HL Deb 07 March 1991 vol 526 cc1561-98

House again in Committee on Clause 1.

Baroness Darcy (de Knayth) moved Amendment No. 25: Page 4, line 29, at end insert: ("( ) A payment to or in respect of any person which is attributable to his entitlement to the care component 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 Baroness said: I hope that the Minister is in a good mood after the realisation of his culinary concept. I shall be as brief as possible, but I need to go into some detail. The amendment seeks to ensure that disabled people in receipt of the attendance allowance component are not expected to contribute it to services provided by a local authority or health authority.

I want to make it clear that we are not talking about this issue in relation to residential care or social security. They are both dealt with in other legislation. We are not talking about income assessment in the pure sense; that is, assessment of a person's overall income. Rather, we refer to AA being used as a criterion against which local authorities and health authorities impose charges on disabled people. There is a blanket policy that everyone in receipt of AA is expected to pay so much towards home care regardless of their overall income.

The Spinal Injuries Association claims that that is an increasing problem for many of its members. They are expected to contribute AA to personal and home help services and also, for example, to provide incontinence pads. AA is payable to severely disabled people only. They require frequent attendance during the day or night to help with bodily functions. Higher rate, as we all know by now, is £37.55. That currently buys about 10 hours' care in London and 8 outside the city. The irony is that if someone is disabled enough to qualify for that amount, the sum hardly gets the person out of bed and dressed every day. It certainly does not get him back into bed again.

AA is therefore a compensatory benefit. It was originally designed to help towards the general costs of a disabled person's daily living. The need for attendance was a measure of those most in need. Does the Minister accept that AA does not adequately meet the needs of people sufficiently severely disabled to qualify for it and that local authorities and health authorities should not be requiring AA in return for service provision?

The Department of Health has from time to time issued circulars aimed at preventing charges being made for the home help service but without a great deal of success. The amendment would ensure success while allowing the Government to introduce regulations to prescribe circumstances in which local authorities or health authorities can ask for AA. I understand that the Department of Health intends to issue to local authorities and health authorities guidance on income assessment for community care. The Spinal Injuries Association is concerned about the implication of that guidance. It believes that the consumers' viewpoint should be represented. Will the Minister consult the disability organisations on the broad issue of income assessment for personal social services; and, in direct relation to the amendment, will he say whether the guidance will contain advice on charging for personal assistance and domestic home help services? It would be helpful if he could answer that question when he replies because it may well help me to decide what to do about the amendment. I very much hope that he will agree to the provision or something like it because it would strengthen his hand if it were on the face of the Bill. I beg to move.

Lord Carter

The purpose of the amendment has been well described by the noble Baroness so there is no need for me to spend much time on it. I should like to press the Minister. We know that the mobility allowance is disregarded as a criterion against which an authority providing the service might impose a charge. The obvious question is, why not do the same with the care component? I cannot see the purpose of introducing one benefit, the DLA, if the two components are to be kept separate for the purpose of income assessment. It is an unnecessary complication and from what we heard earlier it seems to run entirely contrary to the wish to simplify the system.

There is the phrase already in the Bill under Section 37ZB(7) which states that the, circumstances may be prescribed in which a person is to be taken to satisfy or not to satisfy such of the conditions". It seems to us that that allows the Government to state areas in which the care component should not be disregarded and therefore they could accept the amendment because it means that they could continue the present position if they wished. I ask the Minister whether he accepts that the attendance allowance is inadequate to meet the personal assistance needs of people sufficiently severely disabled, to qualify for it. As the noble Baroness said, local and health authorities should not be requiring attendance allowance in return for service provision.

I repeat: how does the Minister justify introducing one benefit but keeping the two components distinct for the purpose of income assessment? Does he accept that this will lead to unnecessary complications?

Lord Henley

As the noble Baroness quite rightly said, this amendment would not alter the position of income support payments in residential care and nursing homes and similar places. Where the amendment would be effective is in an area not currently covered by the regulations—that is, the local authority's ability to charge for certain services which it is statutorily obliged to supply. I fully understand the noble Baroness's concern to protect claimants' attendance allowance or the new care component. Allowances, including attendance allowance, DLA, are paid or will be paid from public funds for a wide variety of purposes. I hope that the Committee will agree that where a benefit is designed to pay for services which a local authority provides it is quite proper for that local authority to take the benefit into account in calculating charges for these services. The wide scope of the amendment would make it unable to do so unless very complicated legislation making specific exceptions were introduced. These exceptions would be further complicated with the implementation of community care.

I do not accept the point that the noble Baroness made that the attendance allowance does not necessarily meet all the needs that she suggests. However, we are prepared to consult various organisations in the disability field on the issue. I make no promise as to the outcome, nor am I in a position to make a promise about guidance that might be issued by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health. I repeat, there are no plans to change any of the ways in which either the care or the mobility component is treated. There is no advantage to be gained from this amendment and I therefore hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw it.

8.15 p.m.

Baroness Darcy (de Knayth)

I am slightly disappointed by that reply, which will not surprise the Minister. I do not quite see why it should be so complicated to include legislation to exempt—did the noble Lord, Lord Carter, wish to intervene?

Lord Carter

Before the noble Baroness decides what to do with the amendment, will the Minister answer my question? Why is the mobility component disregarded but not the care component?

Lord Henley

The mobility allowance always was disregarded and the noble Lord will accept that that has always been the case. I do not think it would be right therefore for us to decide not to disregard the mobility allowance or the mobility component in the new benefit, the DLA.

Baroness Darcy (de Knayth)

I return to what I was saying. I do not quite see why it is so complicated to prescribe the circumstances in which one could charge. I thought that the phrase in brackets in my amendment would have permitted that in regulations. However, perhaps the Minister will comment on that. I appreciate that he cannot say what will be in the guidance. When he says that he will consult disability organisations, do I take it that he will consult them with reference to carrying out the guidance?

Lord Henley

When I say that I shall consult the disability organisations, I mean that if disability organisations wish to come forward, as I have said on previous occasions with different Bills, my door will be open and I shall be prepared to listen to what they say. I make no promises beyond that.

Baroness Darcy (de Knayth)

I shall probably have to accept that. I wish to give the Minister one or two instances of things that are happening and perhaps he will comment on them and say whether he thinks that guidance is needed to sort out the problems. I appreciate, as he said, that many local authorities are moving away from merely providing home help towards providing home care services as well. I know his argument is that the attendance allowance can be taken for that but not for home help.

Many are moving towards providing care assistance, giving priority to those needing personal care and imposing charges on the people in receipt of attendance allowance, but the people who need basic home help are being given a low priority. In effect, they are being denied the service. Is it not the local authority's duty to provide assistance, under the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970, to those who are assessed as needing such domestic help? Can the Minister give his opinion on that? Is he aware that local authorities are asking for attendance allowances for services? Often they charge a flat rate, regardless of the number of hours provided. They may take quite a lot of the attendance allowance for very few hours and that can leave the recipient with little of the attendance allowance to spare to buy in services from elsewhere.

On 14th June 1990, at the Report stage of the National Health Service and Community Care Bill, replying to an amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Carter, on much the same question of charging for services, using the attendance allowance for services, the Minister said at col. 466 of Hansard: to avoid double provision, there should not be an automatic disregard of attendance allowance"— this is the important point— though the local authority would be right not to take it into account if it was being spent on attendance needs not covered by the services the local authority was providing". Does this mean that if the attendance allowance is being spent on extra care or other extra costs, the recipient will not be asked to contribute any attendance allowance to the provision by the local authority if he needs to buy in services elsewhere?

Lord Henley

The various comments which the noble Baroness made will be taken into account by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health in issuing any guidance on the matter. I ought to stress what I said earlier. I hope that the noble Baroness will agree that where a benefit is designed to pay for services which a local authority provides, it is quite proper for that authority to take the benefit into account in calculating the charges for those services. The specific points which the noble Baroness made may be relevant for guidance from my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health and he will take her comments into account.

Baroness Darcy (de Knayth)

I still argue that the attendance allowance was not specifically designed to pay for care. It was a general cost allowance. The measure of the disability for which the attendance was needed was the reason for it originally being granted. However, I can see that there is no point in dividing the Committee at this hour of the night—or perhaps there is and we shall start again tomorrow. That might be a good idea.

I thank the Minister up to a point for what he said and for offering to meet the disability organisations. I am sure that they will take note of what he said and queue up at his door. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Carter moved Amendment No. 26: Page 4, line 33, leave out ("5") and insert ("2").

The noble Lord said: This amendment attempts to deal with a situation where it is hard to understand the logic of the Government's attitude as explained in another place. I, and many outside organisations, feel that the Government have been particularly hard-hearted as regards the lower age limit for the new mobility component. The present mobility allowance can only be claimed from the age of five. The new mobility component of the DLA will have the same restriction. That provision seems to be based on the idea that children under the age of five with handicaps have the same mobility needs as those without handicaps, and therefore no special allowance is necessary.

Those of us who have had experience of bringing up handicapped children will know the extra costs incurred from a very early age; for example, in travelling around with the child. One cannot always take a handicapped child on public transport and one has to use one's car much more often or take taxis. That not only applies to the physically handicapped but also to retarded children and children with multiple handicaps. It is only common sense to admit that such children have far greater needs than those of able bodied children. In MENCAP's survey of children with profound retardation and multiple handicaps, parents were asked about their problems with travel. Some 88 per cent. of parents said that the nature of the handicap made travel by bus or train very difficult—I made that point earlier when I was referring to physical handicap—and only 5 per cent. of the parents said they could use public transport. Some 79 per cent. said they had to use a private car, yet there is no help with those mobility costs.

