HL Deb 09 February 1988 vol 493 cc106-95

3.22 p.m.

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Aberdare)

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.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD ABERDARE in the Chair.]

Clause 1 [Attendance allowance]:

Lord Ennals moved Amendment No. 1: Page 1, line 13, leave out ("substantial").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move this amendment which stands in my name on the Marshalled List. As my noble friend Lady Jeger said on Second Reading, this is a nasty little Bill. It is designed to chip away at the rights of recipients in order to save very small sums of money to support the concept of an enterprise culture in which everyone stands on his own two feet regardless whether he can physically, or in any other way, do so.

In this Bill I am mainly concerned with the problems of disabled and other handicapped people. Later amendments to be moved in the course of this Bill deal with major issues of principle and practice, such as cash limiting the social fund, the protection of child benefit, the entitlement of young people, the rights of appeal and other issues of grave importance. The amendments on the Marshalled List, including the one that I have had the honour to move in relation to Clause 1 concerning the attendance allowance, are designed to deal with some anomalies in the attendance allowance provisions. We aim to improve the administration of this benefit and in a modest way to enhance the entitlement of some of the 600,000 and more persons who are at present recipients and who are likely to continue to be so. We wish to remove some of the anomalies.

The noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, whom I am delighted to see here, said on Second Reading: Social security is not only one of the biggest areas of public expenditure in this country; it is one of the major activities of the British Government. A British Government worth their salt are continually keeping an eye on it, seeking to improve it and to adapt it to the changing circumstances of a changing age."—[Official Report, 25/11/88; col. 439.] That I warmly welcomed, in the same way as the noble Lord warmly welcomed one of my remarks. The Opposition are also concerned to do precisely that. If the noble Lord is right and the Government are intent upon it, I believe that there are a number of amendments that they will want to accept. Both parties have a sense of parentage for the concept of the attendance allowance. It was first introduced by a Labour Government in 1969 in the national superannuation Bill. I introduced it, being the social security Minister at that time. The Bill was lost in the election of 1970 and this part of that Bill was presented in 1971 in exactly the same form by the noble Lord, Lord Joseph, who was then Sir Keith Joseph. He generously gave credit to its author when he moved the Second Reading of that Bill

In Amendments Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 4 we are concerned with different aspects of the circumstances under which night provision is required for a disabled person. Amendment No. 1 aims to bring the night supervision condition more into line with the night attendance condition. If a disabled person requires someone else to be awake and watching over him or her for a prolonged period or at frequent intervals of the night, in order to avoid danger to that person or others, it must be clear that such supervision is reasonably required.

If the danger is real and other than imaginary danger, and is such as to require the wakeful watchfulness of another person, it is difficult to see how that danger could be other than substantial. The addition of the adjective "substantial" qualifying "danger" strongly suggests that the danger must be more dangerous than that which would simply require another person's wakeful watchfulness. It raises the baseline of the nature of the danger or risks which would require active supervision by another person. It also requires a far more onerous level of care than that required under the night attendance condition.

This amendment supports the general view that the drafting of the proposed night supervision condition goes much further than is necessary to nullify the effects of the decision of the Court of Appeal in the case of Moran. It is my hope that, quite apart from the other issues which will be debated on Clauses 2, 3 and 4, this unnecessary word should be removed. We have to ask ourselves what is "substantial"? Why should we introduce a word that makes it more difficult to qualify than if the terminology was simply "danger"? How is it to be defined? How can it be defined? How can it be properly understood in a court of law? What sort of definition would we have of the word "substantial"?

In the light of our experience I believe that it would be wise to tidy up in this very modest way the terminology of this particular clause by removing the word "substantial". I beg to move.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

The noble Lord, Lord Ennals, sought to fasten on this not very important amendment a general attack on the handling by the Government of social security both, as I understand it, under this Bill and generally. He failed to appreciate that the purpose and the effect of this clause is simply to restore the position to what everyone thought it was before the High Court decision in the case to which he referred: that of Moran.

The noble Lord told the Committee that it went further than was necessary for that purpose. He did not amplify that in any way or substantiate it. As I understand it, this is simply a restoration of the status quo ante of the Moran decision. That being so, all that is happening is a preservation of the pre-existing provision on the point. To fasten onto that a general attack that the Government were, I think he used the expression, "chipping away" at the social security system is rather irresponsible.

Lord Ennals

I did not say that.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

By saying that the noble Lord did not understand——

Lord Ennals

Perhaps I may——

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

Perhaps I may just finish the sentence and then I shall give the noble Lord something to intervene about. The noble Lord did not understand the proper function of a social security Minister.

Lord Ennals

I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. While it may be that I think that over the years the Government have been chipping away in a number of respects, I did not say that in moving the amendment. I hope that he will have a look at the Hansard report of our debate to make certain that I did not say what he suggested.

3.30 p.m.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

I hope that the noble Lord will also be good enough to look at Hansard and that it may serve to reactivate his apparently rather short memory.

In any event, the point having been raised, I say in all seriousness that the whole object of sensible social security adminstration must be always to keep the system working in a way which concentrates the not unlimited resources that are available upon the areas of greatest need. That process inevitably means that in certain cases, to use the phrase the noble Lord has used, the Government have to chip away at certain provisions whose priority does not seem to be as high as others. The object of sensible social security administration must be the concentration of resources on the areas of greatest need. This is a very large issue to be hung on so small an amendment. It is not a very good amendment but as the noble Lord opened up this issue I thought it only fair to him to give another view.

Lord Skelmersdale

In introducing the amendment, the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, talked about clearing up anomalies in this clause. There are several amendments which in his view will achieve that particular end. As I made clear at Second Reading, this is exactly what the whole clause is intended to do. If I may say so to my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter, he has it in one.

The aim of the attendance allowance is to recognise the extra costs and disruption of normal family life that arise from the attendance needs of severely disabled people. I am sure that there will be no disagreement between us on that. At night when the normal state of the members of the household is that of sleep and quiet, disruption can be caused because the disabled person requires frequent attention to his bodily functions or because his condition requires that someone should continually supervise him; that is, be awake and watching over him for prolonged periods or at frequent intervals—again words which the noble Lord, Lord Ennals used—so that he does not put himself or other people at risk of substantial danger.

That is the basis on which the attendance allowance scheme operated before the Court of Appeal decision in March of last year. I do not think anyone would dispute that disruption of a household at night by the attendance needs of a severely disabled person is a sensible basis for entitlement to the allowance. The legal foundation for this commonsense approach had been laid down in successive decisions by the commissioners—I think in particular of a decision in 1983—and the courts. In Moran the Court of Appeal said that there was a flaw in one of the commissioner's decisions. The Court of Appeal, however, pushed the scope of the allowance far wider and said in effect that in some circumstances the disabled person's need for attendance need not cause disruption. Continual supervision at night might be exercised even by someone who was asleep, albeit ready to wake up if and when danger occurred. Such danger does not have to be common provided it is, not so remote a possibility that it ought reasonably to be disregarded". The decision in the Moran case meant that the Government were faced with a judicial interpretation of continual supervision at night which was not consistent with our previous understanding of what this entailed. Therefore we sought in this clause to revert to the previous position.

It might help the Committee if I repeat our intention with the new night-time condition. It is quite simply to provide a new and firm statutory basis for the continued operation by the Attendance Allowance Board of the approach to night-time supervision which it took before the Moran judgment—not more harsh than before Moran—and with just the same types of people being awarded the allowance for night-time needs as before. We have confirmed with the board that this is how it intends to apply the new legislation if it is passed.

The noble Lord, Lord Ennals, asked about the word "substantial" qualifying the word "danger". I should point out that, while I was interested in the history of his 1970 Social Security Bill, the Labour Government also passed a 1975 Social Security Act in which the word "substantial" was again used to qualify the word "danger". The Government of that day thought it right to target attendance allowance so that the phrases "bodily functions" and "substantial danger" were used to define need. These needs are not affected either by the Moran judgment or the proposals in Clause 1 and I do not believe that now is the right time to broaden the scope of the allowance in this way.

Clause 1 as it stands will allow the attendance scheme to operate in the same way to meet the needs of the same sorts of people whose needs were being met before the Moran judgment. That is the Government's intention. We are not using any words which are different from those used in previous legislation. I therefore urge the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Fisher of of Rednal

I was interested when the Minister said that the word "substantial" was used in a previous Act. I cannot understand what a "substantial" danger is. If something is dangerous, it is dangerous. I was interested primarily because yesterday we spent about one and a half hours defining "fair and reasonable". That phrase had been used in previous Acts of Parliament. The Government wanted to get rid of it. Yesterday by a large vote they got rid of it. Is it that the Government like to get rid of certain words that have been used in previous Acts of Parliament while keeping others primarily when they affect the worse-off in the community?

Lord Ennals

I am grateful to the Minister for his reply. Without involving myself in the argument about who started it all—whether it was in 1969 or 1971—I would not wish to make a claim that anything done by a Labour government in 1975 must have been right just because it was done by a Labour government. That would be nonsensical. As the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, said, we sit here with the intention of trying to improve the Bill that is before us. We do not know when we shall have such a clause before us again.

The problem of defining "substantial danger"—and perhaps I should have said this in presenting the amendment—has been with us for many years. I refer to judgment R(A)1/73 by the commissioner. In referring to the meaning of "substantial danger", he said: The substantial danger should not be too narrowly construed. Substantial danger can result not only from a fall but from exposure, neglect and a good many other things. If we are talking about neglect—and this may well be the case with someone who is mentally handicapped or is very old, cannot think very clearly and does not hear well or speak loudly—to have an undefined term such as "substantial danger" is not good drafting. I am not seeking to blame the Government for it; let us blame the Labour government. Perhaps if we blame the Labour government the Minister may accept this provision and put right something that Labour failed to do. Let us not get into over-party politicised arguments.

I should like to ask one other question of the Minister. What will happen when a person does not have anyone else in the house—when he or she lives on his or her own? Is not the importance of defining "substantial danger" even greater in that case, particularly with the definition I have given from the commissioner, with the problem of exposure and neglect and a good many other factors which might be thought to be substantial and which might not be thought to fit into a simple word like "danger"? I believe that "danger" means dangerous. I do not know what "substantial danger" means. I did not know what it meant at the time and we have gone on for many years not knowing what that term means.

Before taking a decision, I ask the Minister to say that there is something in this admittedly modest amendment, as the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, has called it. Does the Minister think that this is an issue that he could look at again? Perhaps he will come back and say that he is satisfied with the provision or that he thinks that it would be a good idea to include it and that we might look at it again at a later stage in our deliberations.

Lord Skelmersdale

I shall of course look carefully at the Official Report before the next stage of the Bill, not only in respect of this amendment but every amendment. I have to say, however, in answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Fisher and the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, that the effect of the amendment, as I sought to explain earlier, must be to weaken the proposed new night-time condition because of words which are, I am advised, readily understood. I observe that the noble Lord quoted from the social security commissioners' report. Obviously, I shall want to look at the whole report.

The danger which the carers' watchfulness and wakefulness is intended to prevent would be no longer substantial; it would merely be "danger" without qualification. I believe that that introduces a difference between the day-time and night-time conditions and is bound to lead to further difficulties of interpretation. If it is not substantial danger at night-time which is in question, there must be doubt about what lesser risk is involved by comparison with day-time, for which substantial danger remains the criterion.

However, I note what the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, said, and I undertake to consider the matter most carefully.

Lord Ennals

As the Minister has so generously agreed to consider the matter, although without any commitment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Chairman of Committees

If Amendment No. 2 is agreed to, I cannot call Amendments Nos. 3 and 4.

Lord Banks moved Amendment No. 2: Page 1, line 15, leave out from ("be") to end of line 17 and insert ("available to render assistance."")

The noble Lord said: Amendments Nos. 3 and 4, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Turner of Camden, are similar in effect to this amendment. The amendment deals with the qualifying conditions for the receipt of attendance allowance. The allowance introduced in 1971 is, as we heard when dealing with the previous amendment, a benefit for people who are so severely disabled that they need a great deal of attention or supervision. A lower rate is paid to those who require attention either by day or by night and a higher rate is paid to those who need attention both during the day and night. The day and night conditions are defined in Section 35 of the Social Security Act 1975 in the following terms: (1) A person shall be entitled to an attendance allowance if he satisfies prescribed conditions as to residence or presence in Great Britain and either—

  1. (a) he is so severely disabled physically or mentally that, by day, he requires from another person either—
    1. (i) frequent attention throughout the day in connection with his bodily functions, or
    2. (ii) continual supervision throughout the day in order to avoid substantial danger to himself or others; or
  2. (b) he is so severely disabled physically or mentally that, at night, he requires from another person either—
    1. (i) prolonged or repeated attention during the night in connection with his bodily functions, or
    2. 112
    3. (ii) continual supervision throughout the night in order to avoid substantial danger to himself or others."

In March 1987 the Court of Appeal ruled that Mrs. Dorothy Moran, an epileptic, satisfied the night as well as the day conditions because it was necessary for someone to sleep in the same room in case, during one of her attacks—although these were infrequent, numbering 12 over a nine-month period—she should lose consciousness. She was therefore able to apply for the higher rate. The Court of Appeal ruled that supervision did not necessarily entail the supervisor being constantly awake. The ruling was widely welcomed by organisations representing disabled people as it opened access to the higher rate attendance allowance to those needing stand-by supervision such as diabetics, the mentally retarded, hyperactive and asthmatic children, the elderly and confused, and certain haemophiliacs.

Clause 1 amends a section of the 1975 Act to make it clear that night-time supervision means "remaining awake". Can there be any reason other than economy for the Government to wish to revert to the position as they understood it to be before the court ruling?

I imagine that the Government are not arguing that the general position of the disabled is advanced by so doing. I do not think that they are arguing that people in the disablement categories which I have just listed are not worthy of all the help that we can give them. What saving do the Government feel must be made? Although tax cuts are in the air and the Treasury coffers are said to be bulging, the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum attached to the Bill does not detail it. Surely the attendance allowance is required to help with the cost of securing attendants. That would not seem to be affected by the degree to which a supervisor is normally able to sleep at night. The amendment would make the second condition with regard to the night allowance read, in respect of someone, so severely disabled physically or mentally, that, in order to avoid substantial danger to himself or others he requires another person to be available to render assistance". I beg to move.

3.45 p.m.

Lord Ennals

From these Benches I support the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Banks. I understand that my noble friend Lady Turner of Camden intends to withdraw her amendment in favour of this amendment.

The broad issue of the availability and how we describe it was dealt with in another place when a similar amendment was moved, which had the terminology "immediately available". It is interesting to consider what took place during that exchange because it has some relevance to the amendment before the Committee.

It is clear that Clause 1 is intended to define the night-time supervision condition for attendance allowance in the way it was, in practice, interpreted before the Moran judgment. The amendment adopts the opposite course and is intended to confirm the Moran interpretation of the existing condition and to clarify it, since the commissioners have found it difficult to apply the ruling in practice.

The amendment relating to "immediately available" which, as I have said, is similar to the amendment now before us, was raised in another place. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary responded as follows: The hon. Lady made the point that it is important to give clear guidance to the court in this matter. The immediately available formulation suffers from the problem that it is not a clear form of guidance to disabled people, the courts or the other bodies that we will ask to enforce the legislation". He said that the words that he had suggested would prove workable but then said that he wanted to check it further with the lawyers and draw to their attention the points she has made". It was on the assurance that there would be consultation with the lawyers about the amendment which was similar in spirit to Amendment No. 2 that Mrs. Margaret Beckett begged leave to withdraw her amendment.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary laid considerable stress on the argument that, disruption of a household at night by the attendance needs of a severely disabled person is the proper basis for entitlement to the"— attendance— allowance". [Official Report. Commons, 13/1/88; cols 297–299.] The implicit assumption is that the disabled person is living with his or her family. For a disabled person living alone, however, what matters is to have someone immediately available during the night, in case of need. It is entirely reasonable that this need should be interpreted as a basis of entitlement to the attendance allowance.

Moran simply ruled out the unthinking application of a particular principle and put renewed emphasis on a statutory test of what the disabled person actually requires rather than what is done for them. This is an important issue as to whether it is the nature of the disability of the person or whether it is the nature of the service which may be provided, because it may vary from time to time according to the nature of the disabled person.

The proposed night supervision condition, on this view, goes further than restoring the out-of-step RA/1/83 approach to the continual supervision test. It will affect mentally handicapped, mentally confused and mentally disordered claimants as well as those with physical handicaps or disabling conditions. It will adversely affect mentally handicapped people who, because of the real dangers which may arise during the night, could not under any circumstances be allowed to be alone in a house at night. With the risks involved, the evidence shows that it is more than merely desirable that they should have someone on hand at night. Even though it might be absolutely essential that another person be on hand at night, the normal pattern of active supervision given or required might not be sufficient to pass the proposed night supervision condition. That is even though the facts of the case are sufficient to satisfy the current night supervision conditions.

I believe that the words which have been proposed for inclusion as a substitute for the rather longer words in the present Bill would get over what I consider to be a genuine difficulty, particularly for the mentally handicapped and the confused. It is in this spirit that I support the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Banks.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

I have listened to the amendment being moved by the noble Lord, Lord Banks and I find these words "available to render assistance" far too vague. I do not think it is at all clear what that means; I prefer the original text. I thought that the earlier amendment to leave out "substantial" had certain merits, but that does not apply to this amendment. I think that it weakens the whole idea and I do not think that it is at all appropriate. "Available to render assistance" could mean anything at all; it could mean someone was three or four floors further up in the building and the phrase is too vague. I speak as a dental practitioner. I know that there have been cases where patients have died in surgeries and staff have been described as being "available to render assistance", but they were not available even in time to run in and save someone's life. I certainly do not support the amendment.

Baroness Turner of Camden

I rise to support the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Banks, and to tell the Committee that in my view it is rather better, as far as the wording goes, than my own amendment. I shall therefore be withdrawing my own amendment in favour of this one.

As I understand it, the intention is to clarify the position with regard to carers of badly disabled or sick people. Despite what the noble Baroness has just said, I think that the amendment does that and I do not believe that the wording in the Bill is at all clear. In introducing it, the Minister said that the intention was to clarify the situation following the Moran judgment. I can see what is proposed, but I do not think it succeeds and it will result in a great deal of confusion.

What happens if there is the ridiculous situation, which could arise, where someone sleeps in the same room as a disabled wife or child and perhaps lies down in a bed in the same room? Then they go off to sleep but they are nevertheless available if the disabled person needs some attention. Is that a situation in which an attendance allowance will be payable? I assume, from the wording before us, that it is not. Yet, as anyone knows who has cared for sick or disabled people, that is the situation which very often happens. The carer will be in the same room or an adjoining room. He or she may very well be asleep but is available to give immediate attention should the person who is being cared for require that attention. It seems to me that this is important in the whole discussion. The amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Banks, seeks to do precisely that and for this reason I think it is worthy of support.

The question of cost has been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, in referring to the first amendment before the Committee this afternoon. As far as this clause is concerned. There does not seem to be a cost factor involved at all because when the issue was discussed in Committee in another place the Minister was asked precisely that question. He gave the assurance to the Committee when he said at col. 20 of Standing Committee E in another place: If it helps the Committee, the judgment that we made is that the continuing annual effect of the Moran judgment— that is, if no amendments were made— would be less than £1 million. That is a neutral outcome. Then he says further on at col. 22: I should have hoped that Opposition Members would welcome the fact that the clause was in no sense a financial measure. If it is in no sense a financial measure, why are we bothering about it at all? Why cannot we leave the situation as described in Moran and allow people to make a claim if they have the task of looking after a disabled person in their house in the way which I have described? For those reasons, I commend the amendment to the Committee.

Lord Skelmersdale

I have listened with great care to the arguments put forward in support of these amendments. Did I understand that the noble Baroness, Lady Turner, was also referring to Amendment No. 4?

Baroness Turner of Camden


Lord Skelmersdale

Thank you. I am not surprised that the noble Lord and the noble Baroness have put down these three amendments. However, as I made clear just now, the only purpose of this clause is clarification and confirmation. These amendments will go considerably wider and I think it will come as no surprise when I say that I cannot advise the Committee to accept them.

Amendment No. 2, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Banks, would go even wider than the present slightly unclear state of affairs post the Moran judgment, because it simply requires another person to be available to render assistance in order to avoid substantial danger. Those in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Turner, simply require another person to be on call in order to avoid substantial danger. Of course, the Bill requires another person to be awake for a prolonged period or at frequent intervals for the purpose of watching over the disabled person.

The amendment which we propose to make by means of Clause 1 does no more than spell out what we believe is a reasonable and proper expression of the criteria consistent with the position which existed before March 1987. I know that people have expressed the fear that Clause 1 goes too far and represents a tightening of the criteria for the attendance allowance. I believe I dealt with that point just now when I said that the Attendance Allowance Board had given this information, and that this amendment would allow it to continue interpreting matters as it had before the Moran judgment. We are quite clear that we want the new formula to cover the same people as those whose disabilities and accompanying need for supervision at night would have caused the board to award an allowance before the Moran judgment, and we are advised that it will do so.

The noble Lord, Lord Ennals, pointed out that when fears about a possible tightening effect in Clause 1 were repeated in another place at the Report stage my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State said that he would consult our lawyers again. Indeed, this we have done. They have again assured us that to the best of their belief and endeavour the clause meets our specification and does not represent a tightening of the criteria as they operated before the Moran judgment.

I would agree with my noble friend Lady Gardner that both formulations—whether "available to render assistance", to quote one amendment, or "on call" in the other amendment —suffer from the problem that they are not a clear form of guidance to disabled people, to the courts or to the other bodies which we shall ask to enforce the legislation. The form of words we have suggested provides clear workable guidance which will achieve the outline that I have suggested. As regards the question of the noble Baroness, Lady Turner of Camden, about the carer falling asleep, the criterion that we have determined upon is what the disabled person needs, not what in practice he or she receives. In other words, the risk of danger must be such that it requires wakeful vigilance.

I can confirm to the noble Lord, Lord Banks, that the financial effect of the provision is indeed minimal. It costs less than £1 million a year. I can also confirm that the financial effects are by no means the prime reason for this clause, the purpose of which I have spelt out several times now.

In summary, I believe that in all three cases the words proposed in these amendments would take us to a post-Moran position. Perhaps that is what the noble Lord and the noble Baroness want. But, as I have explained, we oppose the broadening of attendance allowance in the way that resulted from the Moran judgment. Clause 1 as it stands ensures that the criteria for attendance allowance at night are returned to a clear and sensible footing.

Lord Banks

I wish to thank the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, and the noble Baroness, Lady Turner of Camden, for their support of this amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Ennals, was correct in saying that the object of the amendment is to confirm the Moran judgment. The noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, did not like the phrase "available to render assistance". However, I thought that the noble Baroness, Lady Turner of Camden, subsequently made it quite clear that what that phrase meant was that stand-by supervision was covered.

At the moment, as the Bill stands, stand-by supervision would not be covered. Yet to have somebody present all the time could be quite as expensive as stand-by supervision even though that person may not have to be awake all the time or even for prolonged periods of time. That fact should be taken into account If indeed the cost of that supervision is minimal, as the Minister said, there does not seem to be any reason why this extension of the scope of the clause to include those people whom I listed earlier who requires stand-by assurance should not taken place I hope that the Committee will support the amendment and I should like to press it to a Division.

4 3 p.m.

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

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 102; Not-Contents, 136.

