HL Deb 13 October 1999 vol 605 cc366-86

3.21 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Social Security (Baroness Hollis of Heigham)

My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be now further considered on Report.

Moved, That the Bill be further considered on Report.—(Baroness Hollis of Heigham.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Clause 50 [Bereavement payments]:

[Amendment No. 94 not moved.]

Clause 51 [New allowances for bereaved spouses]:

Baroness Turner of Camdenmoved Amendment No. 95: Page 56, line 40, leave out ("for not more than 26 weeks") and insert ("based on the contribution record of the deceased spouse")

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, I speak also to Amendments Nos. 97 and 98 which are also in my name. I regret that I am unable to support Amendments Nos. 96A and 99A also grouped with my amendment.

The Minister will not be surprised that I wish to return again to the subject of benefits for widows. She has referred often to modernising widows' benefits. Indeed, this is the description given to the proposals in the Bill in the Queen's Speech. Modernising in this case means removing benefit altogether from widows over the age of 45 without children and substituting an improved one-off bereavement allowance of £2,000 rather than the present £1,000, plus a benefit lasting for six months. These arrangements are intended to apply both to widows and widowers on the basis that this will equalise benefits for both sexes. In both cases we are informed that benefits will depend on the contribution record of the deceased spouse.

In support of those proposals, it is asserted that widows' benefits are now out of date; most women work and are now no longer dependent on male earnings. It is said that continuing to provide the benefit means that it goes to women who do not need it, like women who benefit from a spouse's occupational pension; and that funds should be concentrated where there is the greatest need.

I do not accept those arguments. Leaving aside altogether the view that the Equal Opportunities Commission has always held, that one should equalise upwards rather than downwards, I think that there is a quite deliberate confusion here between insured benefits and welfare provision. Insured benefits arise from the system of social insurance to which everyone contributes and individuals draw benefits from it as and when they qualify for them. Welfare provision is something else. It is not based on contribution records but only on need. That being so, it is means tested and depends upon the claimant's perceived and established lack of means.

Widows' benefits belong to the first, insured, category. The Government confirm that. Even in discussing the new proposals the then Minister for Social Security, Mr Stephen Timms, stated on 9th March that the contribution conditions for the new bereavement benefits exactly mirror those that they replace. He spells out precisely what those conditions are. In other words, this is a benefit for which the recipients have paid and they therefore have entitlement not in any way dependent on their present circumstances.

In response to a Question that I asked on 13th April, the Minister said: It is certainly true that the widow's benefit has been a contributory benefit … The purpose of that contributory benefit was to help the needs of those who would have no income, but that is now met in other ways".—(Official Report, 13/4/99; col. 617.]

With respect to my noble friend, I think that that is wrong. If that had been so, the benefit would have been a means-tested one; and it was not. It was paid as of right on the death of the spouse provided that contributory conditions were met. Hence it is wrong in my view to argue against a continuation of the existing arrangement on the basis that it is no longer needed. But even if we look at the matter from the standpoint of the Government and the Minister, again I think that that is wrong. The Minister has said on a number of occasions that times have changed. I do not think that they have changed as much as she thinks they have in particular for large numbers of poorer women. The Equal Opportunities Commission figures demonstrate that women's earnings are still very much less than those of men. While it is true that many more women now work, much of the work is poorly paid. I say that, even though acknowledging with gratitude what the present Government have done and continue to do via the minimum wage to alleviate some of this poverty. Nevertheless, households where the woman partner is the main earner are still the exception rather than the rule. The death of the male partner usually means a substantial drop in the standard of living of that household.

Nor is it true that there are large numbers of women with generous benefits from occupational pension schemes to which their husbands belong. It is true that some schemes are generous, in particular those negotiated in the wake of the Castle plan by some unions. But plenty are not and are based on the assumption that there will be a state pension in addition or, in the case of an early death in service of the spouse, a widow's pension to the remaining partner.

So the state widow's pension is a very useful addition and not one that can be dispensed with easily and without hardship. And the state will benefit quite substantially from this transfer of benefits from women to men which is what is involved here. The figure of £600 million has been mentioned. I do not know whether this is accurate. But I am also advised that the proposals in the Government's plan in relation to equalising for widowers will cost £100 million so there will be a gain of £600 million and a payment of a £100 million in order to equalise on the basis suggested for widowers.

I have had some interesting figures supplied to me by the Widows' Advisory Trust of which I am a trustee. I hereby declare my interest which I think is known to your Lordships. This is a comparison between the sums paid out over the past eight years to a widow who is widowed at the age of 50 in 1991 and the amounts that would be paid out in the case of a women widowed in 2001 at the same age of 50 over a similar period of eight years under the Government's proposals.

The 1991 widow received a bereavement payment of £1,000 plus a small sum representing the SERPS addition, now to disappear, and benefit over the next years. The total cost to the social security budget over eight years was £20,560.32.

Now let us consider the woman widowed in 2001— and remember that we have been told that the contributory rules will be the same in each case. The 2001 widow will receive a bereavement allowance of £2.000; there will be no SERPS addition; and she will receive a benefit for only six months thereafter—nothing at all in the following years. In the case of the latter woman (to be widowed in 2001) the saving to the Government, compared with the cost of the 1991 widow, is £20,242.42. That is for one widow over an eight-year period. I do not believe that that is at all justified.

Widows, particularly poorer ones, do not constitute a very powerful lobby. Many women journalists have written on the subject and cannot themselves very easily empathise with some of the women who have not had their education or career opportunities and who spent earlier years bringing up children. Even if they have had jobs they always looked to the male earner in the couple to produce the required living standard. I ask my noble friend the Minister to picture the lives of some of these women. I say again to her that for such women things have changed far less than for women from more privileged backgrounds. Such women are entitled to have what they believe their spouses have contributed on their behalf.

