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Death Grant

Volume 981: debated on Tuesday 18 March 1980

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'For each of the amounts specified in paragraph 2 of Part II of Schedule 4 to the principal Act there shall be substituted the sum of £45 with effect from 17 November 1980.'.—[ Mr. Orme.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

4.15 pm

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

First, I want to say how modest is the new clause, which I move on behalf of the Opposition. My hon. Friends and I feel that something should be done about the death grant. It should be uprated.

In the Labour Party manifesto of 1979 we were committed to raising
"the burial grant to a more realistic level."
This is why we are moving this modest clause. In view of the economic situation and rising inflation, something must be done this year about the death grant. A 50 per cent. increase—a modest increase from £30 to £45—will not resolve the problem, as I am the first to acknowledge, but at least it starts to raise the death grant. It has been at its present level since 1967.

The new clause also does one or two other important things. It makes the grant payable at full rate for children. At present the death grant for a child under 3 years of age is £9, £15 for a child between the ages of 3 and 6, and £22 for a child between the ages of 6 and 18. With this clause we propose to remove anomalies affecting those families who have the unfortunate experience of losing a young child. The proposal is a step in the right direction.

The clause proposes a further change. I am sure that there has been much pressure on hon. Members about the fact that half the normal rate is paid on the death of a man aged over 87 and a woman aged over 82. The clause removes that anomaly and enables the full rate to be paid at any age. Therefore, if it were accepted, the total death grant for a child or a person in his eighties or nineties would be paid at £45.

The modest clause goes no way towards meeting what many hon. Members on both sides feel is a more realistic figure. A more realistic figure would cost between £80 million and £140 million a year. We are testing the good faith of the Government with the clause. Perhaps the Minister will tell us whether she has calculated what the cost of the clause would be in a full year. We estimate that the cost would be about £10 million in a full year. I see that she confirms that figure.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that if the death grant were confined to those genuinely in need—I have my right hon. Friend's reply to the written question on 30 January—the figure could be raised to £100 without any further expenditure from the public exchequer?

That means instituting a means test and a complicated system. I do not know how the figure can be assessed on death. It is a complicated issue. The facts often come out only when the relatives face the problems of deceased persons, especially lonely people, who leave no estate of any consequence. Therefore, this is not an issue that can be means tested, even if one is in favour of means-tested benefits.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is obviously a problem for the people who must bury the dead person? However, the Opposition are conscious that the problem must be faced by people before they die. They worry that they will not leave sufficient money for, in their view, a decent funeral. We seek to alleviate that anxiety by means of these proposals rather than deal with the problem left to the relatives.

I thank my hon. Friend. I want to come to that point. The clause deals with the genuine point raised by the hon. Member for Windsor and Maidenhead (Dr. Glyn). I do not denigrate his point. I am examining the issue. I shall come later to the point underlined by my hon. Friend.

First, I refer to what was said recently by the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security in Committee:
" … since 1967, when the death grant was £30, prices have increased by 280 per cent. But if we allowed for an illustrative 10 per cent. increase in prices between now and next November, the spirit of the amendment would require the grant to rise to over £125, which would add over £50 million to the current expenditure of £16 million on the death grant." [Official Report, Standing Committee E, 29 January 1980; c. 152.]
That is why we have put down the new clause, which will cost £10 million initially. I recognise that there is a lobby on at the same time as this debate. It was arranged a long time ago. I think it is that of the Dignity in Death Alliance, many organisations of which have come together and are meeting in a Committee Room of this House while we are discussing this matter. Most of those people would say that our new clause does not go far enough. We say to them, as we are saying to the Government, that the Government could come some way to meeting the position for a very modest sum by accepting this new clause.

With regard to what my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport, North (Mr. Bennett) said, we have before us the report of the Department of Health and Social Security, which the hon. Lady has rushed through. Many hon. Members will not have had the chance to see it yet. It is entitled "Families, funerals and finances: a study of funeral expenses and how they are paid".

I apologise for interrupting the right hon. Gentleman, but I must point out that he has an advance copy and there are errors in it. The full publication will not be available for a few weeks yet. I have done my best to get as much information as possible to hon. Members even at the eleventh hour.

I know that the hon. Lady has worked very hard to get out the report and I am not in any way saying that she has tried to delay it or keep it back. I happened to receive a copy of it by accident. We have all heard of things coming under plain cover, and I got the copy of this report in draft form under plain cover last week. I have read it, particularly the conclusions, and it contains a very interesting explanation of the death grant and how this situation developed in the late nineteenth century and the twentieth century because of the poverty and pauperism at that time. The necessity for the death grant was pressed on the incoming Labour Government in 1945 and, as the House knows, later the death grant was introduced, and many of the millions of small subscriptions that were collected began to be phased out.

The report deals with the answer to this question as being back to Beveridge, which means linking it to the cost of living and meeting the cost, a selective grant or the abolition of the grant. Each of these ideas is canvassed in the report and no doubt hon. Members will he interested to read it when it is available.

Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would take into account in his argument the fact that many people in this country over the age of 60 or 65 are not able, because of their age, to increase their private insurance, and consequently for them the death grant has much greater relevance. The cost of burying a person has increased. Certainly a funeral cannot be obtained for £250 to-day and the odds are that the cost is now about £300 per funeral. The private insurance of these people was taken out at a time when the cost of a funeral was £50 of £60. That is why the death grant, whatever its origins, is an essential part of the social structure of this country today.

I take the hon. Gentleman's point, but I think, that the hon. Lady would quote the report, which says that in relation to incomes the position has not deteriorated. But the important point the hon. Gentleman has made is that particularly for the more elderly people, many of whom are not covered by the full grant and some of whom are completely excluded, great difficulty arises.

Coming back to the point my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport, North made, this survey of relatives who arrange funerals does not reflect the anxieties of old people approaching death, with their small savings eroded by inflation, and knowing that they will not leave enough money to pay for their funeral. The fact that their relatives may be able to pay without hardship is no comfort to them. A survey of elderly people's feelings about the death grant would have produced very different results. It would certainly show no support—I say this to the hon. Member for Windsor and Maidenhead—for the idea of a means-tested grant. I think it is a question of dignity and a person knowing for certain that if he is in an unfortunate position financially and dies he is assured of a proper burial, with all the normal courtesies and provisions.

To many elderly people, this is a very serious matter. Therefore, the House ought to take serious note of this also. I shall be very interested to hear what the hon. Lady has to say, because I can see no reason why the Government should not accept it. Certainly they cannot oppose it on a cost basis.

Before my right hon. Friend leaves question of the survey, he has very carefully illustrated that the wrong group of people was questioned, but would he agree that the survey was carried out on deaths that occurred in the autumn of 1974? Would he not agree that since then the cost of funerals has almost doubled and that therefore the information about people's attitudes to the problem of paying for them is extremely out of date?

I accept my hon. Friend's point. What makes the position so serious is the inflation rate. I think all hon. Members would agree that the inflation rate hits people on fixed incomes, not least retired people, and I would expect this point to strike a note among hon. Members on the Government Benches, because they often pay great attention to this point. Perhaps some of them will be prepared to express an opinion on it this afternoon.

We therefore feel that the new clause, which is modest and to the point, because it deals with an uprating this year, removing the anomalies as between the young and the old and making a start on an uprating, with the obvious purpose that it should continue in future years, should be accepted. I certainly press the Government seriously to consider it.

The hon. Lady has given us figures on uprating the death grant to £135, £150 or £180. Some hon. Members may want to give that priority, but I think we could all unite on doing something now.

I would point out that, in accordance with Mr. Speaker's selection, we are taking amendment No. 15—clause 5, page 10, line 14, at end insert—
'(5) The sum specified in paragraph 1 of Part II of Schedule 4 to the principal Act shall be increased to £40 with effect from 17th November 1980.'.
It deals with the maternity grant, which is a separate issue, and my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Miss Richardson), if she catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, may move it later. I have spoken purely on the new clause.

4.30 pm

My interest in and involvement with the death grant are nothing new. Ever since I came to the House 10 years ago, I have spoken in debates when the matter has been raised under Conservative and Labour Governments. I stand today as convinced as I was on the first occasion when I addressed the House on the subject that there is a powerful demand from both sides of the House and from many people outside for the death grant to be put on a more rational basis.

There is no difference between the two sides of the House in the feeling which has manifested itself over the years that a major improvement is overdue. It is fair to say that any benefit that has stayed at the same value since 1967 is well overdue for review. As 1967 was the last occasion on which the death grant was raised, and as prices have increased by 280 per cent. since that time, the House may conclude that the case almost makes itself.

I hope that I shall be forgiven if in the course of my remarks I put a different emphasis on this matter of the death grant from that which was given to it by the right hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme). I hope in the process that the concern which both of us feel for people who are particularly disadvantaged in this respect will be thought at least to be parallel.

The death grant is undoubtedly an emotive subject. It conjures up the vision, perhaps even the reality, of the inability of relations to bury their dead. Feelings about this go very deep. It is a provable fact that countless thousands of elderly people go without during the later years of their life because they feel it incumbent upon them to provide enough for what they no doubt would describe as a decent burial. This is an extension of that element of thrift which has been more apparent among our population in the past than it is today. Certainly those people believe that to run the risk of a pauper's funeral is almost the negation of all that they have lived for. To that extent, therefore, the House cannot deal with this matter purely on the basis of economics or politics. It must deal with it on the basis of the humanity that lies behind our discussion today.

Genuine anxiety exists. There can be no doubt in anyone's mind that a death grant of £30 is a totally inadequate contribution. I wonder whether that word "contribution" does not lift the veil on why successive Governments have felt able to retain the death grant at this inadequate level. To most people the £30 is a contribution towards the cost of burial. There is no doubt that where it is of prime importance to receive a contribution from the State to assist in the burial expenses the £30 is inadequate. So, too, is the £45 proposed in the new clause. I wonder whether the Opposition, in putting forward the clause, have given it the right emphasis. I hope I shall be forgiven for questioning whether this is the right way to go about it. I certainly question whether £45 is the right amount.

The real argument revolves around the simple question: to whom is the death grant important? Is it important to everyone? I respectfully suggest that the answer to that is "No". It is comparatively unimportant to most of those who are entitled to receive it in 1980. That may be because their standard of living is comparatively high and so they have no special difficulty in finding the amount required for burial expenses. It may be because they have an adequate life assurance policy. Most people who are now aged 40 or over have been brought up in a period when it has been normal to make provision for death by taking out a life assurance policy. I pose the question again: to whom is the death grant important? Is it the majority? I respectfully suggest that it is not but to the minority of people it is crucial.

Whom do we find within this minority? I agree that it is difficult to specify the deserving minority. In looking for need, do we consider the person who has died or the relatives who are left and upon whom the responsibility to arrange the burial devolves? I am not this afternoon proposing any specific way of overcoming that problem, except to say that it would seem reasonable to assess need on the basis of the person who has died. If there is a respectable argument which still takes care of my point of paying the grant to those who particularly need it but which leads people to feel that it would be better to reverse my argument, I am prepared to be convinced. However, it would be almost impossible to convince me that there is a need among the majority of the population for a death grant to be paid, be it £30 or £45.