Airedale, L. Jacques, L.
Amherst, E. Jay, L.
Ardwick, L. Jeger, B.
Attlee, E. John-Mackie, L.
Bancroft, L. Kearton, L.
Banks, L. Kilbracken, L.
Barnett, L. Kinloss, Ly.
Basnett, L, Kirkwood, L.
Blease, L. Leatherland, L.
Bonham-Carter, L. Listowel, E.
Boston of Faversham, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.
Bottomley, L. Lloyd of Kilgerran, L.
Briginshaw, L. Longford, E.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L. Lovell-Davis, L.
Bruce of Donington, L. McNair, L.
Burton of Coventry, B. Mar, C.
Callaghan of Cardiff, L. Milford, L.
Campbell of Eskan, L Mishcon, L.
Caradon, L. Molloy, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Mulley, L.
Carter, L. [Teller.] Nicol, B.
Chitnis, L. Northfield, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Oram, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L. Peston, L.
David, B. Phillips, B.
Dean of Beswick, L. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Devonshire, D. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Diamond, L. Rathcreedan, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Ritchie of Dundee, L.
Dormand of Easington, L. Robson of Kiddington, B.
Elwyn-Jones, L. Ross of Marnock, L.
Ennals, L. Sefton of Garston, L.
Ewart-Biggs, B. Serota, B.
Ezra, L. Simon, V.
Falkland, V. Stewart of Fulham, L.
Fisher of Rednal, B. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Gallacher, L. Strabolgi, L.
Galpern, L. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Glenamara, L. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Graham of Edmonton. L. Tordoff, L. [Teller.]
Grey, E. Turner of Camden, B.
Grimond, L. Underhill, L.
Hampton, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Hanworth, V. Whaddon, L.
Hayter, L. White, B.
Henderson of Brompton, L. Wigoder, L.
Hirshfield, L. Williams of Elvel, L.
Houghton of Sowerby, L. Wilson of Rievaulx, L.
Hughes, L. Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.
Hunt, L.
Hutchinson of Lullington, L. Winstanley, L.
Irving of Dartford, L.
Abinger, L. Allenby of Megiddo, V.
Ailesbury, M. Allerton, L.
Airey of Abingdon, B. Ampthill, L.
Aldington, L. Arran, E.
Auckland, L. Long, V.
Barber, L. Lothian, M.
Beaverbrook, L. Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. McAlpine of Moffat, L.
Beloff, L. McFadzean, L.
Belstead, L. Mackay of Clashfern, L.
Blatch, B. Macleod of Borve, B.
Borthwick, L. Manton, L.
Boyd-Carpenter, L. Margadale, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Marley, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Massereene and Ferrard, V.
Broxbourne, L. Merrivale, L.
Butterworth, L. Mersey, V.
Caccia, L. Middleton, L.
Caithness, E. Morris, L.
Cameron of Lochbroom, L. Mottistone, L.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Mountgarret, V.
Campbell of Croy, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Moyne, L.
Carr of Hadley, L. Munster, E.
Coleraine, L. Nelson, E.
Constantine of Stanmore, L. Newall, L.
Cottesloe, L. Norfolk, D.
Cowley, E. Norrie, L.
Cranbrook, E. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Crickhowell, L. Onslow, E.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Orkney, E.
Davidson, V. [Teller.] Orr-Ewing, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Oxfuird, V.
Dundee, E. Pender, L.
Eccles, V. Peyton of Yeovil, L.
Eden of Winton, L. Plummer of St Marylebone, L.
Effingham, E. Porritt, L.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Portland, D.
Erne, E. Rankeillour, L.
Erroll of Hale, L. Renton, L.
Fanshawe of Richmond, L. Renwick, L.
Ferrers, E. Richardson, L.
Foley, L. Ridley, V.
Fortescue, E. Rippon of Hexham, L.
Fraser of Kilmorack, L. Rochdale, V.
Gainford, L. Rodney, L.
Gardner of Parkes, B. St. Aldwyn, E.
Glenarthur, L. St. John of Fawsley, L.
Gray of Contin, L. Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Gridley, L. Sanderson of Bowden, L.
Grimthorpe, L. Sandford, L.
Halsbury, E. Sandys, L.
Havers, L. Selkirk, E.
Hesketh, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Hives, L. Somers, L.
Holderness, L. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Home of the Hirsel, L. Strange, B.
Hood, V. Swinfen, L.
Hooper, B. Swinton, E.
Hylton-Foster, B. Terrington, L.
Ironside, L. Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Johnston of Rockport, L. Trumpington, B.
Joseph, L. Waldegrave, E.
Kaberry of Adel, L. Westbury, L.
Killearn, L. Whitelaw, V.
Kimberley, E. Wise, L.
Lauderdale, E. Wolfson, L.
Lloyd of Hampstead, L. Wynford, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

4.12 p.m.

[Amendments Nos. 3 and 4 not moved.]

Lord Skelmersdale moved Amendment No. 5: Page 2, line 2, leave out ("(bb) below") and insert ("(a) or (bb) of the Social Security Act 1975").

The noble Lord said: This amendment simply corrects technical mistakes in Clause 1(2)(c) of the Bill. First, it corrects a wrong reference; that to "section 106(1)(bb)" below was always intended to be a reference to Section 106(1)(bb) of the Social Security Act 1975, which gives the Attendance Allowance Board power to review decisions. The amendment now makes that clear, I hope.

Secondly, the board's review powers in Section 106 of the 1975 Act are set out both in Section 106(1)(a) and (bb). At present, Clause 1(2)(c) is deficient in that it refers only to Section 106(1)(bb). The amendment corrects that deficiency by inserting a reference to Section 106(1)(a). I accept that that is complicated drafting, but I hope I have explained it sufficiently to have the agreement of the Committee.

The Earl of Selkirk

I found it impossible to find sub-paragraph (bb) in the 1975 Act. Am I to understand that it was amended by the later Act of 1986? Had there been a reference to (b) and not to (bb), I could have understood it.

Lord Skelmersdale

When we originally came to consider the Bill as drafted, our problem was that it does not have a Section 106(1)(bb) either below or above, and therefore the reference in question was quite inappropriate. So far as concerns the 1975 Act, sub-paragraph (bb) is an amendment to Section 106, which says: without an application review such a determination on any ground within the prescribed period". The paragraph was inserted by the Social Security Act 1986, in Schedule 5(11)(2). I hope that helps my noble friend.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Ennals moved Amendment No. 6: Page 2, line 7, at end insert— (" ( ) The following subsection shall be inserted after subsection (2A) of section 35 of that Act— (2B) Where a person to whom an attendance allowance is payable starts or returns to any kind of work, training or education, and as a result a question arises as to his continued entitlement to the allowance, it shall continue to be payable in respect of any period during which his entitlement is under review or a period of 3 months from the date on which the question arises, whichever is longer." ").

The noble Lord said: First, I must congratulate the Minister for the great clarity of his response to the previous amendment. It was noted also in regard to the amendment upon which we have just divided. The issue then was very much: what was meant by certain words? I believe it may be helpful if, in moving this amendment, I actually read out the words in question, so that we may know what this amendment is all about. The proposed subsection reads: Where a person to whom an attendance allowance is payable"— that is to say, he is receiving an attendance allowance— starts or returns to any kind of work, training or education, and as a result a question arises as to his continued entitlement to the allowance, it shall continue to be payable in respect of any period during which his entitlement is under review"— and that may be six or eight weeks— or a period of three months from the date on which the question arises, whichever is longer". It is clear, therefore, the groups of people to whom we are referring and what would actually happen as a result of the amendment. If their life changed, but not necessarily their entitlement to attendance allowance at night, the proposed provision would apply.

The amendment would remove a major disincentive for severely disabled people attempting to start or return to any type of work, training or education. Because there is such a disincentive, this amendment has been brought forward. It would be the wish of all noble Lords that any person who is disabled, whether or not he is receiving an attendance allowance, or whatever, should be encouraged and helped to return to work or undergo some training or further education.

Although attendance allowance is payable whether or not the beneficiary is in work or out of work—it is very fair to that extent—the mere fact that a person is able to start or resume work, training or a course of education may suggest that there has either been a lessening in his need for attention or supervision or that he has found a simple way of bypassing the need to have help from another person. With that fear in their minds, people might decide that it is a bit risky to take a part-time job or undergo training or education because it might be thought that their condition was much improved. The amendment is an attempt to get rid of that disincentive to enter work, training or further education.

Starting such work, training or education counts as a change of circumstances. It allows for a review of entitlement to be conducted, and whether or not that review results in the withdrawal of the award or in a reduction from the higher to the lower rate of attendance allowance will depend on the disabled person's circumstances and on his care needs at the time of the review.

The amendment guarantees the continuing payment of attendance allowance during the period that any review is being conducted and avoids what could be a lengthy gap in payment. I suggest it is only right, if there is a review about a person's entitlement, that he should not automatically lose that attendance allowance. The amendment would give added protection to a person as well as providing an incentive to change his lifestyle by seeking work, training or education.

The amendment therefore guarantees the continuing payment of attendance allowance during the period that any review is conducted. In other cases it will ensure that it continues during a trial three-month period—a reasonable length of time to test a person's continuing care needs and abilities. A proper assessement of a person's actual care needs based on, say, the first eight weeks of his work, training or education is a more balanced and realistic basis on which to review the matter and make a decision.

The amendment is also necessary to overcome problems arising from the payment of attendance allowance in combined order books with other benefits. For example, on starting an MSC training course such as the YTS, payment of severe disablement allowance and attendance allowance are paid in a combined order hook, the cessation of the severe disablement allowance means that attendance allowance stops as well. I submit that that is not a proper situation. It could often create a very serious set of circumstances for someone much dependent upon those resources to pay someone to provide the attendance required.

Local DHSS officers and claimants do not always notify the attendance allowance unit quickly of a change in circumstances and that can sometimes lead to long gaps in payment. Again, that may create difficulties for the disabled person. Supplementary benefit and attendance allowance can also be paid in a combined order, so that the same problem arises on starting work or a course of training or education.

I submit that those arguments are very strong—not because they are developed by me; they have been developed by others—with regard to ensuring that the allowance does not stop in changing circumstances and that it continues for a defined period—either the period of the review or of three months—while the question of entitlement is being considered. I hope that those arguments are compelling and that the Minister will feel that he can accept the amendment.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

If the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, will allow me to say so, the object of the amendment seems very sensible. One would not wish in any way to discourage a return to work or to education and training by someone who has been sufficiently disabled to have an allowance. However, so far as a return to work is concerned, at present wage levels in general the discouragement would be very small because it is unlikely that the wage earned would be other than a great deal more substantial than the allowance. I think that the noble Lord's argument is stronger as regards education or training.

On the other hand, the amendment goes too far. It provides that the allowance shall continue during the period of review of the entitlement or three months, whichever is longer. As I read it, that means that if the entitlement is reviewed, if the review takes a month and if the adjudicating authority decides that the allowance is no longer payable, the allowance would have to be paid for another two months after that decision. That seems wholly illogical. It involves the payment of the allowance in a situation in which, ex hypothesi, it is not justified.

We therefore return to the point which runs through all our discussions. If the object of good social security administration is the concentration of help where it is most needed and not where it is less needed or, in the circumstances outlined, not needed at all, then we shall be going against the principles of good administration by providing for the allowance to be paid when it has been found not to be needed.

Lord Skelmersdale

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, for his amendment. As my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter has said, it contains a nugget which we may or may not be able to develop. At the moment, I have a slight difficulty in that I am not sure whether or not it is the right nugget, irrespective of the phrase, to which my noble friend took exception, that the payment should be made: in respect of any period during which his entitlement is under review or a period of 3 months from the date on which the question arises, whichever is longer". I must confess to a secret sin in that when I consider matters coming before the Committee, especially in a Bill such as this, I think of the marriage ceremony in the Prayer Book. As I recall it, it says: Consider the reasons for which marriage was ordained". I therefore invite the Committee to consider the reasons for which attendance allowance was ordained; namely, to help with the extra costs arising from the attendance needs of disabled people. It is no more and no less. It is not designed to help maintain the income of people who are unable to work because of disability or who are undergoing education or training. Income maintenance for people who are incapable of work is provided by a wide range of other social security benefits—invalidity benefit and severe disablement allowance, for example— underpinned by supplementary benefit and the new income support schemes.

On return to work, entitlement to those incapacity benefits ceases and wages or salary, plus family credit if appropriate, take over from the income provision of the social security benefit scheme. As the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, fairly pointed out, attendance allowance would indeed continue to be paid.

For people who take up training, allowances paid by the Manpower Services Commission scheme help to maintain income, and I have no doubt that we shall have a long discussion on that subject in our debate on Clause 4. People who enter programmes of further education are covered by the educational grant system.

Attendance allowance is fundamentally different from those benefits, allowances and grants. Entitlement is not geared to whether or not the disabled person is incapable of work, whether or not that person is in or out of work or whether or not he is undergoing training or education. Entitlement simply depends on whether there is a need for attention or supervision from another person. For as long as those needs are present, there is entitlement to the allowance. If those needs are not present or if they cease, it is right that the payment of attendance allowances should correspondingly cease.

However, the amendment would require the allowance to be paid for at least three months after a person's attendance needs ceased. I believe that that cannot be right. The fact that a person starts a job, training or course of education does not necessarily mean that his attendance needs have ceased. Depending on the facts of each individual case, it is perfectly possible that the need for attendance is undiminished. In such cases the entitlement to the allowance quite rightly continues.

That said, when a person getting an attendance allowance starts a job or a training course or a course of education, it is right that that change in circumstances should lead to consideration of whether the conditions for entitlement are still satisfied. The result of such a review depends entirely on the facts of each individual case. If the entitlement conditions remain satisfied, payment of the allowance will continue. If they are not, the allowance will cease.

The power to suspend payment of benefit where doubt arises as to a person's entitlement pending a decision of the independent adjudicating authority is a universal feature of the social security scheme. It is not confined to attendance allowance. To single out attendance allowance in the way the amendment suggests would be to negate our achievement in introducing a set of common provisions governing the administration of all social security benefits. I think that point was amply illustrated by my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter.

For attendance allowance, payment is not suspended until either the adjudicating authority dealing with the review of entitlement—the Attendance Allowance Board or one of its delegates—gives a clear indication that he is likely to find that the medical entitlement conditions are no longer satisfied or unless there is clear and unequivocal evidence—such as a statement by the disabled person —that the need for attendance has disappeared or diminished.

We believe that that strikes the right balance between the hasty exercise of the power of the Secretary of State where it is not justified by the facts and simply allowing payment to be made where there is no entitlement. While there has undoubtedly been difficulty in some cases arising from premature suspension when responsibility for payment of the allowance is switched from the local office to the Norcross central office or when, for example, a person receiving a combined payment of attendance allowance and invalidity benefit loses his invalidity benefit on return to work, those problems can be overcome by ensuring that the procedures run more smoothly.

The Committee will be glad to hear that we have recently looked at those procedures and identified areas in which they could be strengthened to ensure that the attendance allowance is paid in the circumstances which I have described and which the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, mentioned, until a proper and balanced decision can be taken about whether payment should be suspended. The necessary amendments to the procedures will be put into effect shortly.

I believe that the action which we are taking to ensure the right balance between the exercise of power to suspend payment and simply allowing payment to continue where there is no entitlement is to be preferred to the course proposed by the amendment. As I have said, there is a nugget in the amendment. However, I am not sure that it is the correct one and I shall look carefully at the speech made by the noble Lord in moving the amendment and compare it with the administrative action which we are proposing to take and which may be backed up by further legislation. If necessary, we shall come back to the matter at a later stage. In the meantime, if the noble Lord will consider withdrawing the amendment, I am sure that the Committee will be most grateful.

4.30 p.m.

Lord Ennals

I am very grateful to the noble Lord for agreeing to look at whether this is a genuine nugget or one that collapses if one presses it.

I wish to take a little further some of the points that he raised to guide him in the review and to give my suggestions on one or two of those points.

Lord Skelmersdale

Perhaps the word "review" should not be used in Committee as it has rather different connotations at present.

Lord Ennals

Let us say reconsideration, further thought, or whatever the noble Lord would like.

I agree, of course, that where there are new circumstances affecting someone who receives an attendance allowance—and work, be it full-time or part-time, education, be it full-time or part-time, and training, be it full-time or part-time, are new circumstances—there should be a review, to use the word in its proper context.

I noted that the Minister said there had been some difficulties about premature suspension from receiving benefits. It is to deal with that problem that I have put forward this nugget of an amendment. The Minister said that if procedures are run more smoothly, those can be removed. In a later amendment I seek to have those procedures run more smoothly. Considerable delays sometimes cause hardship to the people concerned.

At one stage I thought that the noble Lord was making a number of assumptions, which I intended to challenge. I was going to ask whether he was saying that someone who is able to work part-time, to take on some educational course or to take on training is not entitled to an attendance allowance. I was relieved to realise that he was not saying that. If it is true that someone who takes on these additional responsibilities and goes to work or whatever is not absolutely removing himself, and if we agree it is right that there should be a review, surely it cannot be right that in the period when the circumstances are being reviewed the person concerned should be denied his benefits.

I took very seriously the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter in regard to "whichever is longer". When we come to the next stage of the Bill, will the Minister be prepared to accept the wording "whichever is shorter"? I gathered from the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter—I take seriously everything that he says and every now and again I agree with something that he says—that there is a nugget here. I should feel that we had achieved something if we achieved that. Perhaps the Minister would look at that aspect as well as the broader issues of principle. If he indicates that he will, then with pleasure I shall beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Ennals moved Amendment No. 7: Page 2, line 7, at end insert— ("( ) The following subsection shall be inserted after subsection (6) of section 35 of that Act— (7) A payment to or in respect of any person by way of an attendance allowance,and the right to receive such a payment, shall (except in prescribed circumstances and for prescribed purposes) be disregarded in applying any enactment or instrument under which regard is to be had to a person's means."")

The noble Lord said: The amendment deals with a quite different issue—the question whether an attendance allowance should be taken as income—and repeats for attendance allowance the equivalent provision for mobility allowance, in which I also have a certain parental interest.

The amendment ensures that an attendance allowance is not taken into account as income in any situation where regard is to be had to a person's means unless the law governing that situation specifically provides for attendance allowance to be taken into account. Attendance allowance is not intended as a form of income.

We have sought to be fairly precise—and I think that the Minister is right in requiring us to be as precise as we can—about the circumstances in which an allowance should be made available to someone to fulfil certain required purposes. To consider that to be part of the ordinary earned or unearned income of a person is to get it all wrong.

The amendment ensures that attendance allowance, like mobility allowance, cannot be taken into account as income when a court decides on an amount of maintenance to award on a divorce. That is perhaps a rather good example. An assessment is made of the person's income. Attendance allowance at present could be part of that income. I submit that it should not be part of that income. After all, attendance allowance may be for a short time, a long time or permanently; an income does not vary to the same extent. Attendance allowance is aimed at helping with quite specific needs and is not seen as being part of the general family or even personal budget. It is income only in a very special sense to meet the needs of an attendant to care for the claimant in the circumstances described in the legislation.

The amendment ensures that attendance allowance can be taken into account as income only after special consideration of the circumstances leading to specific prescription in legislation. It will prevent local authorities from taking attendance allowance as income when considering how much a disabled person should contribute towards the cost of home help provision. It may be that all the money provided for attendance allowance is used for the purpose for which it was made. Therefore there is no income left over to contribute to the cost of home help provision or of any other type of provision that the person may need.

I think I have said enough to make it clear that we have here another nugget. I hope that the Minister will be even more generous in dealing with this case than he was on a previous occasion. If he does not turn it down, I hope that at least he will agree to look at it. This is part of the device—that we have to try to improve fairly old legislation and to get it right and up to date. I beg to move.

Lord Skelmersdale

I regret that I cannot find even a nugget in the amendment. Apart from anything else, it seems to go very wide. The disregard that the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, proposes should be applied where any enactment or instrument is concerned under which regard is to be had as to a person's means. As the noble Lord said, that would apply to court settlements and local authority arrangements for paying home helps. I am not sure that that is what the noble Lord intends.

With regard to court settlements, the noble Lord referred to a case reported recently in the newspapers. I have taken advice on the matter, which is as follows. Maintenance settlements on divorce are determined to the discretion of the courts having regard to the circumstances of the individual case. As the noble Lord would expect there is nothing very surprising about that. The advice goes on to say that it is already within the power of the court to disregard an attendance allowance where it considers it appropriate to do so. In other words, this is to be regarded as entirely within the purview of the learned judge when he makes the decision.

Attendance allowance is already disregarded for the purposes of all income-related benefits except in specific circumstances which are described in existing regulations. Those circumstances concern claimants in residential care and nursing homes who receive supplementary benefit towards the charges made by these homes up to limits which, as the Committee will know, range from £130 to £220 a week. These are substantial amounts to take account of the care that is provided.

In these cases attendance allowance is treated as income to avoid making double provision for care by paying both attendance allowance and supplementary benefit which I am sure the Committee agree would not be appropriate. However, for people in their own homes attendance allowance is fully disregarded for purposes of supplementary benefit and all other income-related benefits such as housing benefit. These provisions will continue when the new arrangements for income-related benefits come into effect in April of this year when supplementary benefit is replaced by income support and family credit is implemented.

I therefore do not believe that this amendment is necessary for that reason. "Aha!", says the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, "A similar provision has already been made in relation to mobility allowance by an amendment to the Social Security Act 1975". Yes, but it was made in different circumstances. Mobility allowance was then being introduced and the provision was to make clear the general intention that the allowance should be paid over and above other income such as other benefits. The position with attendance allowance now is quite different since, as I said, provision that it can be disregarded for purposes of various income-related benefits already exists in legislation.

However, while this amendment is unnecessary with regard to income-related benefits because it would apply in all other areas where a person's means are taken into account, it could have unforeseen and unintended consequences. Allowances are paid from public funds for a wide variety of purposes and it is quite possible that in some circumstances it might be appropriate and right to take account of the payment of attendance allowance.

For instance, the duties of local authority home care assistants—they are replacing home helps—could well include assistance with bodily functions, and it would be quite appropriate in some circumstances for the local authority to have regard to attendance allowance in deciding how much a client should pay for the service. In such cases the wide scope of this amendment would make legislation unnecessarily complicated by requiring special regulations to be made. Not only that, but it would make it very difficult for local authorities to decide what to pay in particular cases. I do not think that that is to anybody's advantage and certainly not to the advantage of the disabled person. I ask the noble Lord to agree that this is indeed a nuggetless amendment and to withdraw it.

Lord Ennals

I must admit that I was a little disappointed in the reply from the Minister. He raised a number of points. He has partly convinced me on one of them. The Minister states that home helps are to be replaced by home care assistants, who will be concerned, as they are not now concerned, with bodily functions. They will be fulfilling what might almost seem to be nurse-type care and suprervision, which is very much part of the attendance allowance purpose. I hope that the Minister may add a little more on this issue.

Home helps now are very much confined to domestic duties, shopping and so on. I do not think that it would be right that any income from attendance allowance should influence a local authority to decide what contribution it would ask from someone with a home help. Perhaps the Minister can give clearer information about what will happen and what will be the requirements from home helps. He has not convinced me of the position with regard to home helps as I know them. But if there is to be a change he may convince me. I shall give him a little time to try to do so.

With regard to divorce, the Minister told the Committee that the court has the power, if it so wishes, to disregard an attendance allowance. I do not think that that is good enough. It also means that the court has the power to take fully into consideration the attendance allowance as if it were income. The submission that I make is that attendance allowance is not income for any general purpose; certainly not for the purpose of a divorce settlement. It is income for a specific purpose. That is the basis of my claim. He has therefore not convinced me on that point.

On supplementary benefits, the Minister rightly said that this allowance is disregarded for the purpose of assessing supplementary benefit. Those assessing supplementary benefits are considering what is income. They have decided that the attendance allowance is not part of income for the purpose of assessing whether a person is entitled to supplementary benefit. That strengthens my argument.

I am not convinced. If the Minister can convince me a little more that my amendment is not an appropriate one to press to a Division, I shall be delighted to consider that. Perhaps he has some advice to give.

4.45 p.m.

Lord Skelmersdale

As I suspect the noble Lord will know, although traditionally home helps have carried out domestic duties, their functions have moved progressively towards personal care. Personal care assistants would be expected to carry out duties which would include assistance with bodily functions as defined for attendance allowance purposes. To take a few at random, breathing, maintaining bodily temperature, vision, speech, hearing and sleep would be pertinent in this case.