The TUC, the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Child Poverty Action Group have supported what I am saying. In fact, the Child Poverty Action Group states: Except for a minority, women's lack of economic independence while bringing up children means that they are ill-placed to take on work after bereavement. The on-going income of a contribution-based benefit such as the widow's pension is thus an important safeguard".

Finally, I gather that the Government's intention is to remove from widows the two-year income tax concession that they have had hitherto. When one takes that into consideration it seems as though the increase in the bereavement payment from £1,000 to £2,000, although welcome, is not all that generous. I beg to move.

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham)

My Lords, if Amendment No. 95 is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment No. 96 or Amendment No. 96A which appears on the supplementary list.

3.30 p.m.

Lord Rix

My Lords, I explained in Committee why I am unhappy at the abolition of the widow's pension. I do not need to repeat myself. Nothing has changed since then and I am still unhappy. In particular I do not like the fact that another contributory benefit is being virtually removed for some people who have already contributed to it. The House knows of the campaign I have been waging with Age Concern to protect future widows' rights to SERPS after April 2000. This matter is somewhat similar.

The Psalms teach us that God defendeth the widow. Thank goodness someone does, for there appears to be very little help from this or previous governments. I recognise that they have the prerogative to make changes to the benefit system. Judging by the amendments moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Turner of Camden, and those to be moved, I believe, by the noble Baroness, Lady Crawley, and the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, it is abundantly clear that no one believes that a six-months' bereavement allowance is enough. The Minister hinted in Committee on 6th July that she would reconsider. I hope that we may hear some good news today.

Baroness Crawley

My Lords, I speak to Amendment No. 96A. It reflects a similar amendment that I tabled, with colleagues, in Committee. It is a modest but sensible alteration to the measures in the Bill as regards the bereavement allowance and its length of payment.

We know that for those who have lost a loved one through death, a year rather than six months represents some kind of landmark on the road to recovery. The first anniversary and a festival such as Christmas have been endured and survived. Their physical and mental health have started to improve after the trauma, as any doctor will tell us. Acceptance of death is beginning to be experienced and the practical and financial matters concerned with organising the deceased's estate have begun to be dealt with.

There is no ideal stage at which a person must decide to begin again and move on. But I genuinely believe that the resources and the strength required to take that step and accept new challenges are far more likely to be present for the bereaved a year after death rather than at six months. I ask my noble friend the Minister to look favourably on this temperate amendment which would be of enormous significance for those who have suffered bereavement.

Earl Russell

My Lords. the House owes thanks to the noble Baroness, Lady Turner of Camden, for the determination with which she has kept before us the big issues arising from this clause. I agree with a great deal of what she said. At the end of the day, however, our positions differ. The Minister has also said a great deal with which I agree, but at the end of the day our positions differ. Indeed, I believe that I just about bracket the difference between the two of them.

As the Government originally envisaged the clause, it is in effect the downside of equality. The requirement to work, on women as on men, after bereavement is an attempt at full equality. I understand the kind of pride that leads the Minister to defend that. My sense of it is not that it is wrong but that it is considerably premature. It is a major cultural change enforced on a world which is not yet ready for it.

Before we have such a change I would like to see progress made towards equal pay reach at least the point of women earning 90 per cent of equivalent male earnings. I would like to see effective legislation against age discrimination. The requirement to work is nugatory if people cannot be conside7ed for employment. I know the Minister will tell us that there is in place a code of guidance against age discrimination. A recent survey by, I believe, the CBI found that one-third of its members were unaware of the existence of that guidance. The overwhelming majority of the others thought that it made very little difference. Were that otherwise I would be more inclined to agree with the Minister's position than I do.

However, we cannot begin from anywhere other than where we are. I listened with a great deal of sympathy to the speech of the noble Baroness. Lady Crawley. I remember the amendment moved in Committee. It was introduced in a particularly moving speech from the noble Baroness, Lady Pitkeathley. At the end of that debate I said to myself that this is probably where we are going to end up. If so, it has taken a very long time.

The Treasury always reminds me of the 17th century Spanish proverb that if death came from Madrid we would all live to be very old. In a perfect world compromise is inadequate. But the whole point is that it is not quite adequate to any party. That is why compromise works. If this were our position of ultimate resolution, I do not believe that it would last for ever but give rise to disadvantages. However, it would give everybody something. Therefore, even though we have heard what the Chairman of Committees has said about pre-emption, if the noble Baroness, Lady Crawley, chooses to put her amendment to the vote, we on these Benches will support it.

Lord Astor of Hever

My Lords, the House will be grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Turner, for moving her amendment so eloquently. She made a very convincing point. I look forward to the Minister's reply.

As regards the two amendments in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Crawley, we on these Benches are very sorry that they were tabled so late. We believe that they should have been grouped with our Amendments Nos. 96 and 99. Accordingly, and with the leave of the House, I shall speak to those amendments at this point.

We agree with the noble Baroness that an allowance for 26 weeks is not long enough for a bereaved widow. However, we do not believe that one year is long enough. Our amendments are designed to ameliorate the effect of Clause 51 by extending the new allowance to two years. We realise that no length of time is likely to truly overcome the sense of loss of bereavement, which is often unexpected. My noble friend Lord Higgins gave warning at Committee stage that we would be returning to this issue. The principle of our amendments was widely supported in the other place by Members who sit on the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat Benches. There was a truly outstanding contribution on this issue from the honourable Member for Newbury.

The principle is supported by Age Concern, the Child Poverty Action Group, Disability Alliance, citizens' advice bureaux, the National Association of Widows, Cruse- Bereavement Care, Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide and the All-Party Group on Ageing and Older People. All of those groups are unhappy about the abolition of the contributory widows' pension.

