HL Deb 24 July 1986 vol 479 cc391-409

[As an amendment to the Commons amendment in lieu, No. 2]

2A At the end of subsection (2A) insert— ("and that amount shall be determined in accordance with the severity of his disability.").

Lord Henderson of Brompton

My Lords, I am delighted to have the opportunity at last of moving the amendments to the Government's amendment. I wonder whether I might preface my remarks by saying to the noble Viscount the Leader of the House that the kind of discussion which we have just had would perhaps be more properly taken on the Motion, That the House do now consider the Commons amendment. It would then be entirely separate from the substantive amendments that we are discussing. I merely put that down as a possible improvement for the future.

I should like to be as brief as I can in moving my Amendment No. 2A; but I should like also to speak to Amendments Nos. 2B and 2C. I hope that will be concluded in one discussion without prejudice to moving them separately if need be.

I should like to start by saying I acknowledge that the amendment which this House moved into the Bill by a substantial majority was cast in too wide a form. There is no question about that. I have been convinced by what the Minister said in another place. I freely acknowledge it. Equally I should like to acknowledge that the amendment which has been put into the Bill by the Minister in another place goes some way towards meeting what we wish to achieve. But, as I shall try to demonstrate, it is just too inflexible and the desire of these three amendments, Amendments Nos. 2 A, 2B and 2C, is to introduce elements of flexibility into the Minister's amendment. There is therefore no conflict of interest between the Government and the rest of us because we are all attempting to achieve the same thing.

I should like to quote from the Hansard of yesterday—it was only yesterday that the House of Commons considered the Lords' amendment—when Mr. Tony Newton said (at col. 398 of the Commons Official Report) that his amendment, represents our clear acceptance of the basic proposition that there should continue to be a regulated system of weekly benefit directed to these very severely disabled people. That shows the the community of interest. As the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, says, this is an amendment which cuts across party lines. There are no party politics in this whatsoever. While I am on the subject of what the Minister said in another place, I should again like to thank him because his amendment in some respects goes wider than the amendment which this House passed. He said that of the 3,000 people at whom the Lords' amendment was aimed the vast majority receive far less than we propose to make available under the new premium. He then said that only 50 persons receive more than £20 a week according to the latest information available. That may be so. He and his amendment plainly have reached a wider number of people, some 10,000 people, as opposed to the 3,000 or so we had in mind. I believe that the government amendments put into the Bill in another place will cost more than the intended cost of the amendment which we have moved in this House. On those grounds therefore I can acknowledge what has been done and thank the Minister and the Government for the consideration that they have given.

I should like to have accepted the Government's amendment without question. But if one loooks at the Government amendment and at my amendments thereto one will find that in three respects I am hoping to introduce flexibility into what would otherwise be a very rigid amendment. The Government's first subsection is (2A) and I seek to add at the end of that subsection—that is, the amount which should be payable, that amount shall be determined in accordance with the severity of his disability". That introduces that element of flexibility which we have always thought was so highly desirable and which we also thought was the intention of the Government. Here one has a small number of people. One expects that the social service officer, whoever it may be, who comes to see the severely disabled man—whose disability may be quite different from another, who can remain in his home rather than go into an institution—can find out what his personal circumstances are, assess those, and then say, "Right, your need is £20 a week" or £5 or £50. It may vary as much as that. That is the kind of flexibility which the first amendment introduces into the Government's amendment.

The second amendment is also directed towards providing flexibility. The Goverment amendment reads: Regulations may specify circumstances in which persons are to be treated as being or as not being severely disabled". That is a very rigid division. One either is or is not severely disabled. Think of the feelings of the man or woman who falls on the wrong side, and of his relations, and who, through lack of the kind of support about which we are talking, has to leave his family or his home and go into an institution. All that I am proposing is that at the end there shall be added: and how the severity of the disability of such persons is to be assessed". I consider that to be of some importance.

International standards are now being laid down about the severity of disablement. We ought to be in the van. This amendment would introduce just the kind of flexibility that one would hope to have so that the man or woman whose disability is being assessed does not fall just below or above a single dividing line, but that the disability may be assessed on a more flexible line and give more sense of justice to those who are the subject of this amendment.

Thirdly, there is a new subsection which I hope to insert that the amount, shall be calculated with regard to the cost incurred by severely disabled persons in living as householders or as members of a household and to the income support payments available to such persons in residential care homes". This is crucial. The vote was won in this House because everyone thought how absurd it was to force people into residential care which would cost very much more than the income support which would be needed to keep that man or woman at home. This was therefore a head and a heart amendment. One could pay these people to live at home less money than it would cost the state to keep them in institutions. By inserting this amendment into the Government's amendment one can actually compare the cost of keeping such a person at home with the cost of putting him in an institution and one can then decide which gives better value. I should have thought that was pretty hard-headed and well worth doing. For all these reasons, upon which I shall not elaborate further, I beg to move the first of the three amendments standing in my name.

4 p.m.

