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Amendments Of Parts I And Iii Of Schedule 2 To Supplementary Benefit Act 1966

Volume 885: debated on Wednesday 29 January 1975

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I beg to move Amendment No. 15, in page 17, line 26, at end insert:

'(b) is the case of a person receiving full-time education at school, except in the case of a person described in (a) above, by the whole amount of his earnings'.

With this Amendment we may take Government Amendment No. 16.

I can be brief on this Amendment, which stands in the name of my right hon. and hon. Friends and myself because we proposed amendments in Committee and it appears to me that Amendment 16, in the name of the Minister of State, is an attempt to put into better drafting than mine the purposes we are seeking to achieve.

If the Minister will confirm that he is meeting our point, we shall have ended the ridiculous rule which at present means that the earnings of children of school leaving age can be taken into account with those of their parents and not disregarded, so that a boy doing a news- paper round can have the effect of reducing his mother's entitlement to supplementary benefit.

This is a small point which never raised much controversy in our proceedings but which at some stage the House had to bring to the attention of a Government with sufficient force to have it put right. The Government are taking on board many amendments to change the Bill as it entered the House and we are grateful for the concession they are making on this important matter.

There is no need to delay the House unduly on this, since we are, with Amendment 16, carrying out the undertaking we gave in Committee so that the earnings of dependent children, whether under 16 or over and still at school, will not go to reduce the parents' benefit in future.

I am glad to have the opportunity once again to correct drafting defects by the Opposition and also to correct the error which the hon. Gentleman made when he referred to the appalling record of this Government. If this Government's record on this subject can be regarded as appalling, I shudder to think what words should be used to describe the record of the previous administration.

We could not accept Amendment No. 15 but we hope that the House will accept Amendment No. 16.

In the light of that assurance I look forward to supporting Amendment No. 16. I beg leave to and ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment made:

No. 16, in page 17, line 30, at end add—

'(2) In paragraph 2 of that Schedule—

  • (a) in sub-paragraph (1) for the words "sub-paragraph (2)" there shall be substituted the words "sub-paragraphs (1A) and (2)"
  • (b) after sub-paragraph (1) there shall be added—
  • "(1A) The weekly earnings of—

  • (a) a child; and
  • (b) a person disentitled to benefit by virtue of section 9 of this Act;
  • whose resources are aggregated by virtue of paragraph 3(2) of this Schedule with those of the person having to provide for his requirements, shall be wholly disregarded."'.—[ Mr. Alec Jones.]

    I beg to move Amendment No. 17, in page 18, line 24, at end insert:

    '(c) £2.00 of any non-contributory invalidity pension'.
    At this late hour I do not intend to go at great length into a matter which we discussed at length in Committee, but it concerns us very much. The new noncontributory invalidity pension as laid down in the Bill does not bring any extra cash into the pockets of a large number of people whom it is intended to help. That is because there is no disregard of the new non-contributory invalidity pension for supplementary benefit.

    The overwhelming number of recipients of this benefit are likely to be those who are now being paid supplementary benefit. Although they will get the new non-contributory pension, according to the rules, that same amount will be completely deducted from the supplementary benefit which they are receiving.

    Although it will now be possible for people to claim part of their pension as of right—and not all of it will be means-tested, as it was—in cash terms the overwhelming majority of people, about 150,000, will not receive a penny more. In Committee we tabled an amendment to the effect that the disregard figure should be £3·50 but were told that that was too expensive for the Government to accept. We have tabled a more modest amendment with the figure of £2 as a disregard for the purposes of supplementary benefit, so that the poorest families concerned will get at least £2 extra in cash.

    Unless this is done the idea in people's minds that this is a great new benefit will be swept away in a wave of misunderstanding and anger. We believe that the absence of such a provision as we propose is a defect in the Bill. In our proposals last September we said that we believed that there should be some disregard for supplementary benefit purposes. In Committee my hon. Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke) on behalf of the Opposition, said that we did not rule out, as economic conditions improved, the possibility that the whole of the new non-contributory pen- sion would be disregarded for supplementary benefit. That time is not yet. We feel strongly that unless the Government give way on this point there will be widespread disappointment and dismay.

    This Amendment is intended to secure a partial disregard of non-contributory invalidity pension of £2 a week. I understand the point made by the hon. Member for Wells (Mr. Boscawen) and the importance he attaches to the amendment. This amendments is a more modest one than that tabled in Committee when it was suggested that the disregard should be £3·50. That amendment was resisted not only on the grounds of cost but also on the grounds of principle. Thus, the same objection applies to the proposed disregard of £2. If we were to accept the amendment in the present economic circumstances it would mean reducing benefit for people receiving no State benefit. We would be robbing Peter to pay Paul.

    It is difficult to advocate swifter progress than we are seeking to make in this important area affecting the welfare of the disabled. I am sorry to have to say that I cannot accept the amendment. The hon. Member will appreciate the importance of the points I have made and will, I hope, accept that, if the amendment were accepted, we should be in the position of having to do less for those receiving no State benefit.

    Amendment negatived.