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Social Security Benefits Money (No 2)

Volume 885: debated on Wednesday 29 January 1975

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Queen's Recommendation having been signified

Motion made, and Question proposed,

That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to make further provision with respect to basic scheme benefits and benefits in respect of industrial injuries and diseases; to increase family allowances; and to amend Parts I and III of Schedule 2 to the Supplementary Benefit Act 1966, it is expedient to authorise any payment out of moneys provided by Parliament which is attributable to provisions for extending the noncontributory invalidity pension under the said Act of the present Session to women who are incapable of performing normal household duties.—[Mr. O'Malley.]

4.45 p.m.

I should like to make some comments about this money resolution, which begins our proceedings on the Report stage of the Social Security Benefits Bill.

There was considerable concern in Committee about the original money resolution. Indeed, this money resolution is an amendment forced upon the Government as a result of pressure and defeats in Committee. The original resolution upon which the Committee proceedings were based was a tightly drawn, mean-minded resolution which tried to restrict to the utmost the scope for debate and for amendment of the Bill as it made its way through the House.

The original resolution, which is now, fortunately, to be conceded to some slight extent with the fresh resolution, incorporated what was then the deliberate intention of the Government to exclude disabled housewives from the non-contributory invalidity pension. It was so designed that the Committee was supposed not to be able to discuss or to move matters pertaining to disabled housewives. It was in order to back up what was then the Government's policy intention of paying them later than other recipients of the new benefit and paying them at a lesser rate than that which other recipients would have received. Not only did the Government stick to that deplorable policy position but, by means of the money resolution, they tried to stop Parliament amending or discussing that intention.

This money resolution arises because, as the result of great ingenuity, amendments were carried in Committee which brought disabled housewives into the position in which they could have been paid out of the National Insurance Fund. That ingenuity was, in fact, that of Mr. Peter Large and Mr. Stuart Lyon, of the Disablement Income Group. They are well known to hon. Members who follow this subject. They provided the drafting for extremely carefully chosen amendments which my hon. Friends, assisted by the hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Carter-Jones) and the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Mr. Dunlop), were able to carry against the Government votes in Committee.

Therefore, because the draftsmanship was ingenious and, therefore, a little clumsy, the Government have been forced to bring forward this extra money resolution so that now the provision which has been forced upon them to include disabled housewives in this new benefit can be put in more sensible legislative form.

The resolution before us gives no other concessions. It excludes important matters from our debates on Report. It still totally excludes married women from receiving the new invalid care allowance which is being set up by the Government. It also introduces a cohabitation rule for this new allowance, thereby extending that somewhat unfortunate feature in social security provision into yet a new benefit The Under-Secretary agreed to look at that particular point when we mentioned it in Committee on 14th January, at column 337 of the Official Report. But, despite the fact that he undertook to look at it, no amendment has been made to the money resolution and nothing is incorporated in this resolution which enables us to move amendments to discuss this exclusion of married women and the cohabitation rule on invalid care allowance. The Opposition amendments which would have sought to do this have been ruled out by Mr. Speaker because they are outside the rules of order.

The only change to the new invalid pension is to enable disabled housewives to be brought in, which we very much welcome. We are glad that we have forced that on the Government. But still the invalidity pension is subject to a 100 per cent. earnings rule, and still those who receive it have to be, for 196 days, incapable of work.

Those matters are not to be capable of discussion or amendment on Report because the money resolution does not go far enough to enable us to do that. It also seeks to exclude family allowance for the first child being introduced, contrary to the Government's policy position. It also ties the rates of family allowance and of most other benefits.

Because the second money resolution has been dragged out of the Government in response to the Committee and is a concession to face up to one of the defeats which they suffered in Committee, we shall allow it to pass without dividing the House. But we should go on record as saying that we deplore the tightness of drafting of these resolutions and that we should like the Minister and the Treasury to realise that there remains far too much pressure in all legislation on social security to get it quickly through the House with the minimum of decisions and attempts made to exclude Members from opportunities of amending or increasing expenditure significantly. When Government proposals come forward in future legislation, we shall scrutinise such resolutions with great care. We regret that this resolution does not go much further.

4.50 p.m.

May I welcome the resolution which permits the introduction of a new and unique benefit? It will enable us to accept Amendments Nos. 6, 7 and 8, which delete the amendments I made in Committee with the support of Conservative Members.

May I enter a plea on behalf of back benchers? On neither side do we want to be treated as Lobby fodder. If the Treasury drafts money resolutions in such a way that hon. Members cannot move amendments in Standing Committee we might as well not go into Standing Committee. The hon. Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke) pointed out that through my contacts with the Disablement Income Group a man in a wheelchair found a way of beating the Treasury, and I am delighted to have been the vehicle for that achievement. I and my hon. Friends—if I may call them that—on the Conservative side managed to get the proposal in.