The Lord Chancellor

My Lords, amendment proposed as an amendment to the Commons amendment in lieu, Amendment No. 2: at the end of subsection (2A) insert—and as this is a manuscript amendment I shall read the words— and that amount shall be determined in accordance with the severity of his disability". The Question is that the manuscript Amendment No. (2A) be agreed.

Lord Ennals

My Lords, I am able to support fully the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton, and, if I may say so, to congratulate him upon the role which he played when this House originally passed this amendment and his role today. I cannot fail to express my deep regret that in an extremely brief guillotine debate in another place last night the Secretary of State and the Government cancelled out an amendment which had been very carefully worked out in this House, in conjunction with not only Peers on all sides of this House, but also organisations of disabled people. The proposal had been presented to this House in a non-party amendment which was carried by a very substantial majority. The Minister in fact took that action the day after his own Social Security Advisory Committee had strongly criticised the extent of the Government's succession of measures to cut benefits for the poorest in our society. I should like briefly to quote what was said by the Social Security Advisory Committee. The committee warned that Ministers, run the risk of causing widespread hardship amongst claimants who are already living at what is generally recognised as the poverty level". Many claimants, the committee says, would face severe difficulties which, cannot be justified by the savings to be achieved.". The amendment of this House has been replaced by a much narrower benefit for severely disabled people. I am glad that the Government have taken some note of the debate in your Lordships' House and not simply rejected it, as they did another amendment. However, I must tell the House that it is an alternative which is difficult to understand. During the course of today, knowing what had been decided by another place, I have sought to assess from those organisations which are deeply concerned with disabled people their views on this alternative. The Government have replaced the community care addition accepted by this House with an additional flat-rate premium of £23 payable to "up to 10,000" people at a cost of up to £12 million. However, I must say that the criteria announced by Mr. Tony Newton for the new premium are very difficult to understand. First, the claimants must be living on their own; secondly, they must be in receipt of higher rate attendance allowance (most unusual for people living alone); and, thirdly, there must be no one receiving or eligible for invalid care allowance in respect of their care needs.

The Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation, which brings together so many of the organisations of disabled people in this country, said today (and I have their authority to quote them) that they could not believe that there are 10,000 people in receipt of higher rate attendance allowance who are living on their own. This criteria is much harsher than the present test for the domestic assistance addition which is that adult members of an assessment unit are unable to carry out all those tasks by reason of old age, ill health, disability or heavy family responsibilities. People who need constant attention or supervision 24 hours a day are most unlikely to be living on their own for any lengthy period, except perhaps in a granny flat or in sheltered housing, and all those being cared for by frail, elderly partners would seem to be excluded.

Your Lordships' House is placed in a very difficult position. It has not had the opportunity, as was said by the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, of analysing carefully and in detail what the amendment means. Of course, it also excludes many of the groups that were in the amendment that was originally tabled and carried. For many chronically sick, disabled or elderly people the flat rate disability premium will not make up for the loss of the weekly additions or for flexibility. Many would not qualify for the premium in the first place since the qualifying conditions are much stricter than for the existing weekly addition. Groups such as kidney patients, terminally ill cancer patients and disabled people who are not on an attendance or mobility allowance are just some of those who will be excluded as a result of the decision taken in another place yesterday.

However, I do not wish to go into that. We can deal only with the amendment that is before us today, the amendment from another place and the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton. I believe that it is crucial that we should support the amendment which the noble Lord has tabled. The Government, as he has said, would be in a totally inflexible position. They would find that one sum (we hear it would be £23) would be set by regulation regardless of the condition of the disabled person. That does not make sense. That is why the noble Lord has tabled these amendments. They are all designed to give greater flexibility. In some cases the sum may need to be less; in some cases the sum may need to be greater.

I would submit in conclusion that the task of this House, regardless of our political affiliations and our backgrounds, is, in this case, to do the best that can be done for disabled people in our society. I believe that the noble Lord's amendments to the Government's proposed amendment are best designed to do that. I wish we could have had more; I wish we could have had that for which we originally asked. We cannot, but at least we can do that which has been proposed by the noble Lord. I beg to support.

Lord Renton

My Lords, perhaps I may put a point to the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, before he sits down. He says he wishes we could have more. However, under the Government's amendment as suggested and accepted by another place many more people will benefit and more and more money will be made available. Perhaps the noble Lord would bear those two points in mind.

Lord Ennals

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Renton, for that intervention before I sat down. Perhaps I may draw his attention to the conclusions of the Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation. I said that they do not believe that there are 10,000 people in receipt of high rate attendance allowance who are living on their own. This is in fact the centre of the point being taken. Unless there is some flexibility it is likely, as stated by those who are far more expert than I or most people in your Lordships' House, that the figures that have been given will not be accepted by the most responsible organisation which I believe exists in this country to represent the interests of disabled people. The number may be 8,000, 5,000 or 3,000; no one knows. That is why flexibility is necessary.