Most children are able to walk by the age of two, though not every child will walk by that age. However, the mobility component is limited to children with a severe disability. If this amendment is accepted there is no danger of this entitlement being awarded to children who are simply slow in starting to walk. In another place the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Social Security, Miss Ann Widdecombe, seemed to argue that the mobility needs of a handicapped child were the same as those of a non-handicapped child until he went to school. That argument is inappropriate for children who, in educational terms, are described as having special needs. As we know, health authorities have a duty to inform local education authorities and parents of any children under five whom the health authorities have reason to believe may have special educational needs. Children aged over two can then be formally assessed under the provisions of the 1981 Act. The 1981 Education Act recognises the vital importance of early provision of education for children with special needs. The right to special education starts at the age of two and not at the age of five.

We know that children with severe handicaps require more than just supervision or guidance out of doors, as is the case with able-bodied children. Severely handicapped children have to be carried or held wherever they are. Caring for a very young child with multiple handicaps is not the same as keeping an eye on able-bodied children who are just running around. The same applies to children with cerebral palsy. The first few years can be very expensive. Again, parents have to use a car much more often. Alternatively, they have to hire taxis or pay for lifts as they cannot use public transport. Special wheelchairs and buggies are needed, as is other special equipment.

The National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux sent us some information about two heartrending cases. A citizens advice bureau in Cheshire reports the case of a child with spinal muscular atrophy who died just before her fifth birthday. If mobility allowance had been payable it would have enabled the family to buy a car to take the child out. A CAB in Pendle reports the case of a child aged three years and three months who is severely disabled. That child's mother spends an average of two days a week taking her son to see various specialists and for treatment. The journeys may involve her travelling up to 30 miles away from her home. Anyone who has experienced visiting hospitals on a regular basis with a handicapped child will have seen the sheer heroism that is displayed by many parents of handicapped children in the time they devote to plying backwards and forwards to hospitals with their children. The Government will perhaps produce the argument of cost, but if it is a matter of cost let us be clear about that. This problem should be recognised. As I said at the outset, I believe the Government are being rather hard-hearted in their attitude to this matter. I beg to move.

Baroness Elles

I hope I may interject at this stage to ask the Minister seriously to consider this matter. We have discussed on previous occasions the child support legislation. One of the aims of that piece of legislation is to encourage women who are single parents to go out to work. Clearly the same problems will arise whether the child concerned is aged two, three, four, five or six. I have carried out a great deal of social services work in Kennington over the years and I know how extremely difficult it is for a single mother to move her child from A to B, whether to a hospital, a nursery school or any other place, if that child has either a mental or physical handicap. I hope the Minister will consider this amendment sympathetically. I hope he will inform us whether the problem is one of cost. However, if there is some illogical reason for resisting the amendment I believe the Committee should also be informed of that.

Lord Swinfen

The amendment contains a great deal of merit. Frequently when a family has a two year-old child other children are being born into the family or there may be other children under the age of five. Sometimes there are more than two children under the age of five. My noble friend the Minister is not a mother, though I know he is a father. I suspect he has never had the occasion to do a large family shop on his own accompanied by more than one small child. I gather that he may now have the occasion to do so as he has recently increased his family from two to one. I offer him my congratulations on that fact.

Lord Carter

From one to two!

Lord Swinfen

I beg my noble friend's pardon. I never have been very good at mathematics. If one has two small children and a heavy load of shopping, and one of the children is unable to move around unaided or is disruptive because of a mental disability, the unfortunate mother faces a great deal of difficulty. My noble friend should consider the amendment sympathetically.

Lord Henley

I start by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Carter, for his intervention in restoring the size of my family to its appropriate level. Obviously I have noted the points made by all speakers, and particularly those made by my noble friends Lady Elles and Lord Swinfen. I take their comments on board. I should stress the costs that would be involved in this provision—an extra £30 million.

Some of the toughest decisions in social security revolve around where one draws any particular line, whether it concerns age or income. Inevitably a case can be made for including those who fall the wrong side of that line. That is the problem with drawing lines. Having considered this question with the greatest care I must say that we are not persuaded by the case for any change in the age limit. We remain convinced that the right age limit is five. As Members of the Committee will recall, this was the limit set by the Labour Government, which the noble Lord, Lord Carter, no doubt supported, on the introduction of the mobility allowance. That age limit was set on the ground that below the age of five we all have some mobility needs. It is equally true that below that age we need guidance and supervision while walking. Children under five who can walk need almost constant supervision and must be accompanied even on the shortest of journeys.

The age of five is also the age at which most children start school. In many cases they then begin to make journeys on their own. Therefore, that seems to us a sensible dividing line. The Committee will be aware, however, that one of the guiding principles of the Bill is the commitment to considering the effect of disablement and not the cause. That message was received strongly from disabled people and their representative organisations. We are in complete sympathy with that message. That means that we should look at the amount of extra care or supervision that is needed beyond what a child in normal health would need. In the Bill we are providing for both the care and the mobility components.

The Government were persuaded by strong evidence from paediatricians and others that it was sensible to abolish the lower age limit for attendance allowance because it is apparent that some babies require substantially more care than others. I must say that we are delighted by the number of children who are already gaining from that change in attendance allowance. I should mention to the Committee that on the evidence of the OPCS surveys the children we are talking about will almost certainly qualify for the care component. It is hard to imagine circumstances in which a child who is unable to walk would not qualify for the care component, at whatever level.

I do not believe that the same applies to the mobility component. No one denies that it may be clear before the age of five that a child is unlikely ever to be able to walk. The question has to be whether the disability causes extra costs over and above those incurred by parents looking after children of the same age in normal health. As I have said, I do not think that it is possible to speak of any children under the age of five as being independently mobile.

In any decisions as to where to draw the line we must always consider priorities. That is why I emphasised the question of cost. In this case it would be another £30 million on top of the amount that we are already committed to spending. I hope that Members of the Committee will agree that it would not be the best use of resources to provide help with mobility at an age earlier than that at which we can expect normal children to begin to be independently mobile. Having carefully considered the issues we believe that the age of five is the sensible limit. I hope that with that explanation the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

8.30 p.m.

Lord Carter

I am grateful to the Minister. However, he faces the difficulty with a number of the amendments that he has to admit that it is cost which is at the heart of his argument.

As he said, a child who is unable to walk will receive the care component from the age of two but will not receive the mobility component until the age of five.

Lord Henley

I stressed that the evidence that we had received from paediatricians suggested that in terms of the care component the needs of a child of the age of two were greater. We do not see that as being so in the case of the mobility component until children are at least five.

Lord Carter

Anyone who compares the mobility of a child between the ages of two and five who is unable to walk with the performance of the normal toddler running around the house has missed the point. That illustrates a weakness in the Government's argument. I shall not press the amendment tonight but I shall have to come back to the matter at Report stage.

Lord Henley

Perhaps I may make one further intervention to stress that we believe that the people about whom the noble Lord has spoken would be entitled to the care component. Therefore money would be coming in but it would not be in the form of the mobility component.

Lord Carter

What we have is supposedly a new benefit combining two old benefits with many of the criteria differing between the two components. Therefore we really have the same two benefits with different criteria even though they have now been brought under the one title of disability living allowance. However, I do not intend to press the amendment tonight. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 27 not moved.]

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Murton of Lindisfarne)

Should Amendment No. 28 be agreed to I shall not be able to call Amendment No. 29 because it pre-empts it.

Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 28: Page 4, line 38, leave out from ("that") to ("guidance") in line 39 and insert ("disregarding any ability he may have to use routes which are familiar to him on his own, he cannot take advantage of the faculty out of doors without").

The noble Lord said: In moving the amendment I shall also speak to Amendment No. 29 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Carter. I hope that the noble Lord will accept my amendment so that there will be no need for him to move his amendment. I hope that I can, relatively briefly, satisfy the noble Lord that his amendment—which he may or may not move—referring to unfamiliar terrain is now unnecessary because we have achieved the same effect by a slightly different route.

My right honourable friend the Minister of State for Social Security and Disabled People gave a commitment in another place that we would look most closely at whether some such amendment as that of the noble Lord was necessary. My right honourable friend said on that occasion that we were in agreement with the point that lay behind the amendment, which is essentially to ensure that a blind or mentally disabled person was not ruled out for benefit because they were able to negotiate one or two local routes on their own without guidance. The fear was expressed that if in practice they spent, in the Bill's words, "most of the time" on those familiar routes they might, perversely, find themselves ruled out for benefit. Clearly that is not our intention. Looking afresh at the matter in recent weeks we have decided that the best and safest course would be to put the matter beyond doubt by covering the point in primary legislation.

We have not done so in quite the same terms as the noble Lord in his amendment. The noble Lord can be assured that that is not because we have any strong objection to his wording. It is simply that our legal advice cast doubt on whether adding the phrase: to walk to any intended or required destination on unfamiliar terrain", solved the problem.

At this stage of the evening I would not wish to enter into a tortuous textual analysis, but it seemed to us quite probable that a person who spent the bulk of the time he spends out of doors going unaccompanied to the corner shop but was unable to go anywhere else without guidance might still miss out. I believe that the amendment that I have tabled tackles that problem successfully by making it clear that the fact that someone unaccompanied can find his way on a few familiar routes does not automatically rule him out for benefit.

We are also content that we have come up with a form of words which makes it clear that the test is abstract. The last thing we would want to have invented is a test which could only be adjudicated by transporting the claimant on to unfamiliar terrain in order to see how he manages.

