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Column 697--not so far covered--room thermostats, improvements to heating systems, and so on. Will that be in the next financial year, or in the great blue yonder?
Finally, there is the reference--great so far as I am concerned, if it ever comes about--to advice and practical assistance as regards more efficient domestic appliances in low-income households. I am not sure how many low- income households have, say, dishwashers or freezers, but those which have should obviously have appliances that operate on a low-energy-consumption basis to keep electricity bills down. Obviously very few low-income households are in a position to buy new domestic appliances. For the purpose of achieving lower heating bills they usually buy the cheapest appliances, which are the ones that result in the highest fuel bills. When will this come about? Will it be in six or seven years' time? Or do the Government envisage it happening next year?
We want to know the aim of this scheme. Will the Government try to sell it, completely fraudulently, as a measure that will contribute to a solution of the greenhouse gases problem and the overall question of energy-efficiency improvement in this country? If that is the case, it is a fraud, because there is nothing in the Bill that indicates that energy consumption overall can be reduced. The poorer the family, the more likely it is that it will derive benefit from improved insulation for greater warmth and comfort rather than from reduced energy consumption.
If this is part of the great drive by the Prime Minister or the Secretary of State for the Environment to reduce Britain's contribution to the greenhouse gas problem, it is absolute nonsense. Yet again we are in serious danger of the Government merely confirming their overall policy on pensions, on social security and now on energy efficiency. They are walking straight into the trap of Reagan's America and creating a two thirds, one third society. This is energy efficiency for the under-class ; we want a lot more than that.
Mr. Thomas Graham (Renfrew, West and Inverclyde) : I wish that we had a big blackboard in the Chamber tonight--we have heard so many facts and figures. However, we have not had much compassion from Conservative Members about what is happening to the ordinary men and women who live on state benefits. I was surprised to hear the argument about the relative poor here and in India. Do the Government not understand what poverty is all about? Do Conservative Members not walk the streets of their constituencies?
In recent months I have spoken to many organisations about poverty and about the struggle to live. The churches have got together to produce a document entitled "Hearing the Cry of the Poor", and subtitled "A Declaration by Church Action on Poverty." Some of the statements in the document are most revealing. The Church has not been known as a radical organisation, supportive of Socialism, but it is nevertheless concerned about what is happening to ordinary men and women in this country and to their families. The document states : "It cannot be right :
--that some have to survive on less than £60 per week while others receive pay rises of £3,000 per week.
Column 698--that benefit levels are so low that loans are needed for essential items.
--that more people are begging in the street.
--that young people are living in cardboard boxes
--that the mentally ill are discharged from hospitals without adequate support.
It cannot be right :
--to cut taxes as an incentive to the rich but reduce incomes to spur on the poor.
--that economic growth is paid for by those excluded from its benefits."
The Minister and the Secretary of State must have read that document. It is an indictment of the Government if the churches are saying, "Enough is enough. It is time for the Government to do something to help the poor."
I believe that I know my constituents. I know the problems that they are experiencing because I have lived in poverty. I know what it is to use up a week's wages the day one receives them paying high rents, and for food and clothes. I challenge the Minister or any Conservative Member to answer some questions. My first relates to pensioners' food. What is the cost of half a dozen eggs, a loaf of bread, a large tin of beans and 2 lb of potatoes? If any Conservative Member can tell me the cost, I should be delighted to have their intervention.
I ask the Minister to answer these important questions because the Minister and the Secretary of State and their party's supporters should be asking the public, "What does it cost to heat your house?" How much is a bottle of Calor gas and how long does it last? What does a hundredweight of coal cost? I challenge any Conservative Member to tell me that, yet they should all know it if they claim to represent the people and especially the poor. How much does a gallon of paraffin cost and for how long does it heat an average-size room? How much does a week's electricity cost in Glasgow?
I challenge the Minister or any Conservative Member to answer my questions. Do Conservative Members know the cost of those essential commodities? I will even allow the Minister's civil servants to give her the prices, but I am sure that they will not. Until Ministers and Conservative Members in general understand the needs of our elderly people and of the families that we represent, the Government will never get their figures right or eliminate poverty or inequality. What does a pair of shoes cost? I spent a full year leading a team investigating the needs of elderly people in areas of priority treatment--in places where deprivation was found in such multiples that even the Government recognised that they had to provide some money. We visited most of the pensioners' groups and asked them about the problems that they were facing. The pensioners' problems were simple. They could not afford to eat properly. They could not afford to buy proper food. They could not heat their houses. They could afford to heat only one room.