Lord Banks

My Lords, I should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton, on the new addition for the severely disabled which his amendment has extracted from the Government. Of course it is not what he wanted, but it is a concession and, as far as it goes, it is welcome. What worries me is this. When we discussed this matter in Committee many examples were given of severely disabled people who, because of the number of additions for which they could qualify, would in fact be worse off if they were to be translated to the new arrangements. The noble Baroness made it clear that they would not be translated because of the transitional arrangements which the Government had provided. However, in the Committee we were concerned about the newly severely disabled—people who would become severely disabled once the Bill and its provisions were in force and people who would be as severely disabled as those who were quoted during our discussion in Committee.

The difficulty about the new addition is that, as I understand it, it is to be a flat rate of £23 per week. That might well be sufficient for the majority of the people whom we are considering, and perhaps only a very small number would be worse off under the new arrangements than under the old. However, if the examples that we heard in Committee are correct, it is quite clear that £23 per week would certainly not be sufficient for some of them. The point then arises as to whether they would be able to continue to live in the community or whether they would have to go into institutions.

I support this amendment and the other two amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton, because it seems to me that they seek to take into account individual circumstances.

Baroness Darcy (de Knayth)

My Lords, I, too, should like to support my noble friend's amendment, which I thought he moved in a very cogent and reasonable way. The noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw, said that this new benefit will extend to a far wider range of people than those who currently receive domestic assistance allowance, and this was a point which the noble Lord, Lord Renton, picked up. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Banks, said, it will be a flat rate, and will be the same amount as the invalid care allowance, which at present is £23 but which I believe is soon to go up.

Although I echo what other noble Lords have said in that I am glad that the other place did not totally reject our amendment, I, too, am still very worried about the small group of very severely disabled people who are at present in receipt of very high weekly payments for domestic assistance allowance which, as the noble Lord, Lord Banks, said, in many cases, in relation to this very small group of very severely disabled people, is higher than £23 a week. This is the group about whom people have been worried throughout the course of this Bill, and yesterday the Minister for the Disabled, at col. 397 of the Official Report of another place, again acknowledged that there has been concern about this group throughout discussions on the Bill,

Furthermore—and this was a point which the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, picked up, and I am sure that the Minister will tell us whether we have misunderstood it—it seems that it is only payable if the carer is not in receipt of or not eligible to receive the invalid care allowance. Most of these very severely disabled people being cared for are being cared for by someone who already is or who will now be eligible for the ICA, so they will not be receiving any more help at all. I hope the Minister will tell us whether or not we are wrong about that.

As my noble friend Lord Henderson said, the benefit of Amendment No. 1 was that it provided flexibility, that it was tailored to the individual needs of very severely disabled people; whereas Amendment No. 2 is a flat rate, and inadequate for the needs of the most severely disabled. Amendments Nos. 2A, 2B and 2C would restore the element of flexibility—an element which the Government are usually very keen on. I know they are very committed to enabling people to live in the community—to stay living in the community and to come out of hospital and live in the community. If the Minister cannot give a firm indication that in some way—perhaps through regulations—she will be able to meet the needs of this acknowledged very small group of very severely disabled people so that they may continue to live in the community, I hope that my noble friend will pursue his solution.

4.15 p.m.

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, said that on this occasion this House ought to be objective in its approach to this, and we would all agree with that. On the basis of being objective and weighing up the merit of the argument that we have heard so far, there are two special matters which we ought to keep in mind.

The first is that the mover of the amendment, the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, acknowledged without any reserve that the Government's alternative was a good one. The noble Lord welcomed it and he said that, alongside the amendment which he originally produced, this was better from the point of view of it forming part of the statute. Therefore, we have the recommendations of the Government as an alternative to the original amendment carrying with them the commendation of the mover of the amendment which this House passed on the last occasion. I would suggest that the noble Lord's acceptance of it differs to some extent from the interpretation given to it by the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, and from one or two comments that we have heard from other noble Lords.

The objective suggestion that I would make is that, if we are to give weight to the merit of the arguments that we have heard so far, we ought to follow the lead of the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, in recognising the advance on his amendment by the Government, and that would be right. If left there, it would mean that we ought to accept the alternative amendments now put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Henderson.

However, the basis of the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, was purely that to be more flexible was good. The noble Lord suggested that this flexibility would, according to his own assessment, make something that was already good even better. Those of us who have some experience both in helping to formulate statutes and, much more importantly, who have to apply the regulations which flow from those statutes will appreciate what I am about to say. I want to suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, that there are many occasions when flexibility is a hindrance rather than a help. It is so easy to give a special meaning to a new word which is brought into the vocabulary in any argument. I suggest that in administering the regulation that will flow from this it is much better that the people who have to handle it should know exactly where they stand as set out in the statute. I believe that we should be giving them an intolerable task if, in making it more flexible, we give them the special responsibility of having to weigh up all sorts of things which do not come within their purview.

Therefore, in approaching this objectively, I am arguing that the special appeal of the supposed improvement that flexibility would give, which was the sole argument of the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, does not necessarily stand up. We would all have to admit that whatever figures are eventually in the regulation, there will be borderline cases. The argument has been submitted that if it is in the regulation there is bound to be someone just outside it. That will happen whether or not we give this extra flexibility. That is one of the problems of eventually having to arrive at a decision: as is said in America, "The buck has to stop somewhere."