However, the reason that I advise the Committee not to accept the amendment of the noble Lord if he presses it, or indeed the reason that I ask him to withdraw it, is that which I enunciated at the beginning; namely, since attendance allowance is treated as income, it is necessary to avoid making double provision for care by paying both attendance allowance and supplementary benefit, and this amendment would reverse that. I do not believe that any responsible Government would accept a position where double provision is made for the same circumstances. That is why I ask the noble Lord not to move his amendment.

Lord Dormand of Easington

Is the Minister saying that in some way, either by regulation or by local authority description, the duties of a home help move from domestic duties to what he calls personal care? If that is so, many of us on this side will be very surprised indeed. The duties are very different indeed. The reputation of home helps is very high indeed. Many of them undertake duties far beyond their remit. But it is a very different thing for the Minister to be saying that we can regard these matters—in fact I use the word "officially"—as being part of the duties of a home help. Perhaps he would like to comment.

Baroness Faithfull

Perhaps I may intervene. Because it is very difficult to get reliable home helps, and they must be reliable, I think I am right in saying that the authorities have now targeted home helps on people who need personal care rather than domestic help. The Minister will correct me if I am wrong. Others can do domestic work but these people need home helps for personal care. In my area that is what is happening.

Baroness Phillips

I do not often take issue with the noble Baroness but this is an entirely different point. The duties of a home help are very clearly defined. I was at their conference quite recently. They are not paid at a rate at which one would expect them to take temperatures or to look after bodily functions. Why we use these mealy-mouthed words about what this is all about I really do not know. But it is very important that this should be clearly spelt out. I am quite certain that home helps are not aware of this now.

It is perhaps not the moment to continue this point, but I was slightly astonished to learn that something like attendance allowance can be considered in divorce proceedings. How many other allowances are considered in these cases? This is an entirely new issue that is being introduced. Let us face it: people do not cease to need an attendance allowance because they are divorced; in fact I should have thought they needed it more. I find this a totally unacceptable but very disturbing principle because it will run through the whole range of benefits.

We all know the aim of this legislation. The Government want to save money. They wish to save money at the expense of people who least deserve to be treated in this way. On behalf of home helps, I should like greater clarification of this matter.

Lord Skelmersdale

I must take issue with the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, and remind her of what I said earlier today to the noble Lord, Lord Banks, on the subject of saving money by the clause. The amount of money saved is less than £1 million, is therefore quite minimal and is not the reason why the Government have introduced the clause.

I am grateful to my noble friend Lady Faithfull because her understanding is correct. We are saying that in some circumstances the traditional domestic duties of a home help are being replaced by personal care. In that case it would be right to have attendance allowance available to pay charges. I am surprised that this has caused so much excitement on the other side of the Committee, because I thought that it was in everybody's interests to pay attendance allowance where it was appropriate to do so, especially in the interests of the disabled. The point I was making —I think I had better make it now for the last time—is that double provision for care is not in the interests of any responsible government.

Lord Ennals

I agree with the last statement just made and the question of surprise is not one of shock, horror; it is of great interest in what seems to be a fairly fundamental change in the role of home helps, who are providing, as the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, and my noble friend Lord Dormand said, a great contribution to the lives of very many people. Most of the work that they do is not skilled and does not require training, though supervision is essential. Most of them do the work more for the love of it than for the money. It is because some of us—perhaps we are out of touch—had not received information about this very substantial change in care provisions that we were surprised.

I hope that between now and the Report stage the Minister can set out the information either by putting a copy in the Library or by sending one to me or those of my noble friends who have expressed their interest and their surprise (it is as much interest as surprise), so that we may know. I now need not only to read what I hope will be that further information, but also what the Minister has said, so I shall not press the amendment at this stage but I want to have the opportunity to return to it if I think fit at a later stage in the light not only of my reading of Hansard but of whatever further information the noble Lord can give me.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Ennals moved Amendment No. 8: Page 2, line 7, at end insert— ("(3) In section 105 of the Social Security Act 1975 at the end of subsection (3) there shall be inserted the words:

(4) In section 106 of the Social Security Act 1975 at the end of subsection (1) there shall be inserted the words (5) In section 106 of the Social Security Act 1975 the following shall be substituted for subsection (2): (2) Provision shall be made by regulations for enabling appeals to be brought against any determination by the Board made under section 105(3) or arising under subsection (1) above—
  1. (a) to a social security appeal tribunal and
  2. (b) on appeal from the tribunal, to a Social Security Commissioner on a point of law, with leave of a Commissioner or a Chairman of Tribunals.".")

The noble Lord said: I am not certain whether it is wise or otherwise that the amendment is set down as one amendment rather than three. As drafted, and as I shall present it, it deals with three issues which hang together fairly naturally. Seeing that it is set out in print in this way, I have not sought to ask that they should be separately numbered, but if any of my colleagues feel that for the purposes of any decisions that may be taken they should be voted on separately I suppose that would be for the Committee to decide. I shall move it as one amendment. It will take me a few minutes because it deals with three issues.

It deals first with the provision of a six-week time limit for dealing with claims for attendance allowance. Secondly, it sets a new six-week time limit for conducting a review and, thirdly, it provides a right of appeal to an indpendent tribunal. I wish to set out the cases for these three changes separately and distinctly.

As regards a time limit for claims, claims for attendance allowance are made in writing to the local DHSS office. There is no time limit within which a claim must be determined and on average it takes over two months for a decision to be reached. The average seems to be eight or nine weeks and is based on most claims being determined in less than eight weeks, but many others run over for a considerably longer period. I shall give the Committee an example in a few minutes.

Part of the delay is caused by the decision-making process being split between the Attendance Allowance Board, which makes the medical decisions, and the adjudication officer, who deals with all other aspects of entitlement. I submit that those two tasks could be carried out at the same time rather than one following the other.

In the Committee debate in another place Mr. Portillo, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary, set out the procedure which is now followed. A claim has to be submitted, the local office has to check that there is no other claim or current award that might affect it. The governing medical practitioner then receives the papers, arranges and conducts an examination and produces a report. The report is sent to the regional office, and the delegated medical practitioner then decides the medical question. His decision is submitted to Norcross, where the adjudication officer decides on the claim. Finally the computer is instructed to make the payment. There are quite a number of steps.

The whole process takes, as the Minister has said, eight to nine weeks from receipt of the claim to notification of the decision. The decision on the medical question is in the form of a certificate of attendance needs and is given on average about five weeks after the claim is received. The remainder of the processing time is taken up by the reference to the adjudication officer. I believe that it would be sensible to have these two lines of inquiry done by quite different people but conducted at the same time, which would enable the kind of timetable I have set to be carried through.

The Minister's statement revealed that the medical questions are resolved within an average of five weeks. As he said an average of a further three weeks is spent awaiting the decision of the adjudication officer. I repeat that there is no good reason why the two channels of decision making cannot run side by side instead of one after the other. The amendment therefore suggests that, running from the date of claim, the board should have five weeks to resolve the medical questions and the adjudication officer should have six weeks to resolve other issues. That makes a period of six weeks for both of them.

Turning to the question of reviews the Attendance Allowance Board may revise one of its decisions on a medical question at the request of a claimant or, on its own initiative, on the grounds set out in the Social Security Act 1975. The procedure involves the reconsideration of the facts of the case and any medical evidence. Again there is no time limit.

There is a great worry in some parts of the country and with certain people that there are very long delays in some cases. I had brought to my attention a letter from the Welfare Rights Unit of the Hull Citizens' Advice Bureau. This was a matter brought to attention at the end of last year and received on 5th January, so it is quite up to date. I quote: The main difficulties from a claimant's point of view, with making a claim for Attendance Allowance is when that claim goes to review, either on the instigation of the claimant or the Attendance Allowance Board itself. In my experience, claims under review can take anything between 10 months and a year and a half. Generally the wait is around 10 months. Even where we have aggressively advocated on behalf of a client in an effort to get a final decision made on the claim, this has had little effect. Correspondence is often left unacknowledged. Even where medical evidence has been submitted, pointing out the claimant's health is deteriorating rapidly, with the possibility of hospitalisation; it too has had no effect. In this particular case, the claimant died from the very complaint that he was seeking Attendance Allowance in connection with. The claim was still unresolved at his death. These lengthy waits often result in a claimant's health deteriorating because of the worry and stress resulting from the delay in the processing of their claim. The situation (perhaps understandably) is worse where claimants have been in receipt of Attendance Allowance, but under review this has been withdrawn.

I believe that that is a statement that could have been made by a number of other people in the welfare rights business or in other Citizens' Advice Bureaux. It is a serious problem. The Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration appears not to have, as one would have hoped, any basis for intervening. The Attendance Allowance Board become a law unto themselves with claimants and their advisers alike left totally in the dark as to guidelines, time-limits etc. In theory, it is quite possible for the Attendance Allowance Board to take up to 10 years in reaching a final decision on someone's claim.

I am not saying that that has happened but I think that the example I gave of it lasting well over a year and the claimant being dead before a decision is taken indicates, if I remember what the Minister said, that we can improve the administrative procedures. That is what I should like to achieve. This deals with two of the purposes of the amendment: setting a six-week time limit for dealing with claims and for conducting a review, and the right of appeal.

There is no right of appeal against the refusal of an attendance allowance on medical grounds. The best that the claimant can do is to ask for a reconsideration by the board. If the revised decision of the board is adverse, it can be upset only on a technical point of law by a social security commissioner. Even if that happens, the board is required only to consider the case again. In the social security scheme it is usual for there to be both the power to reconsider and a right to appeal. That applies to most other social security benefits. As regards the attendance allowance, the right of appeal has been omitted. The Minister may say that it was omitted nearly 20 years ago: if that is right, let us correct it.

The amendment proposes a right of appeal to the local independent social security appeal tribunal against any adverse decision of the board, whether on the initial claim or on the review. I beg to move this comprehensive amendment.

5 p.m.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

As the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, said, this is not one amendment but three. It is perhaps a little inconvenient to deal with them together but, as they have been so moved, I suppose that the Committee had better consider them in that way. As regards the first two amendments which lay down time limits for proceedings, I am a little puzzled by the drafting of the proposals. I have complete sympathy with their purpose. There has always been too much delay in dealing with many of these matters. As the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, rightly pointed out, that can cause great hardship and give an impression of inefficiency.

However, I do not understand how the two amendments will help the situation. They lay down time limits but they do not specify what will happen once the time limits have been reached. If the five or six weeks in question is reached and decisions have not been made, there is no provision as to what should happen. I suppose that tactically the aggrieved person could apply for judicial review to the High Court. That would take a considerable time and it would involve considerable expense until legal aid is granted. It is not a realistic way of dealing with the matter. If one is to lay down time limits for these proceedings, one ought to specify what will happen if the time limit is reached but no decision has been made. One way of achieving that would be to state that, if a decision is not reached within a specified time, the application would be deemed to have been granted. There are parallels for that in other areas of administrative law. However, as this amendment stands, it does not help very much.

As regards the appeal, I should be pleased if the Minister will explain the position. It is my understanding that appeals in such matters already lie to a social security commissioner not merely on technicalities but on substance. I may be out-of-date about that so perhaps my noble friend will clarify the present position.

Lord Banks

I wish to support the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Ennals. Time limits would be welcome and thay may well be dealt with in the manner suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter. I particularly support the amendment because it includes a right of appeal with regard to the attendance allowance. In June, 1986, my noble friend Lord Wigoder secured the support of the House for a similar appeal to be introduced from the decisions made in connection with the social fund. I hope that today the Committee will support the extension of the normal right of appeal to the attendance allowance.

Baroness Lane-Fox

Am I wrong to have given advice in the past to the effect that appeals can already be made to the social security commissioner? That is what I understood to be the case in relation to the attendance allowance.

Lord Swinfen

As regards the first two parts of the amendment, I believe that the time limits set by the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, are probably too short. During the Christmas and New Year period, and in July, August and September when staff is short, matters may not be dealt with as quickly as one would like both from the point of view of the board and in gathering evidence. As the period comes to an end there will be a great temptation automatically to refuse the application so that the matter can proceed to the next stage, thus possibly depriving a disabled person of the allowance.

Lord Skelmersdale

This amendment covers two quite distinct areas. First, it seeks to impose a time limit on the independent adjudication authorities responsible for deciding entitlement to attendance allowance. We have heard arguments from both sides of the Committee as to whether that is good or bad at various times of the year, or generally speaking. It then goes on to subject the decisions of the Attendance Allowance Board—the independent authority responsible for deciding whether the medical entitlement conditions are satisfied in individual cases—to a right of appeal to a social security appeal tribunal.

In answer to my noble friends Lord Boyd-Carpenter and Lady Lane-Fox, appeals to the commissioners on attendance allowance already exist but—and perhaps this is the unfortunate part—only on points of law and not on medical questions upon which they are not capable of adjudicating. We all know that commissioners are there for totally different purposes.

I should like to deal, first, with the subsections (3) and (4) which the noble Lord wishes to insert in Section 105 of the 1975 Social Security Act. Both we and the Attendance Allowance Board are very much aware of the anxiety and stress which can be caused while disabled people and their carers await the outcome of an attendance allowance claim. How could we not he. The time taken to process claims is kept to the minimum possible conmmensurate with the need to ensure that the best possible decisions are given on the best medical evidence available. Indeed we have made substantial efforts to reduce the processing times for claims over the past few years and have achieved significant results. Since 1983 the average time taken to process an attendance allowance claim has reduced from l2½ weeks to some nine weeks, as quoted by the noble Lord, Lord Ennals.

A decision on the medical conditions is but part of the process and is given about six weeks after the claim is received. The remainder of the processing time is taken up by reference to the adjudication officer for decision on the non-medical entitlement conditions and on whether or not to award the allowance. Six weeks for a decision on the medical conditions is an average figure. In some cases a decision is given in a shorter period. In other cases the decision-making process takes longer, invariably because the board or delegate is unable to come to a decision on the basis of the information given on the claim form and provided in the examining medical practitioner's report. Further information has to be obtained usually from the claimant's own general practitioner and/or the hospital or hospitals he has attended, or from a consultant whose speciality covers the claimant's disabling condition. Therefore the time taken for such consultations would be entirely outwith the scope of the Attendance Allowance Board.

Obtaining this additional information inevitably takes time because GPs, hospitals and consultants have to fit it in with their main work: namely, treating patients. It is neither unusual nor unreasonable for some weeks to elapse before the information is provided. However, even this need for elasticity is not, I note, included in the noble Lord's composite amendment.

A review under Section 106 of the 1975 Social Security Act is simply another look at whether the medical entitlement conditions are satisfied in an individual case. Reviews can arise in a number of ways, but normally they arise because the claimant asks for one (I am advised most reviews are claimant requested); because the Secretary of State asks for one (there are about 100 to 200 Secretary of State requested reviews a year); or because on rare occasions the board institutes a review itself.

Review decisions can themselves be reviewed and can be set aside by the Social Security Commissioner, on grounds, as I said in answer to my noble friend Lady Lane-Fox, of error in law, and the board or its delegate has to reconsider the review decision. A review takes much longer to process than a claim. Depending on the grounds of review and the outcome, the review process can take anything up to 31 weeks or more. I was interested of course by the tale that the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, produced to the Committee where it had come to his attention that someone had died while this process was taking place.

Members of the Committee may ask why a review takes so long. The answer is the review process is not straightforward. It involves the board or its delegate in careful reappraisal of the information and evidence on which the original decision was given, careful consideration of the grounds for review and the supporting evidence submitted, careful consideration of the points made in any commissioner's decision on the case and very often obtaining further and up-to-date information. It is particularly the time taken to obtain further and up-to-date information which makes the time limits in the noble Lord's amendment unrealistic in many, though I accept not all, cases. On all review decisions the claimant is entitled to be told the reasons for the decision.

Because cases are decided entirely on paper evidence, the Social Security Commissioners have long held that where a review decision is unlikely to have a favourable outcome for the claimant, the board and its delegate should first indicate this to the claimant, give him details (i.e. copies) of all the evidence considered and give him time to comment or submit further evidence before they reach a final decision. This stage of the process is known as "provisional opinion". Claimants are initially given two weeks to respond to a provisional opinion. This limit is freely extended whenever the claimant or his representative ask for more time to put together a response. When the board or delegate receives the response, it is carefully considered. If it does not change the provisional opinion, a final reasoned decision is drafted and issued.

I hope that from what I have said the Committee will appreciate the complexities involved in dealing with attendance allowance claims and reviews. Placing entirely artificial restrictions on the time available for the Attendance Allowance Board and its delegates and adjudication officers to make decisons will benefit no one, least of all the disabled people who have claimed the allowance. Hurried decisions can often be bad decisions. Claimants do not want bad decisions. What they want is fair and impartial consideration of their claims.

The second part of the noble Lord's amendment deals with a very different issue: the recourse available to someone who is dissatisfied with a decision of the Attendance Allowance Board. At present dissatisfied claimants can seek review, or a further review by the board, or, as I said, in certain circumstances appeal to the social security commissioner. The crux of the matter is that the board is the sole and final arbiter on satisfaction of the medical entitlement conditions for the allowance.

There is a purpose for this. When the attendance allowance scheme was introduced in 1971 Parliament recognised that the medical qualifying conditions required expertise from decision-makers very different from that available from existing adjudicating bodies; adjudication officers, social security appeal tribunals and medical appeal tribunals. Attendance allowance called for something entirely new—the expertise to assess an individual disabled person's need for attendance. To provide this expertise, the Attendance Allowance Board, made up of clinicians expert in the various fields of medicine and non-medical members with experience of the needs of disabled people, was brought into being.

The reason that no mechanism was set up for appeal to another body from the board's decision is quite simple: no other body exists with comparable or greater expertise in the field of the attendance needs of disabled people. This is as true today as it was when the board was set up in 1971. Throughout the period of its existence the board has been noted for the painstaking excellence of its decision-making and has been instrumental in making attendance allowance available to many hundreds of thousands of disabled people including the 630,000 or so currently receiving it.

I hope the Committee will agree that the only reason to scrap a system which clearly works, and works well, is to replace it with something even better. I do not believe that what is proposed in this amendment is a recipe for betterment. While I have nothing but praise for the sterling work done by social security appeal tribunals, I am sure they would be the first to admit they do not have the expert medical knowledge of the board. To expect social security appeal tribunals to be able to take on the medical complexities of the attendance allowance scheme on top of their existing duties is too much to ask of anyone.

As I have explained, neither we nor the board are complacent and we are always seeking to improve the administration of the attendance allowance scheme in order to speed processing of claims and reviews. But to place the adjudicating authorities in a straitjacket and add yet another tier of decision-makers to the scheme will not benefit anyone least of all the disabled people who claim the allowance. I urge the noble Lord to withdraw this amendment.

5.15 p.m.

Lord Ennals

I am not very satisfied by the Minister's reply. I am sure that I am wrong, but I felt that he did not seem to comprehend the severe problems for—and I know we are talking about a minority—applicants who are kept waiting for a long time. I am not arguing that that is the majority of cases. I shall give the figures shortly for the average delay time and I believe that that is acceptable. They are rare cases. I gave one example and could give many others. I do not believe that the Minister sufficiently recognises the problems that that creates for disabled people and their families and the stress for those working on their behalf.

What was proposed in 1969 and carried into law in 1971 is a marvellous example of two governments of different political complexions agreeing on something. We were then working in the dark. Up to then there were no special provisions in our social security legislation for disabled people at all. That was the very first benefit that was introduced. It was introduced very largely as a result of representations from Megan de Boisson, the disablement income group in which the noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox, played a prominent and important part. We were trying out something. On the whole, I think it has been a very admirable benefit. However, I believe it has the weakness that we seem to have no means of ensuring that there is a more effective timetable.

I know that the Minister and the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, said that six weeks was too short a period. I am not sure about that. Looking at the figures that Mr. Portillo gave in his reply in another place, he said that decisions on medical questions in the form of a certificate of attendance need take on average about five weeks after the claim is received. That is not bad; in fact it is very good. He then said it takes on average another five weeks for a decision on the medical question to be reached; in some cases the period is shorter and in others longer. Therefore, we are looking at two aspects. The remainder of the process time is taken up by reference to the adjudication officer for a decision on the non-medical condition. That takes us up to an average of about eight weeks.

I was suggesting that the two things should be done in parallel. The consideration of the medical needs should be done on the one hand—and quite clearly it is already different people who look at the different aspects of the claim. Therefore, if the Minister is giving those figures, my figure of six weeks is not unreasonable. However, if the Minister says that that is rather short and he would like to make it eight weeks, perhaps that is more reasonable, but I do not know what his conclusion is on that.

The noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, made clear that there was a certain weakness in that there is no penalty for circumstances in which six weeks was not maintained. Perhaps I should have put in something to that effect, but I submit that he is making the best the enemy of the good. If we accept the principle, at a later date we can put in another provision which indicates what action, if any, should be taken. It may be— and I am rather used to this—that if you put a requirement into the law, even if no penalty is included, it is usually carried out. The public and the Civil Service are very good at observing the law, but at the moment there is no requirement on them.

I ask the Committee to refer to subsection (5) of the amendment and the proposed replacement subsection (2) of Section 106 of the Social Security Act 1975. This reads: Provision shall be made by regulations for enabling appeals to be brought against any determination by the Board made under section 105(3) or arising under subsection (1) above—

  1. (a) to a social security appeal tribunal and
  2. (b) on appeal from the tribunal, to a Social Security Commissioner on a point of law".
The Committee will see that I am not straying that far from the right that already exists as regards going to a social security commissioner.

What I am writing in that is new is a right of appeal to the Social Security Appeal Tribunal. I believe that such a tribunal should be able to examine all the evidence— the medical evidence as well as other evidence that is thought to be appropriate. Therefore, unless the Minister can add to what he has already said, I am not satisfied by his response and I should prefer to test the feeling of the Committee.

5.22 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 8) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 96; Not-Contents, 122.

Airedale, L. Kennet, L.
Amherst, E. Kilbracken, L.
Ardwick, L. Kilmarnock, L.
Attlee, E. Kinloss, Ly.
Banks, L. Kirkhill, L.
Barnett L. Listowel, E.
Basnett, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.
Blackstone, B. Lloyd of Kilgerran, L.
Blease, L. Longford, E.
Bonham-Carter, L. Lovell-Davis, L.
Borthwick, L. McCarthy, L.
Boston of Faversham, L. McNair, L.
Briginshaw, L. Mar, C.
Broadbridge, L. Mason of Barnsley, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L. Milford, L.
Callaghan of Cardiff, L. Molloy, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Mulley, L.
Carter, L. Nicol, B.
Chitnis, L. Northfield, L.
Cledwvn of Penrhos, L. Oram, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L. Parry, L.
David, B. Peston, L.
Dean of Beswick, L. Phillips, B.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Dormand of Easington, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrcde, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. [Teller.]
Ennals, L. Ritchie of Dundee, L.
Ewart-Biggs, B. Robson of Kiddington, B.
Falkland, V. Ross of Marnock, L.
Fisher of Rednal, B. Sefton of Garston, L.
Gallacher, L. Serota, B.
Galpern, L. Shackleton, L.
Glenamara, L. Simon, V.
Graham of Edmonton, L. Stedman, B.
[Teller.] Stewart of Fulham, L.
Grey, E. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Grimond, L. Strabolgi, L.
Hampton, L. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Heycock, L. Tordoff, L.
Houghton of Sowerby, L. Turner of Camden, B.
Hughes, L. Underhill, L.
Hunt, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Hutchinson of Lullington, L. Wells-Pestell, L.
Irving of Dartford, L. Whaddon, L.
Jacques, L. White, B.
Jay, L. Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.
Jeger, B.
Jenkins of Hillhead, L. Winstanley, L.
John-Mackie, L.
Abinger, L. Caithness, E.
Aldington, L. Cameron of Lochbroom, L.
Allerton, L. Campbell of Alloway, L,
Ampthill, L. Campbell of Croy, L.
Arran, E. Carnegy of Lour, B.
Barber, L. Chelwood, L.
Beaverbrook, L. Coleraine, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Constantine of Stanmore, L.
Belstead, L. Cork and Orrery, E.
Bessborough, E. Cottesloe, L.
Blatch, B. Cowley, E.
Boyd-Carpenter, L. Craigmyle, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Cranbrook, E.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Crickhowell, L.
Broxbourne, L. Cullen of Ashbourne, L.
Butterworth, L. Davidson, V. [Teller.]
Deedes, L. Middleton, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Mottistone, L.
Derwent, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Dilhorne, V. Moyne, L.
Dormer, L. Munster, E.
Dundee, E. Napier and Ettrick, L.
Eden of Winton, L. Nelson, E.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Newall, L.
Erroll of Hale, L. Norfolk, D.
Ferrers, E. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Foley, L. Orkney, E.
Fortescue, E. Oxfuird, V.
Gardner of Parkes, B. Pender, L.
Greenway, L. Peyton of Yeovil, L.
Gridley, L. Plummer of St Marylebone, L.
Hailsham of Saint Pym, L.
Marylebone, L. Rankeillour, L.
Halsbury, E. Renwick, L.
Harmar-Nicholls, L. Ridley, V.
Havers, L. Rodney, L.
Hesketh, L. St. John of Bletso, L.
Hives, L. St. John of Fawsley, L.
Holderness, L. Sanderson of Bowden, L.
Home of the Hirsel, L. Sandford, L.
Hood, V. Sandys, L.
Hooper, B. Selkirk, E.
Hylton-Foster, B. Skelmersdale, L.
Ingrow, L. Slim, V.
Ironside, L. Somers, L.
Jenkin of Roding, L. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Johnston of Rockport, L. Strange, B.
Kimberley, E. Sudeley, L.
Lane-Fox, B. Swinfen, L.
Lauderdale, E. Swinton, E.
Long, V. Terrington, L.
Lucas of Chilworth, L. Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Lyell, L. Trumpington, B.
McFadzean, L. Ullswater, V.
Mackay of Clashfern, L. Waldegrave. E.
MacLehose of Beoch, L. Westbury, L.
Manton, L. Whitelaw, V.
Margadale, L. Windlesham, L.
Marley, L. Wolfson, L.
Marshall of Leeds, L. Wynford, L.
Merrivale, L. Young, B.
Mersey, V.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

5.30 p.m.