The Government will eventually save over £600 million per year which many future widows—there are over 250,000 of them—thought that they would receive because their husbands had paid national insurance contributions. Sometimes they paid voluntarily over a lifetime of work. Those contributions will no longer count. The Government clearly do not seek to honour that contract. There was no mention of that intention in the Labour Party Manifesto. Every penny of that saving for the Treasury will come directly from the pockets of recently bereaved women. The additional expenditure on widows and children in a family where there has been a bereavement pales into insignificance when compared with the savings being taken from widows.

Losing a partner is often devastating. Some people will have nursed their spouse through a terminal illness. I have seen at first hand the suffering that a husband endures watching a partner die since my wife's sister died of cancer only a couple of years ago. Many widows in that age group still need to continue to support their older teenage or young adult child through further education or training. The Government's proposals mean that a woman will suddenly be forced to work to support herself a mere six months after the death of her husband, when she may still barely cope with getting through the day. The reality is that the job search would have to start long before the six months were up.

Is it not incredible for the Government to expect a widow to enter the competitive world of work so quickly? She may have had no previous work experience, nor time to study for a qualification to earn the kind of money that the widows' pension would have provided. The six month bereavement allowance is not an adequate substitute for the widows' pension, especially for those who may be struggling hard to keep their heads above water and to keep a family together. An allowance should give the bereaved person time for grieving, for reorganising the home, taking care of financial and legal matters connected with the bereavement, and preparing, where necessary, to take up work. Widows will be punished for having stayed at home to bring up their children.

These amendments will ensure a more realistic degree of comfort than 26 weeks or one year to vulnerable people who believed that they had security and provision.

3.45 p.m.

Baroness Berners

My Lords, I strongly support the amendment, and especially what my noble friend Lord Astor of Hever has just said. The proposal as it stands is far too short a time for any real support for a widow or widower in a state of bewilderment and desolation. There must be many who are not able to cope at all for months. All kinds of ongoing circumstances may abound, such as debt or disablement and family problems of one sort or another. Such widows would find 18 months to two years' pension a real benefit towards helping them to sort out and come to terms with their much-altered circumstances. Therefore I ask the Minister to concede this point as a way of extending the compassionate nature of this welfare reform.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham

My Lords, the clauses which we are discussing, which the Government propose and to which Amendments Nos. 95 and following relate, would reform the current, and in my view, outdated, system of widows' benefits, which apply only to women and not to men. The proposals would replace it with a fair system of bereavement benefits for men and women alike. Far from reducing the contributory principle, they will actually be extending it to men for the first time. The benefits are designed to provide help where one member of a working-age couple is left, often unexpectedly, to cope alone.

Our reforms will concentrate help from the State where it is most needed. Many noble Lords have experience of this issue. I can tell the House where that help is most needed. It is needed at the point of bereavement itself, for the immediate problems of adjusting to funeral arrangements, of sorting standing orders, pensions, car insurance, house insurance, the estate and so on. That will normally take a couple of months. One may also need a lump sum to help with the immediate arrangements. One will need a breathing space while one continues with the arrangements and "gets one's life sorted". If one has children who are not yet in further or higher education, one will also need help to support them and in order to have a genuinely free choice as to whether one should work—man or woman alike—or stay at home and bring those children up, knowing that having lost one parent, they may not wish to see the second parent out of work.

I know, as do many noble Lords, where the points of pressure lie. They lie first, in the immediate few months after widowhood, or widowerhood., and secondly, there is pressure if one has responsibility for children, which remains an ongoing responsibility. I am sure that I am speaking to something which all noble Lords would accept and understand. That is precisely where our reforms are aimed to help. At present, they help worn en, who will often for the rest of their lives be back in the labour market, and they are giving them a benefit which they do not necessarily need, like myself. The present system does nothing at all to help men who may have come out of the labour market to look after their children, and in doing so go onto income support.

We must change the system because it is not fair to men who may he struggling to look after their children, and because it no longer in my view reflects the situation which families may face. They need help in the immediate few months after bereavement, and, as I say. if they have ongoing responsibilities for children.

We are talking about the future. No existing widow will be affected by these changes, so no one need worry that their benefits will he changed tomorrow. In our reforms we are proposing three things. First, at present, a woman would receive a bereavement payment of. £1,000 at the point of her husband's death for the immediate expenses. The Government propose to double that sum from £1,000 to £2,000, and to apply it to men and women alike, because these needs do not apply solely to women but to men or women in that situation.

Secondly, we are giving both men and women alike a breathing space; a benefit as of right—not a means-tested benefit—for six months to men and women, whether they have children or not and whether or not they work. They will have a breathing space in which to come to terms with their loss and to adjust their lives accordingly. Thirdly, the Government propose to develop a widowed parents allowance, to apply to men and women alike, while their children are dependent on them.

That is our approach—three proposals; for the bereavement allowance to be doubled, for the breathing space payment to be paid to men and women alike, and for a widowed parents allowance to be paid to men and women alike while children are dependent on them. In addition, we shall be giving extra help to those aged over 55 at the start of the new arrangements who are widowed in the first five years, so that they can receive extra income-related help without signing on for work, as well as extra access to the New Deal and so on, should they so wish.

My problem with the amendments tabled by my noble friend Lady Turner is that they effectively maintain the status quo. There is effectively no change: they propose money for life for a widow, whatever her circumstances, and as far as I can see, unless the noble Baroness is going to say otherwise, virtually no change for men. It may be that my noble friend wishes to extend the same principle of benefit as of life for men, at whatever age they may be widowed, whether or not they have responsibilities or whatever their income. That would mean that my noble friend would be offering the state benefit to men who possibly have perfectly generous salaries, and so on, simply on the grounds that they have become a widower at some point in their lives.

I believe my noble friend's amendments would undermine one of the fundamental principles of what we are trying to achieve—to focus support where it is most needed; that is, in the immediate period after bereavement and on families with children. Quite frankly, why should a woman with no dependent children and therefore no one dependent on her staying at home, possibly in a well-paid job with no financial need and possibly with a generous occupational pension, receive a state benefit as of right? I am talking about someone who has no children, is in a job and with a decent pension. And yet a man who may be struggling to bring up his children by coming out of the labour market on income support gets nothing at all. That cannot be right and that is what we propose to change. It is not right to put money into the pockets of a widow who does not need it while denying it to men who may do. At the moment men get nothing.