I should be very unhappy about removing the flexibility if I knew that this regulation flowing from this particular statute would leave those people who would be hardly dealt with without any sort of recompense at all. However, we must not view this particular Bill in complete isolation. Those of us who have had to apply these various regulations know that if there is a hard case, that if there are those who fall just outside the clear line, there are other alternative services in this country where that special need can be met, and invariably is met. Looking at the whole of our social service structure, there is no question that a real case cannot be met by another section.

Therefore, in approaching this objectively, as the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, suggested we should, I am saying that we should accept the views of the mover of this amendment that the Government's alternatives are better than his original ones (and the noble Lord said that he finds them quite good) and that the extra improvement which the noble Lord thought he may be introducing by making the system more flexible may in a way be counter-productive in relation to seeing that justice is done.

It is on the ground of that sort of objectivity that I hope we shall not accept the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, and the noble Lord's flexibility argument, but that we shall support the Government in the extra consideration that they have given to his important section of the Bill.

Baroness Lane-Fox

My Lords, I have been worried about this amendment, knowing as I do that the last thing that the Government wish is to see such cases as we are considering worse off. I have searched my mind and, unlike the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, with whom I share so much concern for handicapped people, as do all noble Lords, I do not see that it is necessary to spell this out in the way he suggests.

I believe there are occasions when it is better not to force a point for the good of all in a delicate situation. We have heard that there are likely to be larger benefits in store for disabled people in the present form, and I personally believe in the integrity and understanding of the Minister, my noble friend Lady Trumpington, and my noble friend the Leader of the House, and I am happy to leave it with them to get the best possible deal for those disabled people within the policy of directing the greatest help to those with the greatest need. Therefore, I would support the amendment as put forward by the Government.

Lord Hylton

My Lords, I should like to support the three amendments standing in the name of my noble friend Lord Henderson. I should particularly like to underline why his second amendment is so important. It brings in the element of assessment. I would just mention as an example the case of our local Cheshire Home. There were 25 or 30 people living there, all known to be severely handicapped or incurable, but nobody—neither the people themselves nor the staff caring for them—knew what they could, and could not, do. It was only after a member of the committee got them individually assessed that the extent of their disabilities became known. Therefore, this is a point of prime importance.

As to the third amendment, 2C, without it I think we shall be left with a flat rate and we shall have members of households excluded. Those are two things that we should have in, and that is why I think we should support all the amendments.

Lord Stallard

My Lords, I too want to support the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, in the amendment he has moved and the other amendments he has put in as manuscript amendments. I feel sad that we had to come to a position where we had to put in manuscript amendments. I say that as a Back-Bencher, because I have certainly had no time to consider, or to consult on, any of the issues discussed in the other place last night and which did not come from there until late in the evening. There was no way that any Back-Bencher, certainly on this side of the House, could have had any time to consider these matters.

I know that a number of noble Lords were under the impression that the noble Viscount would have initiated the debate, or would have spoken, on the proposal that the House do now consider the amendments from the other place. That did not happen. The noble Viscount did not take that opportunity but came in to move Amendment No. 1, and then made a speech ranging widely over the whole Bill. I was then informed through the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor that if we pursued that debate any further he would not then be able to call Amendment No. 2A. Of course I accepted that ruling.

However, it is all very confusing for Back-Benchers who have been engaged in the Second Reading and the Committee stage, and right through the whole of this Bill, now to come to this situation.

Viscount Whitelaw

My Lords, it may help the proceedings if I apologise unreservedly to the House and to the noble Lord. I think I made a mistake. It would have been better if I had spoken to the other Motion. I am sorry. Perhaps if the noble Lord gets the satisfaction of my complete apology to him, it may enable him to realise that I think I was wrong.

Lord Stallard

My Lords, I do not seek any satisfaction from the noble Viscount, for whom I have the highest regard. All I am saying is that the House has been confused. If I and noble Lords who have been involved with the Bill since it started are confused, how much more confused must be those dozens or scores of noble Lords who have been brought in not to listen to the British Council and Commonwealth Institute Superannuation Bill later tonight, but to vote in what they think may be an early Division on the Social Security Bill this afternoon? How much more confused must they be at this kind of procedure? I hope that they may take the time while this debate is going on to read the debate in the other place and see something of what has gone on.

Those who have followed it know that yesterday there were 184 amendments in the other place, and the guillotine was used to stifle discussion on those amendments. So far as I can see, it worked out that they were allowed roughly about one minute per amendment, and there was a guillotine on it. That is no way to conduct business. That is bad enough. But had there been a gap between those proceedings and these, we could have discussed these matters and put down something. But there was no gap. We come straight into it and we are faced with what is really another guillotine through the kind of procedures that have been adopted here this afternoon.

The amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, is a modest amendment, and does not go as far as I should have liked to go. It seeks only to introduce some flexibility into what the Government have done in the other place. The noble Lord, Lord Ennals, and the organisation RADAR, have already cast doubts on the Government's statistics. We have not been able to check them, but we would have done had we had the time. It is said that nobody believes that there are 10,000 people in this category living alone. That has neither been substantiated nor denied, but it ought to be if we are to have a serious discussion on the Bill.