Does the Minister know where those areas are? I should be delighted to take the Minister or the Secretary of State to them if I thought that they could do something for the people there which would make it worth my spending time with them.
I have met elderly men and women whose suffering would have broken the Minister's heart. They could not go out to buy a pair of shoes when they needed them. They could not afford to buy a heavy overcoat in the winter. They did not have sufficient finances to clothe themselves, to heat their homes or to eat.
Column 699My local authority had to set up a winter care centre in Strathclyde. We had to take elderly people into a heated hall to give them bowls of soup. Who would have believed that in this day and age in Britain we would have to heat halls so that we could take our elderly folk there to give them bowls of soup? We had to do that because in the previous year people had died of hypothermia in their homes.
The Government recognise that there are areas of priority treatment, so why do they not recognise that our pensions are almost the worst in Europe? I have visited parts of Europe such as Germany and France. My mother and my mother-in-law are elderly and both live alone on their pensions. My late father fought in the war. I am not a warmonger, but I wonder who won the war. The Germans provide their folk with decent housing, decent health services and a decent education system. The German Government treat their elderly people with compassion, love and understanding. It is time that the Government realised that if we do not look after our elderly, there is nothing worth living for.
The Bill is a miserable package delivered by miserable people. I plead with the Government to have some goodness in their hearts and assist our people who are at the bottom of the pile. They should stop helping the champagne charlies and the designer-wearing wimps and help the ordinary people who put the Government into power. I hope that those same people will put the Government out at the next general election.
Mr. Michael Jack (Fylde) : I shall make a brief contribution to this important debate. I do not recognise the picture that has been painted from the Opposition Benches. As has been pointed out by Conservative Members, the payment of more than £1,000 million per week in social security benefits is a testament of the Government's concern for those in society who are in real need.
Clause 1 includes an act of great compassion. It makes the attendance allowance available at an earlier stage to those who are terminally ill, bringing an additional 58,000 people into benefit. That is a measure of how the Government are trying to improve the social security system. It is also a demonstration of the Government's commitment to organisations such as hospices. I should be grateful for confirmation that the attendance allowance will be available to people who are dying in their own homes as well as people in hospices. The greatest thing for somebody who is faced with death, perhaps through the tragedy of cancer, is the ability to die with dignity. Agencies such as the MacMillan nurses and other caring groups, who can be afforded by the availability of the benefit, will enable those people to die with dignity. I saw the type of nursing care that can be administered by those people when my father-in-law died from cancer of the liver. It is real care that counts and it is greatly appreciated by the families. I congratulate the Government on introducing the Bill.
I and other hon. Members have received representations about the position of carers and several hon. Members have referred to that this evening. Although the Bill does not specifically deal with that matter, I urge my right hon. and hon. Friends to think again about the various forms of help for carers. There seems to be a
Column 700difference between the treatment of those of retirement age and those who are below retirement age who care for loved ones. There should be some consistency. The Government, rightly, are encouraging those of pensionable age to contribute to society. They have removed the effect on a person's pension of his going out and doing some work. Work in the home--caring--is just as valid as work in the community for other rewards. If my right hon. and hon. Friends can find time in Committee to consider that aspect, it would be warmly welcomed.
The Government have recognised some of the growing pains caused by the increasing mobility of people with pensions. I am glad that the ombudsman and register provisions have been made. Many people who move from job to job sometimes forget that they have a pension entitlement. In a way, I am a little sad that the Bill does not go further. Some issues in the pension industry need attention--for example, surpluses in company pension funds and pension holidays. As the pension industry grows--encouraged by the Government, enabling people to make the right self-help provisions for their old-age--people will say, "Perhaps we, too, have some claim on the surpluses of the pension funds." If a company seeks a pension holiday, perhaps we should gain from that--[ Hon. Members :--"Oh!"] Despite the derisory calls from the Opposition, I believe that that is right and proper. Anything that can be done to enhance the private provision of pensions allows more money from the state system of help for those without occupational pensions to be targeted carefully. There is still an underlying problem in that not enough people have good-quality company pension schemes.
