs (d) and (e).
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this Amendment seeks to reverse the decision which was taken by this House at the Committee stage last Thursday. On that occasion an Amendment in the names of the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, and the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, was carried against the Government by one vote in a small House. This Amendment seeks to restore the provisions of the Bill as they were originally introduced into this House. I should like to try to explain as clearly as I can why we wish to stick to our original proposals. We are not being in the last bit mean or grudging; very much the reverse. We are in fact 1231 giving additional help to a particular class of people who need it most, and we are not reducing the present scale of assistance to anybody else. To try to make this clear may I begin by briefly sketching the historical background.
§ Before 1966, the National Assistance Board had power to consider on their merits individual claims for extra help in exceptional circumstances. This meant that inquiries about special needs had to be made in every case which often caused embarrassment to the applicant. Moreover, the fact that special additions were given at the discretion of the officer dealing with the case resulted in a considerable lack of uniformity, and entailed some instances of unfairness for the applicant. It was therefore entirely to the credit of the then Labour Government that in 1966 they introduced the long-term addition. This was designed to avoid these individual investigations, except in very particular circumstances, by paying a flat-rate addition to all those, apart from the unemployed, who were in receipt of long-term supplementary benefit. So that the majority of claimants under the new scheme had an entitlement to an allowance covering their special needs instead of having to depend on the discretion of the officer concerned to get what they needed.
§ When it was first introduced in 1966 the rate was 9s. This figure was chosen because it was roughly the equivalent of the average amount awarded for special addition before 1966. This 9s. was to cover, so far as possible, the extra requirements of long-term recipients of supplementary benefit, including extra heating needs, extra diet, extra laundry and other exceptional needs. Only when a person's exceptional circumstances required more than 9s. was it necessary to make a special investigation, and possibly an extra payment. But in any such case, of course, it followed logically that the 9s. already allowed for extra needs had to be taken into account, and any extra requirement was paid over and above the 9s. This has been the system which has operated ever since. It was operated by the Labour Government and is operated now by the present Government; although the portion of the long-term addition available to meet special expenses has now been increased 1232 to 50p, and for those over 80 years to 75p. But there has been no change in the administration of these exceptional circumstances additions. They have been calculated in full, and the long-term addition already paid to meet exceptional circumstances has been offset against the total.
§ Now if we come to this Bill, we are making one small but very significant change in order to help a particular priority case; namely, those who require extra heating. Your Lordships will know well that we have been under considerable pressure to help those in need of extra heating for a long time, both in the two Houses of Parliament and by such organisations as the Child Poverty Action Group and Age Concern. Now that is just what we are doing. We are allowing those with heating needs to receive their extra addition without offsetting it against the long-term addition.
§ I acknowledge that this is of course illogical, but it is a very special effort to help with the cost of heating, and it certainly should be welcome to all your Lordships. In fact, no one has criticised us for making that concession, but it has stirred your Lordships to demand that we make even more concessions. The Amendment which was carried last Thursday by one vote would compel the Supplementary Benefits Commission to make this same concession in respect of those who receive exceptional circumstances additions for special diets or for laundry. Since these, together with heating, form the bulk of the special needs for which provision is made, the Commission would in effect be providing twice over for most special needs—once in the long-term addition, and again by means of special additions made on top of it. Moreover, in a sense the Amendment would put the clock back, since, just as in the days before 1966, all claimants would once again be dependent on the discretion of the local officer to ensure that they got their full entitlement. This we cannot accept.
§ We believe that heating has a priority of its own and that we are justified in making an exception in that case. In cases where a very special diet is required the Supplementary Benefits Commission always make proper provision on medical advise. They also have full flexibility to make such additions as they 1233 consider appropriate in other cases; for example, in the case of laundry. The concession that we are making in favour of those with heating needs we estimate will help about 400,000 people at a cost of approximately £6 million; but of course this is a figure which it is difficult to estimate, and it may be considerably more.
§ LORD PLATT
My Lords, would the noble Lord forgive me for interrupting, because I am not quite sure of one thing he said a few seconds ago. Did he say that full provision was made for the diet on medical advice?