Having now, I think, got the amendment right, with the help of the amendment of the noble Lord and suggestions made by Opposition Members in another place, to whom I and I am sure my right honourable friend in another place would want to pay tribute, the next step will be for us to prepare a claims pack. In that claims pack we frame the questions in such a way that claimants fully understand the questions that are being asked and give their own assessment of their mobility problems, backed up by an assessment from their carers or professionals who know them. I can assure the noble Lord that we shall be consulting a wide range of individuals and organisations on that subject. I hope that on the basis of those assurances the noble Lord will be prepared to accept my amendment and will not feel it necessary to move his own. I beg to move.

Lord Skelmersdale

From these Benches perhaps I may be permitted to congratulate my noble friend and the Government on what is a considerable and long overdue easement of the criteria for mobility allowance. They deserve every congratulation and I am delighted that it has happened.

Lord Carter

I only wish that the same ingenuity could be applied to the definition of the severely mentally handicapped for the purposes of the mobility allowance.

Obviously at this time of the evening the Committee will accept Amendment No. 28 and I shall be pre-empted on Amendment No. 29. Concern has been expressed by the RNIB. The problem mainly concerns the eligibility of blind people for the mobility component. In a letter to Mr. Dafydd Wigley the Minister said that registered blind people would be eligible for the new lower rate mobility component of DLA. I know that the Government have tried to get it right. However, there is still doubt as to whether the wording is absolutely right in order to ensure that blind people receive the allowance.

I should like to withdraw the amendment, but perhaps I may have a word with the Minister outside the Chamber at some stage to see whether, through a drafting amendment, the anxieties that have been expressed can be addressed.

Lord Henley

I am very grateful for the congratulations of my noble friend. He will know from his experience as a social security Minister that one does not often receive much in the way of congratulations.

To take up the point of the noble Lord, Lord Carter, of course I shall be prepared to have a chat on this matter at some stage. If it turns out that we are still not there I am sure that we could make further moves. I believe that we are in total agreement about what we are trying to achieve. I suggest that we agree my amendment now, and I hope that I shall be able to reassure the noble Lord that my amendment does exactly what I said it does.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 29 not moved.]

Lord Carter moved Amendment No. 30: Page 6, line 33, leave out ("either") and insert ("the mobility").

The noble Lord said: This amendment is intended to remove the upper age limit of 65 for entitlement to the care component of the proposed disability living allowance. It would allow people who become disabled after the age of 65 to apply for all three rates of the care component of the DLA and would in effect mean that the attendance allowance could be abolished.

The cost of the amendment would relate only to the lowest £10 rate of the DLA as the two higher rates are already equivalent to the two levels of attendance allowance. Removing the upper age limit for entitlement to only the care component would be an important step forward to redress some of the discrimination which older people face with disability benefits.

The OPCS surveys—we seem to have to refer to them on almost every amendment with which we deal —show that 70 per cent. of adults with disabilities are over the age of 60. Age is also strongly associated with severity of disability. Almost half of the population with the most severe disabilities is aged over 75. People aged 65 or over are already excluded from the mobility allowance. We feel that the Bill will further discriminate against older people with disabilities by denying them the new lower rate of the DLA. The intention of this amendment is to deal with that problem.

The OPCS surveys showed that only a low proportion of people in severity categories 1 to 8 is in receipt of either attendance allowance or mobility allowance. Researchers noted that only among those in the two highest severity categories are more than half receiving any disability cost benefit. The surveys also showed that a total of 454,000 people with disabilities aged over 60 are in severity categories 9 and 10.

One of the arguments, which is either explicit or implicit in the Government's attitude, is that somehow disability is a natural part of the ageing process and therefore should not be compensated for in any way. That seems to be an argument used by the Government to defend the policy of denying help with the extra costs of mobility for people over the age of 65.

The OPCS report estimates that the prevalence of disability among people aged 60 or over is 35.5 per cent. Clearly the majority of pensioners are not disabled. In other words, it is not a natural part of the process of ageing. The disabilities faced by those who are disabled cannot therefore simply be dismissed as the natural consequences of old age. The OPCS points out that the limitations arising from ageing are properly considered as disabilities and are not a natural part of that process.

I know that the Minister will come back with cost as an argument. If it is cost he should let us know rather than produce a convoluted argument giving all the reasons that I do not find acceptable about the relationship between ageing and disability. We can understand should the Government accept the argument but say that it would cost too much to implement. It would certainly save the time of the Committee if the Minister were to say that rather than produce a long argument which would not be acceptable when the real reason is cost. I beg to move.

Lord Skelmersdale

The noble Lord, Lord Carter, may or may not be amused to hear that when I first saw his amendment I wrote against it "the problems of ageing". He has argued both sides of his own amendment with great clarity. There is no doubt that as people age their mobility problems increase. The noble Lord will surely accept that. The great advantage of this Bill and the disability living allowance as currently proposed is that the care component will not only go on but will also be available, as is attendance allowance now, to people after 65. The mobility allowance on the other hand will essentially carry on as heretofore. In other words, if one does not apply and/or get the allowance before the age of 65, there is a cut-off point and one will not get it thereafter.

As the population gets healthier and therefore most people live unrestricted and mobile lives for longer, say to the age of 70 or 75, this amendment will become more and more important. I rather doubt—I shall be interested to hear what the Minister says—whether we have yet reached that point. We should however keep it in mind for the future.

Lord Carter

Here we have yet another example of the criteria differing for the two components of the so-called one new simplified allowance. In almost every amendment with which we have dealt, it is being revealed that attendance allowance and mobility allowance continue under the new title with different criteria. That is not awfully logical.

Lord Skelmersdale

Would the noble Lord like the cut-off for the first criterion?

8.45 p.m.

Lord Henley

The noble Lord raised the question of costs. Obviously they are relevant and I shall come to them later. Extending DLA to people over 65 has been a recurrent theme throughout the debate on the Bill here and in another place. I admit that up to now the debate has centred on the mobility component. I am grateful that the noble Lord has not tried to raise that provision again because he knows that to bring it in would mean a cost of somewhat less than £2 billion. This amendment represents a new approach.

The Committee will be familiar with the reasons for directing new help through the Bill toward younger disabled people—those of working age and under. In commissioning the OPCS surveys, the Government were seeking, among other things, to identify areas of need which the benefit system was not addressing. The OPCS findings were that younger disabled people experienced a much greater income gap relative to their non-disabled peers than did pensioners. Those shown to be in the greatest need of assistance were younger disabled people whose disabilities did not qualify them for any extra costs benefit under the present scheme, especially those disabled from birth or early in life who, as a result, have had very little or no opportunity to work and save. It was very much with those considerations in mind that we took the course we did, in targeting younger people—for example, with the age additions to severe disablement allowance which we introduced in December last year—and in creating the new lower rates of DLA.

This is not of course to minimise the need to help poorer pensioners, including those with disabilities, and we have done so. I do not feel that it is necessary this evening for me to repeat what we have seen in the way of increased average pensioners' income over the past 11 or 12 years.

I know that the Committee is mindful of the concern that increases in pensioners' average income should extend to all sections of the pensioner population including those who are dependent primarily or even solely on state benefits. That is why from 1989 an extra £200 million a year over and above inflation has gone into help for pensioners on income-related benefits, including extra money for elderly disabled people. There will be a further £80 million from April this year. That sort of targeted help is the only serious way in which substantial sums of money can be directed to improving the position of those who need it most.

I understand the Committee's desire to try and take the opportunity of the Bill to go further in helping people who are both disabled and pensioners and I recognise that in moving this amendment the noble Lord seeks a commitment to something more modest than the £2 billion that would be required to extend the mobility component to the over 65s. Nevertheless, even with this amendment, we are still talking about a sum of £165 million which is not insubstantial in anyone's language. It has to be the task of government to weigh up competing priorities and find ways of directing help most effectively to those who need it. Our judgment has been that our main priorities over the last couple of years should be poorer pensioners, who received, as I mentioned earlier, an extra £280 million in the last couple of years, younger disabled people, who will get an extra £300 million by 1993–94 through The Way Ahead package, and families with children, particularly lone parents. That is an issue which we shall come to later in the Child Support Bill.

To return to the text of the amendment, as the noble Lord will know, we have taken the opportunity of this Bill to remove the upper age limit which currently applies to receipt of mobility allowance. There are no age limits for receipt of DLA once awarded—including receipt of the lower rates—and AA will continue to be available to those whose disabilities start after age 65. In this context I should mention that some 543,000 pensioners receive attendance allowance—that is 64 per cent. of all attendance allowance recipients. Over 170,000 pensioners currently receive mobility allowance. They form about 28 per cent. of the total MobA population. So it is false to claim that these benefits are completely unavailable to pensioners.

As I have already said, we are cognizant of the needs of pensioners. We have already done and will continue to do a very great deal to meet them. However, this Bill is purposely aimed at younger disabled people. The amendment, though well intentioned, is not the vehicle to extend provision to pensioners at a cost of £165 million.

Earl Russell

I am sensitive to the argument about cost which the Minister advanced, and which I expected him to advance. I agree that these are significant sums. However, if the Government do not meet the costs they do not go away. On whom should they fall? Do they fall better on any of the alternatives than on the Government?

We need to consider the situation in the round and the effects of allowing the costs to fall in various alternative places. It is possible that the old person concerned may sell his house. That might produce a considerable sum of money. However, uprooting people in their old age is not always a good thing to do. Finding them somewhere else to live may generate other considerable costs which fall on their children. But very often it occurs at a time of maximum outgoings in the lives of those children; often at exactly the same time as the costs of their children's further education. Thanks to measures which we have discussed recently those have increased quite considerably.