I commend the Bill to the House. I congratulate the Government on making progress in their treatment of those who are in genuine need of help.
Ms. Dawn Primarolo (Bristol, South) : Unfortunately, in the Social Security Bill the Government are doing what they have done in many other Bills--they identify a vulnerable group and use it to disguise their meanness and their callousness.
I am sure that every hon. Member will welcome the automatic right to attendance allowance for those who are terminally ill. We need reminding of the debates on attendance allowance in other social security Bill Standing Committees. In 1987, the Committee on the Social Security Bill discussed the two qualifications then in place--the six-month qualification and the age bar, whereby any child under two, however severely disabled and however much care was needed, was not entitled to attendance allowance. I understand that the Minister has removed that age bar. By far the most sensible thing to do would be to abolish the six-month rule. Rigorous criteria on attendance allowance determine whether people qualify.
The Government are attempting to put into legislation an objective definition of "terminally ill". It is difficult to do that, because doctors' diagnoses vary. What is more, the legislation states that a doctor must be sure that a person is likely to die within the six-month period. What happens if, as occasionally occurs, patients recover from the diagnosed illness after the six months has elapsed and
Column 701they have been in receipt of attendance allowance because the doctor thought that they were terminally ill? Will such people be required to pay back the attendance allowance?
What happens in cases where the doctor cannot be absolutely sure that the illness is terminal? Who decides then, even though the person may be in agony? What happens if the patient does not accept the diagnosis, even though the family accepts it? What happens if the person says to the family that he or she does not want them to apply for attendance allowance? The family will be left in exactly the same position as before. The attendance allowance will not be claimed and yet the care will have to be undertaken. What happens if the doctor decides, for the best of psychological reasons and in his or her best judgment, not to tell the patient or the family that the patient is terminally ill?
I am dealing with a case now in which the doctor decided not to tell the husband, wife or family that the husband was terminally ill because the doctor felt that it was best for them. The family is making a complaint against the health authority and the doctor. What happens if there is no one to claim attendance allowance for supplying extra help and nursing to someone who is identified as terminally ill? This vitally important matter is fraught with problems that are not clarified in the Bill.
The provisions take the Government into incredibly dangerous territory, simply because they are too mean to say that the criterion for paying attendance allowance is whether the patient is allowed day and night provision. In recent statements, the Government have said that the next stage in developing their criteria and streamlining the system is to merge the mobility and attendance allowances. What happens with the definition within that of terminally ill? What happens if the doctor gets it wrong and the person is not terminally ill, but has been in receipt of attandance allowance? The Department has amazing powers in legislation to retrieve money that has been paid erroneously over any period.
It would be much better if the Government agreed that the criteria of day and night provision for attendance allowance was all that was required and that there was no need for a six-month qualification period or a legislative definition of terminally ill. The Government should give these people the money. They desperately need it and they deserve it. The Government will take us into an area of such complexity that they will cause great misery to the very people that they claim to want to help. Why cannot the Government give way on this point? Will it really hurt the Minister that much?
Ms. Clare Short (Birmingham, Ladywood) : This is the 12th Social Security Bill introduced since the Government took power 10 years ago. That is more than one every year. It is important to set it in the context of the cumulative effect of the changes in benefits and taxes during the past 10 years.
We are all familiar with the way in which the Government have abused official statistics, which are manipulated and deeply unreliable. However, the speeches that we have heard from Conservative Back-Bench Members today about what has happened in the benefit system have no connection whatever with reality. The
Column 702realities are set out in a useful book by John Hills called, "Changing Tax : How the tax system works and how to change it". It is a handbook to help any of us to design our tax and benefit system. He reviews the combined effect of tax and benefit changes since 1979 and finds :
"The cuts in direct taxes have been entirely paid for by cuts in the generosity of benefits Overall, the bottom 60 per cent. of the income distribution has lost, while the top 30 per cent.--especially the top 10 per cent.--has gained The losses for the bottom 50 per cent. average out at nearly £8.50 per family"--
a substantial proportion of their net incomes--
"while the top 10 per cent. have gained nearly £40 per family. Overall, the bottom half of the population has lost £6.6 billion, of which £5.6 billion has gone to the top 10 per cent. ; indeed, £4.8 billion has gone to the top 5 per cent."