On Question, Whether Clause 1, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?

Baroness Turner of Camden

I rise to oppose the Question that the clause stand part of the Bill. We are indebted this afternoon to the Minister for a very full explanation of what the Moran judgment is all about. I am rising to oppose the Question that Clause 1 stand part of the Bill because I am in favour of the Moran judgment and I believe that it was a compassionate and a caring decision which has been widely welcomed by organisations concerned with the disabled. As a result of that judgment I believe there are 700 cases, perhaps more, in the pipeline awaiting a decision from the board arising from the Moran judgment.

I believe that the Government should have accepted that the Moran judgment had clarified what was in the original legislation and should have been prepared to let it stand. I understand that the Committee did not very much like the wording of Amendment No. 2. But this question will give the opportunity to say whether the Committee supports the decision in the Moran case rather than the wording in the Bill. As I explained when I spoke earlier to the amendment, I believe that the wording in the Bill will lead to all kinds of confusion. The result will be that carers who might otherwise have applied for and been granted an allowance will not succeed.

We are told that the cost is negligible; that has been stated this afternoon. I do not see why the Government should not be prepared to allow the findings in the Moran case to stand and allow the board to decide future cases in the light of that judgment. Incidentally, I should like the Minister to tell me whether Mrs. Moran has yet received the benefit which the Court of Appeal said she should have. My understanding is that it was to be considered by the board as there was a court finding in her favour. It seems to me that if the allowance has not yet been paid it certainly should have been. That is the situation; it is a very clear and straightforward issue. Do we favour the Moran judgment, or do we not? I sincerely hope that the Committee will favour it and vote with me on the issue.

Lord Skelmersdale

The noble Baroness, Lady Turner, has laid this issue squarely on the line; namely, do we favour putting back the law to where it was before or do we believe that the Moran judgment should stand? I have been at pains to express the point in earlier discussion on various amendments to this clause that the Moran judgment in fact leaves the law in a bit of a mess. That is the way in which I would describe it.

The change in the law that we are making in Clause 1 is necessary for two reasons. First, the change is necessary to bring the law back to the general understanding of the way in which it had been applied by the independent Attendance Allowance Board before the judgment of the Court of Appeal. In holding that the decision of the board's delegate of doctors was wrong in law, the court took a view of what constitutes a need for continual supervision at night which was somewhat different from that taken by a tribunal of learned social security commissioners in 1983. It had been the commissioners' decision which provided the basis of the original conclusion by the board's doctor in the case of Mrs. Moran. That evidence was rejected by the Court of Appeal.

A fundamental aim of the attendance allowance has always been to recognise the extra cost and disruption of normal family life which arises from the attendance needs of severely disabled people. At night the normal state of members of the household is that of sleep and quiet. Such disruption can be caused because a disabled person requires frequent attention or because his condition requires someone else to be awake and watching over him in order to avoid the disabled person putting himself or other people at risk of substantial danger.

It is on this basis that many hundreds of thousands of people have qualified for the allowance since 1971 including, as I have said, the 600,000 or so who are currently receiving the allowance. The judgment of the Court of Appeal pushed the scope of the allowance wider as I have described on several occasions. We were therefore faced with a judicial decision which was not consistent with established policy and practice. It was subscribed to by not one but three governments concerning the attendance allowance.

Continual supervision at night as interpreted by the Appeal Court is no longer a satisfactory expression of the criteria to be satisfied. The amendment made by this clause provides qualifying criteria which are entirely reasonable and keep the scope of the allowance within its intended bounds. It does no more and no less than that.

The noble Baroness asked me a direct question: when will Mrs. Moran get her allowance? She asked what was the position in other cases awaiting decision as a result of the Moran judgment. I am advised that there are no cases held in the pipeline awaiting the decision. Cases are being processed normally and they are not being stockpiled. About 1,000 cases have benefited from Moran I appreciate that that is not terribly helpful because it does not answer the point about the position of Mrs. Moran. I have not got the information immediately to hand——

Noble Lords

Why not?

Lord Skelmersdale

—and I shall therefore have to write to the noble Baroness.

Lord Banks

I should like to support what was said by the noble Baroness, Lady Turner of Camden. The Moran judgment would have meant that stand-by supervision would have been included. It is stand-by supervision; it is not just stand-by and being present for an occasional call. It is supervision. It means that you are not necessarily awake all the time. I believe that would have been desirable and it would also have been the outcome if Amendment No. 2 had been passed by the Committee. Amendment No. 2 was not passed and therefore the clause is left in a state in which I am unable to support it.

Baroness Turner of Camden

I am disappointed with the response of the Minister to the statement that I made, particularly as regards Mrs. Moran and her entitlement. It is my understanding that it was raised very sharply in another place. I should have thought that the information would have been available this afternoon for the Committee. I very much regret learning that it is not.

As regards the clause itself, I have very little more to say. It is my intention to divide the Committee on this question. I believe the issue has been very thoroughly debated this afternoon and as the Minister has said, I have put it squarely before the members. Do we favour the Moran judgment and all that that means in terms of compassion and caring or do we not? This side of the Chamber favours it and we wish to divide on this question.

5.38 p.m.

On Question, Whether Clause 1, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 117; Not-Contents, 83.

Abinger, L. Hooper, B.
Allerton, L. Hylton-Foster, B.
Ampthill, L. Ingrow, L.
Arran, E. Ironside, L.
Auckland, L. Jenkin of Roding, L.
Barber, L. Johnston of Rockport, L.
Beaverbrook, L. Joseph, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Kaberry of Adel, L.
Belstead, L. Lane-Fox, B.
Bessborough. E. Lauderdale, E.
Birdwood, L. Lindsay, E.
Blatch, B. Long, V.
Borthwick, L. Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Boyd-Carpenter, L. Lyell, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L. McFadzean, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Mackay of Clashfern, L.
Broxbourne, L. MacLehose of Beoch, L.
Caithness, E. Manton, L.
Cameron of Lochbroom, L. Margadale, L.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Marley, L.
Campbell of Croy, L. Marshall of Leeds, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Merrivale, L.
Chelwood, L. Mersey, V.
Coleraine, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Constantine of Stanmore, L. Moyne, L.
Cork and Orrery, E. Munster, E.
Cottesloe, L. Napier and Ettrick. L.
Cowley, E. Nelson, E.
Craigmyle, L. Norfolk, D.
Cranbrook, E. Orkney, E.
Crickhowell, L. Oxfuird, V.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Peyton of Yeovil, L.
Davidson, V. [Teller.] Pym, L.
Deedes, L. Rankeillour, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Redesdale, L.
Derwent, L. Rees, L.
Dilhorne, V. Rochdale, V.
Dormer, L. Rodney, L.
Dundee, E. St. John of Fawsley, L.
Eden of Winton, L. Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Sanderson of Bowden, L.
Erroll of Hale, L. Sandford, L.
Ferrers, E. Sandys, L.
Foley, L. Selkirk, E.
Fortescue, E. Skelmersdale, L.
Gardner of Parkes, B. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Gray of Contin, L. Strange, B.
Greenway, L. Sudeley, L.
Gridley, L. Swinton, E.
Hailsham of Saint Terrington, L.
Marylebone, L. Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Halsbury, E. Trumpington, B.
Harmar-Nicholls, L. Ullswater, V.
Havers, L. Waldegrave, E.
Hesketh, L. Westbury, L.
Hives, L. Windlesham, L.
Holderness, L. Wolfson, L.
Home of the Hirsel, L. Wynford, L.
Hood, V. Young, B.
Airedale, L. Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.
Amherst, E. Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.
Ardwick, L. David, B.
Attlee, E. Diamond, L.
Banks, L. Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.
Barnett, L. Dormand of Easington, L.
Basnett, L. Elwyn-Jones, L.
Blease, L. Ennals, L.
Bonham-Carter, L. Ewart-Biggs, B.
Boston of Faversham, L. Falkland, V.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L. Fisher of Rednal, B.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Gallacher, L.
Carter, L. Galpern, L.
Glenamara, L. Milford, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L. Molloy, L.
Grey, E. Mulley, L.
Grimond, L. Nicol, B. [Teller.]
Hampton, L. Northfield, L.
Hanworth, V. Oram, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L. Parry, L.
Hatch of Lusby, L. Peston, L.
Heycock, L. Phillips, B.
Houghton of Sowerby, L. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Hughes, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Hunt, L. [Teller.]
Irving of Dartford, L. Rea, L.
Jacques, L. Ritchie of Dundee, L.
Jay, L. Ross of Marnock, L.
Jeger, B. Sefton of Garston, L.
John-Mackie, L. Serota, B.
Kilbracken, L. Shackleton, L.
Kilmarnock, L. Simon, V.
Kinloss, Ly. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Kirkhill, L. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Listowel, E. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. Turner of Camden, B.
Longford, E. Underhill, L.
Lovell-Davis, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
McCarthy, L. Wells-Pestell, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. Winchilsea and Nottingham,E.
McNair, L.
Mar, C. Winstanley, L.
Mason of Barnsley, L.

Resolved in the affirmative, and clause agreed to accordingly.

5.46 p.m.

Clause 2 [Introduction of retirement allowance and other provisions relating to industrial injuries benefit]:

Baroness Turner of Camdenmoved Amendment No. 9: Page 2, line 44, leave out ("25") and insert ("100").

The noble Baroness said: Clause 2 deals with the industrial injuries scheme. When the issue was before us at Second Reading I voiced my concern that the Government do not like the industrial injuries scheme. Since I came into this Chamber we have seen a series of erosions in the provisions of the scheme. This appears to be yet another one.

On the face of it, there is a case for saying that reduced earnings allowance may not be appropriate once a person has retired since it is intended to compensate for reduced earnings due to the effects of an industrial accident or disease and earnings would have ceased after retirement in any event. However, in my view this case is flawed because, first, the reduced earnings allowance does not fully compensate most injury victims for their actual drop in earnings during working life. This is because it has a maximum cash limit which cannot be exceeded even if the actual earnings loss is higher. Ninety per cent. of beneficiaries actually receive the maximum amount.

Furthermore, victims also do not receive any compensation for the effect of reduced earnings on the level of their earnings-related state or occupational retirement pension. This point has been consistently recognised by the Government, as in their 1981 White Paper and in the 1985 consultation paper on the industrial injuries scheme.

The Government have accepted the force of these arguments by making provision for the retirement allowance rather than merely ending reduced earnings allowance after retirement. However, my objection is to the reduction of the allowance to 25 per cent., because that would mean a reduction of a little over £19 a week to most of the people who are in receipt of this allowance. I see no reason why we cannot refer to the amount received as a retirement allowance if the individuals concerned have retired from active employment and do not expect to work again. I do not see any reason for reducing the amount.

It has to be understood that this is a compensation payment for injury sustained at work. I know that sometimes a case is made for treating everybody who is injured, no matter what the cause, in exactly the same way. That case may be made this afternoon. However, that is not the basis on which the industrial injuries scheme was introduced back in 1948. It was based on the perception that people who go to work, particularly people working in hazardous environments, are exposed to more risk than people who do not. Therefore, there is a case for some form of compensation if people are injured while providing their fellow citizens with goods and services.

That forms the basis of the industrial injuries scheme and it is one of the reasons that it continues to have trade union and employers' support. As the Committee will know, employers must insure themselves for employers' liability in the event of accidents due to employer negligence. However, that is a no-fault compensation scheme. We oppose any attempt further to erode it and to whittle away existing benefits. That is the purpose of my amendment. By all means let us have a retirement allowance, if that is deemed to be more appropriate; but it should be at the same figure. Let us not rob people who are already badly off, in most cases up to £19 per week, as a result of the Bill. That would be the case if the clause were not amended. I beg to move.

Lord Skelmersdale

I find myself in some difficulty over the amendment, especially as one of the premises produced by the noble Baroness, Lady Turner, was that the Government do not like the industrial injuries scheme. I assure the Committee that that is not so. Broadly speaking, reduced earnings allowances are paid as compensation for lost earnings arising from industrial disablement. The allowance is not intended to compensate for the disablement itself and never, in all its previous guises since 1948, has it done so.

The anomaly has long been recognised, by outside commentators as well as governments, by which such compensation continues beyond retirement when earnings from employment would normally have ceased. This view is confirmed by responses to the Government's consultation paper on the industrial injuries scheme which was issued in December 1985, to which the noble Baroness has referred, and preceded recent changes to the scheme.

One of our aims, which was clearly stated in the paper, was to remove that long-standing anomaly. That is why we now propose to introduce the new benefit—retirement allowance—to replace the reduced earnings allowance after retirement. Up to retirement, reduced earnings allowance will continue to be paid as it is now. Perhaps I should emphasise that retirement allowance is not compensation for lost earnings; rather it affords recognition of the fact that some people, but by no means all, may end up with a reduced earnings-related pension in retirement because their earnings capacity during working life has been diminished through industrial disablement. That is what we intend to achieve by our 25 per cent. figure.

The Committee may be interested to note that in an average case, where reduced earnings allowance is paid for six years prior to retirement, the maximum rate of retirement allowance will equate with the amount of additional pension that would have been lost as a consequence of an earnings reduction within the lower and upper earnings limits for the payment of national insurance contributions in the region of £100 per week.

Since it would be impossible to tailor the allowance to individual circumstances, we propose to set the figure at 25 per cent. of the pre-retirement reduced earnings allowance and to uprate it annually in line with inflation, with the result that I have just explained to the Committee. In our view, that is a sensible way to proceed, providing, as it does, a rule which is simple to operate and understandable both for the public and for our staff.

In effect, the noble Baroness's amendment would merely change the name of post-retirement benefit to retirement allowance—a matter that she accepted—while maintaining the pre-retirement rate for reduced earnings allowance. It would mean the continuation of a quite illogical and grossly anomalous situation and one which has been recognised, I might add, by the Trades Union Council, the Disablement Income Group and the Policies Study Institute, among others. I urge the noble Baroness to reconsider this matter.

Baroness Turner of Camden

I thank the Minister for his reply. I am not inclined to think again about the matter. However, I shall take it away and consider it on Report. There may be a possibility of rejigging the amendment on Report to take account of some of the Minister's comments.

On the other hand, I believe that there continues to be a case for paying people who have been in receipt of the reduced earnings allowance rather more than the 25 per cent. of the allowance which is proposed in the Bill. To rob people of as much as £19.35 per week, which would be the effect of the Bill if it went through unamended, is a heavy measure. They are people who, in any event, have reduced earnings because of injury. They have been unable to build up pension entitlement because of their disability. In the main, they are people who are not at all well off. That is far too much of a benefit loss. I am prepared to take the matter away and think about it, but I shall return on Report because I am most unhappy with the Bill unamended.

Baroness Phillips

Just before the amendment is taken away, there is a small but rather mysterious point. On page 3 it is stated: If the weekly rate of the beneficiary's retirement allowance—(b) would exceed the whole number of pence next below it by ½p. or more". Surely we abolished the halfpenny some time ago.

Lord Skelmersdale

The eagle eye of the noble Baroness has struck again. I am afraid I have not the least idea of the answer to her question. I shall have to write to her on the matter.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 10 not moved.]

Clause 2 agreed to.

6 p.m.

Lord Banks moved Amendment No. 11: After Clause 2, insert the following new clause:

("Further amendment of 1986 Act.

In section 63(3) of the Social Security Act 1986 for "or (d)" there shall be substituted "(d) or (f)".")

The noble Lord said: I beg to move the amendment tabled in the names of the noble Baronesses, Lady Faithful, and Lady Jeger, the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, and myself. The Committee will see from that list of names that the amendment has support in all quarters of this Chamber.

The effect of the amendment would be to include child benefit among the benefits which are uprated annually in line with any increase in prices. A great deal of concern was expressed in 1985 when child benefit was not fully uprated. Concern has also been expressed this year in anticipation of April 1988, when again child benefit is not being uprated to take account of any increase in prices. There has been a loss so far of 65 pence per week, which is nearly £35 a year.

The effect of the 1988 freezing and not increasing child benefit this year in line with prices will be to put 15,000 more parents and 30,000 more children on to means-tested benefits. Child benefit was introduced to replace family allowances and income tax child allowances. The income tax child allowances were designed to assist people with families. However, they had the disadvantage that they gave more to the better off and nothing to the poorest who did not pay tax.

Child benefit, which succeeded income tax allowances for children, has the advantages that, first, it does not give more to the better off: secondly, it gives a cash benefit to the poorest; and, thirdly, it is paid to the mother or the caring parent (who in most cases is the mother) and there is a 100 per cent. take-up of the benefit. It is a simple and well understood benefit. It is also universal, so that there can be no stigma attached to claiming the benefit. It does not trap people into a dependence on welfare. It will be seen that child benefit is not to be regarded only as a help to the poorer, although it certainly is that, but as a redistributor. It redistributes from those without dependent children to those who have such children.

Child income tax allowances having been replaced with child benefit, it follows that child benefit should be increased in step with other personal allowances: the single person's allowance, the married man's allowance, the wife's earned income allowance. But this has not been happening. Since 1979 the single person's income tax allowance has risen by 14 per cent. in real terms. The married couple's income tax allowance has risen by 17 per cent. in real terms, but child benefit has fallen by 3 per cent. in real terms. Child benefit is now worth less, on average, than the combined rate of family allowances and child tax allowances in 1955.

People with families have been progressively disadvantaged as compared with the rest of the community. It should be seen that child benefit is a means of targeting tax cuts on those people. Also, child benefit helps all those who fall through the net of means-tested provision. One in four of those entitled to supplementary benefit do not claim it and one in two entitled to family income supplement do not claim it. Yet those people receive child benefit. There is a widespread feeling across all parties that this benefit should have its real value maintained and that, in common with other benefits, it ought to be adjusted every year to take account of any rise in prices. This amendment would do that.

In 1975, when the Labour Government introduced child benefit, the Conservative Opposition took the view that in view of the fact that tax allowances and family allowances were being amalgamated it was difficult to justify a situation in which child benefit was kept out of the annual review procedure. In Committee in another place, they moved for a six-monthly increase in child benefit. This amendment calls for a more modest annual review and I very much hope that the Committee will support it and the Government will accept it. I beg to move.

Baroness Jeger

I support this amendment which has been so ably moved by the noble Lord, Lord Banks. I should like to remind the Minister of one sentence in the Conservative Party manifesto, a pledge which I and thousands of people in this country feel has been broken. It was: "Child benefit will continue to be paid as now and direct to the mother". "As now" in 1987 meant that it would be uprated with the cost of inflation because that was the situation "as now" in 1987. That was breaking the pledge. However, I hope that the country, particularly all the mothers and fathers and children (when they get to the right age) will take account of this point.

It is a problem which I think the Government have created for themselves. The whole question of child benefit is not really for social security at all; it was part of the arrangements which we made in the reform of income tax. I must ask the Minister if his Government will bring back child allowances in the income tax structure. I know that he will tell me this is not a matter for his department. That is why I am raising it—it ought to be for his department. The bringing together of tax allowances and benefits was absolutely fundamental. When these arrangements were made, all sides in the other place and all sides in this Chamber agreed that it was a sensible way forward.

I have not been able to find any reason for cutting out the inflation increase from child benefits. I know that some noble Lords will say that child benefits are not well targeted, but I think they are the best targeted benefit in the world because they are targeted on every child in the country. What better targeting do the Government want than that?

The whole basis of the situation was that families with children should be helped, and this has been of great benefit to many people. One result of this excellent targeting is that the take-up is about 100 per cent. There may be a few people who do not take it up, but so far as we know it is about 100 per cent. It goes to the mother, which is a great help, and so far as I can see the changes which the Government have in mind with their different selective targeting will take some of the money from child benefit and put it into family credit. But the family credit will usually go to the father, if he is the main wage-earner; so this will reduce the availability of the extra money for the mother. That is one reason it is so popular.

I understand the Government reckon that by freezing child benefit they will have saved £120 million and that that money may he redirected into family credit and income support. I do not know whether the Minister can assure us that the whole of that £120 million will be directed into family credit. If so, what will happen about the take-up, which is about two in five of family income supplements at the present time? So putting this barrier into the family credit, as distinct from the absence of any barrier for child benefit, will make the take-up smaller, and I think the circumstances of some of the poorest people will be worse.

I understand that child benefit is paid now in respect of over 12 million children. Supplementary benefit is paid for about2¼million and family income supplement for 400,000 children. Eighty-five per cent. of the families who receive child benefit are also taxpayers, so that it is not all expenditure on the Government's part. But 2¼ million families receive more in child benefit than they pay in tax, so they are better off under the present situation and are only worse off to the extent that there has not been the uprating which other benefits have enjoyed.

I think, therefore, that these are plentiful reasons for the amendment. We are not asking for very much. We are only asking that this very important source of family welfare should be uprated in the same way as other social security benefits have been uprated. If the Minister is not prepared to help us tonight, we shall have to divide the Committee. I should like to leave with him the thought that the important point—I say this, for once, in a non-party spirit'—is to try to get back this meshing of income tax and family support.

On targeting, I might say, "Well, if there are cuts in income tax in the next Budget, they won't be very well targeted because they will not be targeted on the poorest. They will be targeted on the richest". Therefore, I think there is every reason for this amendment to be agreed to. I hope the Committee will support it..

Baroness Faithful

I support this amendment so ably moved by the noble Lord, Lord Banks, and supported by the noble Baroness, Lady Jeger. The noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, from the Cross-Benches, wishes me to say that he much regrets that he is unable to be here tonight.

I seems to me that help by the state, which means all of us as a community, should be targeted on three sectors of our society: the elderly, the disabled and families with children. The figures have been well given by both the noble Lord, Lord Banks, and the noble Baroness, Lady Jeger. To help children is to care for the seedcorn of the future. And the way to help children is to allocate the child benefit to mothers. It makes the most enormous difference when the mother has the benefit targeted to her rather than it going into the family coffer. I know having dealt with a good many families that although we all press for fathers to take equal responsibility with mothers for their chidren, this does not yet happen. It is something for the future, we hope. At this time, the targeting of help to the mother for her children not only materially helps the mother but it lifts worry, concern and disturbance from her. When she cannot get enough for her children, that reflects back on the treatment the children receive.

