HL Deb 25 January 1988 vol 492 cc411-23

2.53 p.m.

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.

This Bill is a short one but none the less important and covers a wide range of subjects. Most importantly it provides the necessary social security legislation to fulfil our wider commitment to training for young people under 18 who have left school and have not found work. It strengthens the contributory principle for short-term national insurance benefits to provide a stronger link with employment and the payment of contributions and takes further steps to ensure that unemployment benefit goes only to those for whom it was originally intended, those who through no fault of their own move from employment to unemployment.

It also provides for a scheme of payments from next winter onwards towards the cost of heating in periods of exceptionally cold weather. Following recent judicial decisions it also restores the original intentions of the law on attendance allowance and on the treatment of a dependant's occupational pension as earnings. Finally the Bill makes a number of necessary amendments to tidy up the law, primarily in readiness for the introduction of the reformed schemes of social security benefits, most of which come into force in April of this year.

I should like to begin with training. The Government's commitment to training and the success of YTS is unquestionable. The figures speak for themselves. Over 1.6 million young people have been helped, and three-quarters of them have gone straight into jobs or into further education or training. The great majority of them have appreciated the quality of the training they have been given and have considered it worth while. We are currently spending over £1 billion a year on youth training.

I believe I have the agreement of the whole House when I say that the expectations of young people leaving school should never include unemployment. Not only is it demoralising but it usually leads inexorably into the so-called benefit culture. This is a one-way street leading to a dead end and we believe that the entrance to it should be sealed off. We owe it to our youngsters to channel them in the right direction and to steer them away from getting drawn into a benefit culture from which it can be difficult to escape.

That is why we said in our manifesto that we would guarantee a place on YTS to every school-leaver under 18 not going directly into a job and that we would take steps to withdraw entitlement to benefit from those who deliberately chose to remain unemployed. This guarantee, the benefit changes in this Bill and the arrangements for payment of a bridging allowance in the Employment Bill currently in another place provide a complete set of arrangements which will ensure that no young person under the age of 18 who is able to take up a YTS place need be unemployed or have the option of living on social security benefits. From the time this clause becomes operative in September unemployment will no longer be an option for most young people. What then will be open to them? To go into a job, to stay on at school, to go into some other educational establishment or to join a youth training scheme.

It may be for the convenience of your Lordships if I now briefly explain how the arrangements, which are in Clause 4 of this Bill, will work. When a young person under 18 leaves school but does not go immediately into a job his parents will be able to continue to claim child benefit for him provided he registers with a jobcentre or local authority careers office for employment or a YTS course. This child benefit extension period will run for four months—up to Christmas—for summer leavers and for three months for those leaving at Christmas or Easter. If the family are on benefit themselves they will also be able to get a dependency addition for the young person during this period. During this period the youngster will be able to decide whether or not to continue with his education, to take a job if a suitable one comes up or to go on a YTS course.

Child benefit will of course stop if the youngster takes a job or a YTS place before the end of the extension period. Of course there will be some young people who have special reasons for not living in the family home, for example those who run the risk of physical or sexual abuse. Regulations will therefore be made to enable them to be entitled to income support but only during the extension period. By the end of the extension period we guarantee that a YTS place will be arranged for any young person who wants one.

When the child benefit extension period comes to an end there will be no general entitlement to income support for the under-18s. Those who go on YTS will receive the training allowance of £28.50 a week in the first year and £35 in the second year, which is considerably more than the £19.40 they would get under income support. I said there would be no general entitlement to income support, but there will of course be some young people for whom YTS would not be appropriate; for example the severely disabled, the long-term sick and one-parent families. Regulations to be made under the Bill will ensure that they will continue to be able to get income support.

But we also realise that hard cases may arise from time to time where the regulations do not help. Clause 4 therefore contains an additional safety net which gives the Secretary of State a discretionary power to direct in exceptional cases that a young person is to be treated as in one of the special groups for whom income support may be paid. This power will be used where it is judged that severe hardship would result if income support were not paid to the young person.

I should also mention for completeness, though it is not part of this Bill, that where a young person leaves a job or a YTS place and he is still under 18 he will be guaranteed another YTS place. During the time that it takes to arrange another YTS place the youngster will be paid a YTS bridging allowance. Provision for this is in the Employment Bill, which is currently in another place. I should like to make it absolutely clear to the House that these proposals should not be seen as savings measures. It is true that there will be net savings to the DHSS expenditure of £84 million in a full year, but this will be more than offset by the additional costs to be borne on the YTS programme.