That is the reality and it sets the debate in context, so let us hear no more about there being not enough money to go around. Over the years the Government deliberately and systematically have taken away benefit after benefit and handed out the money in massive tax cuts to the wealthiest people in society. The Government are in favour of redistribution. They have redistributed massive wealth successfully and deliberately from the least wealthy to the rich. Several hon. Members commented on the quality of the Ministers in the social security team and I agree with them. We probably have the nicest collection of individuals of any Department.
Mr. Bill Michie (Sheffield, Heeley) : I am not so sure about that.
Ms. Short : There is no doubt about it. I am willing to believe that some of the problems and worries that my hon. Friends outlined concern them, too, and that they struggle to do better, but they are a joke played by the Prime Minister on the wets, as she calls them, in the Tory party. She thought, "Let us find some of the nicest people, put them into a Ministry which is supposed to care for people and make sure that they do not have a cent. The Treasury is in charge and we shall force them to reduce the benefits to the poorest." These nice guys and one nice woman are forced to do the dirty work of the nastier elements in their party.
Clearly, the British people do not approve of or support the Government's strategy on redistribution from the least wealthy to the rich. It has been made clear in every opinion poll and every report of the survey of British social attitudes compiled since the Thatcher Government came to power that the British people think that our society has become too divided and too unequal. The various packages of change in our pensions and benefits arrangements introduced in successive Social Security Bills have created part of that growing inequality which the British people reject.
About a week ago the Prime Minister made an extraordinary speech about the needs of children of lone parent families. There is no dispute between the two parties that we should have a system that encourages fathers to maintain their children. We strongly believe that fathers should have an incentive to do so and mothers an incentive to claim. All the money paid out in benefits should not be clawed back, as happens now, which makes us deeply suspicious that the Prime Minister is not concerned about lone parents or children in those families,
Column 703but is simply seeking another cut in the benefit system. We sincerely hope that that is not so and that we can achieve all-party agreement on that part of the package.
In that speech the Prime Minister made an amazingly tasteless comment. She said that the attitudes of the 1960s caused the change in the family structure which had led to an increase in homeless young people in our cities. That was amazing, tasteless and disgusting. Her Government have deliberately deprived young people of any right to benefit, so that there is nothing for vulnerable young people, particularly those who have grown up in care and who have no relatives or friends to whom to turn if they get into difficulties. There are many of them on the streets of our cities and that shames our country. The Prime Minister is responsible for that.
Mr. Allen McKay : A young man in my constituency is celebrating his birthday today. He is one of two chidren in a one-parent family. This should be a day of great joy, but it is not. As he happens to be 19, he loses his income support and his mother loses family benefit. He has a choice between leaving technical college, where he is hoping to take a degree in metallurgy, or sponging on his mother and taking from his sister. Other than that he could take up a place on the youth training scheme and ruin his career.
Ms. Short : I had two such cases at my advice bureau last weekend. Two young men from poor families are struggling to do A-levels and hope to go on to university. They have hit the same barrier as that faced by my hon. Friend's constituent. They may have to leave college to go on some kind of scheme and they will therefore lose out in the future. What a way to run a society.
If the Prime Minister is concerned about the quality of life for lone parents and their children, or even if she is concerned about the cost to the Exchequer in benefits for such families, she might examine the poverty traps with which our system is now deeply riddled.
A useful briefing had been provided by the Gingerbread Association for One Parent Families. In its appendix it clearly shows that no allowance is made for the costs of child care, and a lone parent with two children must earn more than £150 a week to be better off than living on benefits. The system is nonsense as it traps lone parents and causes them to live on benefits when they do not want to. Under the Government the number of lone parents living on benefits has risen sharply. If the Government want to put it right, the answer is simple.
We shall be watching for the package that is introduced as a result of the Prime Minister's speech. Once we have that package, presumably in another Social Security Bill, it will become clear exactly what are the Government's intentions. I hope and pray that that package is not simply further cuts in benefit as that would be too cruel. The Government's record and all the statistics contrast starkly with the detailed proposals set out in the Labour party policy review for a fairer system of taxes and benefits. It concentrates on creating pathways out of poverty for pensioners, children, lone parents, people with disabilities and the low paid. We aim to be in power in the 1990s and to leave behind the miserable and mean 1980s. We aim to organise a society based on fairness and opportunity so that everyone can participate as full citizens and can train, work and live in dignity. That is possible given the resources and wealth of our country, but
Column 704the Government have deliberately chosen to increase inequality. There have been many victims of that policy and many people are struggling to survive week in, week out, to provide enough food and heating for themselves and their families.