If I am challenged that that involves a means test, clearly I have to concede that it does. Those hon. Members who have listened to me over the years when I have spoken in social security debates—they are a dwindling band—will concede that I have never dodged the fact that if, as I profoundly contend that there must be, there is to be selectivity in the payment of social benefits, I have to accept the corollary of that policy, which is the necessity for an assessment of means before benefits are payable.

I am saying that the death benefit should be increased, that it should be increased to much more than £45, but that it should be increased to that much higher level only for those who, after a means test—if that emotive phrase is the best way we can find to describe it—are found to be in particular need.

We are also talking about the maternity grant. I take the view which I took on a recent Friday in the debate on a Bill dealing with the maternity grant which was proposed by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara). No doubt there are a small number of people who are in the greatest need and to whom I would give priority treatment without hesitation. To put the death grant at £45 and the maternity benefit at £40 as proposed would be of no value to those who are in need. The House would be ill-advised to go along the road proposed in the clause and in amendment number 15. Instead, I am persuaded that there is a powerful case to be made for a totally fresh approach to maternity grant and death grant. There is a powerful case for an inquiry to see whether the selectivity that I would prefer for the payment of death grant and maternity grant is a better way of looking after those in real need in 1980 than the course that has been followed since the introduction of the Welfare State in 1948.

There may be an argument for saying that selectivity should not take the form I have suggested and that it should pay no more at all or pay no more than £30 only to those aged over 65 at death. That is an alternative basis. I should be prepared to listen to arguments on those lines. But a conscious decision is involved to move away from the universality of the benefits which has proved of little value to those receiving benefits and on to a basis of selectivity that would perhaps lead to the elimination of payment of death grant or maternity grant to a sizeable number of people. Selectivity would turn attention on to those who are really in need and would enable the Government to increase benefits to amounts more in line with those required in 1980.

I am calling for nothing less than a fresh approach. The House would take a small step in the wrong direction if it decided on a move from £30 to £45 in death grant and from £25 to £40 in maternity grant. It would be far better to give those in need some real hope of amounts which will truly relieve the great burden and pressure of poverty that continues to rest upon their shoulders.

The hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. McCrindle) went to the nub of the different philosophies that exist between the two sides of the House on social security and social security benefits. The hon. Gentleman argued for the discriminatory assessment and for the means test. We on the Opposition side argue in favour of universal benefits. The reason is not that we are more blatant, more spendthrift, or more rash with the public purse. We believe that, if equity is to be achieved in the payment of benefits and if too many people are not to fall through the holes in the safety net to which those who speak of discriminatory payments refer, there is a need for universal benefits.

The take-up level of benefits which are optional, discretionary, or have to be singly or separately applied for, falls far below what anyone would consider to be reasonable or acceptable. One needs only to examine family income supplement to know that this is the case. The nature of some of those benefits is as vicious a form of taxation as one is ever likely to see.

I do not agree with the hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar. The Government have accepted in some small degree the question of universality of payment of benefit with regard to maternity grant. It would be churlish if I did not acknowledge the fact that the Government have on this occasion accepted the universal principle. I do not hand out compliments lightly. I introduced a Bill on maternity grant last November. It sought to deal with other matters as well. It would be wrong for me not to acknowledge that the hon. Lady, the Under-Secretary of State, has kept her undertaking she gave when she said:
"However, on this one specific issue I have every sympathy with the case put forward today. The implications of it need to be studied and I assure right hon. and hon. Members that we shall give careful consideration to the proposition that the grant be made non-contributory ".—[Official Report, 23 November 1979; Vol. 974, c. 812.]
The hon. Lady has done that. I must acknowledge that fact.

As so often happens in the House, my hon. Friend is no doubt coming to the point that I wish to raise. While the Government have conceded what he has described in response to an amendment proposed by one of their own hon. Members, my hon. Friend will recognise that it is not to come into force until 1983. The cost of a new clause that the Government accepted is about £1 million or £1½ million. That is a small sum in relation to social security payments. The Government have put off the day of implementation. We are keen to see this year's date both in the maternity grant amendment and in the new clause on the death grant.

My right hon. Friend has forestalled what I intended to say. If one accepts the point about universality, one accepts that in the past the Labour Government—it was contained in the manifesto—and the present Government recognise the problem faced by those women who are not covered at present by the Act. I should like to deal with the point raised by the hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar. It is no good talking about jam tomorrow for people who need benefit today. There is no means of which I am aware of prolonging a pregnancy for two or three years once it has started in order to get the rather mean benefit that the Government are giving.

There would have been a degree of sense and graciousness if the Government, having accepted the principle, had been prepared to put it into operation at once. This is the point of my right hon. Friend's proposal that it should come into operation this year. All these people, the girl under 16, the girl married to a student, the unmarried mother, the wife of an immigrant, and the wife of a long-term prisoner, will be faced with this problem for at least three years if the Govern-merit's position remains unchanged. I congratulate the Government on giving way on the principle. But they have ruined their position.

4.45, pm

Referring to my Bill, it is important to see how little the granting of universality has achieved. We were looking not only at the question of universality to help women when most in need but also at a positive and real upgrading of the benefit. Last November, we estimated a figure of £85. My colleagues, in their amendment, have stipulated the very modest sum of £40. I understand that the intention is to try to achieve parity with the death grant. I support the increase in the death grant, although I regard the sum suggested as far too modest.

The hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar said that it would be better for people to wait longer. But people need the money now. The expense is incurred now. Expense occurs at the time of the confinement. There is no point in suggesting that a committee should examine the matter, all its possibilities and all its ramifications. There has been mention of the report on funeral costs, based on figures six years too late. The majority of children and their mothers need the benefit at the time of birth. We looked for a reasonable and decent uprating. Although a figure of £40 has been pro- posed, whereas I would have put forward a figure of £85 or £100, as representing a decent maternity grant, I believe that the Government should respond.

There is also a lack of acceptance by the Government of the need to index. All benefits should be indexed. That principle, above all others, is under attack, as we read in the press every day. The Prime Minister refused to come clean when she replied to a question about it from my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. We must wait until Budget day to know whether various benefits will be indexed or de-indexed. We know that this benefit, more than any other, needs to be indexed.

My hon. Friend referred to well-founded speculation about future Government policy. He said, rightly, that all would be revealed on Budget day. Is my hon. Friend aware that later tonight we shall be discussing and voting against the de-indexing of benefits? Pensioners' benefits will be de-indexed because the earnings factor is to be removed from their uprating.

I am aware of that. Because I have been ill I have been unable to take part in previous proceedings on the Bill. In deference to my colleagues I do not wish to steal their thunder, as many of my hon. Friends will have broadsides to level at the Government about de-indexing.

Indexing of maternity benefit is essential. The Government have missed a magnificent opportunity to link maternity grants with their attitude to and their philosophy on and awareness of perinatal deaths and ante-natal care. It is essential to ensure that women are examined once they become pregnant. We must encourage them to visit clinics early in their pregnancy. We must encourage them to take the necessary exercise and medicine to ensure that their children are born as safely as possible. That opportunity has gone by the board. We could have taken the example of France, where care is taken to ensure that expectant mothers receive proper treatment and that their new babies are well cared for. All that care is knitted together with the payment of maternity grants and benefits.

The Government may take credit for the fact that in times of hardship and economic stringency they are prepared to grant the principle, albeit not for three years. We should not lose sight of the importance of the argument which applied from the initiation of the maternity grant, namely, that it should be a means towards achieving healthy mothers and healthy children. The Government have missed that opportunity. The credit that they hoped to receive for accepting the principle will be lost and gone for ever.

Birth and death are the most important events in anybody's life. Nobody can judge, allow for, or gain from, birth or death. We do not know to whom we shall be born, and we do not know when we shall die. There is a duty upon society to ensure that people come into the world and depart from it decently. We could ensure that degree of decency by supporting the new clause and amendment No. 15.

We are debating a serious problem. Hon. Members who represent constituencies with large numbers of elderly people have daily experience of the distress and the fear of what death means to them, especally the cost of burying their loved ones.

Quite recently I opened an old people's home. One old couple said to me "This is Heaven. It is a wonderful home. Our only worry is that, having been married for 55 years, one of us will die first and the other will have to spend all our savings on burying the loved one." I was struck by the sincerity of that argument.

I shall not support the new clause because it does not deal with the matter in the proper manner. As my hon. Friend the Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. McCrindle) made clear, to raise the death grant by £10 will not do the job at all. It will raise false hopes. Those who are anxious now will not be any less anxious because they have been given an additional £10.

I hope to add my voice to the debate in a few minutes. I accept the hon. Gentleman's argument that the first increase is a modest one, but does he not agree that even £15 will be of some help in the difficulties faced by pregnant women? If they are forced to wait, in the way that he and his hon. Friends suggest, the moment of their pregnancy will have passed and they will never receive the extra benefit.

I was dealing with the death grant, not with the maternity grant. With all respect to the hon. Lady, it is not the same matter. The case that I was developing was that elderly couples, married for more than 50 years, were not worried about dying—some of them welcomed the fact that they would die—but were more worried about what would happen to those whom they left behind and who would have to live in poverty because they had spent their savings on burying their loved ones.

I shall not support the new clause because it does not go far enough. I expect my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary to give the House a definite assurance that this matter will not be put aside year after year. Few people actually need the death grant to the extent that I have expressed. They need the assurance that it is available if it is necessary. I agree with the idea of a means test. The public would agree that death duties should be increased and that a means test should be applied. The cost of burying a loved one is about £150. Could the Chancellor be given a hint that many of the deceased's relatives would not miss £150 if it were taken off the amount that they were to receive as beneficiaries? Why not organise a system whereby those who died with a reasonable estate had the £150 deducted from it before it passed to the beneficiaries? That sum could be transferred to a fund and be used to help those who could not afford to bury their loved ones. The Government would not then be able to say that they could not afford to pay the benefits.

I hope that my hon. Friend will give the House an assurance that the Government will make a serious effort to deal with the matter.

5 pm

I rise to support new clause 1 and amendment No. 15. We are in major difficulties with the death grant and the maternity grants. No Governments have raised them since 1967 and 1969 respectively, and it is never the right time to raise them. We are in danger of that position continuing year after year.

I am certain that every hon. Member on the Labour Benches would like to see much bigger increases than the ones now proposed. In Committee we tried to get substantial increases in both these grants. We tried to see that both were at least restored to their values of 1967 and 1969 in real terms. At that stage we heard from the Government that they just could not afford it. Therefore, we have gone for very much more modest proposals in these amendments on the basis that, if we increase them by a little each time we have the opportunity, we can get round the major argument that the cost is too great.

Will not the hon. Member concede that in his suggesting that a litle should be put on each benefit history is not on his side? Would not successive Governments see that as a reason for doing nothing more? There is a perfect precedent in that nothing has been done since 1967.