I shall not speak at any great length but I am a little sad that the party to which I belong and to which I shall always belong has changed its view. Can my noble friend the Minister say why? In the spring of 1987 it was said by a Conservative Minister: I can tell you that child benefit will continue as a non-means-tested universal payment, paid to the mother and tax-free". In 1982 the right honourable Norman Fowler said: We would all. I suspect, like to see an increase in child benefit. I think that it is one of the most effective ways in which you can deal with the problem of poverty and the problem of bringing help to children". I hope tonight we shall bring help to children who are the seedcorn of the future. It is cost effective that children should be adequately cared for by their mothers.

6.15 p.m.

Lord Skelmersdale

I have listened carefully to the arguments put forward for this new clause in Amendment No. 11. I pay tribute to those who have spoken in its favour and especially my noble friend sitting behind me. I recognise the strength of their feelings and their commitment to the cause of families. Nevertheless I have to invite the Committee not to approve the amendment. That is not because we in any way disagree about the importance of improving the help available to families. Quite the contrary is the case. Although we are not proposing to increase child benefit next April, we are putting far more than what that would have cost into extra help for families.

This year's non-up-rating of child benefit will have saved around £120 million net; yet from next April we shall be spending around £100 million extra on families in income support. We shall be spending over £200 million extra on the family credit which will of course be paid to mothers. That was a point the noble Baroness, Lady Jeger, asked me to confirm. So there is no dispute about the need to do more to help families. We shall be spending much more than a straight forward child benefit up-rating would have cost.

Nor do I accept that the election manifesto of my party last June was—I suspect that the word, although not used by the noble Baroness, was rollicking around in the back of her mind—a "con" on the electorate. Child benefit will continue to be paid as now and direct to the mother. No argument arises about paying it direct to the mother. The question is, what do the words "as now" mean? They could not possibly, in any sense of the imagination, have meant benefits being uprated. In the social security White Paper, it was already made quite clear that they would not be uprated for this year. They mean in fact that child benefit is one of a range of benefits which are not invariably uprated but have been on fairly regular occasions. I hope that that settles that particular argument.

There is disagreement, however, about how we spend the various resources we have. Spending it on a general increase in child benefit would mean that help is spread extremely thinly over around seven million families. Most of those families would have little or no real need of the extra 30 pence, or however much it was, although I do not for a moment deny that they would be glad to receive it. For the group that worries the whole Committee—the less well-off families who receive income support and family credit—an extra 30 pence would of course be extremely important and valuable. But, paradoxically, to increase child benefit would be of no value to families receiving income support or family credit as the increase would be taken fully into account in the income support or family credit they receive. In other words, it is basic income, and the support system operates over and above that. An increase in child benefit would simply be matched by a reduction in those other benefits. That flexibility is desirable for the future.

My point therefore is a very simple one. If one wants to do more to help families in need, child benefit is a singularly ill-directed way of doing so. The costs are huge. In gross terms a 10 pence increase costs around £60 million. In net terms it costs £40 million. Most of that extra cost would go to those who do not seriously need it. I think that it would interest the noble Lord, Lord Banks, in particular if I were to make the point that if we were to double child benefit it would cost £3.5 billion and remove only 80,000 families from income support.

The Government have taken the view that this year it is far more sensible to direct the extra resources we are making available to those families who are in greatest need. We can achieve something really useful by focusing the extra resources in this way rather than spreading them thinly across the entire income range. The amendment would remove any future discretion to focus help in this kind of way. The Government could not accept such a degree of inflexibility. We have made it quite clear that in view of its huge cost and ill-targeted nature we shall continue to keep the child benefit under review. What would be quite wrong would be to preempt a potentially substantial slice of public expenditure in a way that would remove any flexibility and any scope for directing what resources may be available to those who need them most.

A number of specific points were made and I shall do my best to answer them. Perhaps the most important concerns the take-up of income related benefits. It has been argued not only today but in another place that diverting extra money to boost income-related benefits for families with children will not help those who will not claim family credit or income support. But take-up of income related benefits is not as bad as is sometimes assumed. In terms of expenditure, 89 per cent. of supplementary benefit is claimed as is 88 per cent. of housing benefit and 65 per cent. of family income supplement. We expect the take-up of family credit to be higher—probably over 70 per cent. by expenditure—because of more extensive publicity and because the more generous benefit will be better known. It will also be simpler for new claimants because they will not need to save wage slips; we shall approach employers direct.

Over and above that, we shall be conducting in the very near future an extensive publicity campaign. Within the child benefit allowance book there is an advertisement for family credit and we shall be looking to see whether it would be appropriate to re-word that advertisement.

The noble Lord, Lord Banks, suggested that child benefit is now worth less than the average value of child benefit and family allowance in 1955. That may indeed be true for families on higher incomes. But substantially increased earnings mean that there is far less need for well-off families to be helped in this way. Looking at a more representative example, a family on average earnings with two young children now receives child benefit worth about £4 a week more than its counterpart in 1955 who received family allowances and child allowances together.

My other comment concerns a point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Jeger, who alleged that family credit will be paid to the father. That is by no means so. Family credit will be paid to the mother in just the same way as child benefit is paid at present. I am sorry if that was not made clear to the noble Baroness in the discussions on the 1986 Bill, and, judging from her expression, clearly it was not.

I repeat, we recognise how significant child benefit remains to many families, but continually raising its level for all is not the best way of helping the less well off. Nor is re-employing a variation of the tax arrangements we have had in the past, for the reasons I have explained—namely, that it only helps taxpayers. Making real improvements in income-related benefits is a far more effective means of alleviating poverty, but to target help in that way we need the very flexibility that the amendment would remove.

Lord Winstanley

Before the noble Lord sits down, may I ask whether he was seriously telling the Committee that the words he quoted from the Conservative Party manifesto for the last general election actually meant, and were intended to mean, that child benefits would not be uprated? If that was their intention, then why did the party opposite not make that clear? It would have been very simple and much more honest.

Lord Skelmersdale

I did not say that those words were intended to reflect the position that I explained to the Committee earlier. What I intended to say was, that they could equally well be given that explanation as the explanation given the Committee by the noble Baroness, Lady Jeger. I apologise if I did not make that clear.

Lord Ennals

Before this debate is wound up, perhaps I may intervene briefly to say that I found the attitude of the Minister towards child benefits to be almost shattering in the light of all my recollections of the period I spent in another place over many years and of all the pressure to which I was subjected—not just when I was Secretary of State for Social Services but long before that, and after, over child benefit.

Child benefit was, in terms of social welfare for families with children, one of the major issues that united the Labour Party with the Conservative Party, and with the Liberal Party as well. It was one of the very few social issues on which we came together. We had common commitments in our 1974 manifestos because we had all of us been working on the same issue in the early 1970s.

When Labour won in 1974 and introduced the 1975 Act, it was done with the total agreement of the Conservative Party. Had we at any stage slipped from the path to which we had all committed ourselves, then we would have been given a very hard time. I remember almost better than I remember anything else in my 15 years in another place the time when, the Bill having been passed and become an Act, and child benefit having been agreed on both sides of the House, the moment came to introduce it in the middle of a government with a pay policy. The money was to be paid to women and it was to be taken away from men because they were the taxpayers. As has been said, that was enabled to take place because it was a replacement for child tax allowance. It was considered by all of us very carefully, not just as a means of helping poor people but also as a major way of helping families.

In 1976, when child benefit was introduced, we had to phase it in over a three-year period. I remember so well the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, then speaking on behalf of the Conservative Opposition in another place, pressing us all the time to answer when we were going to introduce child benefit fully, link it with inflation and index-link it. We did eventually introduce it. That took longer than I hoped, but we did more than index-link it. Had we not done so, we should have been challenged and should probably have faced votes of censure from the other side of the House.

We now see that after 15 years of total agreement across parties, the Government of the party opposite have decided that child benefit is not a suitable measure for dealing with this, that or the other. They seem almost to have forgotten that it replaced child tax allowance. They say it is ill-designed to help families in need. Those are all arguments that both parties dealt with together in 1975 when a Labour Government put the Act on the statutue book. I find it deeply depressing—and I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, must feel the same—that an agreement reached on a great social move forward is now, in a sense, being replaced and is slipping away. My God!—I hope that the Government will think again.

The Countess of Mar

I rise wholeheartedly to support this amendment. I am probably the only Member of the Committee—the only mother—who still claims family allowance; I have my book with me. I looked in the back of it for the first time since I have been receiving family allowance, apart from the very first book. During one period when I was between marriages I did not realise that, being on my own, I could claim a higher family allowance for my daughter until after I remarried. I was told that that was so and managed to get the money then. The Minister has said that the Government expect family credit take-up to be 70 per cent., but that leaves 30 per cent.—nearly one-third—of those deserving of the benefit who will not receive it for one reason or another. I consider myself to be reasonably intelligent, but the fact is that one aspect of family allowance escaped me.

The existing reference to family income supplement makes mention of people in full-time work who have at least one dependant child, but it does not say anything about people having a low income. It does not say what one should do, apart from consulting the leaflet FIS1 from the Post Office. It is not explicit enough and needs rewording.

When I was a young married woman with a small child I found my family allowance extremely useful. I was nowhere near qualifying for National Assistance but every time that my daughter needed a new pair of shoes or some new clothes I would save up my family allowance until I had enough to purchase the article she needed. I did not need to claim any social security benefits then, in the same way as I do not need to claim family income supplement now. But I still find family allowance extremely useful today. I support the amendment.

Lord Skelmersdale

The speeches of the noble Countess, Lady Mar, and the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, would have enormous force if we were proposing to do away with child benefit altogether, but we are not. I return to the question: what effect does 30 pence a week have? For those in impoverished circumstances, it may have a great effect, but it is more than made up by the benefits, especially family credit, to which I alluded earlier. For many people in the circumstances in which the noble Countess now finds herself, I suggest that 30 pence is very little indeed.

Baroness Phillips

Perhaps this argument would appeal to the Government. If one has a complicated system of pay-out, it is always more expensive to administer. I have heard the arguments that the Minister has advanced tonight applied to retirement pensions. The question is asked: why do people who do not really need it take it? But our fiscal system makes sure nobody gets too much money out of the Government. The moment one exceeds a certain limit, the money all goes back again. It is totally nonsensical to suggest that there are many wealthy people collecting a lot of money from the state; the noble Lord knows that to be untrue.

It is much more straightforward if, as we originally conceived, every child is entitled to an allowance or benefit. The moment we start a complicated system, it will cost far more to administer. As regards advertising, why should money be wasted on that? Why do we not simply give the money to everyone as we did before?.

Lord Banks

We must come back time and again to the basic fact that child benefit replaced income tax child allowances. It is dangerous to lose sight of that fact. The Government's Green Paper, Reform of Social Security, which was published in 1985, states: The Government's conclusion from their study of the role of child benefit was that it had underlined the fact that there were two clear and distinct aims in helping families with the cost of bringing up children. The first is to provide extra help to families generally. The second is to provide extra help for poor families. It would be a serious mistake to confuse those quite distinct purposes or to seek to restructure a benefit designed to meet one aim to meet another aim". The Minister said that the cost of child benefit was considerable. I believe the figure is about £4.6 billion per annum. But what is the value of the other personal allowances? They total about £25 billion per annum. The Minister said that child benefit was not targeted on those who seriously need it. Is he saying that the £25 billion which goes towards the other personal allowances goes only to those who seriously need it'? Incidentally, that £25 billion does not show up at all in public expenditure. No one seems to be worried about it.

We are told that child benefit is not targeted on the poorest families. One must ask whether the Government are proposing to withdraw the single person's allowance, the married man's allowance and the wife's earned income allowance as income increases. That would be a parallel action. Since those benefits are not as well targeted on the poor as is child benefit—they give more money to the better off—would it not be sensible of the Government, if they wish to take that road and are determined to do so, to begin with those allowances?

I am very much in favour of helping the poorest families. However, the argument that child benefit should be frozen to provide funds for the poorest means that families with children are singled out to provide funds for the poorest families. There is no justification in that. If we wish to help the poorest families, we should see that that help is paid for by the general taxpayer and should not single out those who already have children in order to provide the money.

Personal allowances are uprated every year. Child benefit should also be uprated every year. The one is the logical consequence of the other. Therefore I very much hope that the amendment will be supported from all parts of the Chamber. I hope that the Committee will not regard the Division as being in any sense a party matter. It is a coming together of all those who believe that child benefit is an important part of our benefit and tax structure and that it should be uprated every year at a time when personal allowances and benefits are uprated.

6.34 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 11) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 81; Not-Contents, 113.

Airedale, L. Jacques, L.
Amherst, E. Jay, L.
Ardwick, L. Jeger, B.
Attlee, E. Jenkins of Hillhead, L.
Banks, L. [Teller.] John-Mackie, L.
Barnett, L. Kilbracken, L.
Blease, L. Kilmarnock, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L. Kinloss, Ly.
Carter, L. Kirkhill, L.
Chitnis, L. Listowel, E.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L. Lovell-Davis, L.
Cottesloe, L. McIntosh of Haringey, L.
Craigavon, V. McNair, L.
Darcy (de Knayth), B. Mar, C.
David, B. Masham of Ilton, B.
Dean of Beswick, L. Mason of Barnsley, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Milner of Leeds, L.
Dormand of Easington, L. Molloy, L.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Mountevans, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. Moyne, L.
Ennals, L. Mulley, L.
Ewart-Biggs, B. Nicol, B.
Faithfull, B. Northfield. L.
Falkender, B. Phillips, B.
Fisher of Rednal, B. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Gallacher, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Galpern, L. Rea, L.
Glenamara, L. St. John of Bletso, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L.[Teller.] Serota, B.
Simon, V,
Grey, E. Stedman, B.
Grimond, L. Stewart of Fulham, L.
Hampton, L. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Hanworth, V. Swinfen, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Hatch of Lusby, L. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Henderson of Brompton, L. Turner of Camden, B.
Heycock, L. Underhill, L.
Houghton of Sowerby, L. Wells-Pestell, L.
Hughes, L. Winstanley, L.
Abinger, L. Dundee, E.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Eden of Winton, L.
Allerton, L. Ferrers, E.
Arran, E. Foley, L.
Auckland, L. Fortescue, E.
Barber, L. Gardner of Parkes, B.
Beaverbrook, L. Glenarthur, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Gray of Contin, L.
Belstead, L. Greenway, L.
Bessborough, E. Gridley, L.
Blatch, B. Hailsham of Saint
Bolton, L. Marylebone, L.
Boyd-Carpenter, L. Harmar-Nicholls, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Havers, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Hesketh, L.
Broxbourne, L. Hives, L.
Caithness, E. Holderness, L.
Cameron of Lochbroom, L. Home of the Hirsel, L.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Hood, V.
Campbell of Croy, L. Hooper, B.
Carnegy of Lour, B. lngrow, L.
Chelwood, L. Jenkin of Roding, L.
Colwyn, L. Johnston of Rockport, L.
Constantine of Stanmore, L. Joseph, L.
Cork and Orrery, E. Kenilworth, L.
Cowley, E. Killearn, L.
Craigmyle, L. Kimberley, E.
Cranbrook, E. Kinnoull, E.
Crickhowell, L. Lane-Fox, B.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L, Lauderdale, E.
Davidson, V. [Teller.] Lindsay, E.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Lindsey and Abingdon, E.
Derwent, L. Long, V.
Dilhorne, V. Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Dormer, L. Lyell, L.
McFadzean, L. Rochdale, V.
Mackay of Clashfern, L. St. John of Fawsley, L.
Mansfield, E. Sanderson of Bowden, L.
Marley, L. Sandford, L.
Marshall of Leeds, L. Sandys, L.
Merrivale, L. Selkirk, E.
Mersey, V. Skelmersdale, L.
Morris, L. Slim, V.
Mottistone, L. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Mowbray and Stourton, L. Strange, B.
Munster, E. Sudeley, L.
Napier and Ettrick, L. Swinton, E.
Nelson, E. Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Orkney, E. Thurlow, L.
Orr-Ewing, L. Trumpington, B.
Oxfuird, V. Ullswater, V.
Pender, L. Vinson, L.
Prior, L. Waldegrave, E.
Pym, L. Windlesham, L.
Rankeillour, L. Wolfson, L.
Redesdale, L. Wynford, L.
Rees, L. Young, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

6.42 p.m.

Schedule 1 [Industrial Death Benefit]:

Baroness Turner of Camdenmoved Amendment No. 11A. Page 15, line 9, at end insert ("For deaths occurring on or after 11th April 1988, the widow or widower of a deceased person who dies in prescribed circumstances, or any other prescribed person, shall be entitled to a lump sum industrial death benefit of an amount equivalent to half average industrial earnings.").

The noble Baroness said: We are back again with the industrial injuries scheme. The Bill proposes to abolish altogether industrial death benefit for widows and occasionally widowers of workers killed in work accidents or by an occupational disease after 1988. In recent years around 1,200 people have been awarded industrial death benefit each year. That represents three workers dying each day of the year. It is true that the financial loss from abolishing the present industrial death benefit will generally be small. The basic differential above an ordinary national insurance widow's pension is only 55p per week. Some people will lose more. There is a pension for childless younger widows, currently nearly £12 per week, and payment of a gratuity on remarriage equal to a year's pension, both of which have no equivalent in the national insurance scheme.

Equally important is that the existing industrial death benefit has not been generous. The removal of any separate industrial death benefit would mean that the only state benefit available for families of people killed at work will be the ordinary widow's benefit. For a widowed mother this is £41.15p per week, plus £8.40p per week for each child as from April. This is not a large sum and is intended to assist with weekly living costs in place of the deceased's former wages.

It is not the case that there need be no concern because a widow can sue for tort damages in the courts. Only in a minority of work accident and disease cases are any damages recovered. Even then it takes several years to recover anything. As I have said on several occasions in the Chamber, not more than 10 per cent. of injured workers, whether they die or are simply injured, are successful in securing common law damages in the courts. The amendment proposes to establish a new lump sum industrial death benefit at the level of half annual average industrial earnings. This follows a recommendation made in the Pearson Commission report in respect of such cases for a lump sum payment at this level of compensation.

As we have said on this side of the Chamber on a number of occasions, the industrial injuries scheme is a no-fault system of compensation in cases of accident at work. This would follow that line of thinking. It would assist the financial position of families in fatal cases and provide some recompense for the loss of life and companionship of a partner because of an industrial accident or disease. I beg to move.

Lord Skelmersdale

In tabling the amendment the noble Baroness seeks not only to restore a preference but to create an entirely new preference for future industrial widows. This would run completely counter to our long-standing proposals to ally the benefits paid to industrial widows to those paid to national insurance widows. The noble Baroness will not be surprised therefore that I cannot recommend the Committee to accept the amendment.

For industrial deaths occurring after 10th April this year, industrial widows will have access to the same benefits as other national insurance widows, including the tax free lump sum of £1,000 where appropriate. The amendment would increase the sum substantially for industrial widows to about £6,500 on the assumption that the payment would equate to the annual figure for half average industrial earnings and would be paid on top of the £1,000 lump sum. This would be manifestly unfair to the vast majority of widows whose husbands have died from nonindustrial causes.

We believe that public opinion has shifted, as on so many issues, since the 1940s and that the preferences accorded to industrial widows do not command the support that they once had. It is always easier in Opposition to say what should be done. I remind the Committee that it was a Labour Government who in 1967 froze the preferential rate of industrial widows' pensions and that we saw little outward sign of this latent generosity under Labour Administrations. The Government intend that with the exception of the preferential war pension scheme, all widows, regardless of the cause of death of their husbands, should be treated equally and fairly.

In answer to the noble Baroness's questions, I am advised that remarriage gratuities were abolished in the 1986 legislation. It is true that younger childless widows would lose their small pension. These young widows are much more likely nowadays to be in full-time work or to go into full-time work than was the case when the scheme was introduced in the 1940s. Conditions have changed. People's perception of life and their personal economies have changed. I believe that the Bill as it amends the 1986 Act is right in that it takes account of them.

Baroness Turner of Camden

I am disappointed of course with the Minister's response. I repeat what I said in connection with the Industrial Injuries Act. I believe that there is a case for treating people who are injured or who die at work in a different way from people who are generally injured in other circumstances.

I note that the Minister says that exceptions are being made in respect of war widows. I do not see why exceptions should not be made in the case of widows of people who are injured or who die as a result of their injuries while providing goods and services to their fellow citizens. As I have said in the Chamber on other occasions, many industrial environments are inherently hazardous and, despite the fact that we have an effective Health and Safety Executive, they regrettably continue to be so. There are risks involved in going to work.

I am disappointed with the Minister's response. I shall not press the issue to a Division now. I shall look at the matter again with a view to presenting another amendment on Report.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 1 agreed to.

Clause 3 [Commencement of payment of fwnily credit]:

Lord Carter moved Amendment No. 12: Page 4, line 16, at end insert ("and in their place shall be inserted the words— . (save that no period of less than 26 weeks shall be prescribed before 1st January 1990 in respect of a person other than a former recipient of Family Income Supplement)." ").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment I should like to take the opportunity to raise a general point about the operation of Clause 3 of the Bill. It is concerned with family credit, which will be the new means-tested benefit directed at low income families in work. Clause 3 amends Section 20(6) of the Social Security Act 1986, which states: Family credit shall be payable for a period of 26 weeks or such other period as may be prescribed, beginning with the week in which a claim for it is made or is treated as made". The amendment proposed by Clause 3 has been described as technical. It deletes the requirement that family credit awards must begin from the week in which the claim is made. This is said to allow the necessary flexibility. When the Government propose an amendment which is technical, I think it means that they intend to save money. The provisions in Clause 3 would deprive many families of a week's worth of family credit. That is because of the rules contained in the regulations. Those provide that any claim that is not received on a Tuesday at the family credit centre shall be treated as having been received on the following Tuesday. If the claimant posts the form on a Monday and it arrives on the Wednesday, the claim will not start until the following Tuesday. That is the effect of the new clause.

That is combined with the rule that family credit is paid in arrears on the next Tuesday after entitlement. That could mean that a family would lose a whole weeks' family credit, due to the vagaries of the postal system. Perhaps the Minster can deal with that point when he replies.

This is a probing amendment. The intention is to discover the reason for the provision in the Family Credit (Transitional) Regulations of the power to have a longer or shorter period than 26 weeks for any cases in the first year of the new scheme. Obviously it is necessary to make awards other than for 26 weeks for former family income supplement claimants, but this amendment recognises those cases. It will be helpful to know why the Government have made provision for shorter or longer periods than the 26 weeks in cases that are non-FIS. I beg to move.

Lord Skelmersdale

It is the right for the Opposition to be suspicious. I remember sitting on those Benches some time ago and being equally suspicious of the government of the day. However, I have to say that there is no reason for suspicion of ogreism—if that is a word in the English language —on this occasion.

The staggering of awards so that they occur between 14 and 39 weeks is purely for administrative convenience. When the new scheme gets under way on 11th April there would be a vast number of claims starting on day one. Therefore, when they came to be reconsidered six months later there would be another vast number. The way we have overcome the problems of 11th April is to receive applications from the beginning of March onwards so that we shall be able to process them in a fairly leisurely fashion and not have a great rush on 11th April. However, we need to have that flexibility on repeat applications. That is the only reason we have this proposal. If the noble Lord has any other questions on this matter I shall do my best to answer them.

Lord Carter

I can understand the administrative convenience, although I doubt whether it is for the convenience of the claimant. In the light of the answer that the Minister has given, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Banks moved Amendment No. 13: Page 4, line 16, at end insert— ("(2) In section 22(8) of the Social Security Act 1986 at the end add "except that in calculating the income of a single parent for the purposes of Family Credit there shall be disregarded an amount equal to that necessarily incurred in reasonable child care expenses."").