The Bill does nothing to create pathways out of poverty for anyone. I shall concentrate on its three major parts. We shall want to address many other issues in Committee, but I cannot attend to all of them tonight. The first part of the Bill implements part of the Government's woefully inadequate disability package which was announced recently. It seems to be announced, reannounced and re-reannounced by the Secretary of State every other week. Perhaps he is trying to give people with disabilities the impression that the Government are doing something to help them.
The disability package is set out in the White Paper "The Way Ahead". The blue cover should perhaps be taken as a warning that the contents are mean and disappointing. The Government will be aware of the deep anger and disappointment of all organisations representing the disabled about the proposals. It is no good the Government trying to suggest that there is something carping about Labour's attitude. Disabled organisations in Britain are bitterly disappointed by the package and angry that they have had to wait so long for so little. For 10 years the Government have promised a review of benefits for people with disabilities. At first, they said that they could not move to implement their manifesto promise because they had no money. They had to continue to pretend that they had created an economic miracle, even though we all knew that that was not so ; then they said that they had the money, but not enough information about people with disabilities. They commissioned the OPCS to provide a major survey which was published in six reports. The survey found that there were 6.5 million disabled people in Britain. The Government produced a package which they say will help 850,000 people, including 3,000 carers. There is no doubt of the anger of carers' organisations which were expecting some help and protection from the package. The Government have completely ignored the needs of the biggest group of people with disabilities in this country--the 4.2 million people of pension age who have disabilities. They are the largest group, but constitute a minority of pensioners, the majority of whom are fit and well. For some reason, the Government have written them off. The package contains nothing--it is as though they had no needs. It gives them no help with the extra cost caused by their sickness and disabilities. The Government seem to have forgotten the pensioners who are completely excluded from any help.
The OPCS survey found that, on average, disabled people are £39 a week worse off than non-disabled people. It said that its figures should be treated with caution because it is difficult to measure the exact costs of a disability. The figures were challenged by other surveys which put the figure for people with severe disabilities as high as £66 a week.
It is obvious that if we want a civilised society which gives equal opportunities for people with disabilities, we must provide additional money to cover the extra costs of the disability so that those people are equal citizens. Disability and poverty should not be linked and should
Column 705not prevent people from having the opportunity to move about, participate in social life and be treated with equal dignity. What we need for a civilised society is set out in Labour's policy review. If I had more time I should describe it in detail. However, it is available and I hope that Conservative Members will read it. The reason why the Labour party has got the policy right and the Government have failed is that we consulted the organisations representing disabled people before we put together our package. What is most offensive about the Government's proposals on disability is that, having said that people with disabilities must wait until the Government had money, and then having said that they had money, the Government's package finds no new money and introduces cuts in some benefits to fund the package. I noted with care the way in which the Secretary of State described the extra costs and savings of the package. He well knows that, if projected far enough, it is a net minus package. He made that clear when he announced a £1 billion saving by the year 2025.
The Disability Alliance has trawled through the figures and estimates that
"net new money' is actually a saving of £20 million.
This estimated saving does not take account of the projected saving of £350 million on the earnings-related addition to Invalidity Benefit. The eventual saving will, therefore, be dramatic. The above figures"--
the Disability Alliance's figures--
"are based on the Government statements in the October 1989 uprating statement and in The Way Ahead."
There is some possibility that the Select Committee will look into the costings of the package, and I hope that it does.
The Government's package for people with disabilities is clever. We would expect nothing less from the Secretary of State and his team. It appears to do something, but it is a con. It fails, and it fails to spend any extra money on people with disabilities. That is an outrage.
Mr. Tim Smith : Can the hon. Lady say what the costs would be of Labour's package for the disabled?
Ms. Short : We shall provide detailed costings of our entire programme before the next election, which we hope will be sooner rather than later--the work is going on now.
Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster) : Will the hon. Lady give way?