Nothing has been done and both grants have lost their value. Had each Government since 1967 put a few pounds on the grants each year in the Budget, the present Government would not be faced with such a daunting task to restore the value. Having failed in Committee to convince the Government that they should restore the value in one go, we are trying the gradual approach.

Rather than adding a little on here and there, would it not be preferable for us to determine a proper and appropriate level for both of these benefits and then index-link them?

Of course that would be a much better approach. That is what we tried in Committee, but we got nowhere. The Government said that it was impossible because of the amount of money involved. If we cannot persuade them to go along with that approach, we must try to persuade them to go along with the gradual approach, which is to put a little bit on each time.

What are the consequences if we do not do this? Because these benefits have not been increased for 11 and 13 years, increasingly the cost is in administering them, rather than actually paying money to those who need it. One of the problems of means testing these benefits is that once again the cost of administration would take up almost as much money as the benefit. We are getting to the stage where administration of the death grant appears to be costing almost half of the amount of money paid out in grants. The maternity grant may not cost quite so much to administer, but it is still expensive. Also it is ridiculous that in some local offices the death grant is sent out together with a letter instructing those who receive it that if they do not need all the money for funeral expenses, they must return the surplus. That is an example of a ridiculous administrative expense.

If the Government cannot get round to increasing these benefits they must ask themselves whether they are worth while at all because of the increasingly large administrative costs. I believe that both benefits are worth while and therefore, if the Government want good value for money, they must increase them both pretty quickly.

I receive many representations from my constituents, particularly clergymen, pointing out the upset caused by the funeral costs to a husband or wife who is burying his or her spouse. They make strong representations that it would help those people in their grief if the death grant were raised substantially. I also receive representations from elderly people themselves who worry about their own deaths and the costs that will be involved for others. Both these groups feel very strongly that increasing the death grant is a just cause.

Many of these elderly people point out that they fought in the First World War, they played a less aggressive, but none the less hard-working role, in the Second World War, they have worked all their lives for a fairly modest income and they have now been on pensions and benefits for a long time. They feel that they have made a major contribution to this country in difficult times and that it would be reasonable for them to receive some recognition of their efforts on behalf of their country in that at least the State should be prepared to make a generous contribution towards their funeral costs.

The Minister has given us today a survey entitled "Family Funerals and Finances". I have a suspicion that the Government managed to make this available rather belatedly because they feel that it helps their case in this debate rather than ours. It is a tragedy that a major piece of research which was carried out in 1974 should come out now when it appears to be asking all the wrong questions. For example, it asks people after the funeral whether they experienced any hardship. Also that question was asked more than six years ago when the grant was, in real terms, worth considerably more than it is now.

Many hon. Members suggest that the questions should be asked of elderly people, who are worrying about the expense of their funerals, and not of the relatives. Certainly the relatives should not be asked 12 months afterwards whether they experienced any hardship at the time of the funeral. Often those who are involved in burying their parents, grandparents or uncles and aunts do not feel that it is a hardship. But that does not alter the feelings of the elderly themselves who feel that it is very important not to leave a burden on their relatives. They feel that it is most important that they should have sufficient wherewithal, as of right, for a respectable funeral.

This survey goes very carefully into the attitudes which existed in the 1920s and 1930s about the problems of having sufficient money to bury the dead. Of course, the people who are now worried are those who lived through that period and who have firmly in their minds the attitudes that are so well described in the survey. Therefore, had the right questions been asked, and had some of the evidence from this survey been used, it would have made a strong case for the need to increase the benefit.

The House has fully debated the question of the maternity benefit. It was discussed in the debate on the Private Member's Bill introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara). The House appeared to be very sympathetic, but the view was that there was not sufficient money available. The Government have indicated that they will make the grant non-contributory, which is a small step, but it is a pity that they have delayed that for three years. Again, there is an administrative cost in checking up on who is entitled to the grant. I hope that tomorrow when we debate amendment No. 14 the House will agree that the benefit should be non-contributory from next November.

I am very interested in my hon. Friend's points. I am sure that he will be interested to know that the authorities responsible for providing the services for expectant mothers in my constituency have just issued a directive to general practitioners that they must now make preparation for home confinements because of the serious shortage of maternity nurses in the area. That definitely means that the cost of confinement will rise substantially. Confinements will be at home. Surely that provides an unanswerable case for approving the grant now instead of waiting three years.

I fully accept that argument. There is an overwhelming case for an increase in the maternity grant. That case was well deployed in this House on the occasion of my hon. Friend's Private Member's Bill. It was also well deployed in Committee. What we need is some response from the Government that they accept that some action is necessary.

This amendment asks for a minimal increase as a first step. I feel that the grant should be raised to the figure of £80 or £90 that we discussed in the debate on the Private Member's Bill. At this stage if the Government still believe in the maternity grant they should at least increase it a little. I hope that the Government will accept these modest proposals.

Conservative Members would like both benefits to be means-tested, to ensure that the money goes to those who are most in need. My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central pointed out that many people who should receive benefits do not claim them, either because they do not know about them or because they do not like to claim. That is the major problem with the death grant.

Labour Members believe that elderly people want to get away from what used to be called the pauper's funeral—the means-tested funeral—and that they want to feel that they are entitled to a benefit from the State as a result of their contributions. As soon as it is means-tested, it gives them a slap in the face.

Does not the hon. Member for Stockport, North (Mr. Bennett) agree that it is fairer to have a means-tested system, in that those who are in greatest need will then receive the benefit? If he extends his argument that it is easier for those people to receive a benefit as of right—the present death grant is received as of right—where will he draw the line? Will he extend that principle to all benefits? If not, someone will have to make an arbitrary decision to restrict it.

I am glad that the hon. Member has now joined us. If he had been here earlier he might have heard one or two of the interesting suggestions made by Conservative Members. The hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain) suggested that the benefits should be universal but that the money should be clawed back by capital gains tax or by capital transfer tax.

I said that the benefit should be paid universally, but that, instead of a means test at the time of the funeral, it should be adjusted by means of death duties or a capital gains tax.

That suggestion has some advantage. The general argument of Labour Members is that it is better not to means-test benefits, but to make them general benefits. There is evidence that, because of means testing, people who need the benefits most do not apply for them.

I suggest that a means-tested benefit for elderly people would be counterproductive. They want to feel that at the end of their lives they have sufficient money to enable them to have a decent funeral. If we say that a State contribution must be means-tested, we are saying that they will receive State help only if they can prove that they have not saved up sufficient resources during their lifetime. Most elderly constituents to whom I have spoken feel that it is important to have savings for a funeral, and to be able to give a small amount to their grandchildren. Because of those feelings, however, they neglect themselves and do not spend sufficient on food or on looking after themselves.

If we raise the death grant to a realistic level, we will take away many of the worries those people have. The Government should make their intentions clear. Do they intend to let these benefits wither away, and eventually let administrative costs overtake the money that is being paid out? Do they have some intention of uprating the benefits? If so, when will they be uprated? All Governments over the last 10 or 13 years have felt that it was not the right time to raise benefits. Will it ever be the right time?

These are modest proposals, and we should say that now is the right time to increase the benefits to a realistic level.

5.15 pm

I should like to concentrate my comments on the death grant. Like many other hon. Members, I have been involved in the Dignity in Death Alliance since its formation. Indeed, it has been meeting in. the Grand Committee Room this afternoon, and its members are in the process of lobbying a number of hon. Members.

I remind the House of the terms of an early-day motion that was submitted to the Order Paper at the beginning of this Parliament. It was also on the Order Paper at the end of the last Parliament. The motion reads:
"That this House is of the view that steps should be taken as soon as possible to restore the death grant to its original 1949 value, in real terms, which would require an increase to £133·70, [Official Report, 25 June, c. 257], and to abolish the age restriction and end the discrimination against very elderly people who are at present unable to get any form of death grant, as urged by the Parliamentary All Party Group for Pensioners and the Dignity in Death Alliance consisting of over 37 national organisations representing many pensioners, parents, religious denominations, social workers, residential workers, service families and children's organisations."
There are now no fewer than 192 signatories in favour of that motion. In the last Parliament more than 200 Members put their name to that early-day motion.

One of the most significant points about the Dignity in Death Alliance is the organisations that have united to support the campaign. I shall not bore the House by naming all of them, but I wish to name a few, because it shows the variety of organisations that are involved. The organisations include Age Concern England, Age Concern Scotland, the British Limbless Ex-Servicemen's Association—the parliamentary group of which I have the honour to be chairman—the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths, the London Boroughs Association, the Methodist Church Division of Social Responsibility, the National Council for the Single Woman and her Dependants, the National Federation of Old Age Pensions Associations and the Soldiers', Sailors' and Airmen's Families Association. That is a wide range of organisations.

Naturally, they have different interests in different areas, but it is worth looking briefly at one or two of the interests of two of those organisations. The Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths was formed to raise money to try to solve the problem of cot deaths—very young children who die suddenly with no explanation why. I do not have to remind any Member of the tremendous shock to a family when a very young child who is loved dearly by its parents, who might have left it for a few hours, dies suddenly in its cot. In recent months I have been in touch with a number of families who have suffered that frightening experience, because of the work carried out by my wife, as president of the Sussex branch of the foundation. It is a shattering blow to a family, and the last blow that they want is wondering how to find the money to meet the costs of the funeral of that child.

We can look at the problem from a different angle in age terms. Many members of the British Limbless Ex-Servicemen's Association have been without one or other limb for up to 50 years. Can those of us who are fortunate enough to have all our limbs understand what it must mean to live for so long with one or two limbs missing? We should remember the discomfort and pain that such people suffer. The Dignity in Death Alliance has therefore made a powerful case. It has received support from a wide range of organisations and individuals.

The new clause is moderate. If it were accepted, the campaign of the Dignity in Death Alliance would lose considerable strength. I cannot vote against the new clause. I shall pay close attention to the remarks that will be made by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary. However, if I vote in favour of the new clause, and if it is accepted, it could have a serious effect upon the impact of the Dignity in Death Alliance. We must pay careful attention to the Under-Secretary's remarks.

The hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways. He has campaigned honourably for a long time for an increase in the death grant. He now has a clear-cut opportunity to increase it. I admit that it will be increased by only a moderate amount. Indeed, that amount is too small. Nevertheless, it represents an increase of 50 per cent. It will be of enormous significance to the recipients. The hon. Gentleman claims to represent those people. He should therefore consider them tonight. He has no option but to support the new clause.

The hon. Gentleman might understand my position more clearly if I develop my case. He should not exaggerate the amount of money involved. The average modest funeral cannot cost less than £250. If the death grant is increased from £30 to £45, it will do little more than pay for the doctor. Only a few pounds will be left. Those families that are at present in an impossible situation will receive little benefit.