Our reforms will change that. We propose to extend bereavement benefits to men and remove the assumption that widows—simply because they are women—should have to rely on benefits through the rest of their lives. I do not find that situation acceptable because the world in which the original widow's benefit was devised—the world of Beveridge and of subsequent times—has changed beyond recognition. When I listen to speeches, even those of my noble friend, who knows a great deal about the field of social security, I wonder sometimes whether people realise just how much the world has changed. In Beveridge's day, one woman in eight worked. Now seven out of 10 married women work; eight out of 10 married men work. That is seven times as many as in Beveridge's day. I give another example: 98 per cent of married women—that is, all but 2 per cent of them—either are in work or have been in work while married.

That was inconceivable in Beveridge's day. The assumption was that a woman was at home and, therefore, when her husband died she had to obtain her widow's benefit through him because she had no other income. Now 98 per cent of married women will have worked or will have built up work records or are able to go back to work. The assumption behind the very thoughtful speech of the noble Earl, Lord Russell, and the moving speech of the noble Lord, Lord Astor of Hever, is that with these amendments a widow will for the first time "have to go into work". But a widow is going back to work from the job she had.

Earl Russell

My Lords, the Minister is putting words into my mouth when she says "for the first time". I did not develop my side of the argument about how much the world has changed because I thought that the House knew it.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham

My Lords, I am sure the House is grateful for the noble Earl's brevity. In that case, let me attribute the phrase to the noble Lord, Lord Astor, who certainly used those words.

The assumption behind a lot of the argument for no change is that a widow has not worked and that, suddenly, as a result of bereavement she is forced out into the rough and difficult world of work and that that is not fair. There are as many women working in the labour market as there are men. There are almost as many married women in work as there are married men. I repeat that 98 per cent of married women have worked. Therefore, the assumption that married women should have a benefit as of right for life simply because they are a widow, irrespective of their income, their job or their children, belongs to a generation that has passed.

Indeed, I wonder what noble Lords would expect when looking at the figures relating to the number of women and men, of widows and widowers, in work. If one looks at the number of widowers in work between the ages of 45 and retirement—admittedly, five years longer than women—53 per cent of widowers work while 54 per cent of widows work; that is, more women (widows) work than men (widowers), and yet we give the benefit to women and not to men. That is the scale of the change in our society. Our proposals seek, in decent, fair and just ways, to reflect that so that men and women are supported at the two points of need— the immediate period after bereavement and also if they have a responsibility for children.

We recognise that people need a breathing space to come to terms with the emotional and practical upheaval caused by the loss of their husband or wife. That is why we propose that the bereavement allowance should offer financial support for six months for men and women alike.

We weighed up all the arguments. We thought that six months was about right. We wanted to concentrate help where it was needed. However, following the debate in Committee and the eloquent speeches made there and again today by my noble friend, there has been much pressure on the Government to change the period from six to 12 months; that is, to double the period in which we give a supporting benefit to men and women alike while they come to terms with bereavement.

I believe those arguments were put forcibly. Men and women alike, particularly if they have been caring for a spouse, may be tired and depressed and may need a longer breathing space than we perhaps first thought. My noble friend Lady Crawley has made that point. We have reflected and I am delighted to be able to say that we are willing in principle to accept the amendment of my noble friend Lady Crawley to extend the bereavement allowance not to six months for men and women alike but to one year. That is a significant move and means that widows and widowers aged over 45 without dependent children—if they have dependent children, they are both eligible for the widowed parent's allowance—will receive financial support from bereavement benefits for a year. That is for twice as long as under our original proposals. That will cost a further £50 million. As a result, 20,000 or so new widows and many thousand widowers each year would receive that allowance for six months longer.

As I said, we are willing in principle to accept the spirit of the amendment of my noble friend Lady Crawley. However, if the House were instead to accept the amendment of my noble friend Lady Turner, or, more particularly, the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Astor, I must tell the House that I would expect the Secretary of State to seek to overturn that amendment. I phrase my words carefully. But because the six-month period is on the face of the Bill, we would find ourselves returning to that point—not the 12-month period. In that situation I could not guarantee what the other House would do. It would obviously reflect upon it.

The offer that I make to your Lordships today is that were the whole House to support my noble friend's amendment which proposes a 12-month period, that would be accepted by the Government and would survive. If instead that is displaced by an amendment which has to be overturned in the other place, I cannot predict what the outcome of that may be. I do not know what would happen. I am being frank with the House. There would be all sorts of pressures in the other place.

I urge your Lordships to accept that the Government have moved very considerably on this matter. We have listened to the points made by your Lordships. As a result we are proposing, if the House so wishes, to accept the amendment of my noble friend Lady Crawley which would double the bereavement period from six months to 12 months. That means that men and women alike would get a bereavement payment of £2,000, not £1,000, at the point at which they lost their spouse.

Secondly, men and women alike, whether or not they had children, and whether or not they were in work, would get a bereavement payment of support for 12 months. Those with dependent children would receive benefit—men and women alike—until their children were adult. That is the package I put to your Lordships. We have listened, but we cannot accept the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Astor, because it goes too far. I urge the House to accept the compromise amendment of my noble friend Lady Crawley. If we secure that today, the House will have done very well.

4 p.m.

Baroness Turner of Camden

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for her detailed response. She will not be surprised to learn that I do not agree with it. If I may say so, I believe that she has overlooked one of the main points in my submission, which is that we are talking about a contributory benefit. This is a benefit to which the spouse who has died contributed during his working life. Probably because he believed that his widow was covered to some degree, he had not perhaps made other provision.