I should now like briefly to draw your Lordships' attention to some of the other provisions in the Bill. One of the objectives is the sensible targeting of scarce resources. This is achieved in a number of ways. Under Clause 5 we are strengthening the contributory principle for unemployment and sickness benefits so that they will be based on a more realistic period of payment of contributions. It is currently possible for a man on average earnings to qualify for sickness and unemployment benefits from as little as nine weeks' work in the preceding tax year. Under Clause 5 it will be necessary to have a record of contributions or credits in the two tax years preceding the claim. The man on average earnings will then be able to qualify on the basis of nine weeks' work in each of those two years, so the conditions will still be relatively easy to satisfy.

Clause 5 also reinforces the original purpose of unemployment benefit, which was to provide a measure of income replacement during short periods of unemployment for people normally accustomed to earnings while they sought work. In order to provide for a closer link with recent employment the Bill therefore requires that the person must have actually paid contributions in one of the two tax years preceding the claim instead of in any year since he entered national insurance.

Clause 6 is also concerned with reinforcing the original purpose of unemployment benefit. It extends to the over-55s the arrangements for abating the unemployment benefit of those who have an occupational pension over £35 a week. These arrangements already apply to those over 60, and in view of the growing trend in the payment of occupational pensions to people in the 55 to 60 age group, we believe this is an appropriate time to extend the arrangements to that age group. It is not at all in line with the original intentions of unemployment benefit to pay that benefit in full to people receiving significant amounts of occupational pension in recognition of the fact that they have reached the end of their pensionable career.

Also on the subject of targeting, the Bill amends the law on attendance allowance and on dependency increases to ensure that they go to those for whom they were originally intended before recent judgments cast doubt on the relevant provisions. Clause 1 makes clear that, for one of the night time conditions for attendance allowance to be satisfied, active supervision of the disabled person is necessary—that is that the carer is required, to be awake for a prolonged period or at frequent intervals for the purposes of watching over him". The Court of Appeal judgment in the case of Mrs. Moran seemed to be suggesting that it was only necessary for the carer simply to be on hand. Clause 1 is intended to put beyond doubt what had always been intended and accepted.

Similarly Clause 9 is intended to make clear that for the purposes of entitlement to an increase of benefit for a dependant, any occupational pension received by the dependant is to be treated as if it were earnings, whether or not the dependant also has earnings from employment. This had always been intended, but a decision of the social security commissioners brought to light unintended inconsistencies in the relevant provisions.

I should now like to turn to the subject of cold weather. Schedule 3 to the Bill provides, among other things, for payments towards the cost of heating in exceptionally cold weather to be made on a regulated basis from the social fund from next winter. The precise form this help will take will be considered in the light of this winter's experience of the current scheme, but I should like to make it absolutely clear to the House that these payments will be a regulated entitlement in the same way as social fund maternity and funeral payments. They will neither be based on discretion nor be constrained by the budget for grants and loans.

Finally, the Bill is concerned with the necessary tidying up of a number of aspects of legislation and makes a number of amendments to complete the package of reforms to the industrial injuries scheme. The industrial injuries changes in Clause 2 and Schedule I provide for industrial widows to get the same pension as national insurance widows from 11th April and for existing industrial widows to be able to continue to receive their retirement pension on top of their widow's benefit. Provision is also made for a new benefit called retirement allowance to replace reduced earnings allowance for those retiring in the future. The Bill also provides new statutory bases for the welfare foods scheme and the arrangements for the remission of National Health Service charges and the payment of travelling expenses to hospital to coincide with the April 1988 social security changes. It puts beyond doubt that local authorities may make payments on account of social security benefits on behalf of the Department of Health and Social Security in any emergency. There are also technical amendments to the legislation for family credit and the social fund to ensure the smooth running of those schemes.

Tidying up includes the correction of errors, and I should also draw the House's attention to Clause 11 which was introduced on Report in another place. Following the discovery of an error in the calculation of the Retail Prices Index, my honourable friend the Minister for Social Security and the Disabled announced in another place on 18th December last that the Government proposed to make extra payments to social security claimants. The special payments will be made to retirement pensioners, supplementary pensioners, those receiving widows benefits, industrial injuries benefits, war pensions, invalid care allowance, invalidity benefit, mobility allowance, attendance allowance and severe disablement allowance. This will be followed by action to correct benefit rates for all recipients at the April 1989 up-rating. We also propose to make a second-stage payment to those losers who enter the special payment groups after the special payments are made.