The very elderly have seen two world wars. No death grant is paid for them. The moderate sum of money proposed in the clause should be spent on that group. The very elderly could be given real help. If the money is spread widely, it will have only a minimal effect. The hon. Member for Stockport, North (Mr. Bennett) made a powerful case. He spoke about the feelings of the very elderly. We are discussing those in their eighties and nineties. That generation has an inborn fear of paupers' funerals. Many of them have no relations to take on the cost of a funeral. They fear that they will be given a pauper's grave and coffin. They fear that they will be put into the equivalent of a mass grave.

All hon. Members know that that does not happen, but I have experienced great difficulty in explaining the position to some of my elderly constituents. I have discussed the problem with individual elderly constituents at considerable length. I have not always succeeded in persuading them of the truth. That group should be given special attention. Those who are approaching retirement, and those who have just retired, would have a clearer understanding of the position if sufficient resources were available for the funeral. I hope that I have made my position clear.

The hon. Gentleman accepts that a special case should be made for the very elderly. Does he agree that the new clause has that effect? At the moment, a man aged over 87 and a woman aged over 82 receive only half of the grant to which everyone else is entitled. At least the new clause increases that amount by £30. More help is therefore being given to the very elderly. No doubt the hon. Gentleman has read the report of the Committee's proceedings. He will know that we got no joy out of the Government when we tried to achieve the higher amount that he seeks. Surely he will agree that we should now press for this minimum amount?

If the money is available I should like to see it concentrated on the very elderly. It would be of substantial help to those people. Above a certain age there should be no means test. In that way we might alleviate the fears of the very elderly. We are now moving into a different era. I shall not vote against the proposal. However, the proposed resources will not be used effectively.

All Governments have argued that "present circumstances are not right", for increasing the amount. Last spring the Government spokesman in another place pointed out that the death grant could not be considered as a top priority in the present economic climate. Governments have failed to understand the importance of the death grant. They underestimate the strength of people's feelings. The Dignity in Death Alliance has brought people together under a broad umbrella. That alliance demonstrates that far deeper feelings exist than has been appreciated. I can only repeat that I shall not vote against the new clause. I await the Minister's remarks with great interest.

It is difficult to understand the remarks of the hon. Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Mr. Bowden), although I pay tribute to him for his part in the campaign. Like his hon. Friends the Members for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain) and for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. McCrindle), he appears to believe that, apart from the very elderly, it is preferable for people to wait for the whole amount than to take up an immediate increase.

5.30 pm

I wrongly interrupted the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe. My mind was racing on from death to maternity—and perhaps it should be the other way round. The principle is the same. A little extra money for the expectant mother or the bereaved, even if it is only £10 or £15, must make some difference. I have known people in both circumstances who have had to borrow £10 here, £5 there and £20 there. An addition would benefit a bereaved person who has no savings.

In Committee we fought hard and long for a major uprating and indexation. We lost, and procedurally we cannot reintroduce the issue on the Floor of the House. The Government would not accept a larger figure or indexation. It is no use arguing that we should put forward such proposals, because the Government rejected them.

My right hon. Friend has virtually taken the words out of my mouth. I wish that the hon. Member for Kemptown had read our debates in Committee. He would then have followed our good fight on both subjects.

The hon. Gentleman referred to the very elderly, who do not get any grant. If the hon. Gentleman is suggesting that the whole amount should go towards assisting those people, why did he not table such an amendment? We should have been happy to debate an alternative method of using an amount of money.

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East (Mr. Freeson) confirms, and I repeat, we are putting forward this modest or moderate amendment because in Committee we were defeated in our attempt to secure a larger amount for the death and maternity grants.

We have made the extra sum £15 on both grants. That would be a welcome addition to many people who are in dire straits and are having difficulties in either a hopeful or tragic situation. It is curious that these two amendments should be linked, when one concerns a hopeful beginning to life and the other a possibly tragic end.

I echo what my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara) said about the maternity grant. The original Bill was his—I hesitate to say "baby"—idea. He used his Private Member's Bill for that purpose. My hon. Friend gave impetus to the campaign for increasing the maternity grant by putting forward that Bill, which, sadly, fell. He was following a commitment that we made in our manifesto. I know that I shall not be contradicted by any of my hon. Friends when I say that it will be in the next manifesto, too. We are even more determined that a realistic maternity grant should be available.

My hon. Friend is not in the Chamber, but I know that he will not mind my saying that, with his well known views on abortion, he put forward his Bill in an effort to help anyone who might have considered having an abortion because of financial as well as social difficulties. Those of us who take a different view on abortion were happy to support him and press for an increase in the maternity grant.

One of the precincts of the North-East London Polytechnic is in my constituency. I was there at lunchtime today to attend an open day to discuss the cuts. The department of applied economic studies is among those that may be cut. A few weeks ago, while the Bill was still in Committee, that department produced an interim report called:
"Maternity rights project, interim report on maternity benefits."
It is not a long report but it is interesting and well researched. It mainly concerns the contributory and non-contributory question, which we are to debate tomorrow. The adequacy of the current £25 grant was not specifically considered, but many women were asked their views on the level of the grant. The principal reactions of the women questioned are summed up by the first comment, where the lady interviewed, a secretary, said that the grant was disgustingly inadequate. The sum of £25 is paltry in the light of the financial problems facing a woman when she needs to be relaxed and in a state of genuine expectation of the joyful event to come.

We originally asked for the £25 to be increased to £80, which is still not an enormous sum. Organisations and individuals that have researched the matter and considered prices in shops believe that £85 would in no way cover the expenses of a mother who has to kit out herself and her first child.

I shall not go over the ground that bored the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Brotherton) in Committee, when I tried to compare our niggardly maternity grant with those paid in other countries. However, I repeat that we pride ourselves on our social security system, which has faults and on which there are disagreements. We hope that it is based on the principle of helping those less well able to help themselves.

It seems odd that we should be one of the countries with the meanest maternity benefits. It should be stressed that the people who need this benefit most are the most vulnerable and the poorest. It is perfectly true that the comfortably-off wife, whether working or not, of a man with a good job will not have the same difficulties when she becomes pregnant as an unmarried mother, whether working or not, or the wife of a man in a low-paid job who may have other children and who may not have been working. It is the poorer and most vulnerable whom we seek to protect and for whom the maternity grant was originally designed.

I am totally opposed to any means testing of the maternity grant. I am opposed to it for all sorts of reasons, not least because I am not mad about means testing in principle. I am also opposed to it because administratively nothing much would be gained by the time that staff have been recruited to do the job, and we all know that the Government are trying to cut down in every way on staff recruitment.

We have a duty seriously to consider increasing this grant. The amount by which we propose that it should be in-increased is modest. I am sure that with the recoupment, if one can call it that, which the Government hope to obtain from their fraud squad tactics and other ways of recouping money from people who they feel are not doing right by the State, they can find it in their hearts to consider the family who suffer a bereavement or find that they have to look after a pregnant woman. I hope that the Minister will consider that when she replies. I am sure that the hon. Lady has always been most sympathetic to this idea, and I hope that she will be able to persuade her own Department and the Treasury that this is a modest way forward, because her acceptance of the amendment will be well received by all women.

I rise very briefly to comment on the death grant. The right hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) was kind enough to listen to what I had to say and gave me what I considered to be a courteous reply.

I believe that the whole House is convinced that the present level of death grant is insufficient to cover the cost of burial. There is no doubt about that. It must be accepted on a purely economic basis. The difficulty is how best to employ the amount available. As the hon. Member for Barking (Miss Richardson) said, we must make it available to those who need it most and not spread it right across the board.

My hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain) made a point which I take seriously, because he has a constituency in which there is a large number of elderly people, and he realises the genuine anxiety of many of those elderly people about what will happen to them when they die. There is no controversy about this on either side of the House.

I do not believe the amendment is of any help except in a marginal way. The whole approach to the problem is wrong. If we are to have a grant, it must be made available to those who really need it. The hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith), who is not present in the Chamber, rightly said that many people had saved all their lives and had not appreciated the inroads that inflation would make into their savings. That is perfectly true. We understand and accept that. But, given those facts, the question now is who has to pay for the funeral expenses.

I put down a question to my right hon. Friend, the reply to which I thought to some extent gave the answer. I asked my right hon. Friend on 30 January whether he would make an analysis of what the death grant could be raised to if it was confined to those genuinely in need. I will summarise his very full answer. He said that it might be possible to raise the grant to £100. I hope my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State will give this point a moment's attention.

5.45 pm

If we raise the grant, it will enable those in need to receive a substantial sum and those not in need will not get any grant at all. I believe that that is fair. My hon. Friend may say that the administrative costs will be very great, but I turn back to what my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe said. He said that this could be adjusted on death and that, because those whose estates showed that they did not need it could not claim it, the grant would not be allowable. There must be some way in which we can confine the grant to those who need it and make it a realistic sum.

The hon. Member for Barking rightly said that it was the poorest members of our society who needed this grant. My hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe said that the people aged 80 and 90 were the sort of people to whom we should give a worthwhile grant. The amendment, in my opinion, would spread the jam far too thin over the bread. We must look for ways in which we can genuinely help those who need the grant. If a person dies, we must see that the relatives who cannot afford them receive a reasonable sum towards the funeral expenses.

I hope that my hon. Friend will turn her attention to the answer to my parliamentary question, which I thought was extremely clear. Is the cost of administration too much? Is there any possibility of confining the grant to those who genuinely need it? Should those to whom the grant goes be the people who carry out the burial or the relatives? The effect of the amendment is that the grant is not directed towards those in genuine need. We must find some selective method of making the grant worth while for those who need it.

I shall be as brief as I can, because I know that other hon. Members wish to speak and I am aware that we have a reasonable timetable to keep to.

I join my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Miss Richardson) in her tribute to the hon. Member for Brighton, Kemp-town (Mr. Bowden), who has consistently fought for and argued in favour of an increase in the death grant. I do not think any of us wishes to downgrade his contribution to this great campaign. It was the hon. Member for Kemptown who said that today probably the largest and most representative lobbies were the two which represented millions of people up and down the country, expressing concern about the death grant and the maternity benefit, as well as about the Government's nil-cost Social Security Bill. There is no doubt strong feeling in every constituency about the levels of grants, including the death grant.

The hon. Member for Kemptown also mentioned the early-day motion signed by members of the all-party pensioners group. That has attracted 192 signatures in this Parliament. That must surely say something to the Government. It must say something about constituency support and pressure on Members of Parliament—rightly in my view—for some alteration to these benefits, bearing in mind especially the high cost of dying.

I do not think that the Government are entitled completely to ignore that weight of opinion. I have always been told that when an early-day motion attracts 100 signatures it has almost reached the magic number which means that a debate may be requested. When an early-day motion has attracted nearly 200 signatures, I submit that one is almost entitled to a debate. With that strength and support across the Floor of the House, it is surely right to say that this is not a party matter. It is an all-party motion.

Surely the Government are bound to take notice of the content of the motion and the demand for a debate. I hope that we shall be supported in the Lobby by many of the Conservative Members who have signed the early-day motion, especially by those who have spoken on platforms outside the House on the death grant.