We know that the £23 is going to be offered to a very restricted number of people. The criteria do not allow for account to be taken of individual needs. That was the whole purport of the original amendments. We wanted to retain the position that obtained where individual disabled people were able to qualify for special payments like the dietary allowance, the allowance for incontinence, and all sorts of other things, and the new premium was abolishing that. That was the original discussion. We are back now virtually to that position but with an increased amount, but for this limited number of people.

As noble Lords will know, the higher rate of attendance allowance, which is one of the criteria, means that it can be received by people who need attention day and night. They must need attention day and night to qualify for this £23. They are eligible at the moment for the lower rate if they need attention throughout the day or throughout the night. They are obviously severely disabled. People who need attention throughout the day or throughout the night are severely disabled, but they will not qualify. They will be excluded from the Government's present proposals. The amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, would introduce a bit more flexibility and take care of some of that.

I could speak for a long time yet, because we spent a long time in Committee and out of Committee on this very issue. I do not hold that against the noble Viscount, who came into the debate for the first time today. But I say that I feel shabbily treated by the powers that be in the way that this debate has been organised today. My faith in what I was beginning to believe was a revisionary Chamber, a place where we revised things, has been severely shaken by this kind of approach to this Bill today and the way we have been treated on the serious discussion that we should have had on a number of the amendments today. Having said that, I support the amendment.

Lord Renton

My Lords, I supported the noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton, at the Committee stage on his amendment, and I am glad that I did so. Now we are faced with the question of what is going to be best for the disabled people concerned. We are told that they number at least 10,000. It is suggested that there should be flexibility, but surely certainty is something that we should be thinking of on behalf of the disabled.

Indeed, whenever we legislate we should be acting in order to achieve certainty of legal effect. I sometimes wish that we did so rather more. But on this occasion we are exchanging the certainty of what the Government are offering in their amendment, which was carried in another place, for the uncertainty that may arise—I think is likely to arise—through the difficulty of definition when it comes to having to define the expression "severity of his disability", which will have to be done by regulations over which we shall have little control. Then the further uncertainty that follows will be the uncertainty arising through the discretion of the official who has to decide these matters. If I were a disabled person I should not wish to have to wait for that degree of uncertainty. I would rather have the thing as the Government suggest. Therefore, with due respect to he noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton (who I should like to acknowledge does so much for the disabled), on this occasion I say, speaking as I hope we shall all vote, that in the interests of the disabled it would not be wise to accept his amendments.

4.30 p.m.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, I feel that this is a very sad occasion for this noble House. I could understand if the Benches opposite had been crowded, as they are, because the issue was one of defence, education or the environment. But the issue is that there is a nuance or difference—not much really—between what the Government are proposing and the admirable amendments of Lord Henderson. What we are talking about are not massive defence issues, education or environment: we are discussing what is best for the cripples in our society. To think that these little differences should appear so massive I am bound to say fills me with distress.

I should have thought this noble House would be big enough and large enough to say that the admirable amendments moved in such a civilised way by Lord Henderson, though they might be slightly different from those of the Government, were initiated by the noble Lord and found support from every part of this House on that occasion, and this House will maintain its good name and will maintain its social feeling in supporting the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, and will do the same thing for the cripples of Britain again this evening.

Baroness Fisher of Rednal

My Lords, I wanted to raise particularly the point regarding partially sighted and blind persons and the severe disability allowance. The noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, in her reply to me on 23rd June, suggested that partially sighted people were not part and parcel of the present supplementary benefits organisation. I want to ask her clearly: are blind and partially sighted people disabled or are they not? It has already been pointed out that partially sighted claimants of severe disablement allowance are automatically assessed as 80 per cent. disabled and therefore are severely disabled.

Apart from this, registered partially sighted people have been certificated by consultants as being substantially and permanently handicapped by congenitally defective vision, or as being a person in whose case illness or injury has caused defective vision of a substantial and permanently handicapping character. How can someone expertly regarded as fitting this description not be regarded by the Government as disabled, and so entitled to disablement premium?

I should be very grateful if the noble Baroness would retract the point of view expressed on blind and partially sighted persons when we were going through the Committee stage and accept that these people are now receiving severe disablement allowance, which should continue. They are one of the types of persons that the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, was speaking about. There are severe categories in different disablements, and they cannot be dealt with as a package deal. On one occasion I heard the noble Lord, Lord Renton speaking on another debate and he said that disabilities are not package deals. They are specific to that particular person, and no disablement is the same as any other disablement.

Lord Swinfen

My Lords, I am sorry that the other place did not agree to the amendment made by this House, but I should be prepared to accept the new amendment put forward provided that this House accepts the amendments to it proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Henderson. If his amendments are not accepted, a large number of disabled people, whether or not severely disabled, will find that as their disability becomes more severe they will be forced to move into residential accommodation run by the various voluntary organisations. They will not have the funds to live independently. Disabled people, by the very nature of matters, for the most part are low earners. It is more expensive to keep a disabled person in a residential home than it is for them to live independently. Therefore, the more people we force from independent living into homes the more expensive it becomes for the Government, because ultimately the Government pay through supplementary benefit.