I have gone into some detail as it is the first time the House has officially heard any of this as we rose for the Christmas recess the day before another place and it was on their last day that this announcement was made by way of a Statement. However, these facts are gloss on the gingerbread of the clause which merely validates the Social Security Benefits (Up-rating) (No. 2) Order 1987 and the Occupational Pensions (Revaluation) Order 1987. Suffice it to say for now, that the quickest and easiest way of correcting the error was by the steps I have outlined, namely validating the two orders and making ex-gratia payments.

To sum up, this Bill contains a miscellany of prominent measures. Overall I think it can best be described as ensuring that our social security system keeps pace with the times and is relevant to the late 1980s and 1990s. In particular it fulfils the Government's manifesto commitment to take steps to prevent young people from going straight from school down the dead end street of unemployment and reliance on benefit. The guarantee of a YTS place for all under-18s is an investment in the youth of this country and demonstrates the Government's commitment to encouraging young people to make the most of their talents and acquire the necessary skills and experience for which today's employers are looking. I commend the Bill to the House.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(Lord Skelmersdale.)

3.8 p.m.

Baroness Jeger

My Lords, I must crave your Lordships' indulgence if anything I have to say today is rather inadequate. In spite of several requests I have not received the courtesy of being sent the Notes on Clauses on the Bill which in previous times have been sent to the Opposition spokesman. I shall have to do my best without the Notes on Clauses from the department. If that leads to any misunderstanding of what the department is trying to do, I suggest that it is not my fault.

In the Bill there are 17 clauses and five schedules, with scarcely a line of which we on this side can agree. The very existence of the Bill constitutes a criticism of the Government's handling of the whole question of social security. In fact the Bill would be better entitled the Social Insecurity Bill, because it will create great anxiety and considerable deprivation among the most vulnerable people in this country. If I may refer noble Lords to the Financial Memorandum, they will see how much money is being saved by this Bill. And when the Government say that they are saving money, that means they are taking money away from those who have previously had it, and who needed to have it.

Before going into detailed criticisms, I must put to the House our concern about the Government's failure to develop even their own flawed philosophy efficiently. There is no convincing strategy about the way the Government deal with social security. Here we are in 1988 faced with more legislation. Parliament and the country were told that the Green Paper and the White Paper, and all the discussions that went on around those two publications, were going to represent a fundamental comprehensive review of the whole field of post-Beveridge welfare and what have we got?

Since 1986, we have had an unending stream of regulations and statutory instruments which indicate a piecemeal and inefficient approach. They usually have indicated a mean attitude to the problems of society, and they have certainly not carried out the Government's promise that there was to be a new total look at welfare provision that once and for all would put things right for the present century.

Another problem which many people in this House feel is the way that the Government are trying to rule by regulations rather than by legislation. This criticism does not apply to the present Bill. It is the Government's own version of a sort of militant tendency. They take powers from Parliament, and transfer too much to the drafters of the regulations which, in their turn, are often incomprehensible.

I shall give your Lordships just one example. In passing this Bill (if this Bill is unfortunately passed) we are empowering the Minister to make this sort of regulation. Schedule 3, paragraph 2, states about the social fund: Payments may also be made out of that fund, in accordance with this Part of this Act, of a prescribed amount or a number of prescribed amounts to prescribed descriptions of persons, in prescribed circumstances to meet expenses for heating which appear to the Secretary of State to have been or to he likely to be incurred in cold weather". That is government by prescription. Who is to have the power to call one of us a prescribed person, or to put us into a pigeon-hole of prescription? I shall say something later about the cold weather problems.

There are many points which will be taken up by my noble friends now and later at Committee stage, but I must refer briefly to paragraph 2 of Schedule 1 which amends the Social Security Acts of 1975 and 1976 in relation to industrial injuries. My noble friend Lady Turner will be dealing with that later. The changes will reduce expenditure to the National Insurance Fund by £2 million in 1989–90, rising to £10 million in 1991–92. It seems to us that the Government are more interested in taking money away from men and women injured at work, than in helping them over their difficulties.