I know that the hon. Member for Kemptown is in a personal difficulty. The hon. Gentleman rightly said that he could not vote against the new clause but he has difficulty in voting for it. I appreciate that. I am in almost exactly the same position. I think that that is the position of most of us. We would prefer to argue for the figures contained in the early-day motion which many of us contend are minimum figures. However, those arguments were lost in Committee because of the voting in Divisions by right hon. and hon. Members on the Government Benches.

There are difficulties in presenting the argument on Report. We felt that it was necessary to have the issue redebated in public. There was almost total censorship of our proceedings in Committee. Apart from the honourable exception of The Times, it is necessary to search high and low for references to the debates that took place on the death grant, the maternity grant, child benefit, uprating and on shortfall in any of the other newspapers. We felt that it was necessary to have the issue debated in public in the Chamber so that our arguments would be heard and understood by the public.

I thank the Minister for supplying us with a pre-publication document. I was instrumental in asking that that be done. I recognised immediately I had read the first page that the hon. Lady was on a loser. She could not win. If she had not produced the document, she would have been accused of ducking it because it was unfavourable. If she had produced it, she would have been accused of producing it because it was favourable. I understand that and I sympathise with her.

The document contains a great deal of information. However, I do not think that it will contribute much to the argument in 1980. The document states:
"The information was collected in interviews with 1,339 people who had recently been responsible for meeting the funeral expenses of an adult dying in Great Britain. They were interviewed in the autumn of 1975 about deaths that had been registered in the autumn and early winter of 1974."
The interviews took place a year after the funerals, and the funerals took place six years ago. No one will deny that there has been a tremendous change in the climate, atmosphere and financial situation since then. We cannot gain much from the document apart from the general approach and people's attitudes. As has been said, it posed the wrong questions at the wrong time and to the wrong people. It was concerned not so much with relatives but with the problems and plight of old people. I recognise that those are serious problems. Many old people save what they think will be enough to meet their funeral expenses only to discover that they have not saved anywhere near enough.

A letter was read today at the Dignity in Death Alliance lobby from a clergyman living in South Wales who is connected with Age Concern. He said that he was horrified and shocked, having been present in the house of a deceased person when the undertaker arrived and the details were discussed, to learn that the simplest funeral without any trappings cost £468. That is a colossal amount. I know that the total cost is upwards of £400 in London for a simple funeral.

I know that even undertakers are concerned about the price of funerals. I have received a letter from an undertaker. The letter states that, despite the increased number of cremations—even the 1974 document mentions the increase—we still hang on to the need for two certificates if the body is to be cremated. The price has increased to £22 each. Therefore, the death grant does not cover the cost of the certificates. That must concern many people.

As the hon. Member for Kemptown said, concern about funeral expenses extends to the relatives of pensioners. Of course, many of the relatives of older pensioners are pensioners themselves. However, there are many children's organisations that are concerned about the present level of the death grant. Not long ago I received a harrowing letter from a constituent about the sad plight of a family whose child was involved in a road accident. That accident resulted in sudden death. The family was struggling to pay living expenses from the husband's wages. The husband and wife were bringing up two or three other children and they were in serious trouble. They were faced with a colossal bill for which no family budgets at that stage. So apart from pensioners, there are others who are equally seriously and tragically involved.

There are two main features of the amendment that surely commend themselves to the whole House. There has been procedural discussion on whether the level should be £45, £60 or £75. We have been told that no figure would be acceptable. As I have said, we believed that the paramount requirement was to have a debate. One feature of the amendment is that, if agreed to and imple- mented, the full rate would be payable for children. There is no reason why the children's rate should be so low. At present the grant is £9 for a child under three years of age. For a child between three years and six years it is £15. For a child between six years and 18 years it is £22. There is no justification for that. The amendment would make the full rate payable for children, and that would be across the board.

The second feature that I commend to the whole House is that the grant would be payable in full instead of a half payment for those in the older age bracket—the man over 87 years of age and the woman over 82 years of age. In Committee the Minister said:
"since 1967, when the death grant was £30, prices have increased by 280 per cent. But if we allowed for an illustrative 10 per cent. increase in prices between now and next November, the spirit of the amendment would requite the grant to rise to over £125, which would add over £50 million to the current expenditure or £16 million on the death grant."—[Official Report, Standing Committee E, 29 January 1980, c. 152.]
On that ground the hon. Lady considered the proposal to be unacceptable.

We estimate that the amendment would add about £10 million to current expenditure. However, it would do away with the anomalies that I have mentioned concerning children and the very old. It would be a minimal step forward. I hope that hon. Members on both sides of the Chamber will reconsider their position and support the amendment. I hope that we shall get on to the right lines and persuade the Government to consider the possibility of further increases.

6 pm

I rise to support the new clause and the amendment which seek to increase the death grant from £30 to £45 and the maternity grant from £25 to £40. This has been an extraordinarily civilised, polite and affable debate, given the subject matter and the fact that it is 13 years since the death grant was increased and 11 years since the maternity grant was increased. The death grant has stood at £30 for 13 years and to bring it up to its real value in 1967 purchasing terms it would need to be in the region of £120 to £130.

It is nothing short of a disgrace that successive Labour and Tory Governments have allowed those grants to stay put for such a long time, thus allowing their value and their purchasing power to be eroded. It cannot be anything but a scandal, yet here we are debating these grants in an old-pals, friendly, civilised, no-recriminations and no-complaints mood. The hon. Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Mr. Bowden) made the cop-out speech of the century when he said that he would not vote against the clause but that he could not find the courage to support it. That is an extraordinary state of affairs.

Hon. Members on both sides of the House have pointed out that the value of these benefits has been substantially eroded since the last increases were introduced by a Labour Government. They have been eroded to the extent that the average funeral now costs from £250 to £300 while the death grant has remained at £30. That is a relatively insignificant contribution towards the cost of a funeral compared to the contribution that it made when the grant was last increased, in 1967. The same factors apply to the maternity grant and the cost of having a baby.

As several hon. Members have said, by definition these costs bear most heavily upon the poorest and most vulnerable members of our community. Those costs do not matter to the very rich, to whom the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain) referred. A death grant of £30, £45 or £130 is irrelevant and immaterial to the rich. But that £30—or, as it should be, £130—is highly relevant to many of my unemployed constituents and to those who do not have substantial enough means to look after their dead.

I accept entirely what Conservative Members have said about elderly people being extremely worried. Old people do not like the notion of a pauper's funeral and a pauper's grave. They do not like to think that when they die an additional burden is placed upon their families. They wish to provide for themselves and to have a good send-off, as the expression has it in my constituency. However, they believe that that good send-off should be paid for by themselves.

It is not just young people who are expected to pay for funerals. Today, I had a letter from a constituent of mine who is in her sixties. Unfortunately, in the past week her mother and her motherin-law—both in their eighties—have died. Under the present rules, neither of those women was eligible for a death grant. Therefore, my constituent was unable to get any grant or assistance towards the cost of the two funerals. As the sole surviving relative of her mother-in-law and her mother, she, a pensioner in straitened and poverty-stricken circumstances, had to bear the full burden, without the help of a death grant, of the burial of both her relatives. Two deaths in a week must have been disturbing to a woman in her sixties, but to have experienced the added anxiety of having to find the money for the funerals by borrowing and begging from neighbours and friends and by going into debt is unacceptable. That situation would be covered by the motion.

It disturbs me that we have allowed the value of these grants to be eroded by inflation and that no Government have seen fit to increase them even minimally in line with the increase in the cost of living. But the argument advanced by the hon. Member for Kemptown also disturbs me. Of course an increase of 50 per cent. in the death grant is not enough. I accept that, and so do my right hon. and hon. Friends. Unlike the hon. Gentleman, in Committee they made the case for a greater increase. They put their votes where their mouths were and tabled the amendment. The hon. Gentleman did not table an amendment for the Committee stage. Even though he was not a member of the Committee, he was entitled to do so.

I find it extraordinary that the hon. Gentleman should go round the country—I do not doubt his sincerity—pontificating upon the problems of the elderly and the niggardliness of the Government in not increasing the death grant to the proper level. Tonight he has a golden opportunity to do something realistic and practical. He should vote with me and my right hon. and hon. Friends for what he believes should be given by way of grants. I do not talk of the full amount; I do not mean anything irresponsible. I am not talking about anything immoderate—not even the £130 that should be paid. I am talking of a fairly respectable, modest £45. Yet the hon. Member for Kemptown cannot find it in his heart, or find the courage, to do that.

The hon. Gentleman knows that neither we nor our constituents are given anything freely by the Government. One has to make raids on the Government. We are not the Government; nor is the hon. Gentleman. The Government are outside this House. We cannot determine priorities, nor can we determine the order in which matters are dealt with nor the way in which money is spent. But we can, in a cockeyed way, irrational way, determine that we must take the only opportunities available to us. This is one such opportunity. The opportunity was taken by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) in the matter of index-linked tax rates—the Rooker-Wise amendment. I took the opportunity to get war widows exempted from income tax. None of that would have happened had we left it to the Government. The hon. Gentleman now has an opportunity, in the light of his past record and his pronouncements in the country, to do something practical. He cannot in all conscience afford to miss that opportunity tonight.

I am intrigued to know why the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Mr. Kilroy-Silk) has reserved the most vitriolic part of his speech for his attack on an hon. Member who goes furthest towards agreeing with him.

If that part of my speech was vitriolic I do not know what I have been saying on other occasions. The hon. Members for Windsor and Maidenhead (Dr. Glyn), Folkestone and Hythe and Kemptown are saying the right things and displaying their sincerity in public, but when it comes to the crunch and they are asked to vote for the principle they all espouse and support, they cannot do it. They have neither the courage of their convictions nor the political will. I have got that, and so have my right hon. and hon. Friends, and we have had that political courage in the past. It ill hecomes Government supporters to lecture Labour Members when they are not prepared to put their votes where their convictions are.

I am being told by my Front Bench that I must conclude my remarks. I hope, therefore, that the hon. Member for Windsor and Maidenhead will forgive me if I do not give way to him.

Everyone accepts that these grants should have been increased a long time ago and that we should have determined as a House the proper and appropriate level at which they should be fixed, and that they should be index-linked. If we had done that we should not have the problem of attempting to force an unwilling and recalcitrant Government into performing what we all say is their public duty. We must have from the Minister tonight—it has been asked for by her hon. Friends as well as mine—a clear and specific commitment that the Government do not intend to let these grants wither away and become redundant by the gradual and erosive process of inflation. If the Minister intends to give that commitment she must say when and by how much the grants will be increased.

I apologise for not being in the Chamber at the beginning of the debate. Perhaps I should not apologise, because I was meeting people who were lobbying on this issue. I wish that some other hon. Members had been at that meeting to hear a tearful lady from Brent tell us that it cost £440 to bury her husband last week. What contribution is £30 towards such an expense? Hon. Members would have also heard a lady from the spina bifida group talk of collecting money in the streets to pay for the funerals of young children from poor families. They would have heard equally harrowing tales about the difficulties of elderly people and families with young children.