Such costs falling at the same time may well be more than a household can meet. I do not know whether it is in the public interest to force people to make that choice, but whichever choice they make the public will suffer. We have therefore a distinct possibility that if nothing is done the person concerned may end up in residential care. That could cost the Government a great deal more than the £165 million about which we now speak. From the Treasury's point of view, is not the amendment the best bargain on offer?

Lord Henley

With monotonous regularity if I may say so, in all social security Bills the noble Earl seems to suggest that any amendment which I argue will cost a great deal of money will somehow save the Government a great deal of money. If I were to listen to every point made by the noble Earl the social security department would be in profit very quickly! Sadly, that is not the case. We live in the real world, as I believe I have said on earlier occasions.

The noble Earl asked on whom the costs will fall. The cost of the amendment will fall on the taxpayers. The taxpayers already pay considerable sums into the social security system. Taxpayers and national insurance contributors are paying £55 billion or more. That is £20 a week for every man, woman and child in the country. Those are not inconsiderable sums. The noble Earl asks: if taxpayers are not prepared to pay, who should pay?

In the end one has to decide on priorities. In some cases an individual may be able to pay. The OPCS surveys considered the levels of income of disabled and non-disabled pensioners, and disabled and non-disabled people below pension age. Above pension age there is not the disparity of income which exists below pension age. It therefore seems right that priority should be directed towards those below pension age. For those reasons one must take cost into account. The same problem does not exist for those above pension age.

The cost is another £165 million. I am sure that even the noble Lord will accept that that is not an inconsiderate sum.

Lord Carter

The Minister's answer was not unexpected but it was disappointing. It is not the time of night to enter into a debate on the philosophy of support for people with disabilities and whether one should have an income and cost allowance irrespective of means if one is disabled. It is a major divide between the two major parties in their attitude towards disability. In a curious way the amendment is a side wind of that.

I do not propose to start that argument. I shall read what the Minister said. I shall certainly return to the subject at Report stage. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham moved Amendment No. 31: Page 7, line 10 at end insert: ("(2A) Where the claimant shows that there was good cause for a failure to claim a disability living allowance during a period throughout which he fulfilled the conditions for receipt of the allowance the first day of that period shall be treated as the date on which the claim was made.").

The noble Baroness said: The amendment, which deals with backdating when good cause is shown, seeks to remedy a situation which I suggest is not only unfair but downright perverse.

In attendance allowance and mobility allowance claims there can be no backdating. That failure to be permitted to backdate a claim is carried forward in this Bill to DLA and DWA. I argue that it is both perverse and unfair on two grounds. The first is on the ground of public policy and, secondly and more particularly, on grounds of public mobility.

On the policy of backdating, up to 12 months is permitted in almost all related and relevant benefits. I remind the Committee that backdating is permitted in housing benefit, family credit, social fund payments, unemployment benefit, poll tax rebates, industrial injuries, sickness benefit, invalidity benefit, invalid care allowance, and severe disablement allowance. To claim backdating on such benefits one usually has to show good cause. "Good cause" is held to be, some fact which, having regard to all the circumstances including the claimant's state of health and the information which he has received and that which he might have obtained, would probably have caused a reasonable person of his age and experience to act (or fail to act) as the claimant did". Let me give some examples of such good cause. A claimant may have misunderstood the system; for example, according to the CAB, where a claimant has made inquiries about one benefit for which he was ineligible and had wrongly assumed that the same rules applied to another benefit for which he was eligible but for which he did not then apply. Equally, language difficulty, illiteracy, or extremely technical documentation can sometimes be held to be good cause. Where claimants have been given misleading or inaccurate advice they are clearly permitted to backdate their claims. Where there has been a bureaucratic error—perhaps where staff have mislaid letters—may be good cause. As chair of a housing committee for a number of years in a good housing department I found that a steady, though small, proportion of requests for repairs, or applications to be included on the waiting list or a renewal of the waiting lists, regularly went astray—and I refer to a good department.

However, I ask the Committee to bear this in mind. It is also recognised that ill health can be a good cause for backdating the start of a benefit. I take the example of a hospital patient. It is assumed that there was good cause not to have claimed sickness or invalidity benefit or disablement allowance either up to 13 weeks after hospital admission or three weeks after discharge, whichever was the earlier.

Does not the Committee consider it perverse and unfair that ill health is a good cause for backdating other benefits until it comes to those benefits which are designed to compensate for ill health? If one seeks housing benefit, and one suffers ill health, it can be backdated. But if one has ill health and seeks attendance allowance, ill health is no longer a good cause. In other words, ill health is a good cause when it is related to benefits for the able but not for the disabled. Is that fair?

Indeed, backdating on showing good cause is even permitted for some of the benefits that disabled people may claim, such as invalidity benefit and disablement allowance, but not for attendance allowance or mobility allowance. Is that consistent? Will the Minister inform the Committee why it is acceptable to backdate the claim for validity benefit or disablement allowance but not for attendance allowance or mobility allowance? I make it clear that although the wording refers to the period from which it started, we are happy to acquiesce if the Minister were to accept a subsequent amendment allowing backdating for up to 12 months to bring such a clause in line with other benefits.

One reason for arguing in favour of the amendment is that it is inconsistent with public policy across a whole range of benefits where ill health is regarded as good cause except when you already suffer from it. Secondly, I argue that the system is particularly unfair because when claiming benefit disabled people are more disadvantaged than almost any other group in society. Many of their professional workers are uninformed about the benefits available. For example, a close relative of mine lost two years' attendance allowance for nursing her husband because her GP's knowledge of benefits—a kindly, elderly man who has since retired—began and ended with orange badges. Often disabled people do not know or are not told about their entitlements by professional staff.

Disabled people are also less likely to have physical access to premises to where the information is available; for example, post offices, trade union welfare rights offices, advice centres, surgery notices, community centres and town halls. They are all places where the able bodied could expect to acquire information about rights, eligibility and forms. By definition, the disabled have less access to these things.

Therefore the issue becomes one of take-up. It is the problem with all targeted benefits but it is especially acute among the disabled. In its survey the OPCS registered surprise that in category 10, the most severe category of disability, a quarter of those who should receive attendance allowance were not doing so. That point was also made in the ninth report of the House of Commons Social Services Committee of October 1990. The implication was that they were unaware of their entitlement and when they did become aware they were unable to backdate their claims to these benefits.

In rejecting a similar amendment the Minister in another place made two points, although not persuasively. First, he rejected the principle of backdating on the grounds of self-assessment; that it would produce some difficulties that were not present in other forms of benefit where backdating was permitted. I suggest that, as after six months a professional review would take place, that argument would be irrelevant. In any event, self-assessment already applies to a whole range of benefit claims, but that is not held to rule out backdating for good cause.

Secondly, the Minister in another place indicated that he hoped to increase take-up through publicity campaigns, which are welcome. But he also admitted that the forms would be longer and more complex and that that would discourage applications. In any case, publicity would not help the mentally handicapped or those too ill to know about it. Furthermore, he had to acknowledge that the disabled would suffer the additional physical difficulties of acquiring forms, filling them in and posting them in order to lodge them in time. All those problems are greater for disabled people.

If in terms of public policy a wide range of benefits can be and are backdated for the able bodied, and if a number of benefits relating to the disabled are also backdated, why is the old attendance allowance and mobility allowance (now the new DLA and DWA) not permitted to be backdated for good cause? The present situation is perverse and unfair. I hope the Minister will indicate that in future policy will rectify the situation. I beg to move.

9 p.m.

Lord Henley

There appears to be a mistake on the Marshalled List. The Committee has agreed that Clause 1 shall stand part of the Bill. Amendment No. 31 relates to Clause 1 but has mistakenly been listed as being in Clause 2. I do not blame the noble Baroness for that error but I must put it on the record.

The noble Baroness said that according to the OPCS survey a large number of people in the severest categories are not in receipt of attendance allowances to which they are entitled. I must remind the noble Baroness that the surveys were conducted in 1985, since when take-up has increased dramatically. Earlier I stressed the increased take-up of both the attendance allowance and the mobility allowance since 1979. We on this side of the Chamber are proud of that and no doubt Members on the other side will wish to reflect on the increase since they were then in government.

The question of backdating claims for disability allowance was debated at length in another place. It will be impossible for me to avoid repeating what was said by my right honourable friend the Minister of State on that occasion in resisting the amendment. However, I have positive comments to make which I hope will go some way to reassure the noble Baroness about our plans for dealing with claims for disability living allowance.

Determining entitlement over a past period for any benefit is never easy. But in respect of most benefits that decision usually hinges on facts which can be ascertained readily; for example, the date of leaving work, date of birth and so forth. The disability living allowance is not like that and there is no point in pretending otherwise. The questions of whether a person has care or mobility needs, at what level, when the needs first arose and whether they have become more serious require more sophisticated judgments.

To attempt to make such retrospective judgments the adjudication officer would need much more evidence than we plan to collect under the new self-assessment procedures. In particular, the officer would need to know when the claimant's circumstances first reached the point where he satisfied the conditions of entitlement. That is no easy task where many claimants are suffering from progressive disorders. In addition, the officer would need to know what prevented the claimant from making his claim at that time so that he could decide whether there was good cause for the delay.

I should therefore prefer to tackle the problem of late claims by more positive methods. I have no doubt that the more sensible way forward is to reject the amendment, leave the Bill unamended and instead to ensure high levels of public awareness about the benefit I through a well-targeted and extensive publicity campaign.

We recognise that an effective campaign—and by that I mean one that encourages disabled people to claim benefits and to claim them on time—must go much wider than traditional methods of publicity. We shall therefore be looking to use more targeted methods such as the extremely good publications which many voluntary organisations produce. Indeed I regard the role that the disability organisations and disabled people have to play in the planning and execution of the publicity campaign as crucial. That is why my department has already set up groups involving some of the organisations and disabled people themselves to help us plan and test the materials.