§ LORD ABERDARE
Yes; that is precisely what I said. I said that where a doctor recommended a very special diet —and there are cases, such as those with kidney failure—then the full amount of what the doctor says is required for the special diet is allowed by the Supplementary Benefits Commission. But of course there is set against it the extra amount the person is already getting from the long-term addition.
My Lords, I was saying that the concession we are making in favour of those with heating needs will help some 400,000 people and will cost about £6 million; but it will depend what the needs are shown to be, and the costs will vary according to the needs. But to add on, as some of your Lordships wish, those who need extra diets or extra laundry additions would cost something in the region of another £10 million. We do not think it right to incur this extra expenditure, given the fact that the Supplementary Benefits Commission already have discretion to consider exceptional individual cases. When the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, spoke last week she implied—I am sure it was done inadvertently—that while retirement pensioners were to get an extra £1, longterm recipients of supplementary benefit might get 10p more, or perhaps nothing at all. This of course is not right. Longterm recipients of supplementary benefit will receive the same increases as retirement pensioners, and it is only amounts additional to that for exceptional needs with which we are concerned in this Amendment.
§ BARONESS PHILLIPS
My Lords, may I interrupt? That is, I am sure inadvertently, linking two unlike things. I 1234 did not refer to the flat rate increase; I was referring to the long-term allowance and to the exception.
§ LORD ABERDARE
My Lords, I am glad it was inadvertent, because if the noble Baroness reads her speech, at column 920, she will see that perhaps she gave another impression. I just want to make it clear that the supplementary benefit people will be getting their £1 just as the ordinary retirement pensioner does.
My Lords, in total, this Bill brings large extra benefits to those who are most in need, including, at a cost of £6 million, additional help to those who need extra heating. We are going far further than any previous Government have gone in this respect, and I do not think it reasonable that your Lordships should force us to go any further at the present moment. I confidently recommend this Amendment to the House, and I hope that my noble friends on this side will support the Government in making this one very significant concession to those who need extra heating next winter. I beg to move.
§ 7.6 p.m.
§ BARONESS PHILLIPS
My Lords, I should like to thank the Minister for his careful explanation of what is, as we all appreciate, a rather complicated matter. I will not detain your Lordships for long; I never believe in repeating arguments. Though the Minister said it was a thin House last week—and that is quite true—I think it had one particular quality; namely, that everybody present on that occasion was genuinely interested, asked questions and really seemed to follow the whole of the debate. So while it might have been less in quantity, it was very high in quality—and by that I do not imply in any way that that is untrue this evening, as no doubt we shall see later. I rest my case purely on this point. The Minister said last week, rather sadly, that when he came to bring more we then asked for still more. I do not in any way decry the additional help which this Bill will give. I have only four sums here with which I will not weary your Lordships, but when they are added up, if there is only the one allowance offset, these people will not receive any more on their extra benefit. They will receive the £1, but so will everybody else. It 1235 seems to me that we are slightly confusing the long-term allowance, which, as I understand it, was never intended to cover diet or heat. The Minister shakes his head. Perhaps it is laid down.
§ BARONESS PHILLIPS
As I understood it, when I carefully read the regulations, it was intended to cover replacements, shoe repairs and things of that kind. The heating allowance came under the exceptional circumstances. But be that as it may, it seems to me that, whatever explanation we give and however kind and sympathetic we are, if at the end of the day somebody who has hitherto received £1.10 still only receives £1.10, then he or she is not going to get any more on his extra benefits. I think we can see this very clearly in the examples of two elderly couples, living side by side. One couple, in relatively good health, will be receiving their extra long-term allowance, but because they are both fit and not in need of the exceptional circumstances allowance, as the other couple are (where the husband has had a stroke and is totally incontinent) the first couple will get the heating allowance offset and the second couple will not. Therefore, even though the first couple receive the pound and the second couple also receive it, the second couple will still get less—and they are the people who, being sick, will need it more.
On this side of the House, my Lords, we are not suggesting that this Bill does not bring help. It does bring help to all pensioners and it brings extra benefit to those who are already in receipt of benefit; but it still leaves out many people—people, as I said to your Lordships last week, who are very sad people, those right at the end of the scale. If somebody is over 80, is ill and has very little money, he needs the maximum to stay in one place. I should like to say once again that if they need a high-protein diet, a steak costs the same for them as for any of your Lordships. However we work out the sums in the Bill, when we get down to actual figures there will be some people who will not receive any more. Therefore I am sorry, but I cannot support the Amendment which is before us this evening.