We strongly oppose Clause 4. That takes away the right of people under 18 to benefit, except in circumstances … to he prescribed in regulations". There is more prescription—by whom, to whom and what for? It might seem—and I appreciate what the noble Lord. Lord Skelmersdale, said—a rational argument to suggest that all school-leavers should have a job, training or further education, but that is totally an option. Since 1948, the qualifying age for social security payments has been 16.

I appreciate that the noble Lord referred to the Conservative manifesto and the promise that they gave then. However, I have to put it to him that that promise is different from what we have before us today. I have taken the trouble—though it pains me—to read the Conservative manifesto, and what that manifesto said was that those who deliberately choose to be unemployed shall lose benefit. But Clause 4 does not limit the deprivation to young people who deliberately choose to be unemployed.

I must remind the noble Lord that the Department of Employment had a research paper—in case he is too busy to find it, it is No. 61—called Youth Unemployment: Social and Psychological Perspectives. It found that only 0.2 per cent. of unemployed young people prefer the dole. It stated: It would not be correct to say that the young unemployed find unemployment attractive. It would seem that there are very few indeed who would rather not have a job". That is not coming from a Labour Party leaflet. That is coming from the Department of Employment. I hope that the Minister will be able to tell us how many young people are waiting to go on a course. Will they be denied benefit if there are no vacancies in their area?

Where there is abuse—and none of us wants to see abuse in these matters—why do the Government not use their power in Section 20 of the Social Security Act 1975? In that Act there is provision that claimants must be available for work and be willing to take up any reasonable offer of work or approved training. What are the Government doing about that Act and why are they not using it if there is a conviction that there are a lot of people lying around who ought to be at work?

Then I have to ask: what happens to young people who are intermittently unemployed? Among young people there is a lot of temporary and seasonal work. Will they be denied unemployment benefit in between jobs? I am worried about a school-leaver who has found a job, perhaps acquired some skill, and who after a year or so, through no fault of his own—perhaps the firm has gone broke—is made redundant or for some other reason loses his job. He will have paid national insurance contributions during the time he was at work.

He may be in an area of high unemployment. Is he to be denied benefit unless he goes on to a two-year course in something else, which might be different from the job in which he already has some experience? So it is not easy to say that all these young people have to go onto a training course if they do not have a job because they might well be in between jobs.

I appreciate that the Minister had a lot of ground to cover; and I might take even longer than he did because there is so much ground to cover. However, a very important question is: what will happen about young people in part-time education? At present, young people are allowed up to 21 hours a week without loss of unemployment benefit. This is to enable them to go on after they have left school to some part-time courses which might lead them—and I know in some cases have led them—to getting through their A-levels and to university entrance, so that they are making a really good start in life. Are the 21 hours to stay with us? This is a very important point.

I cannot understand why this Government seem to hate young people. They hound homeless young people around the country under the board and lodging policies, which do not allow them to stay longer than certain periods in various places. They pay people under 25 less benefit than than those over 25. They have removed the protection of the wages councils from young people under 21. I must point out that the YTS allowance does not automatically include any help with board and lodging. Therefore, a young person who has to leave home to attend a course, perhaps because he lives in the middle of a Scottish moor or on a Welsh mountain, is not sure (and neither am I) whether he will receive a payment that is more than that received by the young person who can continue living at home while he is taking his course. It is impossible for those who have to face market rents in city centres to manage on the allowance provided.

If the Government were sincerely concerned with the welfare of the family and children, as they keep on saying that they are, they would have uprated child benefit. I shall come back to that point.

Clause 5 requires national insurance contributions to have been paid for two years, instead of one year, as at present. The result is all in the Government's favour. According to the Financial Memorandum, they will save £60 million in 1988–89, rising to £380 million in 1990–91. The newspapers are full of how flush the Chancellor of the Exchequer is with money and yet we are confronted by a Bill which proposes to take £60 million to begin with, and then £380 million, out of the National Insurance Fund; that means out of the pockets of those who are in need.

Clause 6, which my noble friend Lady Turner will deal with in more detail, provides that people who are retired at 55 instead of at 60 (an increasing trend) will be at risk of losing unemployment benefit, as the noble Lord explained. They will lose one pound for each pound of pension they receive over £35. That figure was fixed in 1981. I understand that by now it should be £48, if only to keep pace with inflation. I should have thought that those are the kind of people the Government would cherish. They are hard working people who have saved up for their pensions and done their best to provide for their old age. It was acceptable that those people would not be on the unemployment market when they reached 60. But it is a different matter to tell all those worthy people at 55 that they are to be disadvantaged because they have saved for an occupational pension of up to £35 a week, which does not go a long way these days. The Government could at least have raised that sum in line with the indexed linked pensions which civil servants and many other people enjoy; that would have increased the amount to £48.