As regards widowers, I certainly did not intend to imply that I do not believe that widowers should have the improvement that has been recommended. On the contrary, but under the same conditions. The widower would be entitled to a benefit based on the contributions of his spouse while the spouse was in work in the same way that the widow would be entitled to a benefit based upon the contributions that her husband had made. Answering this again on the basis of need—that a great number of women who do not need it receive it—is no answer to the argument. A contributory benefit ought to be a contributory benefit, and you should get the benefits accruing therefrom when you qualify.

For example, if I took out a policy with the Prudential and when under the terms of the policy I qualified for a payment I was told by the company, "Well, we're very sorry but you can't have it because you don't need it", I would feel very angry indeed and the Prudential would probably end up in court. We are talking about the same kind of principle here. We are discussing a contributory benefit in a system of social insurance: we all contribute, and then when we need the amount due under that contributory system, we receive the benefit.

Further, I do not agree even when we examine the question of need and the number of women who are said to be in work. According to information I have been provided with by, for example, the Child Poverty Action Group, the majority of widows, if they work, are working part time, and are usually in low-paid employment at that. I do not believe that that argument holds water.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham

My Lords, the majority of married women in employment work full time and not part time. The average pay for a married woman in full-time work is £15,000 a year. I am afraid that my noble friend's statistics are not up to date.

Baroness Turner of Camden

My Lords, we could argue about that, but certainly those figures do not tie up with some of the information I have received from a number of lobbying organisations which support what I have been saying. The fact remains that we have here a situation in which there will be women who would have expected to receive the benefit bur will not receive one.

We have been told that there is to be an increase. Of course I welcome the rise from £1,000 to £2,000 at the point of bereavement. That is very welcome. However, I must point out that it is the first increase since the benefit was introduced some 10 or 15 years age—I cannot remember exactly when. However, as I said in my opening statement, the Government will recover the money to pay for that by not paying widows' benefits beyond six months, or the year that has been suggested today. Further, I believe that the Government have decided that in future the two-year tax concession available for the first two years after the husband has died will not be paid. It seems to me that the Government will recover some of the extra costs involved there. Further, as a result of these proposals in total, the Treasury will gain substantially over and above what would have been the situation had the existing arrangements continued.

For those reasons, I do not accept what my noble friend has said. However, I do not intend to call a vote on the issue today. I shall think about what has been said. As regards the amelioration of one year, I do not think that that is enough. Should the noble Lord, Lord Astor, choose to press his proposition calling for two years, I would vote for two years rather than one year, because two years are rather more generous. However, I still do not think that that is enough.

I should like to think about what has been said today and perhaps return to the whole issue of benefits based upon the contribution record at Third Reading. I regard the matter as very important. I am a supporter of social insurance and not a supporter of an entirely means-tested system which we would otherwise need to have if we do not have a system of social insurance leading to the eventual provision of universal benefits when people become qualified for their entitlement.

As I said, I am not happy about the proposal for one year. It is quite insufficient.I do not agree that you can get over everything in one year. From personal experience, I do not think that that is true at all. Two years is not really sufficient, but I would much prefer that to one year. That will be my position. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Astor of Hever

My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 96 formally. I wish to test the opinion of the House. Page 56, line 41, leave out ("26 weeks") and insert ("two years")

A noble Lord


The Chairman of Committees

My Lords, Amendment No. 95 has been withdrawn and therefore pre-emption does not arise in those circumstances. Only if Amendment No. 95 had been agreed to would that have arisen. At present I am dealing only with Amendment No. 96. That is the amendment which I have called and which I must put to the House.

4.7 p.m.

On Question.Whether the said amendment(No. 96) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 193; Not-Contents, 114.