§ 7.12 p.m.
§ BARONESS MASHAM OF ILTON
My Lords, it seems extraordinary to have supported an Amendment which is now part of the National Insurance and Supplementary Benefit Bill and now to be speaking against another Amendment which is meant to undo the good work which your Lordships did last Thursday evening. What is the point of a Bill coming to your Lordships' House and going through the different stages if your Lordships, many of whom have great experience in these matters, cannot make suggestions on how to improve the Bill? With the multitude of legislation which has recently passed through both Houses, is it not possible that Members of another place may not have had time to consider fully the importance of giving this very small extra help to people who, after all, are already on supplementary benefit?
To take the least important item first, I should like to stress, as I did on Committee stage, that good food helps to keep people out of hospital and thus saves the country money in the long run. If a person's haemoglobin drops too low, they are likely to develop pressure sores which will cause a considerable extra cost to an already overworked nursing service. People on extra diets, as the noble Lord has already said, are catered for. In this case, why worry about taking them out of the Bill? They are ill people.
At the Committee stage, I thought the heating and laundry allowances should have equal priority, but now, because of the Amendment which we are considering, I have had to give it more thought. I hate to be cold, but I hate even more to have to sit in wet clothes or sleep in a damp, clammy bed. At least if one has a dry bed and is cold it is possible to go to bed with a hot water bottle and keep warm. I therefore feel that the extra laundry allowance heads my list of priorities. There is nothing more depressing than a pile of soggy laundry. If there is 50p available, it is possible that someone (even if there is no home help available) might take the laundry down the road to the launderette. If there is no 50p, after weeks of good will, the situation may end with the incontinent person giving up his or her struggle for freedom and going into an institution. 1237 The noble Baroness, Lady Elles, feels so strongly about this that she has written to the Prime Minister.
I had to go home to Yorkshire last night. I drove 240 miles here this afternoon and shall drive another 240 miles back to-night; but at least I shall have had the satisfaction of having voted against this Amendment. This Government have done a great deal to help people who will be affected by this Bill, and they can take great credit for it. But there was a Government survey, compiled by Amelia Harris, which came out two years ago. It gave a great deal of information about the appalling conditions many elderly and disabled people throughout the country were living under. With this information, any Government have a duty to continue to do something about it. I have often opened a newspaper and read about the right honourable Sir Keith Joseph having said that he recommends people to stay living in the community as long as possible. Today, we are talking about a group of people who cannot live in the community with the rising costs, unless they have increased financial help for these vital services.
§ LORD AIREDALE
My Lords, I should like to echo the opening words of the noble Baroness, Lady Masham. I hope that the Minister, when he comes to reply, will explain to us why the normal and dignified procedure is not being followed in this matter. Surely the normal, dignified procedure is that this Bill, having been amended in this House, should be sent to the other place as amended and that the Amendment should be considered in the other place. No doubt the careful argument which the Minister addressed to us just now would be addressed to Members of another place, and it may be that they would decide to disagree with your Lordships' Amendment. Then the Bill would come back to your Lordships and, on all known form, your Lordships would not insist upon their Amendment.
Instead of that, what is the situation that is presented to us now? The Government are taking a course which, if they are successful, will achieve the position that the House of Lords came to a decision last week and are going to come to an opposite decision this week. Is 1238 that not a situation after the Devil's own heart?—if the Devil is one who would not be sorry to see the demise of the House of Lords. Would this not then enable people to say: "What does the House of Lords really think? Is it what they said last week or is it what they have said this week? Or is it that the House of Lords does not really know what it thinks and has really nothing to offer?" I am fond of your Lordships' House. I come here on most days, and I am jealous of the reputation of your Lordships' House. I think it is a sorry day when a Conservative Government sets out on a course which, if successful, will tend to bring the House of Lords into disrepute.