I am concerned, however, that once a person has decided to claim DLA he or she should not risk losing benefit because it takes time to marshall the evidence in support of the claim. In another place my right honourable friend the Minister of State indicated that the Government wished to consider more carefully a suggestion made by the Disability Alliance to avoid this difficulty.

I am now glad to be able to report that it is our intention to introduce a scheme very much as the Disability Alliance suggested: we intend to make generally available a short leaflet with a tear-off slip. This slip would be sent in by the claimant in order to obtain a claim pack. Assuming the completed pack was then returned within a reasonable time—perhaps a month or six weeks—the date of claim would be taken as the date of receipt of the tear-off slip. So the claimant could take time in filling in the claim form and in obtaining supplementary evidence without the fear of losing benefit. The adoption of this system underlines again the Government's willingness to listen to what the disability organisations have to say and to respond accordingly.

I hope that what I have said about the difficulties which a backdating provision would present for the new assessment arrangements, together with the commitments I have given about publicising the new benefits and dealing with claims, will lead the noble Baroness to reconsider the need for this amendment.

Lord Mancroft

Whether one accepts the very strong arguments of the noble Baroness or rejects, which I do not, the argument of my noble friend, which I believe is very sound, the amendment is open ended. Presumably that means that a claimant could claim back five, 10, 15 or even 20 years because the amendment makes no mention of 12 months. Even if we accept the argument of the noble Baroness, we could not possibly accept this amendment as presently drafted.

Lord Henley

I believe that that is correct. However, whatever the length of time, it creates a very difficult job for adjudication officers in terms of the retrospective judgments which they would have to make about the state of a claimant two months, six months, a year or 10 years ago. There would also be the problem of deciding whether there was good cause for delay. However, as my noble friend says, this is a very open-ended amendment.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham

I am grateful for the Minister's reply. However, I wish to query the two main clusters of reason—facts and publicity —which he gave in suggesting to the Committee that it should reject the amendment.

The Minister suggested that other benefits were based on facts. Therefore, it was easy to ascertain when those benefits should run from and that investigation would be relatively easy. However, he suggested that that does not apply to these two benefits and, therefore, that was where the dividing line fell.

I do not believe that the Minister has met the case which I tried to advance—namely, that some of the benefits associated with disability—for example, invalidity benefit and severe disablement allowance —have exactly the same problems as the DLA and DWA as regards backdating.

I accept the Minister's case that, when one is in receipt of housing benefit and one's income suddenly falls, that is clear, factual and objective. However, other benefits where backdating is permitted do not have such a core of easily and publicly ascertainable facts. They rely on a method of self-assessment. That is found to be acceptable in other areas of public and social policy. If it is acceptable in such areas and the political will exists, then it is acceptable here. The issue is political will.

Secondly, the Minister said that he preferred to go down the route of high levels of publicity and targeting. That is welcome if targeting is targeting and not fine-tuning. However, the problem is that there is only a comprehensive take-up of benefits if they are universal. Clearly it is inappropriate to speak of universality of benefits when considering the disabled. However, the only benefits which have high take-up without stigma and where there is widespread information tend to be old age pensions and child benefit. That is because they are universal. Where there is a desire to have a clawback through the tax system, that is another argument.

These benefits continue to have a less than adequate take-up not just because they are targeted benefits which depend on prior knowledge of their existence but because the group which they are designed to aid —the disabled—are by definition less in the public arena where they may acquire that information which will allow them to take up the benefit.

I take up the point about posting the slips. However, that is a minimal concession. That will overcome some of the literal and physical problems of posting a claim in a post box. However, it does not address the issue that if one is in good health, one can be expected to know about benefits. If one then puts in a late claim because of ill health, that will be backdated. But if one is in ill health and is entitled to a benefit or seeking to receive a benefit to meet ill health, one is not entitled to back-date. That remains perverse and the Minister, I regret to say, has not answered that point. I have been wondering whether to press this amendment but, considering the point about open-endedness, it may be best to come back on this at Report stage. In that context I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

9.15 p.m.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Ampthill)

In view of the error in the Marshalled List I think I should once again put the Question that Clause 1, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill.

Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 2 to 4 agreed to.

Schedule 1 [Management of disability living allowance and attendance allowance]:

Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 32: Page 20, leave out lines 6 to 12 and insert:

  1. ("100B.—(1) Subsections (2) and (4) of section 100A above shall apply to a decision on a review under subsection (1) of that section as they apply to a decision of an adjudication officer under section 99 above but as if the words "made after the end of the prescribed period" were omitted from each subsection.
  2. (2) Subsections (1),(2) and (4) of section 100A above shall apply—
    1. (a) to a decision on a review under subsection (2) or (4) of that section; and
    2. (b) to a refusal to review a decision under subsection (2) or (4) of that section,
    as they apply to a decision of an adjudication officer under section 99 above.").

The noble Lord said: In speaking to Amendment No. 32, I wish to speak also to Amendment No. 34. These are purely drafting amendments. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 33: Page 23, line 18, at end insert ("or (d) the decision was that a person is or was at any time terminally ill for the purposes of section 35(2B), 37ZB(5) or 37ZC(8) above and there has been a change of medical opinion with respect to his condition or his reasonable expectation of life,").

The noble Lord said: This amendment simply corrects an omission in the Bill. Similar powers already exist elsewhere in the Bill for an adjudication officer to review on these grounds the earlier decision of an adjudication officer. This amendment ensures that an adjudication officer may be able to review such a decision when made by a social security or disability appeal tribunal or a commissioner. I beg to move.

Lord Carter

I understand that this is a drafting amendment but it refers to cases of people who are terminally ill but whose medical condition may show signs of improvement, although they in fact remain terminally ill. If the medical opinion changes, the person may lose his or her benefit even though, as a result of the medical condition, the person may not even be aware that he or she is in receipt of benefit. One can also think of remissions in cases of terminal cancer, for example. Is there a chance that a doctor may be reluctant to diagnose a person as being terminally ill if he thinks that his diagnosis could subsequently be challenged by the adjudication officer if the patient does show some sign of improvement even though he may still be terminally ill and it may be uncertain how long he has to live? I think there might be difficulties here. Have we misunderstood the point?

Lord Henley

I must stress that this amendment merely corrects an omission in the Bill and it is no way new policy. I am glad of the opportunity to reassure the noble Lord of our intentions. We certainly do not intend to seek to review cases simply because someone who has been awarded DLA or AA under the special rules lives a day longer than six months. Anyone who qualifies under the terminally ill rules will be entitled to that highest rate for care for life, whether weeks or months are involved.

Lord Swinfen

May I make just one point? I am wondering whether a doctor would be unwilling to diagnose someone as being terminally ill because that might frighten the individual concerned and it could have a very serious effect on his or her health. I wonder whether the noble Lord can say what would be the position in such a case.

Lord Henley

This has been a difficult subject. The noble Lord, I am sure, will remember our debates on the Social Security Bill last year. We are well aware of the sensitivity surrounding terminal illness and the important factor involved when the patient does not know he is terminally ill. I hope that doctors will also be sensitive to that and certainly in our claim forms we have made provision for this eventuality. I hope that that satisfies the noble Lord.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 34: Page 23, leave out lines 38 to 40 and insert: ("(6) Subsections (1), (2) and (4) of section 100A above shall apply—

  1. (a) to a decision on a review under this section; and
  2. (b) to a refusal to review a decision such as is mentioned in subsection (1) above,
as they apply to a decision of an adjudication officer under section 99 above.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 35: Page 24, line 2, after (""(1) (bb)"") insert: ("(aa) in subsection (3A), "(3)" were substituted for "(2)";").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 35, I should like to speak to Amendment No. 76 as well. These are merely technical drafting amendments, intended to clarify the Bill. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 36: Page 24, line 38, after ("refer") insert ("for advice").

The noble Lord said: This is simply a drafting amendment to clarify the text of this part of Schedule 1. I beg to move.

Earl Russell

I am sorry to raise this point, but we have h d a whole succession of amendments which are merely drafting amendments. I should be grateful if my noble kinsman would explain in a little more detail exactly what are the implications of this amendment.

Lord Henley

I shall be delighted to explain to my noble kinsman. This amendment clarifies that where an adjudication officer refers a DLA or attendance allowance case to a departmental doctor, this reference shall be for advice only. This puts beyond doubt the thrust of the new adjudication and assessment arrangements, which is that adjudication officers will be responsible for decision making, calling on readily available support and advice from departmental doctors where necessary.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Darcy (de Knayth) moved Amendment No. 37: Page 25, line 48, at end insert ("and paramedical staff including qualified physiotherapists and occupational therapists.").

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 37 I should like to speak also to Amendments Nos.38 and 39. I am delighted to say that they have all-party support. They deal with the composition of disability appeals tribunals. I say at once that this is a welcome part of the Bill in principle. It is the detail that we seek to improve. It is important to make absolutely sure that the members of a disability appeals tribunal have experience of dealing with the needs a disabled people. I am sure that we are all agreed on that.

However, as the Bill stands it is actually possible for a disability appeals tribunal to consist of a medical practitioner with no working knowledge of a claimant's disability, and a chairman and another member who have no knowledge of the needs of disabled people. That could lead to mistakes which adversely affect the claimant. The three amendments seek to ensure that such mistakes are avoided.