The noble Lord said: Clause 3 deals with family credit. The amendment would add a further subsection dealing with the allocation of family credit in the case of single parents. The new subsection would amend Section 22 of the Social Security Act 1986 by adding to it the words: except that in calculating the income of a single parent for the purposes of Family Credit there shall be disregarded an amount equal to that necessarily incurred in reasonable child care expenses". Since we are dealing with family credit, we are concerned with single parents who are working. Most lone parents on supplementary benefit would prefer to work and bring their families out of poverty. However, to work they must pay essential child care costs. These can amount to £50 a week per child in the London area. As 90 per cent. of lone parents are women, this means that the wages they can command are usually at the lower end of the scale. A combination of low wages, high child care costs and a means-tested benefit that takes no account of these necessary expenses often means that lone parents are forced to stay on benefit because they would be financially worse off if they took full-time work.

Child care costs are ignored when calculating family income supplement. Unless this amendment is accepted, family credit will continue to keep lone parents in poverty. The organisation Gingerbread recently took a case to appeal, and a tribunal of social security commissioners stated: We have the greatest sympathy for the anomalous position in which the claimant finds herself as a result of returning to work. This is a classical example of the 'poverty trap', but while we are sure that it was never the intention of the legislature to create a situation in which a claimant would be better off financially by refraining from work, the law is in our view clear and it is our duty to apply it". In that case the claimant could not have her essential expenses taken into account. Yet the Court of Appeal in an earlier case involving family income supplement was able to take a vicar's gardening costs into account because they had been assessed as tax deductible expenses.

In the case of the woman mentioned above, the saving to the state would have been considerable. This is because not only would the state be paying less in benefits such as supplementary and housing benefits but it would also be receiving revenue in the form of tax and national insurance.

For these reasons I urge the Committee to support this amendment and to take this opportunity to ensure that the anomaly does not continue to be present in the new family credit system when it is introduced in April. I beg to move.

Lord Skelmersdale

There are three quite major issues here. First, having regard to specific outgoings in this way would change the nature of the family credit scheme. That scheme is designed to be quite broad-brush and therefore simple to administer. This enables us to deal with claims entirely by post and at a central office. Like family income supplement at present, family credit has no regard to specific outgoings, and certainly a need to investigate reasonableness and whether an expense was necessarily incurred—as this amendment would demand—would risk changing the very basis of the way claims for benefit are dealt with. Difficult judgments about what is reasonable and what is necessary could well be involved and would be all the more difficult when they had to be made at arm's length by central office. In the new income-related benefits to be introduced this April we are trying to minimise this case-by-case questioning and instead move towards a system based on simple, straightforward criteria, which of course is to the benefit of the claimants themselves.

This approach is common to all three new benefits. This brings to me my second main point. The amendment before the Committee relates only to family credit. Yet similar considerations arise both in income support and in housing benefit. One of the principles of the new income-related benefit schemes is that there should be common rules wherever possible and in particular in the area of the treatment of income and capital. The amendment would therefore run quite contrary to these principles.

Thirdly, there is the vital fact that family credit already recognises the special needs of single parents and makes special provision for them. Single parents will receive the same rates of benefits as a couple; and the one-parent benefit that they receive will be totally disregarded. The Committee should not dismiss this special treatment too readily. It means that lone parents are treated particularly favourably. The fact that they have special needs is recognised but in a way which achieves a balance between trying to respond to individual circumstances and a scheme which is simple to understand and operate. We are recognising their needs in ways which help all single parents receiving family credit.

If the noble Lord's proposal were to be accepted and we started to take account of particular extra costs on a case-by-case basis we should help some but not all. There would of course be a case for withdrawing the special help already incorporated in the system that I have just described.

Finally there is the point that the detailed rules for the new income related benefit schemes have already been established in regulations which have been approved by both Houses. We have already started to implement these rules in the exercises which are already under way in both supplementary benefit and family income supplement to convert existing cases to the new benefits from April. The kind of provision which is sought in this amendment would represent a significant change and quite frankly we are too far down the road to take it on board at this late stage even, I must admit, if we wanted to. It would need further questions on the family credit claim form, yet the latter is already printed and is being distributed to post offices and social security offices so as to be available by 1st March when we shall start accepting claims under the new scheme. We are well into an extensive training programme based on the rules as they stand at present. At this stage we really should keep such changes to the absolute minimum to avoid all unnecessary risks to the implementation of the scheme. For this reason, in addition to the reasons of principle that I have explained to the Committee, I regret that I cannot accept this amendment. I hope that on reflection the noble Lord will be willing to withdraw it.

7 p.m.

Lord Banks

The noble Lord will not be surprised if I say that I find that a rather disappointing answer. It seems that it is all too difficult and that we are so near to the scheme coming into practice that we must not change anything in it. We need not necessarily change it from the date of inception. It could be changed from a year in advance, but I should like to consider the points that the noble Lord has made and reserve the right to come back at Report stage, perhaps seeking an amendment, as he suggested, that would cover other benefits as well as the one covered here. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 3 agreed to.

Clause 4 [Income support and child benefit]:

Lord Pitt of Hampstead moved Amendment No. 14: Page 4, line 21, after ("18") insert ("or if he is a person of or over the age of 16 but under the age of 18 and is not able to secure either employment, full time education or training, or if he has no parents or is estranged from his parents,").

The noble Lord said: This clause deals with income support and child benefit as it affects young people. The clause has had a lot of criticism and discussion both in another place and here during the Second Reading debate. As I understand it, the Government present their policy towards 16 and 17 year-olds as a seamless garment: the weaving of guarantees and regulations which will protect the youth of Britain from the morale-sapping tendency of a benefit culture. That is, as I understand it, their presentation and frankly I applaud that aim. But I believe that with the best will in the world some 16 and 17 year-olds will fall through the holes that I see in the garment. My amendment aims at providing a safety net—I stress that—to catch them as they fall.

My concern in putting the amendment forward is not to encourage the work-shy, the stay-in-beds or the chronic youth training scheme refusers. It is to ensure that those young people who have no employment or who cannot depend on the protection of their parents will be guaranteed a future, as they are today, with the full protection of the law and the social security system. That is what I am trying to do.

This was felt to be necessary in 1948 when the National Assistance Act was passed. Frankly I do not believe that it is any less necessary today. I know that the Government make much play of the fact that they are providing the youth training scheme, which I applaud. But it is worth remembering that a homeless youth will have difficulty in benefiting from the scheme. He needs a period in which to secure accommodation so that he may really benefit from it.

Until now it has been an established feature of social security law that a young person who has no adequate income and cannot depend on parents or guardians to provide accommodation or to supplement resources should be able to look to the Department of Health and Social Security for assistance. This is true for those on youth training schemes as well as for those in paid employment or out of work. This is how the Department of Health and Social Security explains the current position to young people in one of its social security guides: You can start claiming Supplementary Benefit if you are not living with your parents and are not being kept by them and either you are not in touch with them, or they are separated from you for reasons that can't be avoided". One can regard that as the humane and caring way to respond to the needs of young people who cannot rely on their parents' support. I do not believe that there is any need to change that.

This is not the first time a proposal has been made to withdraw the benefit entitlement from 16 and 17 year-olds to social security. Each time that a proposal of this kind has been made its proponents have implied that an entitlement to social security benefit encourages young people to leave their homes unnecessarily. I have heard it said again this time. But that contention is not sustained by the findings of a study conducted by the Department of Health and Social Security quite recently, which found that, in few, if any, cases did the benefit pattern appear to have played a central role in enticing young people to leave". That was a conclusion of the study by the department. But despite these and many other findings and in the face of opposition from local authorities and voluntary organisations, the existing social security arrangements for young people are to be replaced. I want to ask the Committee to consider the changes proposed in the Bill and the practical effects they will have on young people and their families. My amendment seeks to avoid some, but only some, of the more damaging consequences of these effects.

There is also the question of extending child benefit for an extra six months to meet the needs of the school-leaver. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that there is a close link between family breakdown and family conflict over financial matters. They are commonly related to youth and family unemployment. If unemployed young people are to be treated as their parents' dependants for even longer periods of time than is presently the case, I think it is fair to assume that those households already facing economic and relationship difficulties will be even more likely to reach breaking point. That is the first point that I want the Committee to bear in mind. For many reasons it is important that those of this age should have an independent income. I do not have time to go into the matter now as I do not wish to delay the Committee, but it is worth hearing in mind.

The Bill gives powers to the Secretary of State to prescribe certain circumstances and certain periods of time during which young people unable to live with their parents can claim income support. We do not know what the regulations will provide. However, from all that we have heard so far, it seems that they will be restrictive. That is unfortunate because a 16 or 17 year old person who is abandoned or evicted by his parents without resources for accommodation or food is likely to be in danger of suffering severe hardship unless they can be guaranteed an income or assistance of some kind. If that assistance does not come from the state, there will always be those ready to exploit homeless young people to their detriment; therefore, they will be exposed to that exploitation.

As I said earlier, the Government make play of their position in respect of the youth training scheme and we must all applaud it. However, we must look at what has happened so far. There are many children who, instead of taking the normal training which would give them £28.50, are prepared to go to school and higher education colleges for a much lower weekly supplement. It must be borne in mind that it is always on the cards that there may be occasions when they do not receive the kind of training that their abilities and needs demand. They are then put in the position either of being trained in something for which they have no interest in order to obtain £28.50 or of having no income at all. That is Hobson's choice—but, I hope, a situation that will be seriously borne in mind.

Not all young people are unfortunate enough to be unemployed. There is also the problem of the young people who have had a job which did not last long enough to enable them to qualify for proper benefit through their contributions. It is suggested that they will receive a bridging allowance which, I am told, will be £15. That is £4.40 less than they would have received under other circumstances. Even those young people who are doing what we all want them to do —that is trying to play their part in the labour market—are not being well served by the Bill.

As some Members of the Committee will know, I am chairman of Shelter, the campaign for the homeless. Shelter provides support to many of the crisis hostels which accommodate homeless young people. It is important to note that more often than not the 16 and 17 year olds seeking refuge in the hostels are the victims of family conflicts, poverty and unemployment. In our experience, homes leave young people, through separation and divorce, for instance, more often than young people leave homes.

Many of the hostels are models of co-operation between central and local government and the voluntary sector. However, if the Bill becomes law they are faced with the real prospect of having to argue every case with the Secretary of State with the uncertainty that that holds. Even if they receive a grant it will be a much reduced social security payment. The hostels depend on the social security payments which the youngsters receive in order to pay their rent. Many of the managers of such hostels are worried as to how they will cope.

I realise that I have spoken for longer than I should and I apologise, but I feel very disturbed about the situation. I do not wish to see a Britain in which young people organise their lives around the availability of welfare benefits. However, I am not prepared to see young people written out of the legal framework of social security in Britain and I believe that that is what we are being invited to do. Previous generations have found it prudent to include all those over 16 years of age in the welfare net whether their call upon it is the exception or the norm. I believe that we should continue that.

Last year was the International Year of Shelter for the Homeless. During 1987 international bodies such as the United Nations, the Council of Europe and the European Parliament gave recognition to the increase in youth homelessness in many parts of the world. They spoke of the generation of "shut-out youth"—young people who are increasingly being excluded from the legal codes and welfare services of the countries in which they live. Today we are discussing the withdrawal of the last vestige of primary legal protection which may stand between a vulnerable young person and destitution.

It is my view that if we accept this measure we shall be well on the way to creating our own under-class of shut-out youth in Britain. My amendment seeks to provide a limited measure of security for them. As I have said, it is merely a safety net. However, I believe that without it, they will be in some danger. I hope that the Government also recognise that belief and are willing to accept the amendment. I beg to move.

7.15 p.m.

Lord Kirkhill

The Committee should give serious consideration to the proposal contained within the amendment of my noble friend Lord Pitt. The housing associations which have formed community housing teams would have considerable difficulty in continuing their development if the clause stands as presently drafted. We must have regard to the fact that young people aged 16 or 17 years and who are not in employment or full-time education must accept a YTS place or be denied the income support. Only those individuals exempted by the Secretary of State will be protected from the effects of this ruling. I am advised that many housing associations provide shared accommodation for vulnerable young tenants, most of them aged 16 to 17, who have suffered from inadequate or non-existent family support. These young people are often unable to cope with the demands of the YTS placement due to the detrimental effects of physical, mental or sexual abuse suffered by them as young children.

The associations concerned offer support to these individuals in order to assist them gradually to take up their adult responsibilities. They argue that this support benefits not only the young tenants but also the wider community. They believe that the young people housed by the associations should be exempted from the requirement that they take up a YTS place or be denied income support. If such exemption is not granted, the associations fear that they will no longer be able to provide housing or support for these young people, who have no alternative accommodation and of course would be made homeless.

Linked to this, but outside the scope of this Bill I agree, there will be additional difficulties created on 1st April of this year by the regulations coming into effect which arise out of the Social Security Act 1986, which will significantly reduce the amount of disposable income for tenants in the age group to which I have just referred. In fact I am advised by the Link Association of Edinburgh, a housing association, and one well known to the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, that 16 and 17 year-olds taking tenancies after 1st April of this year will receive £19.40 income support. They will have to spend £5.07 on services and rates (and that means that lighting and heating will be accounted for, as will water rates and 20 per cent. of the domestic rate), which will leave a disposable income of £14.33 from which they must pay for food, clothing, travel and so on. I do not believe, and I am sure no Member of the Committee believes, that young people left with £14.33 will find it possible—and I speak now particularly in a Scottish context—to take up accommodation which may be available to them.

The Government's previous legislation as far as Scotland is concerned, namely, the Housing (Scotland) Act 1987, Section 19, gives them that opportunity on the one hand and the Social Security Act will deny it to them on the other. I do not believe that that is even-handedness or fair government legislation, and I hope that the Committee will accept this amendment.

The Earl of Selkirk

I should like to support the noble Lord. This clause raises very big problems. I am not quite certain that the Government know exactly what they are doing, because they have put in that clause and then there are the regulations. That means that they have not really made up their minds what they are going to do; otherwise, they would have put the provision in the Bill. We do not know what the Government are going to do.

I am taking a lugubrious view of this. I must do that because that is exactly what I feel. There are young people between the ages of 16 and 18. A great majority of homeless people are from broken families. Having had a row with their father and mother, young people may step out onto the street. As I understand the regulations, either they must take up a course of training—YTS or whatever—or a job; otherwise they will receive nothing. That is what I understand from the Bill. If I am wrong, the Government should clarify the Bill. I should be delighted if what is being done could be clarified.

Let us remember what we are talking about. At the age of 16 or 18 many of us leave school. Our whole life changes. We go into a job or, who knows, maybe some useless occupation. But it is a vital period for a girl or boy, and it is very important that that should be catered for. I agree with the basic aim here. Young people should either take up a course of training or a job or else they will be under pressure.

The Government use the words "severe hardship". Those are tough words, and perhaps not bad, but they are words intended to frighten people into getting down to the job. I am in favour of that. However, what do the Government want to do when this breaks down? Are there enough YTS places? I do not quite know what the YTS does because it is a new scheme to me, but I am told that people are either forced to leave or leave it from time to time because they are incompetent, cannot cope or there are not enough places. I am sure that in many outlying places there are not nearly enough YTS places. What will the Government do then?

I shall put this matter bluntly. If you put a young man or girl out on the streets at 16 or 17, what do they then do if they have no money? The young person has only one thing to sell and that is his or her body. Let there be no illusion about that. That is a very dangerous proposition. I want the Government to respond to those matters and tell us how that will be avoided. It is a very serious position. As the noble Lord said, housing associations have made a lot of provision to help homeless people, but if they receive no income they cannot afford to keep them in the accommodation even though it has been especially prepared for those people. The Government may work out these problems and perhaps I am being unduly lugubrious, but I want the Government to tell us what they have in mind.

Baroness Jeger

With respect to the timetable of the Committee, I rise only briefly to support my noble friends on this amendment. We believe that it is very important and the Bill as it stands shows a gross understatement and lack of information about the real dilemmas of these young people, among whom homelessness and unemployment is growing. We hope that the Government will have something helpful to say on this important amendment, otherwise we shall have to divide the Committee.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

I must say a few words about this amendment because I have a personal interest in it as I was commissioner of the Manpower Services Commission when the youth training scheme was designed and got off the ground. Our vision at that time—and I think it was a vision shared by the participant groups within the commission—was that every person aged 16 to 18 would be in full-time education, in training or in a job and that unemployment should simply not be an option. Being shut out of society because you are on such a low income and you do not have a job should not be an option. It was our view at that time that the best way to help disadvantaged youngsters, youngsters whose families broke up in the way that the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, quite rightly described, was to get them into a position so that they could obtain employment.

In designing the youth training scheme, the commission considered at length whether the best thing for young people was to grasp the nettle then and there and to say, "If you are not staying on in full-time education, if you cannot get a job, you should go on the youth training scheme and if you don't, that is it. You will not receive public support to do anything". We considered that but it was going to take time to establish the youth training scheme; it was going to take time to persuade the education and training establishments that the youth training scheme was a good plan; it was going to take time to persuade employers of that; it was going to take time to develop quality places and to convince parents and young people that this was the right thing to be doing; it was going to take time to produce a two year scheme of the quality that we have now—and I believe that it is a very different scheme to the one that my noble friend Lord Selkirk is perhaps imagining.

Therefore, it was decided quite deliberately to recommend the Government to wait until the YTS had proved itself, until it had become popular and was recognised by young people as the right way for many of them to work, until it was recognised by industry and commerce as the beginning of skills training and that it was the progressive way to proceed.

It seems to me that the Government have got this clause about right. There is a problem at the beginning in that when youths leave school they have to orientate themselves and find out what they want to do. Some of them will try to obtain a job, preferably a job with training but a job. Some will take a little time to decide whether to go to college, and so on. That is allowed for in the Bill. There may be occasions when young people meet problems. It seems to me that that is allowed for. I agree that it is not defined, and it would be nice to know exactly what is that net.

It is wrong to say that the clause should be weakened so that young people can say, "Oh dear, I cannot get a job" or parents can say, "Och, that is not a good enough job" or "That is not a good enough place on the scheme; you just stay on benefit in the meantime, laddie". That is disastrous for young people. It still happens and it is high time we made the change.

The vision of the Manpower Services Commission at that time has so far come true. Chapter 1 is complete and we should enter chapter 2, where it is accepted that that is how it is until you are 18. I hope the clause will stand as it is and that this amendment will not be accepted.

7.30 p.m.

Lord Banks

I should like briefly to express support for the amendment. It would not be right to leave all the exemptions to be prescribed. I do not see why we should not write into the Bill what we regard as the important exemptions. It seems to me that these three categories are reasonable.

Of course, people would have to justify that they were unable to secure employment, full-time education or training. They would not be able merely to say that. They would have to justify it. However, if they can—if they have no parents or if they are estranged from their parents—there is a strong case, for exempting them from the provisions of this clause.

Lord Swinfen

While I agree with everyone's deep concern for young people and the difficulties that they may get into, I do not believe that this amendment or the following amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Turner, is necessary.

The flexibility required is already in the Bill. What worries me is that in laying down suggested guidelines, as proposed in the amendment, they become hard and fast boundaries which may not be moved. We must allow the Secretary of State to continue to have as much flexibility as possible.

I go on to a slightly different subject as an example. When the building regulations first came out in 1965 a minimum length of back garden was laid down—I think it was 30 feet. No builders thought of putting in a garden longer than 30 feet if they could possibly help it so that they could crowd as many properties as possible onto the one site. I have a feeling that the same sort of conditions will apply in this context if either of these two amendments is accepted. For that reason, I wholeheartedly oppose the amendments.

Lord Skelmersdale

Does the noble Baroness, Lady Turner, wish to speak on this amendment? I know that she has the next amendment, which is similar.

Baroness Turner of Camden

I intend to withdraw my amendment in favour of the amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Pitt, because they are almost identical.

Lord Skelmersdale

The guarantee of a place on the YTS—which guarantee is embodied in the Employment Bill currently before another place—for every school-leaver under the age of 18 who does not go on to further education or into a job means that there will be no need for the vast majority of 16 and 17 year-olds to have recourse to benefit. Instead, they will be offered good quality training with a training allowance which will be significantly higher than the benefit which would otherwise be payable.

The noble Lord, Lord Pitt, suggested—it seems quite a long time ago—that families (by which I assume he means young people themselves) will suffer hardship on account of the proposals. I do not believe that to be so. Income support dependency addition can be claimed in respect of a young person who is registered for work or YTS. The dependency allowance will be payable during the child benefit extension period. The family's income support will therefore not alter during this period. Once a young person has a YTS place he will receive a weekly income of £28.50—a point made in the debate—which is £9.10 higher than the appropriate income support rate for the age group. Therefore, the family will benefit, as will the young person himself. That is why I refute the the suggestion made that young people will be written out of social security benefits altogether.

I am aware that there will be some youngsters who, mainly due to unfortunate circumstances, will continue to need benefit protection. The Government intend to make exceptions to the general rule to cover such circumstances. We intend to bring forward regulations which will prescribe circumstances in which young people will still be entitled to income support and will prescribe periods during which that entitlement will exist.

My noble friend Lord Selkirk, who admitted to being more than a little pessimistic in this regard, wanted to know who will be covered by these regulations. I hope it will help him if I give the Committee the descriptions of 16 to 17 year-olds who will be entitled to income support during the child benefit extension period.

They are: those living away from the parental or family home and who have no living parent or guardian; secondly, those who have been in local authority care within the previous 24 months; thirdly, those on bail or under the supervision of a probation officer or social worker and who are placed away from home; fourthly, those who cannot live at home because they will be threatened with physical or sexual abuse; fifthly, those mentally or physically handicapped or mentally ill and who need to live away from home because their parents cannot cope but who are not so handicapped or so mentally ill that they are incapable of work (I shall come in a moment to those who are so handicapped or mentally ill); sixthly, where parents are, or a single person is, in prison or in a home or hospital or is unavoidably absent abroad. However, I must tell the Committee that that does not apply to the forces, where different arrangements would be made. The other category is married couples without a child.

As regards the 16 and 17 year-olds who will be entitled to benefit at all times, we expect to include in these regulations: lone parents; the registered blind; those incapable of work by reason of a disease or bodily or mental disablement (excluding the temporarily sick); those who are pregnant for roughly the periods of the maternity arrangements as they currently exist in employment law; married or cohabiting couples with a child; those in receipt of a training allowance; carers; refugees attending a course for the purpose of learning English; and those occasions where exceptional hardship would be faced if a person is refused benefit. That would be a discretionary power and it is a matter concerning several amendments which are further down the Marshalled List. No doubt we shall be considering them at length.

In some circumstances there will be no time limit generally in those instances in which the person is not required to be available for work as a condition of receiving income support. In the case of the orphan living independently, income support will be paid during the child benefit extension period only. It is not the intention that estrangement from parents will necessarily result in entitlement to income support. Again, there is an amendment on that subject further down the Marshalled List.

It will often be in the best interests of the young person to return home, but where a young person is at risk from physical or sexual abuse then entitlement will be given. During the child benefit extension, the guarantee of an offer of a YTS place will be fulfilled and since a person in receipt of a government training allowance will not be required to be available for work as a condition of receiving income support, then income support will, if necessary, be available to supplement the YTS allowance if that allowance is insufficient for the needs of the trainee. There will be other circumstances in which benefit protection will be needed and the needs of all disadvantaged groups with a continuing title to benefit will be closely examined when the regulations are framed.

As far as I can see at the moment, that covers all the eventualities mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, and those which have concerned noble Lords opposite. I shall read extremely carefully the speeches of various noble Lords to see if we are likely to leave anyone out of the regulations and to take the matter from there; that I certainly undertake to do.

The Earl of Selkirk

May I ask my noble friend whether we can see the prescription or regulation in draft before the next stage? What he has said has completely changed the colour because none of this is in the Bill at all.

Lord Skelmersdale

I accept that. Whether it is possible to have a draft of the regulations circulated before the next stage, I am afraid I do not know. I will certainly inquire and let my noble friend know.

Baroness Jeger

May I ask the Minister why these points cannot be put into the Bill? We are suffering from government by regulation. Time after time we are asked to vote a blank cheque without having seen the regulations. Although we appreciate the courtesy of the Minister in telling us something about the matter tonight, this is not the way to govern a country. The exceptions should be put into the Bill. I look forward to amendments from the Government at a later stage. Such action would allay a great many anxieties in all parts of the Committee.