The Minister referred to severe weather. It appears from the regulations that payments may be made, as I said earlier, to "prescribed persons"—I wish I was a prescribed person—if they endure a seven-day period at a "prescribed temperature". I have a copy of the regulations and I see that the "prescribed temperature" is zero degrees Celsius; but that zero degrees Celsius must start on a Monday! Last week according to what I heard on the radio the severe weather started on Friday in some parts of the country. It may be a bit milder now but had the cold weather continued from Friday, claims would not have been acceptable, according to the regulations, until a week from next Monday, which is a long time. It seems therefore that one must only catch hypothermia on a Monday. That is something I cannot understand and I hope that when the Minister replies he can give a government warning which will explain to people how they can start hypothermia on a Monday but never on a Tuesday.

Furthermore, where is this temperature taken? It is not taken in the cold draughty houses of some of the people most likely to he at risk. Is it taken at the top of a hill or at the nearest airport? Is any account taken of wind chill, which most experts recognise to be a serious component of hypothermia?

I come to the social fund, about which the Minister did not say a great deal. We discussed it at great length when the Social Security Bill was going through the House in 1986. Many Members will remember that the Government were defeated on the issue of an appeal. Noble Lords in all parts of the House, especially some of our most distinguished lawyers, felt that it was wrong for a citizen to have no right to appeal against a department's decision. Having been defeated on that issue, the Government came back with a so-called appeal machinery under someone called the social fund commissioner. A social fund commissioner has been appointed to work two days a week. The other day I asked how many social fund officers had been appointed and the parliamentary reply was, none yet. I understand that the scheme is supposed to start in April. It is a job for which people will need a great deal of training, expertise and understanding; but they have not yet been appointed.

I must go into a little detail on that subject because I think it is in principle most important. We were given to understand that appeal machinery would be set up so that people who felt that they had been wrongly denied grants or loans from the social fund would have an avenue of appeal. I have the social fund manual. It is heavy, long and costs over £9. I must again emphasise my complaint that the reality of the situation is contained in the regulations—in those pieces of paper which one can obtain from the Library but which are not easily available to the people who most need to appeal.

From a close reading of the regulations I understand that a dissatisfied applicant can have an interview with a social fund officer. It will be in the same office as that of the chap who originally did the person down. Whether or not it is an objective decision, it must leave some thought in the applicant's mind as to its impartiality. There is to be no oral hearing beyond that interview. That is outrageous. If the applicant is still dissatisfied, all that happens is that his file is sent to the inspector for him to read. There is no hearing by the inspectors. There is no face-to-face encounter. If the noble Lord should tell me that I have misread this £9.10-worth of literature I would be only too happy; but I cannot think of another situation where this would arise. A drunken soldier is allowed to go before a court martial in person and speak up for himself or get someone else to speak for him.

Will the applicant see the file which goes up to the next stage? That is very important. Many years ago I sat on tribunals of this kind. From time to time, when a man or woman came to the tribunal, we found that although we had all the papers from the office, we could work out through sympathetic discussion whether that person had done himself justice, whether he had a chip on his shoulder or whether the official had rubbed him up the wrong way. Occasionally we were able to put things right for the applicant, but not always. We had no predisposition to find in favour of one or the other.

However, it seems to me totally unfair and against any concept of British justice that a man or woman should not even be able to confront those who have decided that he cannot have access to the social fund. I should like to know whether MPs will be able to raise cases of their constituents in the House or whether they will be told that that is not possible.

I speak very shyly because I am not a lawyer, but I have tried to work out a few points. There is a standard textbook which I have found—thanks to noble and learned Lords—by a gentleman called Wade on administrative law. It says that some statutory tribunals have power to dispense with oral hearings, but if they do so they must be careful to give a party a fair opportunity to comment on any adverse statement submitted. Will that happen to people who are appealing in these circumstances? If so, I feel it would be a dereliction of some of the best traditions of our law if that appeal were not allowed.