Amendment No. 37 aims to include paramedical staff on the medical panel; for example, physiotherapists and occupational therapists. They are often more in touch than medical practitioners with the day-to-day effects of various disabilities. Amendment No. 38 would ensure that at least one member of the tribunal was disabled. We are not asking that the member should have the same disability as the claimant, merely practical experience of daily living with a disability.

Finally, Amendment No. 39 seeks to ensure that the medical practitioner has a working knowledge of the claimant's disability. This is important in view of the attention paid to the opinion of the medically-qualified person on a medical or semi-medical matter, even when that person knows nothing about the particular disability of the claimant. Moves towards self-assessment and to "demedicalise" the assessment and adjudication procedure have been widely welcomed by disability organisations. The Minister himself spoke on the subject at Second Reading on 26th February. He also said at col. 886: We have listened carefully to what individual disabled people, their carers and their representative organisations have had to tell us about how claimants perceive the whole business of claiming disability benefits". It would be illogical and sad if the aims of these welcome changes to assessment and adjudication could be frustrated by appeals tribunals where it was still possible to have the majority of members without a working knowledge of disability. I very much hope that the Minister, when he comes to reply, will be able to say that he has listened yet again and can respond positively to these amendments. I beg to move.

Lord Carter

I was glad to support these amendments to which I have added my name. Amendment No. 38 seeks to, ensure the appointment of a disabled person on each such tribunal". If the Government feel that it is a good idea to have a disabled person on the tribunals we cannot see why the Bill has to say "have regard to the desirability" instead of saying, as the amendment does, "ensure the appointment of".

There is another reason why I should like to say a few words about Amendment No. 38. When I first entered the House in 1987, for some time afterwards I ran a campaign, with the able assistance of the noble Baroness and others. There was a standard phrase in the parliamentary draftsman's manual to be used describing in schedules the reasons for appointing or not appointing people to tribunals. There was always the standard phrase to exclude "anybody with a disability, or for any other reason". We managed to get this excluded from a number of Bills and we have not seen it for a long time now. I think it has disappeared from the standard draftsman's manual.

However, I wonder if the idea is still around. Old habits die hard. I see that when the amendment was moved in Committee in another place Miss Ann Widdecombe, the Under-Secretary of State, replied: Ensuring there was a disabled person could lead to unreasonable delay". Mr. Scott, the Minister for Disabled People, when he was discussing the issue with the all-party disablement group, said that it was more likely that disabled people would be sick and not turn up and it would therefore be more difficult for replacement disabled people to be found. I know Mr. Scott well and that he has considerable understanding and sympathy for disabled people. Why he should have allowed himself to make such a remark I do not know. It is important that we strengthen the point that the tribunal should have a disabled person on it. I cannot see why the Government is unable to accept these amendments, particularly Amendment No. 38.

Baroness Seear

I support these amendments. It is very important that on these tribunals there should be a variety of people with a variety of experience and training. By itself, being a medical practitioner does not carry the certainty that there is such a range of experience. Including physiotherapists and occupational therapists and people who deal with different aspects of the problems of the disabled is very important indeed. I strongly support the amendments.

Lord Swinfen

I support the amendments. As the noble Baroness said when speaking to them, physiotherapists and occupational therapists, as a general rule, have a much better knowledge of physical disability in particular than have medical practitioners. It is interesting that in both Norwich and Southend, where John Groom's Association for the Disabled has in recent years opened homes for severely disabled people, they have had difficulty in finding medical practitioners who are willing to take disabled people on to their lists for the simple reason that they believe that they will have to spend far more time looking after them and that that will be a burdensome cost to the practice. That means that many medical practitioners have little or no real experience of disability and its effects on the disabled person. Therefore we must try to make certain that the medical practitioner has some genuine experience and knowledge so that he is of proper use to the panel. That is fairer to the claimants. Today it should not be difficult to find physically disabled people whose education and experience will suit them to sit on the panel. The situation may have been different years ago but not today. I am delighted to support all three amendments.

Lord Mancroft

My Lords, I am not a great expert on tribunals and who sits on them. It is very easy for me to see what the supporters of these amendments are aiming at; namely, that it is not simply the old-fashioned established medical person who should be on the panel, but experts who deal more closely with the disabled and their problems on a day-to-day basis. That is very good and the right way to proceed. What worries me is that we may be slightly over-egging the pudding and making matters too complicated. I wish to be corrected if I am wrong. Amendment No. 37 adds to "medical practitioners", paramedical staff including qualified physiotherapists and occupational therapists"— that is, four people who may not all be easily available at one time. I see that the noble Lord, Lord Carter, is disagreeing with me. The way I read the amendment is that all those people have to be present. It would be a pity if one were to make the provision so complicated that it would be difficult to get all these people, including a disabled person, together on the tribunal. It would be difficult to assemble the tribunal quickly enough to make a judgment. It would be a pity to make the matter over-complicated. That is my only concern.

Baroness Darcy (de Knayth)

Perhaps I may reply to the noble Lord on that matter. The tribunal will consist of three people; one drawn from the medical panel, one from the lay panel and the chairman.

Lord Henley

I thank the noble Baroness for tabling these amendments because they give me the opportunity to explain the Government's intentions for the disability appeal tribunals. I cannot recommend that the Committee accepts these amendments. I honestly believe that there is very little between us on this matter. I assure the noble Baroness that we fully recognise the important role that professionals such as physiotherapists and occupational therapists will have to contribute in terms of membership of DATs. Their experience of the difficulties faced by disabled people will be invaluable. We sincerely hope that in his recruitment of members for the second panel the president will include members of these professions. Indeed, that is more than a hope. I know that it is the intention of the tribunal president to do so. I hope that that is of some reassurance. I know that the amendment was designed to add such people to the first panel. But that would then mean that there could be DATs without a medical practitioner as one of the members. That runs the risk of the tribunals not having available someone who can interpret and advise on the medical evidence which DATs are inevitably going to use. In turn, that could result in adjournments which would not be a good service for disabled people.

The second of the amendments would ensure that a disabled person was appointed to each tribunal. I understand completely the sentiments behind this. No one could have a better understanding of the needs of disabled people than disabled people themselves. The provisions of the proposed Schedule 10A make clear that the Government recognise how essential it is that as many disabled people as possible are included in the panels and on the individual tribunals. In no fewer than three places the schedule makes reference to the membership of disabled people. However, we need to recognise the practical difficulties which the president may face in setting up DATs. Early planning suggests that each panel may need to consist of something approaching 1,000 people. That is a considerable task that we have set the president, Judge Holden. These are largely uncharted waters. There are risks that if we are too prescriptive about the membership of DATs, as my noble friend Lord Mancroft said, we shall just end up with massive delays initially, which again is not the standard of service for which we are aiming.

9.30 p.m.

Lord Carter

The noble Lord has referred many times to the OPCS survey. Having revealed that there are 6.5 million disabled people, will it be that hard to find a disabled person to serve on a tribunal?

Lord Henley

What I was trying to say is that the amendments as drafted are too prescriptive. It depends on how the noble Lord would want to define disabled people and whether he would just define them by means of the 6.5 million in the OPCS survey. It is asking a good deal of Judge Holden to be absolutely sure that he has the requisite number. I was saying that these ate uncharted waters. The position may be different in other parts of the country.

As I was saying, there are risks that if we are too prescriptive serious delays might result. What the Bill does is to make quite clear the ideal that at least one disabled person should be on every DAT. It is for the president—it is far better for the president to do this than the Bill itself—to deliver that ideal to the best of his organisation's ability.

There are practical considerations to be taken into account with the third amendment also. I fear it would present the president with an impossible task in matching knowledge with disability. Perhaps I can allay concerns about the scope of knowledge of the medical practitioner by saying that it is our hope—it is a hope which is shared by Judge Holden—that the vast majority of medical practitioners on DATs will be general practitioners rather than the consultants who currently serve on medical appeal tribunals dealing with mobility allowance. This change in approach emerged from responses to last year's consultation exercise, where the point was made that what is needed is not specialist knowledge but rather a broad appreciation of the difficulties faced by disabled people, combined with an ability to understand what may sometimes be complex medical evidence.

Perhaps I may now say a few words on the role of medical practitioners on DATs. I appreciate that many of the qualms that people have about doctors on tribunals stem from the medical examinations and "walking tests" which are conducted routinely by medical appeal tribunals. That is not what we would want to happen for the new benefits. We have made clear that in future we do not want to place such a heavy reliance on what must inevitably be snap-shot examinations. Instead, the emphasis must be put on the evidence supplied by the claimant and those best placed to know the continuing effect that his condition has upon his life.

In view of the comments which I have made, I am willing to consider whether it would be possible to make an amendment to the Bill which prevents members of the DAT conducting such routine examinations and tests, while ensuring that the processes are in place which guard against undue delay because there is insufficient medical evidence available in the DAT. I shall consider the matter further with a view to returning on Report with proposals as regards the issue relating to medical practitioners being on the tribunals. In the light of the explanations and assurances which I have given, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Darcy (de Knayth)

I thank the Minister for what he said. I should also like to thank those who supported the amendment. I believe that over one-third of those present in the Chamber actually spoke in its favour, although that observation may perhaps be a reflection on the quantity of Members in the Committee at present. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, does not think that we are over egging the pudding. My intention was to put the OTs and the physiotherapists on the medical panel. I believe that what the Minister said in response to the first amendment—namely, that he was going to put the OTs and physiotherapists on the lay panel—shows how much importance is attached to the medical practitioner.

I am still unable to accept that one cannot have a disabled person on each panel. I am not quite sure about the Minister's argument as regards delays. I do not believe that he is arguing illness as was the case in another place.