Division No. 1
Aberdare, L. Elles, B.
Ackner, L. Elliott of Morpeth, L.
Addison, V. Elton, L.
Ailsa, M. Exmouth, V.
Aldington, L. Ferrers, E.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Fitt, L.
Anelay of St. Johns, B. Fookes, B.
Archer of Weston-Super- Gage, V.
Mare, L. Gainford, L.
Ashbourne, L. Geddes, L.
Ashley of Stoke, L. Gilmour of Craigmillar, L.
Astor of Hever, L. Gisborough, L.
Attlee, E. Glenarthur, L.
Bathurst, E. Glentoran, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Gray, L.
Bell, L. Gray of Contin, L.
Berners, B. Greenway, L.
Blaker, L. Gretton, L.
Blatch, B. Haddington, E.
Blyth, L. Hanham, B
Boardman, L. Harding of Petherton, L.
Bowness, L. Hayhoe, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Henley, L.[Teller]
Brentford, V. Higgins, L.
Bridgeman, V. Hogg, B.
Brookeborough, V. Holderness, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. HolmPatrick, L.
Bruntisfield, L. Howe, E.
Buccleuch and Queensberry, D. Hunt of Wirral, L.
Burnham, L. [Teller] Ironside, L.
Buscombe, B. James of Holland Park, B.
Butterworth, L. Jenkin of Roding, L.
Byford, B. Jopling, L.
Cadman, L. Kelvedon, L.
Caithness, E. Keyes, L.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Kimball, L.
Campbell of Croy, L. Kintore, E.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Knutsford, V.
Carnock, L. Lane of Horsell, L.
Carr of Hadley, L. Lang of Monkton, L.
Castle of Blackburn, B. Lauderdale, E.
Chadlington, L. Lawson of Blaby, L.
Chesham, L. Lindsey and Abingdon, E.
Clanwilliam, E. Liverpool, E.
Clark of Kempston, L. Long, V.
Coleraine, L. Lucas, L.
Courtown, E. Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Cox, B. Luke, L.
Craig of Radley, L. Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.
Cranbrook, E. Mackay of Drumadoon, L.
Cross, V. MacLaurin of Knebworth, L.
Davidson, V. Macpherson of Drumochter, L.
De L'Isle, V. Masham of Ilton, B.
Dean of Harptree, L. Merrivale, L.
Denham, L. Middleton, L.
Derwent, L. Miller of Hendon, B.
Dixon-Smith, L. Monk Bretton, L.
Donegall, M. Monro of Langholm, L.
Downshire, M. Monteagle of Brandon, L.
Dunleath, L. Montgomery of Alamein, V.
Eccles, V. Montrose, D.
Eccles of Moulton, B. Morris, L.
Eden of Winton, L. Mountevans, L.
Ellenborough, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Moyne, L. Rowallan, L.
Moynihan, L. Ryder of Wensum, L.
Munster, E. St. John of Fawsley, L.
Murton of Lindisfarne, L. Sanderson of Bowden, L.
Napier of Magdãla, L. Seccombe, B.
Naseby, L. Selborne, E.
Nelson, E. Sharples, B.
Newall, L. Shaw of Northstead, L.
Norrie, L. Simon of Glaisdale, L.
Northbrook, L. Slim, V.
Northesk, E. Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.
Norton of Louth, L. Stallard, L.
Nunburnholme, L. Stodart of Leaston, L.
O'Cathain, B. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Onslow, E. Strathclyde, L.
Onslow of Woking, L. Strathcona and Mount
Oppenheim-Barnes, B. Royal, L.
Oxfuird, V. Sudeley, L.
Park of Monmouth, B. Swansea, L.
Pender, L. Tebbit, L.
Peyton of Yeovil L. Teviot, L.
Platt of Writtle, B. Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Platt of Writtle, B. Townshend, M.
Plummer of St. Marylebone, L. Trefgarne, L.
Porter of Luddenham, L. Trumpington, B.
Prentice, L. Turner of Camden, B.
Pym, L. Vivian, L.
Radnor, E. Wade of Chorlton, L.
Rathcavan, L. Wakeham, L.
Rawlings, B. Warnock, B.
Renton, L. Waterford, M.
Renwick, L. Westbury, L.
Roberts of Conwy, L. Wise, L.
Rotherwick, L. Young, B.
Acton, L. Filkin, L.
Ahmed, L. Gainsborough, E.
Allenby of Megiddo, V. Gilbert, L.
Amos, B. Gladwin of Clee, L.
Annan, L. Glanusk, L.
Archer of Sandwell, L. Gordon of Strathblane, L.
Bach, L. Goudie, B.
Barnett, L. Gould of Potternewton, B.
Bassam of Brighton, L. Graham of Edmonton, L.
Berkeley, L. Grantchester, L.
Blackstone, B. Grenfell, L.
Blease, L. Hanworth, V.
Bragg, L. Hardy of Wath, L.
Brett, L.
Brightman, L. Harris of Haringey, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L. Haskel, L.
Bruce of Donington, L. Hayman, B.
Burlison, L. Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Carter, L.[Teller] Hogg of Cumbernauld, L.
Christopher, L. Hollis of Heigham, B.
Clarke of Hampstead, L. Hoyle, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Hughes of Woodside, L.
Clinton-Davis, L. Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L. Hylton-Foster, B.
Crawley, B. Irvine of Lairg, L.(Lord
Currie of Marylebone, L. Chancellor)
David, B. Janner of Braunstone, L.
Davies of Coity, L. Jay of Paddington, B.(Lord
Desai, L. Privy Seal)
Diamond, L. Kennet, L.
Donoughue, L. Kilbracken, L.
Dormand of Easington, L. King of West Bromwich, L.
Dubs, L. Kinloss, Ly.
Elder, L. Lea of Crondall, L.
Evans of Parkside, L. Lipsey, L.
Evants of Watford, L. Lockwood, B.
Falconer of Thoroton, L. Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B. Lovell-Davis, L.
Faulkner of Worcester, L. Macdonald of Tradeston, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. Scotland of Asthal, B.
[Teller] Shepherd, L.
Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L. Shore of Stepney, L.
Mason of Barnsley, L. Simon, V.
Merlyn-Rees, L. Strabolgi, L.
Milner of Leeds, L. Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Molloy, L. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Monkswell, L. Taylor of Gryfe, L.
Montague of Oxford, L. Tenby, V.
Morris of Manchester, L. Thornton, B.
Nicol, B. Varley, L.
Orme, L. Walpole, L.
Patel, L. Warner, L.
Peston, L. Warwick of Undercliffe, B.
Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. Weatherill, L.
Prys-Davies, L. Wedderbum of Charlton, L.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B. Whitty, L.
Rea, L. Williams of Elvel, L.
Rix, L. Williams of Mostyn, L.
Sawyer, L. Williamson of Horton, L.

Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.

4.18 p.m.

Baroness Crawley moved Amendment No. 96A: Page 56, line 41, leave out ("26 weeks") and insert ("one year")

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I understand that the amendment will be moved to leave out the words last inserted.

Lord Higgins

My Lords, we have just decided that the appropriate length of time for the widow's benefit to continue is two years. That seems to me to be a very clear decision of the House. The amendment seems to be quite inappropriate and I should have thought that it should fall. The House has clearly indicated that it believes that that is right, and I do not understand why it should not be so.

Earl Russell

My Lords, perhaps I might assist the House. Noble Lords may remember the debate on the Police Bill in the last Session of the last Parliament when the House carried an amendment from the Labour Front Bench and one from our Front Bench. The amendments were inconsistent with each other. The advice we received from the Table was that the House was perfectly entitled to carry both if it wished to do so.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham

My Lords, we sought the advice of the Table on this matter. We were advised that the House has taken a view on the two-year rule but has not yet had the opportunity to make a judgment on the one-year rule. That comes afterwards and is subsequent.