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ LORD PLATT
My Lords, I tend to be one of those who is a little influenced by a logical argument, though I do not think logical arguments should govern us in every possible case. I can of course see the arguments of the Government in this case, as they were very ably put over by the noble Lord in his introduction. His point, or the Government's point, is that the supplementary allowance has been given and people spend some of that on food, heat and laundry; therefore, if you are going to give extra, some of that extra should be deducted because you have already given them a supplementary allowance. The noble Lord went on to say—and I questioned it just to make quite sure that he really did say it—that if, on medical advice, a diet were to cost a patient something extra, and presumably it was assessed by an hospital dietician, full provision was always made. I have actual evidence—and I think the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, had evidence—that in many cases this is not true. I do not know of any case in which it is true, but I have not been into a large number of cases and I may he wrong over this. What happens as a rule is that the diet is assessed as costing £3, £4 or £5 a week, or whatever the sum is. Then the authorities say, "We will give you £3 towards the diet". It will probably cost £4. Already a deduction has been made; but on top of that another deduction is being made. I do not believe the argument holds water. I said so when we discussed this matter only a few days ago. I cannot accept the argument that this 1239 would be providing twice over for the same need. If that argument is defeated, I do not think the Government have any arguments left on which to stand.
I agree, after giving careful thought to what the noble Baroness, Lady Masham of Ilton, has said—and she told me about it beforehand, so I have had more than just two or three minutes to think about it—that the laundry need is most important. For most people, fortunately, it is not one of the essentials of life. Most of us manage one way or another to get some washing done. But for the people who really need it, the people who are incontinent and so on, who are old, who cannot do their own laundry, this is one of the greatest needs. I come back to another point which I made. Is this not a foolish situation? How will the people look at it? Whatever the logical arguments may be, they will say, "You give us a benefit and immediately you take something away from us. If we are over 80, you take 50 per cent. more away from us than if we are under 80." Can you really imagine a Government putting that forward and expecting to get votes on it? I cannot, though that is the least of my arguments. In view especially of what the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, has said, I hope that this Amendment will be withdrawn.
§ 7.23 p.m.
§ LORD ABERDARE
My Lords, I have listened to what has been said in the debate, and I should like to answer one or two points. I should like to make it clear to the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, that no-one is any worse off. This Bill does not take anything from anybody. There may be, as there always is with any provision, some who stand to benefit more than others; but there is nobody who is worse off, and probably 400,000 people are better off at a cost of £6 million. There may be cases—
§ LORD ABERDARE
I am sorry, I want to finish my sentence—where a person is getting more than one extra exceptional circumstance addition, where the set-off arrangements mean they will not be getting any more. These are special cases. If there are cases of hardship the Supplementary Benefits Commission can always review them. The flexibility is 1240 there; but the general provisions of the Bill are more for those who need heating allowances.
The noble Baroness, Lady Masham of Ilton, made an eloquent plea, but her picture of people sitting in damp, clammy beds is not realistic because they can get all that they need from the Supplementary Benefits Commission. If they have exceptional laundry needs these are met. The only point I am arguing on is, as has been the case since 1966, in order not to have a mass of small claims, everybody has their long-term addition of 50p which is to meet these needs. If the needs are greater than that, they can get extra. This seems perfectly fair to me; it has been the system which has been working since 1966.
§ LORD ABERDARE
Because they would be getting it twice: the long-term addition to meet the needs, and getting it on ton of that. That is the point. My Lords, I do not agree with the noble Lord. Lord Airedale; I thought his was a very unrealistic approach considering that all through the past three years that I have been on this Front Bench we have done nothing but repeat at Report stage Amendments that have been moved and carried one way or the other at Committee stage. When there is an Amendment like the particular Amendment we had at this Committee stage, which was only carried by one vote in a small Committee, I see nothing wrong with asking your Lordships to reconsider the matter. This happens the whole time in another place.
§ LORD SLATER
The noble Lord emphasised the point that this Amendment had been carried by one vote. Is he aware of the statement made in another place by an ex-Member of the Cabinet of the Tory Government, to the effect that if they were returned to power and they had a majority of only one in regard to denationalising the steel industry, they would denationalise the steel industry?
§ LORD ABERDARE
My Lords, that is another matter. If the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, thinks back even so far as a Bill not dissimilar to this one—the Social Security Bill—the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, moved an Amendment at Committee stage, and he lost it by one vote. It came back again at Report stage when it was considered again, and he lost again. The fact that he lost again does not alter the fact that one can always reconsider at Report stage a decision that has been made at Committee stage.