Lord Henley

Perhaps I may clarify the matter. I was certainly not putting forward illness as an argument. Indeed, I was at great pains to stress during the passage of the Statutory Sick Pay Bill through this place that disabled people generally have much lower levels of sickness than other people. The argument concerns delays in the initial composition of the panel. We see it as an ideal and Judge Holden accepts that fact. However, we believe that what the noble Baroness is trying to achieve is too prescriptive.

Baroness Darcy (de Knayth)

The Minister has almost taken the robust words he used during the passage of the Statutory Sick Pay Bill out of my mouth. They were certainly written down in my notes to quote back at him if his argument was based upon illness. I am delighted that he accepts that point. However, I wonder whether he would agree to meet with me and discuss the matter so that I know exactly what is in his mind as regards his proposed amendment. In other words, can we have a little talk between now and the next stage of the Bill's proceedings about his proposal?

Lord Henley

I can certainly give the noble Baroness that assurance. If she would like to meet me at Richmond House, she could then verify whether the accommodation and access for the disabled are suitable for her own wheelchair.

Baroness Darcy (de Knayth)

I would be delighted to do so. However, can he say whether the conditions have been improved since the occasion of my last visit?

Lord Henley

I cannot answer that question as I am not sure when the noble Baroness last visited Richmond House.

Baroness Darcy (de Knayth)

I am most grateful to the Minster for what he has said. In the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 38 and 39 not moved.]

Schedule 1, as amended, agreed to.

Schedule 2 [Disability living allowance and attendance allowance: amendments]:

Lord Carter moved Amendment No. 40: Page 26, line 38, leave out ("at the higher rate").

The noble Lord said: The purpose of this amendment is to exempt the people in receipt of the new lower rate of the mobility component from vehicle excise duty. Recipients of the full rate of mobility allowance are exempt from the duty. Vehicle excise duty is payable by able-bodied motorists in order to pay for the use of roads. Essentially, able-bodied motorists have a choice between the use of their car, upon which they pay the VED, or the use of public transport. However, because public transport is largely inaccessible to disabled people they do not have that choice. Therefore, the logical argument is that they should not have to pay the excise duty. The logic of the argument has been recognised by the exemption of those who receive the higher rate.

As I said, the purpose of the amendment is to extend the existing remission to those people who are in receipt of the lower rate. The cost to the Government of making such an extension would be small. In fact, I believe that the argument would appeal to the noble Earl, Lord Russell: it would not be direct expenditure, it would simply be money which was not recouped by taxation. Indeed, it could be said in terms of public expenditure, "Now you see it, now you don't".

Bearing in mind the fact that the rate of benefit for the lower component is just £10—in other words, hardly enough to pay for taxis or a car for someone who is not independently mobile—we feel that it is appropriate to extend the relief from excise duty to people who are receiving the lower rate. The fact that such people cannot qualify for the higher rate of mobility allowance does not mean that they will automatically be able to use public transport. Indeed, the need for a car can be just as great with challenging behaviour as for those with a physical disability.

While we are talking about excise duty, there was a leader in The Times which repeated the arguments that have been made many times for the abolition of excise duty and its replacement with an increase in the tax on petrol. It prompted a lady from Menai Bridge in Gwynedd who is in receipt of mobility allowance to point out that one aspect not mentioned in that approach to the abolition of excise duty is that, currently recipients of Mobility Allowance are not required to pay car tax, and would therefore be penalised to the tune of £100 which most of them can ill afford". Perhaps the Minister will also respond to that point because it is linked with what we are discussing.

The purpose of the amendment is, as I said, to exempt people in receipt of the new and lower rate of mobility component from excise duty and the remission which already exists for those in receipt of the higher rate. I beg to move.

Lord Henley

The noble Lord will not expect me to comment on any claims made in leaders in The Times that vehicle excise duty might be abolished. He should remember that vehicle excise duty is not primarily a responsibility of social security Ministers. It is a matter for my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It would be wrong for me to comment at this stage of the year. Nevertheless the department takes a keen interest in ensuring that those people whose mobility is severely restricted are helped as much as possible with normally inescapable motoring charges. To that end the Government have been successful in establishing receipt of mobility allowance as a passport to exemption from vehicle excise duty.

It is a matter of some pleasure to note that, like mobility allowance, since 1979 there has been an enormous increase in the number benefiting from the exemption. I can well see the noble Lord's argument that mobility allowance as it currently stands is a convenient proxy to identifying those people who merit road tax exemption and that the introduction of the lower rate therefore provides the Government with an opportunity to extend that exemption. Obviously any arrangement must be open to change. Nonetheless, I can see a clear distinction between the case for exemption for those currently in receipt of mobility allowance and that for the people whom we anticipate will be helped by the new lower rate mobility component.

I hope that the noble Lord will agree that inability, or virtual inability, to walk often obliges mobility allowance recipients to use their own private and adapted transport on the roads, either as drivers or as disabled passengers. Such individuals often find the use of public transport impossible. It is because their freedom of choice for mobility is restricted that they are in practice not taxed. However, the new lower rate is aimed not at people who cannot walk or use public transport but at those who require guidance or supervision for most of the time. Consequently, those freedoms of choice in exercising mobility will not be so severely curtailed.

Of course the new lower rate will inevitably leave some people with severe disabilities on one side of the line. I do not want to go into again the philosophy behind the introduction of the lower rate, but I believe that that approach has some justification, which I hope the noble Lord will accept. I can assure him that I have taken careful note of the points he made, but I must ask him to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Carter

Some time before we finish with the Bill in this House we should add up all the differences in the criteria between the two components and the parts of those components in the new simplified benefit. I understand what the Minister said, and I shall read it with care. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Seear moved Amendment No. 41: Page 27, line 23, at beginning insert: ("(1) In section 37(1) of that Act (Invalid Care Allowance) after the words "severely disabled person" shall be added the words "or persons" and after the words "that person" shall be added the words "or persons". (2)").

The noble Baroness said: Amendment No. 41 is grouped with Amendment No. 42, so with the leave of the Committee I shall speak to both of them at the same time although they deal with different points, linked only by the fact that they are both concerned with invalid care allowance. As the Committee is aware, the invalid care allowance is the one allowance which goes to the person who does the caring. The other benefits which we have discussed have been quite properly in the interests of the people in need of care. The invalid care allowance is intended for the person who loses time and usually also work, and therefore pay or earnings and very often pensions prospects, by virtue of the caring they have to do.

I find one provision extraordinary. It must be an oversight. The Bill says quite understandably that the 35 hours a week must be devoted to caring. Some limit must be set and 35 hours is acceptable, although we could argue about it. However, that is not the purpose of the amendment. What I find extraordinary is the requirement that the 35 hours must be devoted to one person. If someone is caring, they lose time caring and it is quite irrelevant whether they are doing it for one person or two.

It is not at all uncommon that a woman—it could be a man but it is usually a woman, a daughter—finds herself with two increasingly doddery old parents. One may be rather blind, the other slightly paralysed. They are both able to do a certain amount for themselves but they need a great deal of time and attention. The person may be running around after both of them, helping them to dress, concerned with the important business of preparing meals and all the other tasks they have to carry out. This may add up—and there is no argument under the Bill that this may be so—to 35 or more hours a week.

Because the carer is devoting the time to both parents instead of one, why on earth she cannot have the invalid care allowance passes my understanding. If she spends 35 hours a week or more on caring, regardless of whether she is looking after a father and a mother, a couple of old aunts or whoever it is, logically the important point is that she is losing this time, giving it up and losing the opportunity to earn or do whatever she wishes with her time. The fact that it concerns two people and not one seems logically to make not the slightest difference. The point of the amendment is to remove the provision that she can only receive the allowance provided she shows that she spends 35 hours on one person. This must be an oversight. I cannot see the sense of it at all.

Perhaps it would save time if I dealt also with Amendment No. 41, although it is not the same. I should declare an interest here as president of the Carers National Association. Under this amendment, the carer is able to obtain the invalid care allowance—and it is more often a man than the Committee might expect—only if the person whom they are looking after comes into the two higher categories. It is not available for the lower category. The conditions for people in the lower category are pretty discouraging for the carer. They are concerned with bodily functions and attention from another person for a significant proportion of the day, whether during a single period or a number of periods. That can add up to quite a number of hours over the week by the time one has done it often every day.

Then we come back to the meal which invalids are unable to cook for themselves, which presumably means that the carer is expected to cook a meal every day. We argued about how much we knew about that earlier today. It is not cooked in a few moments, and if it has to be done every day for people in the lower category, and if the carer has to run round coping with all the disabled person's bodily needs, which, as the category states in the Bill, may be frequent, the time will reach nearly 35 hours.

Once again, there is confusion about the problems of the carer as distinct from the people being cared for. There is the loss of time in regard to the invalid care allowance. The time burden on the carer can be just as great and reach the 35 hours for the lower rate. The carer may not have to carry out quite such serious tasks. The burden may not be so great in the sense of severity, but it can be great in time. It is the time devoted by the carer, not the condition of the person being cared for, that should surely be relevant in determining whether an invalid care allowance should be awarded. I beg to move.

Lord Carter

I wish to support these amendments. In this morning's copy of The Times a word that was new to me appeared in a football report. The word is "incohension". I can only define that as a combination of a lack of cohesion and incomprehension. I have been looking for a chance to use it. The Government's attitude on this matter is a classic example of "incohension". As the noble Baroness has said, it makes no sense at all to restrict the invalid care allowance to a person who is caring for one person. We hope the Minister can explain why that is the case. Further, I understand that the ICA is not available if the person being cared for is on the lower rate of the care component.