Lord Skelmersdale

This discussion has proved one thing. There is a very good reason why these matters should not be in primary legislation. Let us suppose that we had this discussion on Third Reading of a Bill, and for the purposes of the Bill I am thinking of your Lordships' House as the second Chamber. If we were to accede to the wishes of the Committee and put these provisions into primary legislation only to find—horror of horrors—that we had left out a category, it would be necessary to amend the primary legislation. That takes much much longer than amending regulations as the noble Baroness knows full well.

7.45 p.m.

Lord Henderson of Brompton

Perhaps I may intervene; this is my first intervention. Primary and secondary legislation are not mutually exclusive. It would be perfectly possible to put into the primary legislation the kind of categories which are embodied in the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, and then to fill out the safety net in the regulations. This is what we want to know. The cardinal principles should be put into the primary legislation and then the subordinate principles. These will be very important and no doubt we should all very much like to see them, as the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, has quite properly suggested. They support the principles which are stated in the Bill.

I believe the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, has made out a very important case for these three principles to be put into the principal legislation. If they are put in, it does not affect in any way what the Government may or may not decide subsequently to put into the regulations.

Lord Ennals

Could not these matters be included in one of the schedules to the Bill? Would not that be the appropriate place? I agree with the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Henderson.

Lord Skelmersdale

I accept the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, that primary and secondary legislation need not be mutually exclusive. Equally he will agree with me that they need not be mutually inclusive either. Having said that, I will have to study and consider what the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, has said in his short but extremely interesting speech.

As regards the comment made by the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, except for drafting purity I do not suppose it matters where in the Bill it goes because both a schedule and a clause (which becomes a section) will still be primary legislation.

Lord Pitt of Hampstead

As the Minister, I understand, is prepared to look at it again—if that is the sense of his remarks—I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Earl of Arran

I suggest this would be a convenient moment to break for dinner. I beg to move that the House do now adjourn during pleasure and that we do not return to the Committee stage of the Bill before 9 p.m.

Baroness Jeger

Can I ask the noble Earl why we have to hang around until nine o'clock? Not all of us wish to have a gourmet meal.

The Earl of Arran

I understand that arrangements have been mutually agreed between the parties that we take a one-hour-and-a-quarter break tonight.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

[The Sitting was suspended from 7.46 p.m. to 9 p.m.]

[Amendment No. 15 not moved.]

Lord Banks moved Amendment No. 16: Page 4, line 21, after ("circumstances") insert ("which shall include the disabled unable to work").

The noble Lord said: As we know, the Bill amends the Social Security Act 1986 so as to remove income support from those over 16 but under 18 except in certain prescribed circumstances or if, in the opinion of the Secretary of State, severe hardship would result. This amendment is not concerned with the principle behind that proposed change. It seeks to ensure that the disabled unable to work are included among those who are covered by the prescribed circumstances.

The view seems to prevail in government circles that disabled young people must fit one of two categories. Either they are severely physically or mentally handicapped, in which case they are likely to be covered by the prescribed circumstances and will continue to receive benefit, or they are fit for work and/or youth training, in which case no benefit can be claimed. The idea that there are many disabled young people who, while not so severely disabled, are nonetheless not capable of work at 16 does not appear to be accepted by the Department of Health and Social Security. Yet very many disabled young people while in no way capable of getting and retaining a job at 16 will not be so disabled as to meet a doctor's criteria of severe handicap.

Approximately 3,000 disabled 16 and 17-year-olds are being catered for by colleges, many of them on specially designed courses in recognition of their need to catch up on missed education. Very few were considered by their parents, by the schools and by the specialist careers service to be ready for employment or for a youth training scheme place. Indeed the object of many of the courses is to prepare young people for youth training. In this work the colleges have had the active support of the Department of Education and Science, Her Majesty's Inspectorate and the Manpower Services Commission. The latter has allowed disabled young people to join the youth training scheme up to their 21st birthday in recognition of their need for a period in further education. Will this work now be at risk? There is a fear that it will, but the amendment would make sure that this was not the case. I beg to move.

Lord Henderson of Brompton

I regret to say that I was not here when the noble Lord, Lord Banks, rose to move the amendment; so I am not sure whether it was agreed to take my Amendment No. 17 with it. The amendments are slightly different. I do not know whether it would be for the convenience of the Committee to take them together.

Noble Lords


Lord Henderson of Brompton

If that is the case, I should like to speak to Amendment No. 17, which is slightly more particular. The amendment seeks to insert, at page 4, line 21, after "circumstances", the words, which shall include a person following a course of education and who, by reason of any mental or physical disability, would, in comparison with other persons in education, be unlikely to obtain employment within a reasonable period of time". The amendment seeks to retain an entitlement to income support for a number of young people—not a large number—who are attending special courses in schools of further education which are mostly designed for their special needs. Among those who will be exempt because they are not yet capable of work are the severely disabled. I am not talking about the severely disabled who have been singled out. I am talking about a category just outside that definition.

The Minister has given an assurance that a person will continue to claim benefit if he is, severely mentally or physically handicapped and because of that would be unlikely, even if he was available for employment, to obtain employment within the next 12 months". That, I believe, is the wording of the entitlement Regulation 11(b). I am concerned about another group of disabled young people who, although not so severely disabled as to be classified as severely physically or mentally handicapped, are at the age of 16 or 17 clearly not capable of work or of training for work but are capable of improving in education. For the most part, they have attended special schools. A few will have struggled hard in the remedial departments of secondary schools. Like disabled people they may have periods of sickness. They may have missed schooling and dropped behind. They may have relatively small disabilities which could not be called severe; nevertheless, because of their disabilities, they have learning difficulties. They come from socially deprived families and backgrounds. That is the category I am considering—not the closely defined severely disabled.

It seems to me axiomatic that people in that category should be allowed, and encouraged to, remain at school in order to catch up on basic skills rather than go out and face the world. Facing the world includes training for work on a youth training scheme. I shall not go over what would have happened to them in years gone by because they would have been, as we all know, the sad detritus of society.

This category of people includes those who, perhaps because of their disability, lack the self-esteem and self-confidence which will take them through youth training schemes into full adult employment. Income support should be available for those who are not capable of work or of going on a youth training scheme. It is much better for them to go to college or to continue their education than to sit at home and not work. That category seems to have been missed out. I have read the clause as carefully as I can, and I know that there will be regulations which just before the dinner interval I called the "safety net". However, I am not sure that the category in question, which is rather ill-defined, falls within that safety net. I believe that there are not more than about 3,000 or so such people. It is not a large category but it is well worth considering.

It is not just voluntary societies such as the Rathbone Society which are interested in such people. They are on the fringes and cannot be incorporated within the categories set out in the Bill. There must be some blurring of the edges of those strict categories. The Minister may say that they should be dealt with by way of regulations; well, so be it.

I am inclined to believe that the YTS could make use of those people when they are ready for it. But, of course, they clearly are not. That factor must be taken into account. I am worried about this matter because in Standing Committee on 1st December 1987 Mr. Portillo, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary, gave an undertaking that: If a person is severely disabled and not able to work, that person could be entitled to income support at any time". I am not satisfied with the word "could". He went on to say: If the person is not so disabled that there is no prospect of working but it is unlikely that he will find employment within a 12-month period, that person can continue in education and will be entitled to income support at all times and not just during the child benefit extension period". —[Official Report, House of Commons Standing Committee E, 1/12/87; col. 282.] I was pleased to see that reassurance, and I understood that it would include this category of person which is so difficult to define. But. I have a letter to the Director of the National Bureau for Handicapped Students from the DHSS, signed by Mr. Nicholas Scott, which states: Neither supplementary benefit, nor its successor income support, are intended to provide a means of educational support; that is the responsibility of other agencies—the local education authorities". In that letter, Mr. Scott is saying that those people who I have been maintaining are prime candidates for income support will not receive it; that they are the responsibility of other agencies. I am afraid that letter has so disturbed the assurance that was given on 1st December by Mr. Portillo that I must ask the Minister whether he will kindly reconcile the difference.

I am most concerned about these people. There are not that many of them, and it is not a matter of a large sum of money; but they are extremely important. For that reason I tabled the amendment which is being taken together with the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Banks.

The Countess of Mar

I support the amendments although I think that many of the people will come into the categories that the Minister spoke about when replying to an earlier amendment. The people about whom I am particularly concerned are those who are mentally disabled but who do not perceive themselves as such. I am thinking especially of a young man in my locality who obtained a job at the local safari park. He could not read, write or do arithmetic. His job was to cash up the money at the gates of the park every night. For three weeks he managed to persuade someone else to do it for him and then they found out that he could neither read nor write nor do sums. They put him in one of the safari trucks which go round the park with a stunning gun in case something happens to the animals. This boy was terrified of the gun: he did not realise that it was not something which could kill people, and he could not cope with the job. He fell into that awful trap with the board and lodgings regulations. Because he did not perceive himself as being disabled, he did not claim that he was disabled. It was only when a social worker rescued him that his claim was found to be sound and he was allowed to have a board and lodgings allowance without the difficulty of having to move on every so often.

These are the people who will fall into the trap. They have left school, they are not going to be educated any more, they are not really suitable for YTS because they do not have the concentration to do a two-year scheme. Yet they will probably be in and out of work all their lives. It is during those periods when they are out of work that they most need support and the £15 a week bridging money is not really sufficient to keep them going during that time. I wonder whether the Minister can help me on that point.

9.15 p.m.

Lord Carter

I am very pleased indeed to be able to speak in support of the amendments in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Banks and the noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton. The amendments are designed to protect those with mental and physical handicaps who need a period of continuing education before they are ready for vocational training or to look for work. We have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Banks, about the likely number who fall into this category and the noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton referred to the problem over the entitlement regulations. Entitlement Regulation 11(b) requires disabled young people to get a doctor to certify them as severely mentally or physically handicapped, and this has caused immense problems in the past. Members of the Committee will appreciate the reluctance of parents and schools to label someone as severely mentally handicapped. Additionally, there are very many disabled young people who are in no way capable of getting and retaining a job at 16 but are not so disabled as to meet the doctor's criteria for severe handicap.

I should like to ask the Minister to specify those groups of young people and others who "are not required to be available for work". Can he define "severe" and "less severe" handicap? What will be the difference under the Bill in the treatment of the two classes? What is the position of young people who may not be registered disabled but because of learning difficulties (and we have had an example of this from the noble Countess, Lady Mar) find it hard to get a YTS place? Will they also be denied their benefit as a result of the change in the rules?

This is an extremely important clause. If it remains as it is and our worst fears are realised, it will have far-reaching effects on the employment prospects of many young disabled people between the ages of 16 and 18. I support the amendment.

Lord Ennals

I shall be very brief in supporting the amendment which is now before the Committee in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton. In his reply to the previous group of amendments, the Minister read out a very substantial and most interesting list of exemptions for which he said there would be regulations. I believe that between now and the Report stage we should seek a method of including the main categories of these within the Bill itself.

One of the difficulties about which we have already said something is the disadvantage of legislation by regulation. However, there is another problem, which is the interpretation of statements made in the House. The noble Lord, Lord Henderson, referred to statements made by Mr. Portillo. With no disrespect to the honourable gentleman, he has said a number of things in different ways which could be interpreted differently. I think we need to get these clarified in the face of the primary legislation because there is a great deal of concern.

My noble friend Lord Carter referred to entitlement Regulation 11(b), which has, as he said, caused a very great deal of concern. I very much share the concerns which he expressed about these people and whether they should be labelled as severely mentally handicapped. I do not think we ought to go round labelling people in this way. It is very difficult to determine who is severely mentally handicapped, slightly mentally handicapped and so on.

There is only one other point which I want to raise which has not been mentioned before. The view seems to prevail that severely disabled young people must fit one of these two categories: either they are severely physically or mentally handicapped, in which case benefit will be retained; or else they are fit for work and/or youth training, in which case no benefit can be claimed. The notion that there are many disabled young people who, while severely disabled, are nonetheless capable of work at 16 does not seem to be accepted by the DHSS. Unfortunately, the effect of losing entitlement to income support will be that many disabled people—perhaps most of them—will quit college courses in order to join the youth training scheme. I am not running down the scheme, but they will do that so as to claim the weekly training allowance. If they take themselves off training it may be very disadvantageous to them in future years.

Careers officers and schools find it difficult enough to convince disabled young people and their parents that they should forgo the higher rate of training allowance for the benefits of a college course; yet I believe that they should. If benefit is withdrawn it will be impossible to persuade them in many instances. Even those parents prepared to finance their children through college will find that many courses will close as they become non-viable.

There are many factors to cause us concern and I am grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Henderson and Lord Banks, for their amendments, both of which deal with much the same problems. No one is going to carry any amendments against the Government this evening but between now and Report stage we should put our heads together to see whether we cannot include in the Bill clear indications of the kind of exemptions that will be acceptable to the Government.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

Do we have any idea of the number of young people between the ages of 16 and 18 who would fall into the categories in question? I apologise if that point has already been covered but it would be helpful to know the answer. I am also interested to know whether the degree of discretion given under subsection (4A)(b) would cover them all. There is no doubt that there are genuine cases, but there are also many where a person's main disability is his or her unwillingness to do any work. That is particularly so in London now, where one cannot get school-leavers to take jobs for love or money. I have been advertising——

Lord Carter

Not attempting to find work is an attitude of mind, not a disability.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

Indeed, but some people who have that attitude may wish to consider themselves suffering from a disability. That is why it is important to differentiate between the genuinely disabled and those who have no wish to work. In London at present there is youth overemployment. I suffered from the situation where five juniors applied for and accepted jobs and, a starting date having been fixed, none of them arrived for work at a National Health Service practice. One is left in despair trying to get anyone for such jobs. I wonder therefore whether the discretion given by subsection (4A)(b) would cover all the categories in question.

Also I am not clear exactly how it would apply. The proposal states that the Secretary of State may direct that the subsection shall apply, but how does one find out whether it does? Will there be an assessment or an appeal procedure? What will be the machinery by which people can determine whether they can be considered under subsection (4A)(b)? I should be grateful if the Minister could give the Committee that information.

Lord Henderson of Brompton

Perhaps I might answer the first question put by the noble Baroness about the number of people in the category concerned. I can give that information fairly precisely because an official survey was carried out—admittedly in 1985, and so it is a little out of date—by the National Bureau of Handicapped Students on behalf of the DES. It estimated that there were approximately 43,500 disabled young people in public sector further and higher education, of which approximately 13,000 were full-time students. But of those 3,500 were on youth training schemes and approximately 3,000 16 and 17 year-olds were not yet on YTS but receiving supplementary benefit while on college special courses. The answer to the noble Baroness is that there are about 3,000 such people.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

I thank the noble Lord.

Lord Swinfen

While I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, that the Committee would like to know from the Minister what type of people will be covered under the miscellaneous provision of subsection (4A)(b), I believe it would be unwise to enshrine in the Bill hard and fast rules. Times change and needs change. The Minister needs flexibility and we must not take that away from him.

The more that we put into the Bill in the way of hard and fast rules, the more the petty bureaucrats who have to administer it will tighten those rules more than Parliament meant. Many people who should get benefit will not get benefit because the people at the bottom end, who have to face those unfortunate people and give them their benefit, will not have the knowledge and experience to decide what is required. We must leave everything as flexible as possible. I should prefer to see the clause left as it is in the Bill. I am delighted to see that noble Lords opposite are bringing out those points so that the Government will not forget them. However, I do not think that we should tighten the Bill down too much and tighten the screw down so far that it snaps. We want some flexibility.

Lord Skelmersdale

I am grateful to the Committee for agreeing to take the two amendments together, because they are essentially similar in effect. They deal with the entitlement to income support for disabled young people.

Let me first deal with Amendment No. 16, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Banks, which relates primarily to people in the field of employment. Although the Government cannot accept the amendment, I can give an assurance that it is our intention that the regulations to be made under the powers in Section 20(3)(a) of the 1986 Act, as amended by this Bill, will in substance meet the aims of the amendment. In general, people in the employment field who are not required to be available for work will be within the prescribed groups which I described to the Committee in answer to a question from my noble friend Lord Selkirk just before we adjourned. Broadly speaking, in that age group that means single parents, carers, the incapacitated and those on training allowances.

Those who are so disabled that they are unfit for work come within the category of incapaciated. Those with minor disabilities have the benefit of the YTS guarantee, like other unemployed youngsters, and it is very much in the interests of a disabled youngster that he should receive training. It is undesirable to put this sort of provision in the Bill because, as my noble friend Lord Swinfen has said, that removes the flexibility to make changes as circumstances change or as experience shows it to be necessary.

As regards Amendment No. 17, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, we find an extension of entitlement to income support for a wider group of disabled young people engaged on a course of education and training. The noble Lord made a distinction between severe and—I believe the word was used by one noble Lord—"unseveredisablement, in that instance. The only person who can define severity outside the courts would be a medical person—for example, a GP. That is why a GP's certificate is part of the arrangements made here. Adjudication officers who take decisions on claims would rely on medical evidence on that question.

Having said that, I can readily understand the wish of noble Lords to pay income support to handicapped young people continuing their education. They are a group which rightly attracts considerable sympathy. But no government—it is an important point—have ever paid supplementary benefit, or national assistance before that, to all handicapped people in education.

Before I go on to deal with the specifics of the amendment, it may be helpful if I set out the principles underlying the payment of benefit to people in education. First, it is not the function of supplementary benefit or income support to provide a general means of financial support for those pursuing education. The normal expectation is that young people will be supported in their continuing education at the ages of 16 to 18 by their families, who will receive child benefit for them; and local authorities are free to make discretionary awards, which they do in many cases where disabled young people are involved. There are circumstances, however, where that normal expectation is not appropriate. This is recognised by the existing supplementary benefit scheme and by the new income support scheme.

Benefit therefore will be paid to young people continuing in full-time education where a young person is a lone parent who is severely mentally or physically handicapped and because of that would be unlikely, even if he or she were available for employment, to obtain employment within the next 12 months; a person who is estranged from or living away from his or her parents, who are unable to support him or her in certain circumstances. Income support will continue to pay a dependency addition, £.19.40 a week, to a family receiving income support for a young person continuing in full-time education.

The noble Lord, Lord Henderson, quoted a remark made on Report by my honorable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary. I am afraid that there is some misunderstanding. My honourable friend was referring to the severely disabled only. Some of these will be incapable of work; others will be capable of work but unlikely to find it within a reasonable period. Both come into the category of severely disabled and will continue to get benefit while in education. Income support is therefore extended to cover a sensible range of exceptional circumstances when support is needed for a young person continuing in full-time education.

In fact, there is no change in treatment between income support and supplementary benefit on this topic because the provisions have been carried forward unchanged. The effect of the amendment would be to extend entitlement to any young person following a course of education who was mentally or physically handicapped without the requirement that the handicap be severe, a point that was made clearly by the noble Lord, Lord Henderson.

I cannot support the amendment because it does not meet the principles that I have outlined. First, social security is not a means of educational support and, much as I am sympathetic to handicapped young people, the payment of benefit to young people in education must be limited to exceptional circumstances which occur when a young person is severely handicapped.

Secondly, young people under the age of 19 in full-time education are treated as dependent on their parents, who receive child benefit for them. The payment of benefit to a young person in his or her own right must therefore be a matter of principle. Out of fairness to the vast majority of parents who support their children in education, it must be restricted to the groups that I mentioned previously. The poorest families will be protected, as will other exceptional groups such as severely disabled and lone parents, and there is no case for changing the longstanding practice by introducing the extension of entitlement proposed by the amendment.

A worry has been expressed that some disabled young people may not be fit for the YTS. TheYTS is open to all young people judged to be eventually capable of employment. Moderate and severe learning difficulties are included in the widest definition of disability. Special funding and aids are available to young people with such difficulties. They can, for example, enter YTS up to the end of the academic year in which they reach the age of 21, and up to six months can be added to their course to improve their training or employment prospects.

The Manpower Services Commission cannot envisage a situation where a young person would be judged by the adjudicating authorities to be insufficiently disabled to qualify for income support yet at the same time be too disabled to take up a YTS place. The MSC is not aware of any difficulties in this area.

My noble friend Lady Gardner asked about the machinery under subsection (4A)(b). Local officers will look at the details of the claim. If it appears that a person is not entitled to income support, the officer will then consider whether the young person could be in severe hardship if benefit were refused. If he feels that there is a possibility, details of the claim will be passed to a headquarters official and a decision will be taken there on whether there will be severe hardship; and the Secretary of State's direction will be made, if appropriate. We shall be going into details of severe hardship a little later.

The noble Countess, Lady Mar, and the noble Lord, Lord Carter, were interested in the case where some people do not perceive themselves as severely disabled, and in the definition thereof. I have already dealt with the second point. I must go back to the fundamental principle that income support is not intended for people in education. It can be paid only in the most exceptional circumstances, which is why severe disablement and special hardship are specified.

The noble Countess, Lady Mar, was interested in a case which she quoted to the Committee of someone who was unable to recognise himself as having these particular difficulties, was already in work and was transferred to what was thought to be a more suitable job but was found to be unsuitable. I believe that any responsible employer in such a situation would call in the social services or a doctor, because clearly the person in that situation was not fit for the work for which he was employed. In such a situation it could be that the YTS could help. In that case, the YTS would be in a position to say whether it could; or following investigation a doctor's certificate might be issued.

That is as far as we can go tonight. The noble Lord, Lord Ennals, suggested a colloquy on this issue. Perhaps we may leave consideration of a colloquy until we have completed our consideration of Clause 4. I shall then speak to him privately after we have finished this stage of the Bill to see whether such action would be productive.

Lord Henderson of Brompton

Before the noble Lord, Lord Banks, decides how to proceed with his amendment, perhaps I may reply to the Minister on my amendment. He said that the MSC is not aware of any difficulties in this area. Perhaps it may be blind, but there are difficulties. One of the difficulties is this. One cannot expect the people about whom we are talking, or very often their parents—they may be single parents, harassed, or disadvantaged—to understand the fundamental principle, which the noble Lord enunciated, that income support was not intended for those in receipt of education. It is that kind of principle which is very hard for such people to comprehend.

The new system of income support, and all that goes with it, was sold to me on the understanding that there would be a great deal of flexibility exercised by adjudication officers who were fully aware of local circumstances. If that is so, I hope that the Government will enable those adjudication officers to exercise discretion, perhaps in disregard of these so-called fundamental principles. We are after flexibility at local level. If that is the result of these exchanges, I shall be more than happy.

Lord Banks

It was very clear that the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, and I were talking about the same category of young persons. He mentioned in his second intervention that there were some 3,000 of them. Indeed, I mentioned that figure in my opening remarks.

The Minister has given a very comprehensive reply. It contains something of an assurance that at least some of these people will not be in difficulty. I shall want to read very carefully all that he said. In the meantime I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 17 not moved.]

Lord Banks moved Amendment No. 18: Page 4, line 21, leave out ("and for a prescribed period,")

The noble Lord said: Sixteen and 17-year-olds in prescribed circumstances, as we know, can qualify for income support. However, Clause 4(1) states that it shall be for a "prescribed period". That would appear to introduce a new departure. Usually, income support may be claimed so long as income is insufficient from other sources. If income increases beyond that point, then income support is automatically cut off.

Why is it necessary to specify a period of time during which those in special defined categories may continue to receive income support? The amendment would put those who are in prescribed circumstances on the same footing as all other claimants. I beg to move.

Lord Skelmersdale

We intend that when the regulations are framed there will be two distinct categories of people who will be in "prescribed circumstances". There will be those who are not required to be available for work and who will be entitled to income support without any time restriction. This category will include 16 and 17-year-olds who are lone parents, couples with a child and those, who by reason of disablement, are incapable of work.

Secondly, there will be those who will only be entitled to income support during the child benefit extension period, that is, up to the end of the calendar year for summer school leavers and up to three months for Christmas and Easter leavers. This category will include young people who cannot depend on parents during the child benefit extension period because they either have no parent or because they are living away from home with good cause. Examples will be the orphan, those placed away from home by the probation service and those who cannot live at home because they would be threatened with physical or sexual abuse. This second category of young person will be required to register at a careers office or jobcentre for work (assuming, of course, that they do not also fit into the first category described) and the YTS guarantee will apply to them. There is no reason why they should not obtain a job or a YTS place and in this respect they will be treated no differently to a fit 16 or 17-year-old living at home with parents.