Many comments have been made that I should repeat if I had more time. I offer a warning. The Minister, good lady that she is, is about to distract us from the issue. I am sure that she will quote from the report on families and funerals. I am sure that she will use statistics and try to convince us of the wrong interpretation of those statistics. I shall put her right before she starts. That report confirms the oft-repeated phrase that there are
"lies, damned lies and statistics".
The way in which statistics are used in that report is devious.

The report purports to show that because 56 per cent. of recipients are able to meet the cost of a funeral the grant is not necessary. The reason for that is that elderly people skimp and save, particularly during retirement, often cutting food and fuel and thereby hastening death, in order to leave enough money to pay for a decent funeral and to avoid a pauper's burial.

The Government might use those statistics as an excuse to move in another direction, towards getting rid of the death grant. I warn the Government that there will be an uproar if they try to do that. The report says that 24 per cent. of recipients say that the grant makes only a small contribution to the cost. That is because the grant is so pitifully small. The only way to make a more significant contribution is to increase the grant.

I should be happier to vote for a major increase in the death grant. That is not possible, but it would be wrong of any Government Members who signed the early-day motions in this Parliament or the last and who said, when there was a Labour Government, that there should be a major increase in the death grant, to vote against even a small increase. That would be hypocrytical.

I shall be brief, because we are anxious to reach the debate on child benefits and we want adequate time to deal with that. I have received many letters from working-class families who are dismayed at the present level of the death grant. They want it to be improved to reflect the cost of living and the rate of inflation. They recognise, however, that any improvement would be an advantage. Many of the representations are from families who have not been able to save. They have spent all their incomes on bringing up their families and they simply do not have the hundreds of pounds now necessary for a funeral. Burial and funeral costs of about £400 cause enormous problems.

6.15 pm

I urge the Government to accept the modest proposition. The Under-Secretary of State is one of those bleeding-heart Tories who, when there was a Labour Government, travelled the country saying that a Tory Government would improve benefits all over the place. What do they do when they come to office? They give massive tax concessions to the well-off, which have achieved nothing. They have lined the pockets of their friends but they have not produced the jobs that they claimed would be produced through stimulating entrepreneurs.

Since the Government came to office 200,000 redundancies have occurred and few new jobs are in prospect. By giving tax concessions and not recognising the real and serious need for decent death and maternity grants the Government are taking away the opportunity to give money to those who are really in need.

I urge the Government to accept our modest and reasonable proposition. We know that it is not enough, but half a loaf is better than none. Let us have compassion. The Chief Secretary said that compassion was not limited to one side of the House. Compassion is indicated by action. Like intention, it is not easy to define without action. If the Government want to demonstrate that they have compassion they should agree to our proposals and take a tiny but moderate step towards the provision of adequate grants.

We have had an interesting debate, as we anticipated. It was a difficult debate because there was confusion between the two grants. I make no complaint about that, because there is an underlying debate about selectivity versus universality. Obviously we shall not solve that problem, because it goes beyond the two grants that we are discussing. My hon. Friend the Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. McCrindle) really put his finger on the problem when he talked about the size of the grant and whether the size was really important. I shall examine that question.

I am grateful to those who assisted in producing the 20 advance copies of the report. There are some errors in it, but it will be properly published in a few weeks. I thought that it was right to allow hon. Members to have it tonight.

The hon. Member for Stockport, North (Mr. Bennett) asked why the report was produced so long after the field work. Because of other work in the Department between 1976 and 1979 which had to be given greater priority, the report was not completed. Former Labour Ministers will be aware of the many demands that put the report at the back of the queue.

We realise the importance of putting the report on the record so that the debate can be widened by the information in the report. It may not be so relevant in absolute terms, but the detailed tables illustrate a certain direction. I am sure that hon. Members feel that it is important to have such research made available. Copies of the report will be put in both Libraries of the House.

When we consider who pays the funeral costs we find that there are some important dichotomies. About 63 per cent. of men are buried by their widows. In many of these cases there is no doubt that annuities and life assurance help to cope with funeral costs. On the other hand, the majority of women are buried by the next generation. Only 29 per cent. of women are buried by their bereaved spouses. We also know, within the limits of statistical probability, that in the survey a lower percentage of those who paid funeral bills were earners than was the case in the total population. If anything, we have erred on the side of those who had less resources to pay the funeral costs than those in the population at large. Set against that, I accept that the passage of six years puts a different complexion on the total cost. I do not deny that for one moment.

It is important to consider the sources of money used to meet funeral costs. There is no doubt that 83 per cent. of those in the survey mentioned the death grant and 59 per cent. mentioned a deceased's life assurance. Some mentioned 10 per cent. tax rebates. The point that impressed me about the detail that we have is that those whom I assume to be in most difficulty, and who would go for help to the Supplementary Benefits Commission or to collections from friends or neighbours, are very few. The Supplementary Benefits Commission helped in fewer than ½ per cent. of cases in the survey. Collections from neighbours or workmates and grants from voluntary associations applied to only about 3 per cent. Although I fully accept the tremendous fear, particularly among elderly people, about meeting their own funeral costs, I gained from the survey and other information the knowledge that there is money within families, both through the estate of the deceased and other sources, that in a majority of cases can help to meet funeral costs.

This bears out what was said by my hon. Friends the Members for Windsor and Maidenhead (Dr. Glyn) and Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain). There is a group in our society that has extreme difficulty in coping with the problem of meeting funeral costs, especially at today's prices, but it is not as widespread as it was some years ago. We must ask ourselves whether the new clause and the maternity grant amendment, to which I shall turn in a moment, meet the real needs that exist.

The £45 would be useful and much welcomed, but it may not be the first priority that the Government must face at a time of scarce resources.

I shall not give way. I promised the Opposition Front Bench that I should be as brief as I possibly could.

The direction of information has not been fully studied. Even I have not had the opportunity to study it in great detail. There is a signficant difference between the death grant and the maternity grant. We may discuss them both in the context of selectivity or universality. When a young woman becomes pregnant, especially if she is unmarried, very often she is left on her own resources, as the hon. Member for Barking (Miss Richardson) has so often said. In the case of family bereavement there is in the vast majority of cases a family to assist in the burial and funeral arrangements. Therefore, if we compare one with the other, we see that the young woman alone might not seek help early enough. She perhaps needs a greater incentive, and we should give her the first attention. On many occasions I have been asked what the Government would do about the two issues.

One member of the Opposition said that they expected to see compassion matched by action. In one small way we have started to do it—I accept that it is small and less than we wished—in making the maternity grant non-contributory. However, it is a small step, which will be brought in as soon as possible. At the moment it looks as though that will be November 1982. That is a small step at a time of the economic difficulties facing the country. However, it is by small steps that we shall advance on all these problems, including the problems of the death grant and the maternity grant.

The new clause and amendment would cost about £20 million. Obviously, I cannot forecast my right hon. and learned Friend's Budget Statement. That is another reason for not forcasting the result of the present study.

The hon. Member for Stockport, North asked a number of questions both in Committee and since. He asked about the administration of the death grant, and death grant procedures. He will be happy to know that the review of death grant procedures, forms, and the obsolete items that he saw in a local office that he visited some weeks ago, is being carried out alongside a thorough study of the data put before us.

I gave an assurance to the two joint chairmen of the all-party committee on pensioners, who worked so hard—I refer especially to my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Mr. Bowden)—to bring to the notice of Parliament, and especially that of Ministers, the problems faced by those who are left with the bills for funerals. I told both my hon. Friend and the hon. Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. Stallard) that we would consider every representation sent in on this issue and that we would make a decision when the report was available and the facts were clear. Already a wide variety of information is coming in.

No decisions have been taken on the question of selectivity versus universality. Selectivity does not necessarily mean means testing. Everybody has fallen into the trap of believing that if we are selective there must be some means-testing answer. There may be—I have no information to give to the House—another means of helping those who are most in need of help with funeral costs.

If I give way now, the House will be detained for far longer than the Opposition would like.

The situation is complicated. It would be helped by this expenditure. However, under present circumstances there is not the money to meet the amendment. We wish to consider in greater detail the representations made.

New clause 1, which was moved by the Opposition, would not make the grant payable to the men who were over 65 and women over 60 on 5 July 1948 and who today do not qualify for a grant. I must give that warning. The Act specifically provides that no grant shall be payable in such cases. I accept that that provision could be amended. However, the new clause does not do what the right hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) said it did. I regret that the state of the nation does not give us the funds to accept these new clauses and amendments today. We are thoroughly examining the whole matter. Of that I assure the House. I have nothing but understanding for those who face the problem. However, I regret that at present we cannot accept the new clause or the amendment.

We hope that as inflation starts to be brought under control it will be possible to improve those benefits for which people often call without counting the cost or considering the source from which they will be paid. Then, improvements may become a reality.

6.30 pm

I am afraid that is a pretty feeble start to our proceedings as far as the Government response is concerned, and I imagine that we are going to have a great deal more of it both tonight and tomorrow. The Minister hardly discussed the issue of the new clause or the amendment. She touched on it in passing, almost, and spent more of the time she devoted to the death grant, quoting from or paraphrasing the report, that is to be published in a week or two's time, than she did discussing the very moderate proposals that we have put forward.

On the death grant, she said—I think I took down her words accurately—"Of course, I fully accept the tremendous fear of elderly people about funeral costs". Then she made some other comments, and said "but it is not as widespread as years ago". That about summed up her view.

In Committee, as I indicated in an intervention earlier tonight, on this as on other matters we put forward proposals urging an even greater increase, in the spirit of the hon. Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Mr. Bowden), the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain), the hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. McCrindle) and the hon. Member for Windsor and Maidenhead (Dr. Glyn). We argued in favour of a sum of about £135, to try to upgrade the grant in real terms to the 1967 level. Of course, we were told that was far too costly and that we could not afford it, and the hon. Lady quoted figures in which she calculated that it would mean another £50 million on the death grant alone.

We argued forcefully on this, as on other matters, the principle of either practical or statutory indexation. Again, we were told that this would be pre-empting the choice of the Government, and, indeed, of Parliament. So we lost on both counts. It was not that we did not try and it is not that we do not believe it to be right now to go for £135 to £140 for the death grant and an appropriate figure, which I will come to later, for the maternity grant, and for other changes. We know that procedurally there are difficulties in returning to the same issues in identical form on Report after they have been dealt with and defeated in Committee. In any case, our views would not be accepted, nor would hon. Gentlemen have their views accepted by their own Government.

We put forward very moderate proposals, and I am truly sorry that we have come to this, after the extensive debate and argument we had in Committee, after all the information that has been published—not only the report that has been referred to, but other documentation, and representations from the Death in Dignity Alliance, from the Child Poverty Action Group in connection with other matters, and the like. I am deeply sorry that we have come to this and that we shall be coming to other matters on which we shall be getting a negative response, I fear, tonight and tomorrow. But if we do our best to withdraw and make some little move forward, even this is rejected by the Government. The hon. Lady did not advance any argument; she simply repeated at the end that the £10 million to provide for this marginal increase cannot be afforded.