Ms. Short : No ; the hon. Lady has just come in and has not been listening to the debate.
The second major part of the Bill introduces limited regulation of occupational and private pensions--
Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman : The hon. Lady made an inadvertent error by saying that the Bill helps 3,000 carers. In fact it helps 30,000, and it would be a pity to leave that wrong on the record.
Ms. Short : I understood that there were 3,000--
Ms. Short : Good, but unfortunately that means that we can take that number off the total number of people with disabilities. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Lancaster (Dame E. Kellett-Bowman). As I was saying, the Bill introduces limited regulation of occupational and private pensions, based on the February 1989 report of the Occupational Pensions Board. We are all well aware of the Government's general attitude to pensioners. The Social Security Act 1980 deliberately cut the link between state pensions and prices or earnings, whichever were higher--the scheme laid down by the Labour Government in 1974.
As a result, according to figures provided by the Library, single pensioners have lost £13.10 a week and married pensioners £20.70. Those figures are shocking. Conservative Members do not seem to understand that the British economy has grown every year since 1945--it did not start in 1979--and as it grows pensioners will fall further and further behind. As we become better off, they will become relatively poorer. On top of this, the Government have reduced the protection afforded by the state earnings-related pension scheme, which was introduced by the Labour Government with all-party support. There was a more civilised Tory party in 1975.
The effect on low-paid workers--overwhelmingly women--who are not covered by occupational schemes is that they return to poverty in old age. The Secretary of State has not realised yet that two thirds of all pensioners are women and about three quarters of them are forced to claim means-tested benefits. We constitute a majority of pensioners because we live longer, and we are forced to claim means-tested benefits because women are concentrated among low-paid workers and do not enjoy decent pensions. So women have low pay throughout their working lives and re-enter poverty when they become pensioners. Government moves against SERPS have exaggerated this problem. Our policy review commits us to restoring the link with earnings and to restoring and improving SERPS.
The limited regulation of occupational pension schemes in the Bill is largely welcome ; we shall come to our detailed criticisms in Committee. We know why such regulation is necessary--because there has been a change in employers' attitudes to pension schemes. They now believe that, faced with a takeover, companies in difficulty can raid the pension fund and take back the money. Conservative Back-Bench Members have reflected that attitude tonight : surpluses exist for companies to take back and do not belong to the pensioners for whom they have been accumulated by agreement with the employers over the years.
This is a matter of enormous importance. The market value of British companies is £500 billion ; the market value of pension schemes and pensions in insurance companies is £250 billion. So half the capital in Britain belongs to pension schemes. We need to regulate them more and exert much more democratic control over them to ensure that they are invested so as to benefit not only people's pensions but their regions, children and grandchildren. Detailed proposals are in our policy review and we shall give employees in companies 50-50 control, so that they can control the way in which pension funds are spent.
The third major item in the Bill concerns the new framework for grant-based energy conservation schemes. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr.
Column 707Morgan) has already spoken about that and there is no doubt that insulation and energy conservation are the most important steps that we can take to protect the environment and to make heating cheaper for people on low incomes. It is a superb programme and we should firmly embrace and encourage it. We are committed to it in our policy review and welcome the Government's new framework. However, we recognise that they had to introduce it because their disastrous employment training scheme has failed so badly.
We note that once again there is no new money. The £12 million that is available will be taken from the Department of Employment budget. It was already available for this kind of work but was not being taken up because the employment training scheme was incapable of doing the job.
Any reasonable person must conclude that the Bill is mean and duplicitous. It lets down people with disabilities and will take money away from them. It will do nothing to make up for the harm that the Government have done to pensioners and it introduces unfunded measures for energy conservation. I recommend as an alternative framework the policies outlined in Labour's policy review. As I said before, thank heaven the 1980s are over. We look forward to a better future in a fairer Britain in the 1990s under a Labour Government. 9.40 pm
The Minister for Social Security (Mr. Nicholas Scott) : I wish the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short) well with her dreams. I share with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary the blushes at the compliments that the hon. Lady paid us. We learn to be wary of Greeks bearing gifts and we did not expect her subsequent remarks to bear out her compliments.