§ LORD AIREDALE
My Lords, what I asked the Minister to answer was why the Bill had not been sent to the other place for them to consider the Lords' Amendment. I hope that we shall not be told that it is because of lack of Parliamentary time, because I hope always each House of Parliament would do the courtesy to the other of giving time to consider any Amendment to any Bill introduced in the other House.
§ The point is that this House should send its balanced decision back, not a decision made by one vote in a small Committee.
§ LORD ABERDARE
I will not give way any longer. We must get on, my Lords. This is a Report stage of a Bill and I am speaking to this Amendment.
I would only say, finally, that this Bill brings massive benefits to many people. It makes one particular concession to 400,000 people who need extra heating, at a cost of £6 million. It takes nothing away from anyone; it continues the sensible practice of a long-term addition to cover the normal extra needs of long term beneficiaries, but leaves the Supplementary Benefits Commission flexibility to meet extra needs in excess of that long-term addition.
§ 7.29 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 93; Not-Contents, 44.1243
|Aberdare, L.||Eccles, V.||Monck, V.|
|Ailwyn, L.||Elliot of Harwood, B.||Mountevans, L.|
|Albemarle, E.||Elton, L.||Mowbray and Stourton, L.|
|Aldenham, L.||Essex, E.||Napier and Ettrick, L.|
|Aldington, L.||Ferrers, E.||Nelson of Stafford, L.|
|Alport, L.||Fortescue, E.||Nugent of Guildford, L.|
|Amherst of Hackney, L.||Fraser of Lonsdale, L.||Pender, L.|
|Atholl, D.||Gainford, L.||Penrhyn, L.|
|Balerno, L.||Goschen, V.||Polwarth, L.|
|Balfour, E.||Gowrie, E.||Reay, L.|
|Barnby, L.||Grenfell, L.||Reigate, L.|
|Berkeley, B.||Gridley, L.||Rockley, L.|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||Grimston of Westbury, L.||St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]|
|Brecon, L.||Harris, L.||St. Helens, L.|
|Brooke of Cumnor, L.||Hylton-Foster, B.||Sandford, L.|
|Brooke of Ystradfellte, B.||Inchyra, L.||Selborne, E.|
|Cawley, L.||Kemsley, V.||Selkirk, E.|
|Coleraine, L.||Kilmarnock, L.||Sempill, Ly.|
|Colville of Culross, V.||Lauderdale, E.||Sharples, B.|
|Conesford, L.||Limerick, E.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Lonsdale, E.||Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.|
|Craigavon, V.||Lothian, M.|
|Croft, L.||Loudoun, C.||Stratheden and Campbell, L.|
|Cromartie, E.||Lucas of Chilworth, L.||Sudeley, L.|
|Cullen of Ashbourne, L.||Lyell, L.||Tenby, V.|
|Daventry, V.||McFadzean, L.||Tweedsmuir, L.|
|Denham, L. [Teller.]||Macleod of Borve, B.||Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, B.|
|Derwent, L.||Mancroft, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Digby, L.||Mansfield, E.||Ward of Witley, V.|
|Drumalbyn, L.||Merrivale, L.||Windlesham, L. (L. Privy Seal.)|
|Dulverton, L.||Milverton, L.||Young, B.|
|Airedale, L.||Balogh, L.||Blyton, L.|
|Auckland, L.||Beswick, L.||Boothby, L.|
|Bacon, B.||Birk, B.||Burton, L.|
|Champion, L.||Hoy, L.||Segal, L.|
|Chichester, L. Bp.||Hughes, L.||Serota, B.|
|Davies of Leek, L.||Jacques, L.||Shackleton, L.|
|Foot, L.||Janner, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Gaitskell, B.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.||Slater, L.|
|Garnsworthy, L.||Longford, E,||Strabolgi, L. [Teller.]|
|George-Brown, L.||Maelor, L.||Taylor of Gryfe, L.|
|Gladwyn, L.||Masham of Ilton, B.||Taylor of Mansfield, L|
|Granville of Eye, L.||Phillips, B. [Teller.]||Wade, L.|
|Greenway, L.||Platt, L.||Wise, L.|
|Henderson, L.||Raglan, L.||Wynne-Jones, L.|
|Henley, L.||St. Davids, V.|
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.