Lord Higgins

My Lords, this seems to me to be quite remarkable tactics by the Government. I understand that it is in line with advice received from the Table. None the less, the House has clearly indicated what it wishes to do. Other than on the grounds that this will result in procrastination, I find it difficult to understand why the House should be asked to vote again. However, if that is the wish of the House, that is so. I would strongly advise my noble friends to vote against what is now proposed and re-affirm what they have said only a few moments ago.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I do not think that we can allow the noble Lord to get away with saying that this is a device by the Government. This is nothing to do with the Government; it is the advice of the Clerks at the Table and is reflected in the Chairman's brief. The words are: to leave out the words last inserted". As the noble Earl, Lord Russell confirmed, that is entirely in accordance with the procedure of the House.

Lord Higgins

My Lords, I am astonished. We all know that there are important amendments later on which the House is anxious to reach and vote upon. We have just had a vote which says that widow's benefit should be extended to two years. As the noble Lord just said, it is perfectly true, as I understand it from the Table, strictly within the rules of this House, that it is possible then to put the amendment which states "one year". However, that would be extraordinary when the House clearly indicated, a moment or two ago, that its preference is for two years. However, if the Government are determined to waste time to avoid votes on later amendments, we must put up with that. We will have to make it clear and vote again. If the amendment has been moved and is put to the House, I urge my noble friends to vote, as they did a few moments ago, against this amendment in order to establish what we have already clearly indicated is the will of the House.

Earl Russell

My Lords, with the leave of the House, first the House is entitled, if it wishes, to express the view that both one year and two years are preferable to six months, which is at present in the Bill. Secondly, however dissatisfied we may be with procedure. we cannot change it ad hoc to suit the convenience of one amendment. If the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, thanks that the present situation is unsatisfactory—there may be merit in that view—his proper recourse is to recommend this issue for consideration by the Procedure Committee rather than to make an issue of it immediately without notice. I accept that it is no fault of his that there is no notice; the situation has arisen suddenly.

Baroness Turner of Camden

My Lords, perhaps I may seek guidance as I find this puzzling. As I understand it, Amendment No. 96A, tabled in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Crawley, states: leave out ("26 weeks") and insert ("one year") and Amendment No. 99A states: leave out ("26 weeks") and insert ("one year")". As a result of the Motion just carried by the House, "26 weeks" has disappeared from the text and does not exist any more. Instead of "26 weeks" we have "two years". I cannot see what the amendment is amending.

Baroness Lockwood

My Lords, surely if an amendment is carried which alters slightly the wording of a subsequent amendment, the normal procedure of the House is to leave out the words previously agreed "and insert". That is exactly what is happening on this occasion. The Chairman must take the amendments in order. We have just voted on Amendment No. 96. The next amendment to vote on is Amendment No. 96A. That is perfectly in accord with the usual procedure and certainly in accord with the briefings that I have received from time to time as a Deputy Chair.

Lord Higgins

My Lords, I would not question, for one moment, what the noble Baroness says. Clearly, she has vastly more experience in these matters than me. I entirely agree with the point made by the noble Earl, Lord Russell; the procedure is as it is. In that case we must clearly follow it. I presume that if the noble Baroness wishes to press her amendment to a Division, it will take place but we should be clear that it is against a background where we need to make rapid progress in order to reach other important amendments. However, if the House wishes to vote again, it is right that it should do so. I strongly advise my noble friends to vote against the amendment which the noble Baroness is moving and in favour of the one we have just carried.

Lord Swinfen

My Lords, I abstained on the last amendment because I did not think that Her Majesty's loyal Opposition were right. On this occasion I shall vote with the noble Baroness, Lady Crawley, because I think that she is right. There has been a great deal of fuss over nothing. It is not often that we have a number of alternatives of this sort before the House. However, we are following the correct procedure.

Baroness Crawley

My Lords, I beg to move.

4.26 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 96A) shall be agreed to?

*Their Lordships divided: Contents, 164; Not-Contents, 185.