I am sure that my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench welcome the new money resolution since they were stifled by the Treasury. Through you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I would urge that the interests of back benchers be protected in the future so that money resolutions are not drafted in a way which prevents us from moving reasonable amendments in Committee.

4.52 p.m.

I strongly support the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke) and—if I may call him so on this occasion—my hon. Friend the Member for Eccles (Mr. Carter-Jones), because these matters are entirely cross-party.

Like the hon. Member for Eccles, I welcome that the Government have accepted and have now incorporated in the money resolution extension of the new invalidity pension to disabled housewives. May I fortify the hon. Member's point that the House is put in a very difficult position if the Treasury always insists on drafting money resolutions so tightly? We do not want to go into Committee points on Second Reading when the Chair is always inundated with potential orators and has a difficulty in selecting who are to speak. It invites hon. Members on both sides of the House to be brief. But it creates difficulties if hon. Members are, therefore, compelled on Second Reading to raise narrow points because the money resolution precedes discussion of them in Committee. We have to resort to various devices which are far from elegant and add very little to the dispatch of our business.

I would not object to narrowly-drawn money resolutions if the House had a Select Committee on social security in the way that it has a Select Committee on Science and Technology. Such a Committee would keep these matters permanently under examination. The Departments concerned and appropriate outside bodies could give evidence and be examined. However, since we do not have such a Select Committee we have virtually no opportunity of discussing in detail the sort of points raised by the hon. Member for Eccles.

My hon. Friend the Member for Rushcliffe talked about whether family allowances should apply to the first child. Under this money resolution we could not discuss that matter in Standing Committee. Quite rightly, the Chair ruled it out of order, but it is a proper subject for discussion. These matters were discussed by the admirable Select Committee on tax credits, but that Committee was a one-off job and was not permanent.

I apologise for detaining the House on this point, but this is one of those rare opportunities when one can raise these matters. If we do not have a permanent Select Committee to look into these points the Government must allow more time in Standing Committee and, in spite of their desire to get the business through, permit much wider-ranging money resolutions. It is for the Government of the day to decide which they prefer. I should be happy with a Select Committee on a permanent basis, and then I would be satisfied with the present method by which money resolutions are drawn. In the absence of such a Select Committee, the Government must draw their money resolutions less tightly and permit the Treasury only to provide the money but to have no say in the terms of the resolution.

4.56 p.m.

First, I congratulate the Opposition Front Bench, following what the hon. Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke) said, on their new-found conscience. He referred specifically and with great concern to the whole question of family poverty and family allowances, yet it was his party which made a pledge before 1970 to the Child Poverty Action Group which his Government failed to implement between 1970 and 1974.

The hon. Member pushed his case just a little too hard. Nevertheless, I congratulate him on his speech because I have delivered similar speeches from the Opposition Dispatch Box. When I did it, however, I had justification in that the measures brought forward by the last administration were far meaner than anything we have brought forward.

I must explain to my hon. Friend the Member for Eccles (Mr. Carter-Jones) and to the hon. Member for Eastleigh (Mr. Price) that it is not true to say that if money resolutions are to be drafted as tightly as this there might as well not be a Committee stage. We heard from my hon. Friend and the hon. Gentleman effectively in Committee, and I congratulate my hon. Friend on his success in persuading the Government that it was right that the Bill should enable disabled housewives to receive the non-contributory invalidity pension. It must be put on the record, however, that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State pointed out before Second Reading that she hoped to legislate specifically on this matter later in the Session.

I understand the points made by back benchers about the effect of tightly-drawn money resolutions. One must leave it to Governments to exercise some discretion on the matter. It has traditionally been the case that money resolutions are tightly drafted because Governments need, particularly at a time like this, to keep tight control over public expenditure.

I am pleased that the House will accept this money resolution which will enable it to take the decision later to enable disabled housewives to receive the noncontributory invalidity pension.

Will my right hon. Friend indicate how the resolution, if passed, will affect Amendment No. 2?

The amendments in my name are within the scope of the first money resolution. The second resolution simply allows payment from the Consolidated Fund in respect of the invalidity pension for disabled housewives. The new resolution therefore relaxes the conditions which were set out in the first resolution which the House passed before the Bill went into Committee.

Question put and agreed to.


That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to make further provision with respect to basic scheme benefits and benefits in respect of industrial injuries and diseases; to increase family allowances; and to amend Paris I and III of Schedule 2 to the Supplementary Benefit Act 1966, it is expedient to authorise any payment out of moneys provided by Parliament which is attributable to provisions for extending the non-contributory invalidity pension under the said Act of the present Session to women who are incapable of performing normal household duties.