By forcing disabled people from being independent and moving into homes we reduce the places in those homes available to take even more severely disabled people out of the hospitals. There the cost is even greater to the state than in a home. I hope the House will accept the noble Lord's three amendments.

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, I was most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, for his acknowledgment that his previous amendment was too wide in its context. The noble Lord, Lord Henderson, has moved Amendment No. 2A and has spoken to the two following amendments. The first two of these amendments seek to write into the Bill that the amount of the premium shall be determined by the severity of the disablement and the assessment of this shall be set out in regulations. The third introduces a factor for the calculation of the amount which means regard has to be paid to the costs of a severely disabled person in a household and the costs of a severely disabled person in residential care. These amendments are all attempts to put more detail in the Bill on the nature of the additional premium and how it will be calculated. Your Lordships will notice that our intention is that the first qualifying condition for the additional premium is that is should be payable to claimants in receipt of the higher rate of attendance allowance. These are the type of severely disabled people about whom the greatest concern was expressed. But we are managing to assist these people without a separate complicated assessment of disablement solely directed to one small element of the income support scheme.

I cannot support the approach which underlies the first two of these amendments. The third amendment introduces a new element altogether; namely, that some form of comparison should be made between someone living in the community and someone living in residential care. This seems to me a particularly complex task to lay on members of staff in local offices. I cannot forbear from pointing out also that the level for this additional premium is, at £23, higher than the addition to the board and lodging limit for disabled people in hostels, which is £17.30. I can assure your Lordships that these amendments are unnecessary. We already have sufficient legal power on the definition of the people who will qualify provided by the Government amendment itself and to set the relevant amounts that will be payable provided by Clause 22(1). With the explanation that I have just given, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, will not press the points of his various amendments.

With regard to Amendment No. 2, your Lordships have already listened to my noble friend the Lord President. For my part I want to stress three main points. First, we have made a significant response to the concern that has been expressed about the position of a small group of severely disabled people. We have written clearly on the face of the Bill a duty to provide a specific amount for severely disabled people.

Secondly, in developing our detailed proposals, we have been concerned to provide arrangements that are consistent with the criteria that we adopt in other disability benefits. In the sort term we would have to think very carefully about arrangements which go further in relation to the position of those receiving invalid care allowance, also paid to support care in the community. In the longer-term we must avoid arrangements which make more difficult any wider look at the benefit structure following the results of the disability survey.

Thirdly—and I cannot understand the confusion felt by the noble Lord, Lord Ennals—I must stress that the proposals that I have explained amount to a significant extension of help. The new premium would be paid on top of the disablement premium that we proposed originally and at getting on for double the rate that we have illustrated. As has already been said, we expect that up to 10,000 people could qualify for help at a cost of £12 million. This compares with just over 3,000 people getting the domestic assistance addition on the latest information at a total cost of less than £1 million.

Let me emphasise the words of my noble friend Lord Renton: "Make no mistake, my Lords, any noble Lord who is not content with this proposal would be depriving some 10,000 very disabled people from receiving extra help".

We cannot leave in the Bill an unworkable and potentially very expensive amendment because of concerns about matters that are properly handled in regulations. That would make for bad law. I recognise that the current level of help is linked to an assessment of individual costs. It is precisely for this reason that the spread of payments can be so wide. I would point out that the normal practice in social security benefits specifically for disability is to have standard amounts. There is only one standard rate for adults for the following benefits: severe disablement allowance, mobility allowance, and invalid care allowance. And attendance allowance itself is paid at only two rates, both of them specified amounts. What we are proposing is consistent with that, to set a standard amount paid as of right.

I can confirm the understanding of the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy (de Knayth), in relation to invalid care allowance and, in reply to both her and the noble Lord, Lord Banks, I would say that we must bear in mind that of the number of people who receive the addition of domestic assistance, only about 150 receive a weekly addition of more than £ 10. Therefore, of the small group who receive the addition altogether, only a few will not see their support coming in the shape of the new additional premium.

Another important consideration is the commitment I gave during the Committee stage. This was that, in addition to the normal transitional protection which would operate ensuring that no one suffered a drop in cash income as a result of the change from supplementary benefit to income support, special arrangements would operate for people in receipt of domestic assistance addition. Their cash protection would be increased at upratings to maintain its value. Therefore, transitional protection and our present proposals safeguard those very severely disabled people at present.

The question that has been asked is what happens to the very small nunmber of the very severely disabled people. The answer is that we are well aware of the needs of this small group. We shall ensure that they will be protected by community care payments, not loans, from the social fund. They will most certainly not be financially disadvantaged when compared with those presently safeguarded.

The noble Lord, Lord Ennals, queried the figure of 10,000 quoted by my honourable friend the Minister for Social Security. Our figures are our best estimate. They are based on our provisional figures related to recipients of attendance allowance and householders. Of course, it is open to other organisations to dispute this, but I am confident that our figures are reasonable. I do not see how the rules can be harsh—as the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, claims—when more people will gain at a higher cost. Even the figures quoted by the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, allowed for 5,000 to 6,000, which is considerably more than the 3,000 who receive the current domestic assistance addition.