The social fund was foreshadowed in the 1986 Act. I understand that the budget for next year is £203 million. Perhaps I might ask the noble Lord how this compares with the single payments paid out last year. The cash is limited. The Social Security Advisory Committee said that in its view, £350 million—not £203 million—would be needed to cover the payments made last year. Now we face the fact that many of these people will have to pay 20 per cent. of their rates. And they are going to face higher electricity charges and other costs. To me, the amount of discretion given to the Minister is absolutely ominous.

Where loans are granted, who is responsible for repayment? Can family members be deemed liable? I have a piece of paper from the department which sets out how the loan can be repaid by deduction from future benefits. If these people are so poor that they are on benefit already and they then fall further into a poverty disaster where they have to borrow, how on earth are they to be expected to live on a benefit from which deductions are made? Anyone would think that a benefit had fat on it which could be sliced off without doing harm to any of these people.

Then, what if the person gets a job? Is his employer to be traced? Is he to be taken to court for repayment? None of this is clear. I do not want the noble Lord to tell me that it is on page 1001 of these regulations. That does not mean that the facts are before Parliament. It is Parliament which should have a say in all these things.

I think there will be a great disaster here. For one thing, the instructions to the local officers state that they must keep within their budget. What happens if there is a sudden disaster in a certain area where, for instance, a big factory employing a large proportion of the local population closes down, or has some other difficulty? Oh no, the social fund officers' instructions are, you keep to your budget. So, if the disaster comes at the end of the financial year, it is bad luck. The officers are instructed that they are not to keep a waiting list. They are instructed that the same person cannot apply again within six months. So you have to put up with your poverty and disaster for six months before you can go back again. I quote the instructions: Social fund officers should under no circumstances make an award which cannot be paid from the local office budget". Can the Minister confirm that the chairman of the Government's own Social Security Advisory Committee wrote to him on 15th October in relation to loans, and said: I place on record that this decision is without our support". When the Social Security Advisory Committee appointed by the Government puts something on paper as clearly as that, I cannot think how any Minister can come before this House and propose to carry on this absurd situation.

Two other points worry me very much about these instructions. One is that social fund officers should tell the applicant to shop around; that there may be charities and other help available. Does that mean that the poor old lady must walk around looking for the family welfare association? She may not have a telephone in order to ring people up. Or will the official ring up all his local charities of which he has a list saying, "Can you help Mrs. So-and-so?" She might be old, infirm or arthritic. She might be inarticulate, not speaking very good English. But she is to be told to make sure whether she can get help from somebody else. If the Minister has not had his weekend ruined, as I have, by reading the social fund manual, he will find the exact words in paragraph 4058: Possible sources of help might he charities and benevolent funds which are known to be likely to provide the required assistance". That is not only a difficulty for the applicant; I have not heard from one single charity which approves this statement. Some fear that the result will be a drop in contributions. I am sure that all of us give gladly so that voluntary organisations can help to supplement statutory benefits. But we are not going to be so willing if we think we are subsidising the DHSS and that these people, many of whom will have paid insurance contributions all their lives, are now to be shovelled off and that the public is expected to provide the assistance which is theirs by a statutory right. At least, it was one until this Government got busy.

There is another important question. It seems from some of the instructions that there is a possibility that some other person or body may wholly or partly meet the debt. To what degree of' consanguinity does that go? Does it mean that an estranged husband can be held responsible for money which it is believed the wife owes to the department? Can it be that a young adult who may have a job in a household where no one else does can be expected to take on that responsibility?

None of those points is clearly answered. They are of immense importance. But the main reason I have gone into some detail—I shall not apologise for taking so long because this is a long Bill—is that if the Government will bring us such a gallimaufry of a mix-up of a Bill they must expect us, in our duty of revision, to deal with it more seriously than some noble Lords opposite appear to be doing.

This is a Bill where the underlying philosophy is totally wrong. It suggests, like other social security legislation we have had, that this Government do not believe in the idea that we are members one of another, that the family idea of helpfulness should be spread to the wider community and that those who are well should help those who are in need. They believe that every man is an island, and good luck to him. They believe that a person should stand on his own two feet and that if he has only one leg that is too bad.

Today we have another example of the Government's basically uncaring attitude. This great, marvellous rationalization—simplification, as the Government called it at one time—of the social security system is totally wrong. It does absolutely no good at all. If the Government think that they have simplified social security since the time of Beveridge, let them read the social fund manual tonight. Beveridge never produced anything as sinful as this. The Government may think that they have done some good in the field of welfare; but I hope that they will begin to realise their total failure.