Once the young person obtains a job or a YTS place within the extension period income support will cease unless he is a boarder; in which case, if he has obtained a YTS place, income support may be payable to supplement his training allowance. Income support will not however be payable after the extension period if the young person has not availed himself of either the job or YTS opportunities that will be open to him. There is no good reason, in view of the YTS guarantee, why such unemployed young people should be entitled to income support for more than a limited time, and it is for this reason that the Bill includes a power to prescribe periods during which entitlement should exist. I hope that clarifies the position for the noble Lord.

Baroness Jeger

I rise only to support the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Banks. This is a very important matter, but because of the time and noble Lords' consideration of other matters I suggest that I and my noble friends return to it at another time.

Lord Banks

I am afraid I did not entirely understand the reply that the noble Lord gave, but that is probably my own stupidity. The Bill reads that, there shall be substituted '18 or, in prescribed circumstances and for a prescribed period'". It does not seem to divide into different categories. It would seem that what is being said is that all people in prescribed circumstances shall have income support for a prescribed period. Possibly, I have that wrong.

9.45 p.m.

Lord Skelmersdale

I should like to suggest to the noble Lord another period of prescription which would be appropriate. It is that of a pregnant 16 or 17 year-old who would be entitled to income support only for the period commencing 11 weeks before the expected date of confinement and ending seven weeks after the date of confinement. That would be a different length of prescribed period and we may well find others. It is for that reason that we need to retain within the Bill the flexibility of being able to prescribe different periods.

Lord Banks

Is the Minister saying that everybody who is covered by prescribed circumstances will receive benefit for a prescribed period or that some people in prescribed circumstances will receive it without a prescribed period being imposed?

Lord Skelmersdale

Unless it is a terrible misreading on my part, it is the former circumstance.

Lord Banks

I shall read carefully the noble Lord's answer to see whether I understand it a little better and perhaps return to the subject. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Turner of Camden moved Amendment No. 18A: Page 4, line 22, at end insert ("or subsection (4AA)").

The noble Baroness said: With the permission of the Committee, I should like to speak to Amendment No. 39A because subsection (4AA) referred to in Amendment No. 18A is the new subsection (4AA) referred to in Amendment No. 39A.

The aim of the amendments is to try to cover the position of young people who begin a job on leaving school but are subsequently sacked, made redundant or leave the job before the age of 18. Such people have started to have an independent income from earnings and they and their parents, if any, will have started to budget and plan financial commitments on this basis. Lack of income support entitlement would also hamper their search for a new job.

Many young people can be in the employment field despite high levels of youth unemployment in some areas. The DES figures show that approximately 20 per cent. of 16 year-olds were in employment in January 1986, as were nearly half of 17 year-olds. There is strong evidence that young people in jobs are particularly vulnerable to losing them. They have insufficient service to qualify for protection against unfair dismissal or for redundancy pay. A recent study found that a high proportion of all temporary workers are teenagers and that a quarter of all teenagers in the labour force work on a temporary basis. Evidence from a labour force survey shows that people in work under the age of 18 have a one in five chance of becoming unemployed within any three months.

This amendment therefore is essential to safeguard the income of young people who have begun to work and have subsequently become unemployed. The figures show that many 16 to 18 year-olds enter employment but young people's jobs are insecure and they are particularly vulnerable to unemployment. For those reasons I hope that the amendments commend themselves to the Committee. I beg to move.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

I feel strongly about this matter. I do not know whether the situation is entirely different outside London or whether the situation there should be treated differently by the department. However, in London the problem is not of young people losing their jobs but of young people walking out of their jobs. I can tell the Committee of eight young people employed in the last year all of whom have left their jobs. Shortly afterwards the employer received a note stating that they wished to claim unemployment benefit. They are not prepared to return to work even if firms desperately need staff. I think that something is terribly wrong with that situation.

In my capacity in local government I recently attended a youth rally of sport in London. I met a teacher from a less privileged part of London. I told her that I could not understand the fact that young people were not willing to stay in their jobs in central London. She said, "Oh well, the trouble is that if they have employment they lose the passport to all enjoyment: the dole card". I said, "I find that hard to believe. What do you mean?". She explained to me that if you have a dole card you can have free swimming, free dancing and free sport in most of the London boroughs. I must say that in the City of Westminster that does not apply. I think there is free swimming but that is about all. However, she was a teacher in one of those areas and that had been her experience. People were not prepared to work because it was so much nicer to have a lot of spare time and to be able to enjoy all these pursuits free of charge.

If this amendment which the noble Baroness is proposing is carried, as I understand it, there would be every encouragement for people to leave their work and go on to benefit, as is happening at present. I know that outside London the situation is different. In parts of the country there is desperate underemployment and that is why I say that perhaps there should be a regional variation. However, in London the situation is so bad that when one telephones the youth careers office and asks about staff, the answer is, "I am sorry there is no hope of getting anyone".

I am a dentist, but many doctors have told me exactly the same. They cannot get staff in inner London. It is extremely difficult to run the health service if you cannot get people to work in those jobs. I know it is hard work and they are not the glamour jobs that people would like to feel they were. However, they are reasonably well paid. Funnily enough, if you are advertising for trainee hairdressers, you can find them because there is some glamour attached to that even though the pay is only half that for the trainee jobs at the bottom end of the health service.

I do not know the answer but I do not think that this amendment is the answer and I should be very worried about the effect it would have. When I saw that the Bill proposed not to give income support automatically to young people who left their jobs, I thought that was a very useful step and perhaps might help to solve the desperate shortage of young people to fill jobs in London. I do not know what the answer is in the regions. There is a conflict between London and the regions. There are people outside London who would love to have jobs but cannot afford to come here because they cannot afford even a share in a flat or a bed-sit. It is quite a conflict and I do not envy the Minister in trying to solve it. But I must oppose the amendment because I do not think it is the answer.

Lord Swinfen

I have sympathy with both noble Baronesses, in particular as I have been looking for staff in the last three months. Can the Minister tell me whether, before benefit is paid the benefit office has any method of referring to the past employer to see why the young person has left that employment? If they have just walked out, there may well be grounds for not giving them any benefit. If, however, they have lost their job because they do not have the required educational qualifications and the firm needs someone with different skills, then they need help and financial assistance.

It is not a cut and dried, black and white situation. Is there some form of referral from the employer to the benefit office or vice versa to make certain that that young person is going to be properly treated? We must encourage them into the employment that they require and that the nation requires. We do not want a group of young people growing up thinking that they can always receive benefit when they want it. I hope that the Minister can answer that point when he replies.

Lord Henderson of Brompton

May I just say a few words, partly for personal reasons? It so happens that today I had my teeth dealt with by a compatriot of the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes. While I was waiting for the injection to take effect I spoke to his dental assistant. I asked whether she enjoyed working in central London. She said she did not actually enjoy it but she did it for the money. She came all the way from Dagenham. It took her one-and-a-half hours to get to central London and two hours to return, standing all the way, and incidentally standing all the time she was attending my estimable dentist. She did that because there was no employment in Dagenham comparable to what she had in central London.

That example shows that one cannot generalise from conditions existing in central London. They do not apply to the rest of the country. However, that is a mere detail.

The noble baroness, Lady Turner of Camden, has a point and I hope the Government will consider it. It might be that it is not right to include it in legislation but I am quite sure that something on the lines suggested could be. It may well be that the excellent lady who was helping my dentist this morning is not going to consider walking out of her job because she is offered a better job elsewhere. She is going to walk out of the job because she is tired of standing three-and-a-half to four hours a day travelling to and from her job.

Lord Skelmersdale

I believe that the situation is provided for. If a young person obtains a job, or indeed a YTS place, and then loses it, provided he or she is still in a child benefit extension period, benefit will be reinstated for a short period before a suitable or another suitable YTS place can be offered. If it is outside that time, the youngster will receive a bridging allowance from the Department of Employment. Again that will be for a short while before a suitable place can be offered.

As regards the position later on, I am advised that the guarantee goes up to the 18th birthday of the young person and therefore there will be no problem of young people leaving employment and failing to get another job but going into the youth training scheme.

Lord Swinfen

Can my noble friend answer my question on whether any check is made with the previous employer as to why the young person left? If a young person just walks out of good employment for no real reason surely we ought not to be paying benefit. We pay benefit to people who cannot get a job for one reason or another, not to those who are not prepared to work.

Lord Skelmersdale

I am sorry I did not answer my noble friend. The employer is contacted when a claim for unemployment benefit is made in order to establish the circumstances of the young person leaving or losing a job. However, with 16 or 17 year-olds the situation will be that when a job or a YTS place is lost or left, if the youngster registers for a YTS place he will, as I have said, be paid a bridging allowance. The authorities—the adjudication officer in this case—will always know.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

I am afraid the last statement made by the Minister worries me. He said, "If a job is lost or left". I have every sympathy for someone who has lost a job but I have no sympathy for someone who has left a job unless there is good reason for leaving. If working conditions are intolerable or one's health is not up to an all-day standing job, as referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, those are good reasons.

However, the employment legislation as it stands certainly obliges the employer to give adequate notice to an employee if he is to be dismissed, even under the two years, at which time he can go to a tribunal. On the other hand, although employees are supposed to give an employer one week's notice, often they do not so so. I can think of only one girl in the past two years from these young school-leavers who gave us notice. She had become pregnant. Apart from that girl we had no notice from anyone. On the whole, they either did not return or they telephoned to say "I am not well today" and never returned.

I believe this kind of thing is very wrong; namely, the principle of paying unemployment benefit to people who have left employment for no good reason. It may be that there is good reason for leaving my employment, so I am not quoting my own case. I have met so many people in the same position who are desperate to have continuity so that they may continue to care for people, particularly within the health service.

It is a worry that there is no differentiation between those who have left and those who have been dismissed or have lost their jobs. I believe that there should be a clear demarcation between those categories. If we are to have a society where you are paid as well or better not to work, why on earth would anyone bother to work? We have a society which is a reverse pyramid, with a great number of old people at the top. If we lose the work ethic at the bottom of our society we face very severe problems in the future.

10 p.m.

Baroness Turner of Camden

I was rather disappointed to hear what the Minister had to say because he spoke as though putting someone back on child benefit or extended child benefit somehow or other substituted for the benefit which might otherwise be payable. I do not believe it does.

As regards contributions to the debate, particularly that from the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, for many years I was a member of a social insurance tribunal and part of its job was to judge applications which came before it from people who had been denied benefit because it had been decided that they had left their jobs without good reason. There was a disqualification period unless they could establish that they had left their job for a proper reason. That situation still exists under Section 20 of the 1975 Act, so there is not any question that people can hop in and out of employment as they wish and still retain an entitlement to unemployment benefit.

This evening I do not intend to press this question because of the lateness of the hour, but I shall look very carefully at the report of the debate in Hansard tomorrow to see whether one may perhaps return to it in a different form at Report stage. I believe that this is an important question. We are here dealing with young people who in many instances are not leaving work because they are simply frivolous about it, but very often because they have been made redundant or because the firm for which they have been working has closed.

The situation varies in different parts of the country and in certain places it is very serious. As regards central London, it is not typical of much of the country for reasons very adequately explained by the noble Lord, Lord Henderson.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

Perhaps I may ask the noble Baroness to clarify her remarks when she referred to the appeals that she had heard. Is it not only a period of delay rather than a period of loss in which payment of benefits is deferred? I understood that after a period had elapsed full benefit was paid.

Baroness Turner of Camden

After a period of six weeks that is the situation, but it is quite important if one has lost one's employment. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Henderson of Brompton moved Amendment No. 19: Page 4, line 26, leave out ("the Secretary of State") and insert ("an adjudication officer").

The noble Lord said: I believe this to be rather an important amendment although it merely says, leave out ("the Secretary of State") and insert ("an adjudication officer"). With this amendment also go consequential Amendments Nos. 21, 25, 26, 28; 30 to 34; 36 to 39, which make up quite a sizeable slab from the Marshalled List.

As drafted this clause proposes a two-stage decision process. An adjudication officer will decide whether a person who is under the age of 18 is entitled to income support. If the decision is against the young person, he will have a right of appeal to a tribunal. That applies to all decisions of the adjudication officer. If the young person is not entitled to income support, the Secretary of State must then decide whether severe hardship will result. I think it is rather odd that we should go straight from the adjudication officer to the Secretary of State. There will be no right to a tribunal hearing against the Secretary of State's decision. However, there will be a right to challenge the decision in an application to the High Court for judicial review.

The purpose of the amendment is to place both stages in the hands of the adjudication officer. There will then be a right of appeal to the tribunal against the decision. I should mention here what I said with regard to a previous amendment. We have all been sold the new social security package on the grounds that the adjudication officer will be local and will know the local conditions. The amendment has the merit of being in line with the Government's stated intentions.

In effect the amendment means that the two stages envisaged in the Bill will be combined in one. If the Secretary of State believes that the circumstances have changed the matter can be referred back to the adjudication officer for a fresh decision. This places on the adjudication officer just the kind of function which I understood the Government were expecting of him.

These decisions affect individual claimants. They do not affect whole categories. I do not believe that it is right to separate severe hardship from other grounds. It is better for the decision to be made by a locally based adjudication officer with special knowledge of local factors. The consequential amendments seek to delete the provisions of the Bill which establish the machinery for the implementation of the Secretary of State's decision. If my amendment succeeds there will be no Secretary of State's decision. It will become the adjudication officer's decision. The provisions for review and recovery of overpayment will not be necessary because they already exist in other legislation. I hope that the amendment will be sympathetically received by the Minister.

Lord Skelmersdale

There is a real problem with Amendments Nos. 19 and 21, and for this reason the power has been included in the Bill. The courts have said that where regulations confer a discretion they should contain criteria to show when the discretion should be exercised. Legal advice is that it would be very difficult to establish adequate criteria and that there would be a real risk of the vires of regulations being challenged. The Secretary of State's decisions on these severe hardships cases will be made centrally at headquarters. This will ensure standardisation of treatment and will facilitate monitoring of the types of situation submitted by local offices.

There is a similar power in the regulations on boarder time limits and this works well. The power has been included in the Bill in recognition of the fact that it is not possible to regulate for every situation that could occur. The Government have therefore included this "safety net" clause to ensure that there is no unnecessary hardship. It might help the Committee if I explain the system. It will work like this.

A local officer of the department, acting for the Secretary of State in the normal way, will establish the circumstances of the claim and if it appears to him that the claimant does not fall into one of the prescribed categories he will consider whether or not non-payment of income support will result in severe hardship and will refer for a Secretary of State's direction if appropriate. The whole package will then go to the adjudication officer for decision, with or without a discretion as appropriate, and the adjudication officer exercises his usual responsibilities of determining the case. This will include deciding whether in law the claimant is within the prescribed groups. The Secretary of State will simply have formed an opinion in order to consider the question of severe hardship if necessary but this will in no way affect the adjudication officer's consideration of the case.

Regulations are to be made which will specify certain categories of young person who will be entitled to income support in their own right. Some will be entitled without any time restriction; for example, the severely disabled, while others will be entitled only during the child benefit extension period, as I told the Committee earlier. Regulations can be added to, and one of the intentions behind the submission of potential "severe hardship" cases to headquarters is to monitor the type of situation that is submitted by the local offices so that at a later stage it can be decided whether additional regulations should be made.

Amendments Nos. 19 and 21 attempt to take the power away from the Secretary of State. The other amendments to which the noble Lord was speaking attempt to remove from the Bill all powers to revoke a direction once made, or to recover any income support incorrectly paid because of ignorance of some material fact or mistake as to some material fact.

It is only reasonable that on a change in a claimant's circumstances it should be considered whether the claimant need now be in severe hardship. The direction might, for instance, have been given because the young person's parents were not prepared for him to live with them. However, should they later change their minds, then the young person need no longer be in severe hardship as he can return home. The power to revoke the direction is therefore only sensible and must remain.

Similarly, the power for the Secretary of State to revoke a direction if he is later satisfied that it was given in ignorance of some material fact, or was based on a mistake as to some material fact, and that if he had been aware of the true position at the time he would not have made such a direction, should remain. For instance, the young person might have had savings which were not divulged at the time of the claim and the existence of the savings, had the Secretary of State been aware of them, might well have affected the original decision to make a direction. It would be completely wrong to continue paying benefit on the grounds of severe hardship when it now appeared that the hardship did not exist. I urge the noble Lord to keep this flexibility within the purview of the Bill.

The Earl of Selkirk

I ask my noble friend whether this will be dealt with by the Jobcentre or the social service centre. I take it that the result of the Bill is that, when necessary, questions can be asked in Parliament because the Secretary of State is personally responsible.

Lord Skelmersdale

No. A specially set-up adjudication officer will consider all those matters on behalf of the Secretary of State, as I have already explained.

Lord Pitt of Hampstead

My worry is about the time factor. Can the Minister help me on that matter? My worry is about some youngster who is in need and who goes to the DHSS. At the moment, someone decides whether he is entitled to benefit and he receives it. As I read the Bill, I have the impression that there will be long delays. Can the Minister tell me what will happen during the interval? I hope that he can help me on that matter, because that is my major worry.

Lord Henderson of Brompton

Before the Minister replies, I think the noble Lord, Lord Pitt of Hampstead, has put his finger on an important point, that of delay. The noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, has also brought out the fact that unless we know what the regulations are we cannot understand how they will work. I should like the Minister to explain—he was going rather fast, but I know the hour is late—because at one point he said that the adjudication officer would make his decision with or without discretion, as appropriate. I could not quite follow what those words meant. I should be very grateful if the Minister could expand on them.

10.15 p.m.

Lord Skelmersdale

I am sorry. I was indeed going far too fast. The word was not "discretion" but" direction" which means something different and would have been more intelligible. The answer to my noble friend Lord Selkirk is that the adjudication officer would be part of the normal DHSS machinery. He will have nothing to do with the Department of Employment.

Lord Pitt of Hampstead

Could the Minister answer my point about the delay?

Lord Skelmersdale

I am sorry. The matter of the delay was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Pitt. The details of the case will be telephoned through to headquarters and we therefore intend that decisions on severe hardship will be made very speedily indeed.

Lord Pitt of Hampstead

Perhaps I may be difficult and ask what that means. Does the Minister mean that the decision will be made that day? That is the sort of thing I am talking about. Can I be satisfied that when a youngster in need comes to the DHSS something will be done that day? That is really what I am asking.

Lord Skelmersdale

The decision would normally be made within 24 hours. If it is a very difficult case, then obviously it will take longer.

Lord Henderson of Brompton

If no other Member of the Committee wishes to pursue the discussion, perhaps I might say something. The words of the Minister are, I believe, comforting. If it really is the case that decisions can be made in such a short time, I am inclined to feel that this is not quite such a great problem as I thought it was. However, I shall read the Minister's very hastily delivered brief in Hansard tomorrow. With that, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Turner of Camden moved Amendment No. 20: Page 4, line 30, leave out ("severe").

The noble Baroness said: With this amendment I should like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 27 and 29 because they are really on the same point. The object of the exercise from my point of view is to try to ascertain, by way of what amounts to a probing amendment, what is meant by severe hardship. When is hardship severe? Does "severe" mean sleeping on the embankment? What kind of severity, what degree of severity is envisaged before the cases justify consideration under this clause? I wonder whether the Minister would be good enough to expand on that for the benefit of the Committee. I beg to move the amendment.

Lord Pitt of Hampstead

I wish to support this amendment. My worry is: what in effect will the Government regard as severe hardship? For example, many of the kids with whom I have talked have fallen out with their parents. I would regard them as being in severe hardship because of what might happen to them if they did not have some sort of grant, somewhere to go, somewhere where they could be looked after. Is that what the Government mean by "severe"? I should like an explanation and should be grateful if the Minister could give one.

Lord Skelmersdale

Severe hardship is obviously a more parlous state than hardship. It means something more than a mere tightening of the belt or doing without certain items which are normally part of a person's existence. It means that the hardship must be of such a degree that there is a real risk to health or indeed to life itself. I should include in that category sleeping out on the streets, if that helps the noble Lord, Lord Pitt.

To leave out the word "severe" could give entitlement to income support to a far greater number of young persons than is intended. The overall intentions of the Government in relation to young people and their dependence on the benefit culture would be put at risk in that many could claim hardship, while very few are likely to be entitled on account of a risk of severe hardship. This is why the Secretary of State needs the discretion the Bill gives him, rather than giving the discretion to the adjudicating authorities.

Baroness Turner of Camden

I thank the Minister for that explanation. I do not intend to press the amendment this evening. I shall look at the statement in Hansard to see whether we should take the matter any further on Report. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 21 not moved.]

Lord Banks moved Amendment No. 22: Page 4, line 32, leave out ("may") and insert ("shall").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move this amendment and I believe that I can do so very quickly. It seems that if the Secretary of State has come to the conclusion that the withholding of income support from a particular individual will involve severe hardship, he may have power to direct that payment be made. The Bill as drafted says that he may do so, but in order that he should have to do so the amendment substitutes the word "shall" for the word "may".

Lord Skelmersdale

The Committee and indeed the House has gone down the road of this may/shall argument many times in the past. On this occasion, and in this part of the Bill, we do not intend that the Secretary of State shall direct that income support should be payable in all cases where it appears to him that severe hardship will result.

That is done because a young person could put himself or herself in a position of severe hardship when there was available to him or her a means of avoiding it. In other words, the provision is there to get over intentional hardship in the sense that we who have worked in a local authority environment understand intentional homelessness. Either case would be a very bad situation for the law to have to take account of.

Lord Pitt of Hampstead

If that means that the situation will be the same as the interpretation of intentional homelessness, then I am afraid for the youngsters.

Lord Banks

I do not find the Minister's answer terribly satisfactory but I shall not pursue it further this evening. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 23 to 34 not moved.]

Lord Skelmersdale moved Amendment No. 35: Page 5, line 38, leave out ("this section") and insert ("subsection (4A) above").

The noble Lord said: This is a drafting amendment to subsection (4J) which ensures that there can be no misunderstanding as to what that subsection means by specifying that the reference is to subsection (4A). I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 36 to 39A not moved.]

Baroness Jeger had given notice of her intention to oppose the Question that Clause 4, as amended, stand part of the Bill.

Baroness Jeger

I had understood that there was an understanding that we might all go home now.

Lord Skelmersdale

The beauty of the procedures in your Lordships' Committee is that a debate on clause stand part enables me to say anything I want, even though it not germane to the clause in question. I hope to answer the noble Baroness's point. I am sure we all want to go home, but if such an arrangement has been made through the usual channels, it has not been communicated to me. We have no representative of the usual channels here, which puts us in quite a difficulty.

Lord Ennals

I was clearly told that there was an agreement between both sides of the Committee that we would rise after Amendment No. 39A.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Ampthill)

I understand that the Question is, That Clause 4, as amended, stand part of the Bill.

Lord Henderson of Brompton

I am afraid that we cannot accept that. If that is the Question before the Committee, then I shall move that this Question be now adjourned until tomorrow.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede

The agreement with the usual channels, now appearing in the shape of the noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook, was that we should finish at Amendment No. 39A. I apologise for not being in the Chamber when that point was reached.

Lord Skelmersdale

I am grateful for the intervention of the Opposition Chief Whip in the matter. We are left in some procedural difficulty, which I hope we shall be able to settle.

Lord Swinfen

The noble Lord, Lord Henderson, has proposed to move that the Question on clause stand part should not be put and should be adjourned until tomorrow. I support him. As a matter of courtesy between the Chief Whips and the usual channels on both sides of the Chamber, we ought to keep our good manners going. Otherwise, everything will break down and we shall end up like another place!

Lord Skelmersdale

If it were within the Rules of Order, I should be happy to accede to the proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Henderson.

Viscount Long

I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

House adjourned at twenty-seven minutes past ten o'clock.