I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman could explain to the House—I really am seeking information from him—why, if he fought so hard in Committee because he believed it important that there should be an increase of £120 or so in the death grant in 1980, he did not when he was in government do something in 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978 or 1979.

It was quite wrong not to have done so. [Interruption.] That is not a joke; it is honesty. I hope that I shall get support in the Lobby tonight from those who are cheering me now. But, this point, too, was argued very extensively in Committee. I believe that we must choose priorities. We also recognise arguments when they are put to us that to aggregate all the things that one is putting forward, which is what hon. Members do in Committee when campaigning on particular issues, will cost too much to do in one or two years, or whatever the time may be.

So I reply to the hon. Gentleman in the same spirit as I did on Second Reading when discussing a much wider issue on the Bill, by saying that while that is perfectly true, in good times as well as in bad, economically speaking we try to create a strategy in order to move forward in stages; we campaign and implement stage by stage things that we wish to see done. Not enough was done in many fields in those five years, or indeed in the 11 out of the 15 years, or whatever it was, in which there was a Labour Government. This was also true in the time of the last Tory Government. But a lot of things were done, and we shall be returning to some of those things later today and tomorrow. We covered them also in Committee.

Had we stayed in office, other things would have been done. It was not that nothing was done; a lot was done—all the things that the hon. Gentleman supported at the time and wishes to see more done about now. That is my answer—that everything cannot be done in one month, or six months, or twelve months but that these things are done stage by stage and a commitment is made to do more as they are completed.

That brings me to a very important point, which will be repeated, probably, on other occasions during the course of our debate and on other occasions in this House, I am sorry to say, in the next few years. We ended, as I said a moment ago, with the hon. Lady saying that we really could not afford the £10 million and whatever additional sum would be required for the maternity grant. But this country was much poorer in 1945–46, when the death grant was proposed in readiness for the 1948 legislation. It was a much poorer country in the 1940s and 1950s, when we introduced other steps to implement the concept of the Welfare State in a variety of fields.

Furthermore, during the periods of Labour Government in 11 out of the last 15 years we were not without economic crises or financial problems. We have had these for many decades, but tonight is not the occasion for an economic review. But one thing that we tried to do and, on the whole, did effectively, was to protect the worst-off in our society by deliberate acts of policy.

The present Government have done the opposite, and the hon. Lady knows it in her heart. She does not like saying that we cannot afford £10 million for this moderate proposal. She does not like saying that we cannot afford £15 on top of the present maternity grant. In Committee we argued in favour of £80-odd on the maternity grant. I am not going to review all the arguments that we put for-

Division No. 231]AYES[6.40 pm
Abse, LeoCampbell-Savours, DaleDeakins, Eric
Adams, AllenCanavan, DennisDean, Joseph (Leeds West)
Allaun, FrankCant, R. B.Dempsey, James
Alton, DavidCarter-Jones, LewisDixon, Donald
Archer, Rt Hon PeterCartwright, JohnDobson, Frank
Armstrong, Rt Hon ErnestClark, David (South Shields)Dormand, Jack
Ashley, Rt Hon JackCocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S)Douglas, Dick
Atkinson, Norman (H'gay, Tott'ham)Cohen, StanleyDouglas-Mann, Bruce
Bagier, Gordon A. T.Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.Dubs, Alfred
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)Conlan, BernardDuffy, A. E. P.
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood)Cook, Robin F.Dunn, James A. (Liverpool, Kirkdale)
Benn, Rt Hon Anthony WedgwoodCox, Tom (Wandsworth, Tooting)Dunnett, Jack
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)Craigen, J. M. (Glasgow, Maryhill)Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Booth, Rt Hon AlbertCrowther, J. S.Eadie, Alex
Boothroyd, Miss BettyCryer, BobEastham, Ken
Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur (M'brough)Cunliffe, LawrenceEdwards, Robert (Wolv SE)
Bowden, AndrewCunningham, George (Islington S)Ellis, Raymond (NE Derbyshire)
Bray, Dr JeremyCunningham, Dr John (Whitehaven)Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)Dalyell, TamEnglish, Michael
Brown, Ronald W. (Hackney S)Davidson, ArthurEnnals, Rt Hon David
Brown, Ron (Edinburgh, Leith)Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)Evans, loan (Aberdare)
Buchan, NormanDavies, Ifor (Gower)Evans, John (Newton)
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)Davis, Clinton (Hackney Central)Ewing, Harry
Campbell, IanDavis, Terry (B'rm'ham, Stechford)Field, Frank

ward, which have been touched upon briefly again here, in favour of improving the death and maternity grants. I made my speeches in Committee, as others did, and it is all on the record. But I say that we can afford this money.

We can certainly afford the moderate proposals that we are putting forward in the new clause and the amendment, and there is not one hon. Member opposite who really believes otherwise. If anything, we have been criticised for not being radical enough tonight. In Committee we were being criticised and attacked for being too radical. Where do we end up? Will we have one hon. Gentleman not just campaigning outside the House but campaigning where it counts—in the Lobby? The Government have no reason to be satisfied with the spirit in which they approach these matters. I suspect that we shall be repeating that theme during the course of the next day or so and on other occasions.

We are moving into a shameful period in our country's political history, when we can afford to do many things and are deliberately not doing them. I suggest that the Government should quickly change their mind and at least make a modest move in our direction. I hope that we shall have some support in the Lobby from the Government Benches in favour of these moderate proposals.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 246, Noes 300.

Fitch, AlanLestor, Miss Joan (Eton & SloughRoberts, Gwilym (Cannock)
Flannery, MartinLewis, Ron (Carlisle)Robertson, George
Fletcher, L. R. (Ilkeston)Litherland, RobertRobinson, Geoffrey (Coventry NW)
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)Lofthouse, GeoffreyRooker, J. W.
Foot, Rt Hon MichaelLyon, Alexander (York)Ross, Ernest (Dundee West)
Forrester, JohnLyons, Edward (Bradford West)Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Foster, DerekMabon, Rt Hon Dr J. DicksonRowlands, Ted
Foulkes, GeorgeMcCartney, HughRyman, John
Fraser, John (Lambeth, Norwood)McDonald, Dr OonaghSandelson, Neville
Freeson, Rt Hon ReginaldMcElhone, FrankSever, John
Freud, ClementMcGuire, Michael (Ince)Sheerman, Barry
Garrett, John (Norwich S)McKay, Allen (Penistone)Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert (A'ton-u-L)
George, BruceMcKelvey, WilliamShore, Rt Hon Peter (Step and Pop)
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr JohnMacKenzie, Rt Hon GregorSilkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)
Ginsburg, DavidMaclennan, RobertSilkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
Golding, JohnMcMillan, Tom (Glasgow, Central)Silverman, Julius
Gourlay, HarryMcNally, ThomasSmith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Graham, TedMcNamara, KevinSmith, Rt Hon J. (North Lanarkshire)
Grant, George (Morpeth)McWilliam, JohnSnape, Peter
Grant, John (Islington C)Magee, BryanSoley, Clive
Grimond, Rt Hon J.Marks, KennethSpearing, Nigel
Hamilton, James (Bothwell)Marshall, David (Gl'sgow,Sheltles'n)Spriggs, Leslie
Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)Stallard, A. W.
Hardy, PeterMarshall, Jim (Leicester South)Steel, Rt Hon David
Harrison, Rt Hon WalterMartin, Michael (Gl'gow, Springb'rn)Stewart, Rt Hon Donald (W Isles)
Hart, Rt Hon Dame JudithMason, Rt Hon RoyStoddart, David
Hattersley, Rt Hon RoyMaxton, JohnStott, Roger
Haynes, FrankMaynard, Miss JoanStrang, Gavin
Heffer, Eric S.Meacher, MichaelStraw, Jack
Hogg, Norman (E Dunbartonshire)Mellish, Rt Hon RobertSummerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Home Robertson, JohnMikardo, IanTaylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton West)
Homewood, WilliamMiller, Dr M. S. (East Kilbride)Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Hooley, FrankMitchell, Austin (Grimsby)Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Horam, JohnMorris, Rt Hon Alfred (Wythenshawe)Thomas, Mike (Newcastle East)
Howell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H)Morris, Rt Hon Charles (Openshaw)Thomas, Dr Roger (Carmarthen)
Howells, GeraintMorton, GeorgeThorne, Stan (Preston South)
Huckfield, LesNewens, StanleyTilley, John
Oakes, Rt Hon GordonTorney, Tom
Hudson Davies, Gwilym EdnyfedOgden, EricVarley Rt Hon Eric G.
Hughes, Mark (Durham)O'Halloran, MichaelWalker Rt Hon Harold (Doncaster)
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen North)O'Neill MartinWatkins David
Hughes, Roy (Newport)Orme, Rt Hon StanleyWeetch, Ken
Janner, Hon GrevilleOwen, Rt Hon Dr DavidWelsh, Michael
Jay, Rt Hon DouglasPalmer, ArthurWhile, Frank R. (Bury & Radcliffe)
John, BrynmorPark, GeorgeWhitlock, William
Johnson, James (Hull West)Parker, JohnWigley, Dafydd
Johnson, Walter (Derby South)Parry, RobertWilley, Rt Hon Frederick
Johnston, Russell (Inverness)Pavitt, LaurieWilliams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Jones, Rt Hon Alec (Rhondda)Pendry, TomWilliams, Sir Thomas (Warrington)
Jones, Barry (East Flint)Penhaligon, DavidWilson, Rt Hon Sir Harold (Huyton)
Jones, Dan (Burnley)Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch (S Down)Wilson, William (Coventry SE)
Kaufman, Rt Hon GeraldPowell, Raymond (Ogmore)Winnick, David
Kerr, RussellPrescott, JohnWoodall, Alec
Kilfedder, James A.Race, RegWright, Sheila
Kilroy-Silk, RobertRadice, GilesYoung, David (Bolton East)
Lambie, DavidRees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds South)
Lamborn, HarryRichardson, JoTELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Lamond, JamesRoberts, Albert (Normanton)Mr. Donald Coleman and
Leadbitter, TedRoberts, Allan (Bootle)Mr. James Tinn.
Leighton, RonaldRoberts, Ernest (Hackney North)