The noble Baroness, Lady Fisher, asked me again about the blind. I would say to her that blind people would qualify for the disablement premium and partially-sighted people who receive severe disablement allowance will receive the premium by virtue of receiving that benefit. The power in the Government amendment itself provides flexibility. It does not close off consideration of variations in the arrangements I have explained, alternative methods of help or indeed extension of the arrangements. Clearly, as we work out the details, we can take account of comments and views expressed in your Lordships' House and outside, but that is an issue for another occasion.

4.45 p.m.

Lord Henderson of Brompton

My Lords, I should like to reply very briefly and, first, to thank the noble Baroness for what she has said. I should like to assure the House that, by accepting any one or all of the three of my amendments, the House would not be depriving 10,000 people of the benefit of the Government's amendment. All that I am proposing is that the House should agree to the Government's amendment but add three elements of flexibility. Then it is open to the House of Commons to accept those or reject them or to put other amendments in their place.

I should like to get that straight in the first instance and to couple with it a reference to what the noble Viscount said at the opening of this discussion when he said that another amendment which your Lordships are about to discuss was one of major principle. The implication was that this one was not one of major principle. It is a matter of fine tuning—quite a different matter altogether.

I would say that the House, to use his words, is both entitled and expected to make amendments for fine tuning such as this, which the House of Commons can accept or reject as they wish. That is the spirit in which I have moved these amendments. I do not regard it as one of major principle. I regard it as one which the House of Commons should be asked to consider again and to accept or reject. I think that it is necessary to ask them to do so in that I consider that the £23 a week is too rigid and the criteria for the award of that amount, announced by the Minister in another place, are too rigid.

I would illustrate only one case. If you pay even up to as much as £ 100 a week extra for a young person with cerebral palsy whose only alternative is to be in residential care, you will be saving public money—I repeat, saving public money. So I would ask the House—I do it with regret, and I would not do it unless I thought it right to do so—to agree with the Commons in their amendment but to agree with my amendment as an amendment thereto.

The Lord Chancellor

The original Question was that the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 1. and do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 2, proposed in lieu thereof; since when a manuscript amendment, No. 2A, has been moved by the noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton, to insert, and that amount shall be determined in accordance with the severity of his disability". The Question is that Amendment No. 2A be agreed to.

4.52 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said manuscript amendment (No. 2A) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 143; Not-Contents, 213.