The hon. Lady spent much time talking about lone parents and homelessness, neither of which is addressed in the Bill. She dramatically oversimplified both those issues. They are matters which have not started in the recent past but have their origins decades or years ago and are immensely complex issues. They are related not simply to social security benefits but to all sorts of social and behavioural changes that have taken place in our society. Some of those changes may be welcomed by the Opposition while they may regret others. The Government are minded to address those matters constructively.
The hon. Member for Barnsley, West and Penistone (Mr. McKay) intervened in the hon. Lady's speech to talk about a constituent. Power is available to local authorities to pay educational maintenance allowances so that young people in the circumstances that the hon. Gentleman described can complete their education.
Mr. Allen McKay : The constituent is in receipt of a minor award of £600 a year. According to rules and regulations, that minor award has to run its three-year course before he may receive a major award for university.
Mr. Scott : The hon. Gentleman has made the position clear, but when he intervened he did not do so. I frequently encounter cases in which young people of that age are unable to complete their education because of the rules. In each case it is ignored that EMAs are available. If the hon.
Column 708Gentleman will write to me about details of the case, I shall ensure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science looks at it.
The hon. Member for Ladywood laid great stress on the argument that there is no new money in the package. I make it absolutely clear that it does contain new money. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made that clear in his opening speech. For every remaining year of this century there will be more money spent as a result of the disability package than there was before the package was announced. There will be £300 million of new money in 1992-93. That cannot be contradicted. The hon. Lady knows that it is true and should not continue to assert that it is not.
The House will know that the Department of Social Security is uniquely fortunate in being able to introduce at least one Bill dealing with social security matters every year. I suppose that all of them share one characteristic--this is about the only thing on which I agreed with the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher), whose remarks were echoed by the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood)--which is their lack of theme. It is common for social security Bills to include a variety of matters. When I arrived at the Department I was told that social security Bills were normally described as Bills to amend mistakes--the vernacular was slightly different--in former social security Bills. The Bill addresses some important matters. It is right that we should take a frequent look at social security legislation. The society in which we live is dynamic and changes frequently, and social security provision has to change as well. I welcome the fact that we can regularly examine the pattern of social security policy. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department of Energy, is here to listen to the energy aspects of the debate. We have taken on board a measure that the Department of Energy wanted to introduce, rather than introducing a separate Bill to cover that. The details of the scheme will be outlined in regulations introduced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy and the House will have ample opportunities to debate those in due course. There are provisions on tort, on widows and on the recovery of penalties. Three important subjects are covered in the Bill. First, more protection is afforded to the growing number of people in occupational pension schemes. Secondly, necessary, effective and logical changes are made in the national insurance fund and, thirdly, significant moves of profound long-term importance are made in the balance and structure of benefits for disabled people. I realise that some hon. Members who have taken a careful interest in the fortunes of disabled people and the structure of benefits for them are dissatisfied with what we have achieved, but I hope that the House will be prepared to examine in depth the structure that has been created, which I believe is infinitely preferable to the structure that it will replace in due course.
Mr. Thurnham : Will my hon. Friend confirm that he will have full consultations with the various disability organisations? Is not it important that those discussions should not be soured by talk of cuts from the Opposition, as that is simply untrue? Such talk sours the atmosphere just when we are trying to encourage public opinion to accept the need for greater disability benefits.
Column 709Mr. Scott : Now that we have put forward our proposals in the document, I expect my door to be open to disability organisations to come and discuss these matters. We shall need provisions both in this Bill and in a subsequent social security Bill and that will enable all those who are interested in the matter to have their say. I agree with my hon. Friend and, like him, I hope that that will be on the basis that the rules for consultation and discussion will be fair. I hope that it will be recognised that the Government are putting significant extra resources into provision for disabled people. Representatives of the interested organisations can come to talk about the priorities that people should have in these matters.
Ms. Short : Why did not the hon. Gentleman say that before?
Mr. Scott : As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, nobody would have wanted us to withhold provisions for the terminally ill or the provision to include deaf and blind people in the provision for mobility allowance or other matters pending prolonged consultation. It took five years for the review of social security to reach the legislation stage. We did not want to wait, so we decided on a three-tier process. The most urgent matters were dealt with and announced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in October. Some of the provisions in the Bill set the pattern for the longer term and in a subsequent Bill, to be introduced when there is time in our legislative programme, we shall legislate for the disability allowance and the disability employment credit. That is the right way to tackle the problem.