Adley, RobertBonsor, Sir NicholasCarlisle, John (Luton West)
Altken, JonathanBoscawen, Hon RobertCarlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Alexander, RichardBottomley, Peter (Woolwich West)Carlisle, Rt Hon Mark (Runcorn)
Amery, Rt Hon JulianBoyson, Dr RhodesChalker, Mrs Lynda
Ancram, MichaelBraine, Sir BernardChannon, Paul
Arnold, TomBright, GrahamChapman, Sydney
Aspinwall, JackBrinton, TimChurchill, W. S.
Atkins, Robert (Preston North)Brittan, LeonClark, Hon Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)
Atkinson, David (B'mouth, East)Brooke, Hon PeterClark, Sir William (Croydon South)
Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset)Brotherton, MichaelClarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)
Beaumont-Dark, AnthonyBrown, Michael (Brigg & Sc'thorpe)Clegg, Sir Walter
Bell, Sir RonaldBrowne, John (Winchester)Colvin, Michael
Bendall, VivianBruce-Gardyne, JohnCope, John
Benyon, Thomas (Abingdon)Bryan, Sir PaulCormack, Patrick
Benyon, W. (Buckingham)Buchanan-Smith, Hon AlickCorrie, John
Best, KeithBuck, AntonyCostain, A.P.
Bevan, David GilroyBudgen, NickCritchley, Julian
Biffen, Rt Hon JohnBulmer, EsmondCrouch, David
Biggs-Davison, JohnBurden, F. A.Dean, Paul (North Somerset)
Blackburn, JohnButcher, JohnDickens, Geoffrey
Blaker, PeterButler, Hon AdamDorrell, Stephen
Body, RichardCadbury, JocelynDouglas-Hamilton, Lord James

du Cann, Rt Hon EdwardLamont, NormanRidley, Hon Nicholas
Dunn, Robert (Dartford)Lang, IanRifkind, Malcolm
Durant, TonyLangford-Holt, Sir JohnRippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Dykes, HughLatham, MichaelRoberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)
Eden, Rt Hon Sir JohnLawrence, IvanRoberts, Wyn (Conway)
Edwards, Rt Hon N. (Pembroke)Lawson, NigelRossi, Hugh
Eggar, TimothyLennox-Boyd, Hon MarkRost, Peter
Elliott, Sir WilliamLester, Jim (Beeston)Royle, Sir Anthony
Emery, PeterLewis, Kenneth (Rutland)Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Eyre, ReginaldLloyd, Ian (Havant & Waterloo)St. John-Slevas, Rt Hon Norman
Fairbairn, NicholasLloyd, Peter (Fareham)Scott, Nicholas
Fairgrieve, RussellLuce, RichardShaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Faith, Mrs SheilaLyell, NicholasShelton, William (Streatham)
Farr, JohnMcCrindle, RobertShepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Fell, AnthonyMacfarlane, NeilShepherd, Richard (Aldridge-Br'hills)
Fenner, Mrs PeggyMacGregor, JohnShersby, Michael
Finsberg, GeoffreyMacKay, John (Argyll)Silvester, Fred
Fisher, Sir NigelMcNair-Wilson, Michael (Newbury)Skeet, T. H. H.
Fletcher, Alexander (Edinburgh N)McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)Smith, Dudley (War. and Leam'ton)
Fletcher-Cooke, CharlesMcQuarrie, AlbertSpeed, Keith
Fookes, Miss JanetMadel, DavidSpeller, Tony
Forman, NigelMajor, JohnSpence, John
Fowler, Rt Hon NormanMarland, PaulSpicer, Jim (West Dorset)
Fox, MarcusMarlow, TonySpicer, Michael (S Worcestershire)
Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St)Marshall, Michael (Arundel)Sproat, Iain
Fraser, Peter (South Angus)Mates, MichaelSquire, Robin
Galbraith, Hon T. G. D.Mather, CarolStainton, Keith
Gardiner, George (Reigate)Maude, Rt Hon AngusStanbrook, Ivor
Gardner, Edward (South Fylde)Mawby, RayStanley, John
Garel-Jones, TristanMawhinney, Dr BrianSteen, Anthony
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir IanMaxwell-Hyslop, RobinStevens, Martin
Glyn, Dr AlanMayhew, PatrickStewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Goodhew, VictorMellor, DavidStewart, John (East Renfrewshire)
Goodlad, AlastairMeyer, Sir AnthonyStokes, John
Gorst, JohnMiller, Hal (Bromsgrove & Redditch)Stradling Thomas, J.
Gow, IanMills, Iain (Meriden)Tapsell, Peter
Gower, Sir RaymondMills, Peter (West Devon)Taylor, Robert (Croydon NW)
Grant, Anthony (Harrow C)Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)Taylor, Teddy (Southend East)
Gray, HamishMoate, RogerTebbit, Norman
Greenway, HarryMonro, HectorTemple-Morris, Peter
Grieve, PercyMontgomery, FergusThomas, Rt Hon Peter (Hendon S)
Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St Edmunds)Moore, JohnThompson, Donald
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)Morris, Michael (Northampton, Sth)Thorne, Neil (Ilford South)
Grylls, MichaelMorrison, Hon Charles (Devizes)Thornton, Malcolm
Gummer, John SelwynMorrison, Hon Peter (City of Chester)Townend, John (Bridlington)
Hamilton, Hon Archie (Eps'm&Ew'll)Mudd, DavidTownsend, Cyril D. (Bexleyheath)
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)Murphy, ChristopherTrippler, David
Hannam, JohnMyles, DavidTrotter, Neville
Haselhurst, AlanNeale, Gerrardvan Straubenzee, W. R.
Havers, Rt Hon Sir MichaelNeedham, RichardVaughan, Dr Gerard
Hawksley, WarrenNelson, AnthonyViggers, Peter
Hayhoe, BarneyNeubert, MichaelWaddington, David
Heath, Rt Hon EdwardNewton, TonyWakeham, John
Heddle, JohnNormanton, TomWaldegrave, Hon William
Henderson, BarryNott, Rt Hon JohnWalker, Rt Hon Peter (Worcester)
Heseltine, Rt Hon MichaelOppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs SallyWalker, Bill (Perth & E Perthshire)
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.Osborn, JohnWalker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir Derek
Hill, JamesPage, John (Harrow, West)Wall, Patrick
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Grantham)Page, Rt Hon Sir R. GrahamWalters, Dennis
Hooson, TomPage, Richard (SW Hertfordshire)Ward, John
Hordern, PeterParris, MatthewWarren, Kenneth
Howe, Rt Hon Sir GeoffreyPatten, Christopher (Bath)Watson, John
Howell, Rt Hon David (Guildford)Patten, John (Oxford)Wells, John (Maidstone)
Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)Pawsey, JamesWells, Bowen (Hert'rd & Stev'nage)
Hunt, David (Wirral)Percival, Sir IanWheeler, John
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)Pink, R. BonnerWhitelaw, Rt Hon William
Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)Pollock, AlexanderWhitney, Raymond
Jenkin, Rt Hon PatrickPrentice, Rt Hon RegWickenden, Keith
Jessel, TobyPrice, David (Eastleigh)Wiggin, Jerry
Johnson Smith, GeoffreyPrior, Rt Hon JamesWilkinson, John
Jopling, Rt Hon MichaelProctor, K. HarveyWilliams, Delwyn (Montgomery)
Joseph, Rt Hon Sir KeithPym, Rt Hon FrancisWinterton, Nicholas
Kaberry, Sir DonaldRalson, TimothyWolfson, Mark
Kellett-Bowman, Mrs ElaineRathbone, TimYoung, Sir George (Acton)
Kimball, MarcusRees, Peter (Dover and Deal)Younger, Rt Hon George
King, Rt Hon TomRees-Davies, W. R.
Kitson, Sir TimothyRenton, TimTELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Knight, Mrs JillRhodes, James, RobertMr. Spencer Le Marchant and
Knox, DavidRhys Williams, Sir BrandonMr. Anthony Berry.

Question accordingly negatived.

We now come to new clause 2, with which it is convenient to take amendment (a), new clause 5 and new clause 9.

I should like to ask for some clarification on new clause 2, amendment (a) in the names of Conservative Members, and new clause 9. I understand that if a debate took place until 9 pm on new clause 2, amendment (a) would fall. We would not, therefore, be able to take amendment (a) or new clause 9. Is it the case, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that if we were to dispense with nevi clause 2 before 9 pm, we could take new clause 9 at the time of the guillotine. Can you help me on the position?

The right hon. Gentleman is correct. The only difficulty is that there may be some intervening clauses that would have to be taken before new clause 9 was reached or not moved.

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It puts the House in some difficulty. We wish to move new clause 2 for reasons that I shall explain, but I know that there are strong feelings in regard to amendment (a) and new clause 9, which we would also wish to discuss. Can you explain, Mr. Deputy Speaker, what are the intervening amendments that give rise to difficulty? There is only new clause 5 that intervenes. [HON. MEMBERS: "There are new clauses 3, 4, 5 and 6."] I understand that there are new clauses 3, 4, 5 and 6.

The usual procedure is to work through the Amendment Paper as printed and take the new clauses and then the various amendments in accordance with the place where they appear in the Bill. In those circumstances, everything that appears before new clause 9 would have to be out of the way before the House could vote on new clause 9.

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I understood that so long as we had moved to a vote by 9 pm, you would have to put amendment (a) to new clause 2 at that time. Is that not correct?

The debate up to 9 pm in those circumstances would be on new clause 2. Until the Question that new clause 2 be read a Second time was disposed of it would not be possible to take a vote on amendment (a). In those circumstances, anything that happened after 9 pm, if new clause 2 had not been read a Second time, would not be called.

Further to the point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I seek further guidance. I understand from what you say that the substantive debate will be on new clause 2 and that at the end of that debate you will put the Question that the new clause be read a Second time. If that is passed, we can proceed to other amendments, grouped with new clause 2. If that fails, am I right in understanding that the amendments and the other new clauses grouped with it would fall as well?

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. If the House wishes to take a decision on the £1·20 increase in both amendment (a) to new clause 2 and in new clause 9, am I right in saying that the House will have to dispose of new clause 2 and get rid of, or not have moved, intervening new clauses, so that by 9 pm the House would need to be discussing new clause 9 to get a vote on a £1·20 increase in child benefit?

That clarifies a tricky situation. We are in an unusual situation. We have a new clause that calls for a £6 rate for child benefit with an amendment that I would have been prepared to accept. Under normal procedure that amendment would become part of the new clause and the £1·20 would replace the £2 increase. I understand from your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that this is not possible and that the House will not be able to vote on amendment (a) in any circumstances. Is that correct?

Only if we happen to have dealt with the Question that new clause 2 be read a Second time before 9 pm and there is time to spare.

I understand that new clause 2 would have to be passed before we could deal with this point. There would be some difficulty in achieving that—

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am assuming that the right hon. Gentleman has not yet moved new clause 2. Would it be right to say that if the right hon. Gentleman did not move new clause 2, we would move to the next new clause in the selection? It would then be possible to hold, on new clause 9, the debate that most hon. Members were anticipating would arise on new clause 2 combined with amendment (a).

7 pm

If the Opposition declined to move new clauses 2, 3 and 4, and if my hon. Friend the Member for Kensington (Sir B. Rhys Williams) declined to move new clause 5, is it right to assume that we could reach new clause 9 in about two minutes?

It is not in my gift, but in the gift of the hon. Member for Kensington (Sir B. Rhys Williams) to decline to move new clause 5.

If it would help the House, I should be prepared not to move new clause 5.