§ Then, Standing Order No. 44 having been suspended (pursuant to the Resolution of July 12):
§ 7.36 p.m.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(Lord Aberdare.)
§ LORD AIREDALE
My Lords, we now have a situation in which on a particular matter, on a particular Amendment, your Lordships decided last week in one direction, and at Report just now in the opposite direction. I do not know whether it is usual for a Bill to be read a third time immediately after a Report stage in which an Amendment has been made. In any event, I should have thought it was only a courtesy to those noble Lords who are not able to be present this evening to have time in which to consider the two conflicting decisions that your Lordships have come to within a week upon this matter. I would therefore suggest that your Lordships do not support a Motion for the Third Reading of this Bill this evening.
§ LORD ABERDARE
My Lords, it is on the Order Paper and was agreed through the usual channels that we should take the Report and remaining stages this evening, and that seems to me to be perfectly fair and logical. On the other point which the noble Lord makes, I am not sure whether it is out of order or highly irregular to move again on Third Reading an Amendment which has been voted upon at Report stage. I remember this question in the case of debates we had on the boundary between Somerset and Avon. But I would suggest to the House that as we have agreed to this matter and this Bill is a very urgent 1244 one and brings massive help to a great number of pensioners and other people, really we are behaving in a perfectly normal manner.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, could the noble Lord give an indication of when the Government expect to receive the Royal Assent to this Bill, because this of course is material in the light of what the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, has said in regard to the importance and the urgency of this Bill. I think—and no doubt the noble Earl the Chief Whip would agree with me—that there have been occasions on Third Reading when Amendments have been moved and voted upon despite the fact that they have been moved and voted upon in Report. Some noble Lords who take a fairly strong view upon this matter might not wish to move an identical Amendment but might wish to consider the consequences of this evening's vote on Report, to see whether there was a possibility of bridging a gap—I do not know.
On the question of the "usual channels", I suppose that as Deputy Leader of the Opposition I am part of them, although I was not involved in the actual discussion. I think the position is that where there is agreement by the usual channels it must always be with the consent of the House at the end. The usual channels can only decide what is suitable as they see it in the interests of the House. It is for the House itself to decide whether the proposals that the usual channels have put forward are in accordance with their wishes.
I have not participated in this debate, but I think in some respects there is a case made by the noble Lord, Lord Airedale. We have changed the Bill at the Report stage and it may be that some noble Lords may wish to have an opportunity during the Third Reading debate to explore the possibility of some bridging 1245 position. I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, would accept a Motion moved by the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, so that we could delay the Third Reading until Monday of next week. If the Royal Assent is not being taken to-morrow I should not think the Government would lose any particular time in relation to this Bill.
§ LORD ABERDARE
My Lords, I really do not think we ought to postpone it in that way. It is very unusual. I have before me the paragraph in the Companion to the Standing Orders, which saysIt is considered undesirable that an amendment which has been fully debated and decided upon on the previous stages of a Bill should be moved again on Third Reading".There really is no halfway house between us on this particular matter. The noble Lord was not here when we debated it. It is a perfectly simple issue. There were two Amendments standing in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, originally. One of them was defeated and the other, which was the compromise Amendment, was the one on which we have just voted, so we have no bridge left. I suggest that this is an important Bill which will be of enormous help to a number of people; we are on a very narrow point, and I suggest that the House may decide to give it a Third Reading.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, can the noble Lord answer the question: when does he expect the Bill to receive the Royal Assent?
EARL ST. ALDWYN
My Lords, if this Bill is to come into operation in October it is essential that it should receive the Royal Assent before the two Houses rise. We cannot have Royal Assent with only one House sitting.
EARL ST. ALDWYN
No, my Lords, next week. If we were to postpone it we could not take the Third Reading before Monday—we could not possibly take it to-morrow—and if an Amendment were moved and carried it would be virtually impossible to get the Bill back to the Commons, the Lords Amendment considered by the Commons, then back to us 1246 for further consideration of the Commons probable disagreement with our Amendment, and get the Royal Assent. As my noble friend has said, with the benefit that this Bill is giving, it must, if the recipients are to get that benefit, come into operation in October, and it seems to me that that is more important than trying to have further discussion on this one particular point.
§ On Question, Bill read 3a, and passed.