In Standing Committee in another place the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Social Security, Miss Widdicombe, argued, there is no link between ICA and the new lower rate either in terms of the purpose for which the benefit is paid or in terms of objective need … ICA is intended only for those for whom being a carer is effectively a full-time occupation. To qualify they must spend at least 35 hours a week caring for a disabled person". If one spends 35 hours a week caring for a disabled person on the lower rate, one apparently fits that description. I suspect that the real reason for this provision is cost. However, will the Minister explain, other than in terms of cost, why the ICA is not available for carers who are looking after people who qualify for the lower rate?

Lord Henley

I am glad the noble Lord had the opportunity to introduce that marvellous new word. "Incohension" no doubt describes admirably the policies of the noble Lord's party. I shall deal with the two amendments in the order in which they appear on the Marshalled List; that is, I shall deal with Amendment No. 41 first and then Amendment No. 42. However, I believe the noble Baroness spoke to the amendments the other way round.

These amendments seek to extend entitlement to ICA to a different group from the current client group. At present there is a very strong link between ICA and AA, which we have carried forward in this Bill by tying receipt of ICA to the higher two rates of the care component. This reflects what has always been the acknowledged purpose of ICA, which is to extend some help to those for whom caring is a full-time occupation. This amendment would bring people for whom caring is a more informal occupation into entitlement. Whether that is the right course raises important considerations of principle and equity. Just as importantly, we need to consider whether any such provision could be made to work.

The principle behind ICA is that of providing some help for those whose main occupation is caring for a severely disabled person; and it is linked to the disabled person's entitlement to AA—or in future to the equivalent rates of the care component in DLA. These are the carers who have to be our primary concern. I have no shame in saying that. It is a matter of priorities.

We should look too at the actual need for care. As the noble Baroness is well aware, we intend the lowest rate of the DLA care component to go to people whose care needs are not at all of the same magnitude as those of people who qualify for one of the higher rates. Perhaps I may turn the issue round. If we are looking at a disabled person who requires so much looking after that it is a full-time occupation for his carer, then that is not the sort of person who will be coming onto the new lower rate of the DLA care component. A person who is that severely disabled should be receiving one of the higher rates. Generally speaking, caring for people receiving the lowest rate, for however many hours a week, will be a much less onerous task than looking after a very severely disabled person. It is likely to involve lighter tasks, such as helping a person in or out of bed, helping with bathing or with a course of medicines, or, as the noble Baroness suggested, with the abstract test of preparing a meal.

To address the second amendment specifically, we appreciate that someone who has to care for two or more disabled members of their household, all of whom qualify for the lower rate, could be in a more difficult position. We recognise that there is a genuine point here, and we have undertaken to see whether anything could be done. This is not an easy nut to crack. It would be hard to distinguish between the types of care activities which would warrant the award of ICA and those which form the normal activities of a household. We would also be targeting a very small group, and that in itself could cause difficulties.

Nonetheless, we recognise the immense value of the work done by informal carers, who give their services in a wide variety of ways. I cannot at this stage guarantee any action but I assure the noble Baroness that we shall keep the matter in view as we strive to ensure that provision for carers meets the needs of people who undertake those important responsibilities.

I hope that with that assurance the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Swinfen

Earlier, my noble friend gave an undertaking in respect of severe disablement allowance to cater for the needs of between five and 10 people. I believe that he will agree that figure. The amendment moved by the noble Baroness will cater for far more than five or 10 people. It may be a small number of people but if my noble friend can bring in regulations, as he has promised, which will help from five to 10 people, I am sure that he or his advisers can devise a method for helping the rather larger group of individuals who are looking after more than one person in the family.

Lord Henley

I do not accept my noble friend's point. In announcing that concession to my noble friend, I was referring to a group which is very easily defined, the wives of servicemen. That is a group which is much easier to define than the group to which the noble Baroness referred.

Earl Russell

I appreciate the problem of priorities but my noble kinsman has not explained to the Committee precisely what the priorities are which make him regard the amendment as a low priority. If one is dismissing something as a low priority one has to explain that it is because something else is a higher priority. We are entitled to hear what it is.

Although we need to consider priorities and costs it creates problems if one applies either of those criteria to an extent which destroys the logic of the benefit. The logic of the benefit here is that the invalid care allowance is given because of the consumption of the carer's time up to an amount of 35 hours a week. So far as I can see, my noble friend is quite right. That is equally true whether one is caring for one person or for two or whether one is caring for someone who is receiving the allowance at the higher rate or at the lower. It is just as much an occupation of time and therefore just as much within what I cannot describe as the meaning of the Act but might describe as the equity of the Act.

Lord Henley

I am grateful to my noble kinsman for suggesting something that does not involve increased expenditure of money but somehow saves us money. I have said that we will keep the matter under review. I have accepted that there could be problems here. It is a very difficult problem to get round. I do not think that I can take the matter further.

Baroness Seear

In view of what the noble Lord has said and the lateness of the hour, I shall not press the amendment. I shall wait to hear what the noble Lord says at Report stage. If what he says at Report stage is no better than what he has said today I shall certainly press a similar amendment at that stage. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 42 not moved.]

Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 43: Page 29, line 8, leave out paragraph 14 and insert: ("14. The words "(other than attendance allowance and disability living allowance)" shall be inserted—

  1. (a) in section 52(3) of the 1986 Act (adjudication as to income-related benefits) after the words "benefit under that Act"; and
  2. (b) at the end of paragraph 4(1) of Schedule 7 to that Act (adjudication as to certain former benefits).").

The noble Lord said: This is a purely consequential amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Skelmersdale

Although this is a consequential amendment, perhaps I may take the opportunity to ask my noble friend to investigate —I do not ask him to give an answer now—why the 1986 Act, referred to in Schedule 2, on page 29 of this Bill, is the only Act not to have its chapter number.

Lord Henley

My noble friend will understand that I cannot answer immediately, but I shall certainly investigate the matter to which my noble friend has pointed and write to him.

Lord Skelmersdale

I thank my noble friend.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 44: Page 29, leave out lines 25 to 28.

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment I shall speak also to Amendment No. 82. These are consequential amendments which result from the dissolution of the attendance allowance. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 45: Page 30, line 10, at end insert:

("Courts and Legal Services Act 1990 (c.41)

.In Schedule 11 to the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990 (judges etc barred from legal practice) the following entry shall be substituted for the entry beginning "President of Social Security Appeal Tribunals"— President of social security appeal tribunals, medical appeal tribunals and disability appeal tribunals or regional or other full-time chairman of such tribunals".").

The noble Lord said: This amendment is entirely consequential on the introduction of the Bill. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 2, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 5 [Regulations supplementary to ss. 1 to 4]:

Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 46: Page 8, line 35, leave out ("a disability living allowance") and insert ("one or more disability living allowances;").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 47, 48, 49 and 50. This batch of rather complex amendments has a simple purpose; namely, to avoid problems with aligning award periods in existing cases in the first year after DLA comes into operation.

As I explained in the context of earlier amendments on Clause 1, the Government believe that the alignment of award periods is right in principle and offers real advantages to claimants in terms of reducing the number of times that their cases need to be reassessed. However, we have looked carefully at the situations which may arise in transferring existing attendance allowance and mobility allowance cases to disability living allowance and have concluded that some problems might arise if awkward periods are aligned at the outset. We think that the solution is to defer alignment in these cases until April 1993. There is no disadvantage to claimants in treating the two components separately for an initial period.

I hope that the Committee accepts my explanation. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees

Does the noble Lord wish to move Amendments Nos. 47 to 50 en bloc?

Lord Henley moved Amendments Nos. 47 to 50: Page 8, line 36, leave out ("consisting") and insert: ("(bb) may direct that a disability living allowance so treated as having been awarded shall consist"). Page 8, line 41, leave out ("so treated as having been made"). Page 8, line 42, at end insert: ("(cc) may direct that in specified circumstances a person whose award of disability living allowance has been terminated by virtue of the regulations shall by virtue of the regulations be treated as having been granted a further award of a disability living allowance consisting of such component as the regulations may specify or, if the regulations so specify, of both components, and as having been awarded on the further award either component at such weekly rate and for such period as the regulations may specify;"). Page 8, line 43, leave out ("such awards") and insert ("awards made by virtue of paragraph (b) or (cc) above").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 51: Page 9, line 15, after second ("made;") insert: ("(hh) may direct that in specified circumstances a claim for attendance allowance, mobility allowance or disability living allowance shall be treated as not having been made;").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 52 to 54. The aim of these amendments is to avoid the need to duplicate action on claims for disability living allowance, attendance allowance or mobility allowance. I beg to move.

Lord Carter

I have been asked to ask whether the Minister could either write to me or perhaps tell the Committee now what is meant in Amendment No. 51 by the words "specified circumstances". That seems a little mysterious.

Lord Henley

I hope that the noble Lord will forgive me but I think it would be best if I write to him.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees

The noble Lord has spoken to Amendments Nos. 52 to 54. Is it his wish to move them en bloc?

Lord Henley moved Amendments Nos. 52 to 54: Page 9, line 15, after second ("made;") insert: ("(hj) may direct that in specified circumstances where a person claims attendance allowance or mobility allowance or both, and also claims disability living allowance his claims may be treated as a single claim for such allowances for such periods as the regulations may specify;"). Page 9, line 15, leave out ("and"). Page 9, line 18, at end insert ("and (k) may direct that, at a time before the Attendance Allowance Board is dissolved, in specified circumstances cases relating to attendance allowance shall be subject to adjudication under the system of adjudication for such cases introduced by this Act.").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 5, as amended, agreed to.

Viscount Astor

I beg to move that the House do now resume.

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

House resumed.

House adjourned at four minutes past ten o'clock.