Addington, L. Birk, B.
Airedale, L. Blyth, L.
Alport, L. Bottomley, L.
Amherst, E. Brain, L.
Ampthill, L. Brockway, L.
Annan, L. Bruce of Donington, L.
Ardwick, L. Burton of Coventry, B.
Attlee, E. Caradon, L.
Avebury, L. Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.
Bacon, B. Chitnis, L.
Banks, L. Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.
Barnett, L. Darcy (de Knayth), B.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Darwen, L.
Beswick, L. David, B.
Dean of Beswick, L. MacLehose of Beoch, L.
Denington, B. McNair, L.
Diamond, L. Masham of Ilton, B.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Mayhew, L.
Dowding, L. Mishcon, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. Molloy, L.
Ennals, L. Monson, L.
Ewart-Biggs, B. Mountevans, L.
Ezra, L. Mulley, L.
Falkender, B. Nathan, L.
Falkland, V. Nicol, B.
Fisher of Rednal, B. O'Neill of the Maine, L.
Foot, L. Oram, L.
Gallacher, L. Parry, L.
Gifford, L. Phillips, B.
Gladwyn, L. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L. Plant, L.
Greenway, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Gregson, L. Prys-Davies, L.
Grey, E. Rathcreedan, L.
Grimond, L. Rea, L.
Halsbury, E. Reilly, L.
Hampton, L. Richardson, L.
Hatch of Lusby, L. Ritchie of Dundee, l.
Hayter, L. Robson of Kiddington, B.
Henderson of Brompton, L. Rochester, Bp.
[Teller.] Rochester, L.
Houghton of Sowerby, L. Rugby, L.
Hughes, L. Sainsbury, l.
Hunt, L. Scanlon, L.
Hutchinson of Lullington, L. Seear, B.
Hylton, L. Seebohm, L.
Ilchester, E. Sefton of Garston, L.
Ingleby, V. Serota, B.
Irving of Dartford, L. Shackleton, L.
Jacques, L. Shannon, E.
Jeger, B. Shepherd, L.
Jenkins of Putney, L. Silkin of Dulwich, L.
John-Mackie, L. Somers, L.
Kagan, L. Stallard, L.
Kaldor, L. Stedman, B.
Kearton, L. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Kilbracken, L. Strabolgi, L.
Kilmarnock, L. Swinfen, L. [Teller.]
Kinloss, Ly. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Kirkhill, L. Tordoff, L.
Kirkwood, L. Tweeddale, M.
Lawrence, L. Underhill, L.
Leatherland, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Listowel, E. Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. Wells-Pestell, L.
Lloyd of Hampstead, L. White, B.
Lloyd of Kilgerran, L. Wigoder, L.
Lockwood, B. Williams of Elvel, L.
Lovell-Davis, L. Willis, L.
McGregor of Durris, L. Wilson of Rievaulx, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. Winstanley, L.
Mackie of Benshie, L. Ypres, E.
Abinger, L. Boyd-Carpenter, L.
Aldington, L. Brabazon of Tara, L.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Braye, B.
Allerton, L. Brentford, V.
Annaly, L. Brocket, L.
Arran, E. Brougham and Vaux, L.
Ashbourne, L. Broxbourne, L.
Audley, L. Bruce-Gardyne, L.
Bagot, L. Buccleuch and Queensberry,
Bauer, L. D.
Beaverbrook, L. Burton, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Byron, L.
Bellwin, L. Caccia, L.
Beloff, L. Caithness, E.
Belstead, L. Camden, M.
Bessborough, E. Cameron of Lochbroom, L.
Bethell, L. Campbell of Alloway, L.
Birdwood, L. Carnegy of Lour, B.
Blake, L. Carnock, L.
Boardman, L. Carr of Hadley, L.
Cathcart, E. Lurgan, L.
Cayzer, L. McFadzean, L.
Chelmer, L. Mackintosh of Halifax, V.
Clinton, L. Macleod of Borve, B.
Clitheroe, L. Macpherson of Drumochter,
Coleraine, L. L.
Colville of Culross, V. Malmesbury, E.
Colwyn, L. Mancroft, L.
Constantine of Stanmore, L. Margadale, L.
Cork and Orrery, E. Marshall of Leeds, L.
Craigton, L. Massereene and Ferrard, V.
Cranbrook, E. Maude of Stratford-upon-
Crawford and Balcarres, E. Avon, L.
Croft, L. Merrivale, L.
Cross, V. Middleton, L.
Dacre of Glanton, L. Milverton, L.
Davidson, V. Molson, L.
De Freyne, L. Monk-Bretton, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Montagu of Beaulieu, L.
Denning, L. Montgomery of Alamein, V.
Derwent, L. Morris, L.
Digby, L. Mottistone, L.
Dilhorne, V. Mountgarret, V.
Donoughmore, E. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Dormer, L. Moyne, L.
Drumalbyn, L. Nelson of Stafford, L.
Dudley, E. Norfolk, D.
Elibank, L. Norrie, L.
Ellenborough, L. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Elles, B. Orkney, E.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Orr-Ewing, L.
Elliott of Morpeth, L. Pender, L.
Elton, L. Penrhyn, L.
Erne, E. Plummer of St Marylebone,
Falmouth, V. L.
Ferrers, E. Portland, D.
Fisher, L. Portman, V.
Forbes, L. Portsmouth, E.
Fortescue, E. Radnor, E.
Fraser of Kilmorack, L. Rankeillour, L.
Freyberg, L. Reay, L.
Gainford, L. Reigate, L.
Gardner of Parkes, B. Renton, L.
Gibson-Watt, L. Renwick, L.
Gisborough, L. Rochdale, V.
Glanusk, L. Romney, E.
Glenarthur, L. Rootes, L.
Gray, L. Rotherwick, L.
Gray of Contin, L. Saint Levan, L.
Grimthorpe, L. Saint Oswald, L.
Hailsham of Saint Salisbury, M.
Marylebone, L. Sanderson of Bowden, L.
Hanson, L. Sandford, L.
Harmar-Nicholls, L. Sandys, L.
Harvington, L. Savile, L.
Hawke, L. Selborne, E.
Henley, L. Sempill, Ly.
Hertford, M. Sharpies, B.
Hesketh, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Hives, L. Slim, V.
Holderness, L. Southborough, L.
Hood, V. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Hooper, B. Strathcarron, L.
Howe, E. Strathclyde, L.
Hylton-Foster, B. Strachcona and Mount Royal,
Inglewood, L. L.
Ironside, L. Strathspey, L.
Jessel, L. Sudeley, L.
Keyes, L. Suffield, L.
Killearn, L. Swinton, E. [Teller.]
Kimball, L. Terrington, L.
Kitchener, E. Teviot, L.
Knollys, V. Thomas of Swynnerton, L.
Lane-Fox, B. Tollemache, L.
Lauderdale, E. Torphichen, L.
Layton, L. Townshend, M.
Limerick, E. Tranmire, L.
Lindsay, E. Trefgarne, L.
Lindsey and Abingdon, E. Trenchard, V.
Long, V. Trumpington, B.
Lothian, M. Ullswater, V.
Lucas of Chilworth, L. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Vestey, L. Wigram, L.
Vickers, B. Windlesham, L.
Vinson, L. Wolfson, L.
Vivian, L. Wynford, L.
Waldegrave, E. Yarborough, E.
Watkinson, V. Young, B.
Westbury, L. Young of Graffham, L.
Whitelaw, V.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

5.2 p.m.

[Amendments Nos. 2B and 2C not moved. ]