Division No. 2
Acton, L. Bradshaw, L.
Addington, L. Bragg, L.
Ahmed, L. Brett, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V. Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Alton of Liverpool, L. Brookeborough, V,
Amos, B. Burlison, L.
Annan, L. Calverley, L.
Archer of Sandwell, L. Carlisle, E.
Avebury, L. Carter, L.[Teller]
Bach, L. Christopher, L.
Barker, B. Clarke of Hampstead, L.
Barnett, L. Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L. Clement-Jones, L.
Bath and Wells, Bp. Clinton-Davis, L.
Berkeley, L. Crawley, B.
Blackstone, B. Currie of Marylebone, L.
Blease, L. Dahrendorf, L.
Bledisloe, V. Darcy de Knayth, B.
David, B. McIntosh of Haringey, L.
Davies of Coity, L. Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L.
Desai, L. Maddock, B.
Dholakia, L. Mar and Kellie, E.
Diamond, L. Mason of Barnsley, L.
Donoughue, L. Merlyn-Rees, L.
Dormand of Easington, L. Methuen, L.
Dubs, L. Miller of Chilthorne Domer, B.
Elder, L. Milner of Leeds, L.
Evans of Parkside, L. Molloy, L.
Evans of Watford, L. Monkswell, L.
Ezra, L. Montague of Oxford, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L. Morris of Manchester, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B. Newby, L.
Faulkner of Worcester, L. Nicol, B.
Filkin, L. Orme, L.
Fitt, L. Oxford, Bp.
Gainsborough, E. Patel, L.
Geraint, L. Peston, L.
Gilbert, L. Phillips of Sudbury, L.
Gladwin of Clee, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Glanusk, L. Porter of Luddenham, L.
Goodhart, L. Prys-Davies, L.
Gordon of Strathblane, L. Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Goudie, B. Rathcavan, L.
Gould of Potternewton, B. Rea, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L. Redesdale, L.
Grantchester, L. Rix, L.
Grenfell, L. Russell, E. [Teller]
Grey, E. Sandberg, L.
Hacking, L. Sawyer, L.
Hanworth, V. Scotland of Asthal, B.
Hardy of Wath, L. Shannon, E
Harris of Greenwich, L. Sharp of Guildford, B.
Harris of Haringey, L. Shepherd, L.
Haskel, L. Shore of Stepney, L.
Hayman, B. Simon, V.
Hilton of Eggardon, B. Skelmersdale, L.
Hogg of Cumbernauld, L. Smith of Clifton, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B. Stallard, L.
Holme of Cheltenham, L. Swinfen, L.
Hooson, L. Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Hoyle, L. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L. Taylor of Gryfe, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L. Tenby, V.
Hutchinson of Lullington, L. Thomas of Gresford, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L. (Lord Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Chancellor) Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Janner of Braunstone, L. Thornton, B.
Jay of Paddington, B.(Lord Thurso, V.
Privy Seal) Tordoff. L.
Jenkins of Hillhead, L. Varley, L.
Kilbracken, L. Walker of Doncaster, L.
King of West Bromwich, L. Warner, L.
Kinloss, Ly. Warnock, B.
Kirkwood, L. Warwick of Undercliffe, B.
Lea of Crondall, L. Watson of Richmond, L.
Lester of Herne Hill, L. Weatherill, L.
Linklater of Butterstone, B. Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Lipsey, L. Whitty.L.
Lockwood, B. Wigoder, L.
Lofthouse of Pontefract, L. Williams of Elvel, L.
Lovell-Davis, L. Williams of Mostyn, L.
Macdonald of Tradeston, L. Williamson of Horton, L.
Aberdare, L. Archer of Weston-Super-Mare, L.
Ackner, L. Astor of Hever, L.
Addison, V. Attlee, E.
Ailsa, M. Balfour of Inchrye, L.
Aldington, L. Bathurst, E.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Belhaven and Stenton, L.
Anelay of St. Johns, B. Bell, L.
Berners, B. Hunt of Wirral, L.
Blaker, L. Ironside, L.
Blatch, B. James of Holland Park, B.
Blyth, L Jenkin of Roding, L.
Boardman, L. Jopling, L.
Bowness, L. Kelvedon, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Keyes, L.
Brentford, V. Kimball, L.
Bridgeman, V. Kinnoull, E.
Bridges. L. Kintore, E.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Knutsford, V.
Bruce of Donington, L. Lane of Horsell, L.
Bruntisfield, L. Lang of Monkton, L.
Buccleuch and Queensberry. D. Lauderdale, E.
Burnham, L.[Teller] Lawson of Blaby, L.
Buscombe, B. Lindsey and Abingdon, E.
Butterworth, L. Liverpool, E.
Byford, B. Long, V.
Cadman, L. Lucas, L.
Caithness, E. Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Luke, L.
Campbell of Croy, L. Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Mackay of Drumadoon, L.
Carnock, L. MacLaurin of Knebworth, L.
Carr of Hadley, L. Mancroft, L.
Castle of Blackburn, B. Merrivale, L.
Chadlington, L. Miller of Hendon, B.
Charteris of Amisfield, L. Monk Bretton, L.
Clark of Kempston, L. Monro of Langholm, L.
Coleraine, L. Monteagle of Brandon, L.
Courtown, E. Montgomery of Alamein, V.
Cranbrook, E. Montrose, D.
Crickhowell, L. Morris, L.
Cross, V. Mountevans, L.
Davidson, V. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
De L'Isle, V. Moyne, L.
Dean of Harptree, L. Moynihan, L.
Denbigh, E. Munster, E.
Denham, L. Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Derwent, L. Napier and Ettrick, L.
Dixon-Smith, L. Naseby, L.
Donegall, M. Nelson, E.
Downshire, M. Newall, L.
Dunleath, L. Norrie, L.
Eccles, V. Northbrook, L.
Eccles of Moulton, B. Northesk, E.
Eden of Winton, L. Norton of Louth, L.
Ellenborough, L. Nunbumholme, L.
Elles, B. O'Cathain, B.
Elliott of Morpeth, L. Onslow, E.
Elton, L. Onslow of Woking, L.
Exmouth, V. Oppenheim-Barnes, B.
Ferrers, E. Oxfuird, V.
Fookes, B. Park of Monmouth, B.
Gage, V. Pender, L.
Geddes, L. Peyton of Yeovil, L.
Gilmour of Craigmillar, L. Piatt of Writtle, B.
Gisborough, L. Prentice, L.
Glenarthur, L. Pym, L.
Glentoran, L. Radnor, E.
Gray.L. Rawlings, B.
Gray of Contin, L. Renton, L.
Greenway, L. Renwick, L.
Gretton, L. Roberts of Conwy, L.
Haddington, E. Rotherwick, L.
Hanham, B. Rowallan, L.
Harding of Petherton, L. Ryder of Wensum, L.
Harris of Peckham, L. St. John of Fawsley, L.
Hayhoe, L. Sanderson of Bowden, L.
Henley, L.[Teller] Seccombe, B.
Higgins, L. Seaford, L.
Hogg, B Sharples, B.
Holderness, L. Shaw of Northstead, L.
HolmPatrick, L. Simon of Glaisdale, L.
Howe, E. Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.
Howell of Guildford, L. Stodart of Leaston, L.
Strathclyde, L. Trumpington, B.
Sudeley, L. Turner of Camden, B.
Swansea, L. Vivian, L.
Tebbit, L. Wade of Chorlton, L.
Teviot, L. Waterford, M.
Teynham, L. Westbury, L.
Thomas of Gwydir, L. Wharton, B.
Townshend, M. Wise, L.
Trefgame, L. Young, B.

[* see col. 439]

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

4.38 p.m.

[Amendments Nos. 97 and 98 not moved.]

Lord Astor of Hever moved Amendment No. 99: Page 57, line 1, leave out ("26 weeks") and insert ("two years")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the amendment is consequential. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 99A not moved.]

Baroness Crawley moved Amendment No. 100: After Clause 51, insert the following new clause—