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That is one interpretation of what happened, but it did not have anything to do with the commissioner's decision. However, what the Minister said tonight implied that it had something to do with the commissioner's decision, because it widened the law. I have already disputed that. The Minister said in a rather horrified manner that it had produced thousands of claimants, and had cost a lot of money, and the implication was that the Government would revoke the regulation for that reason. The Minister should tell us which interpretation is correct. Whichever it is, it is unsatisfactory.

If the Government are admitting to stopping claims because many people are claiming, it is a complete contradiction of what the social security system should be about. On the other hand, if it is genuinely a tidying-up measure that they were going to take anyway, they should recognise that thousands of people have been caught out by the change, and they should allow more time for those people to claim, since there are a limited number of people left who can claim.

Whatever the explanation, the Government should say that this change is stupid, unnecessary, cruel and vindictive, and they should not revoke regulation 13.

Several hon. Members rose --

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker) : Order. It seems that the debate is over-subscribed, but with some self-restraint all round, all hon. Members may be able to speak.

8.8 pm

Mr. Andrew Mitchell (Gedling) : Before dealing specifically with the two affirmative instruments and the three negative instruments which we are debating, I shall make a few general comments on the Government's record on social security uprating and on their priorities in this important matter. But before I do that, I shall comment on the speech by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short), for whom I have a great respect, not least because she once attended the House at 4.30 in the morning when I was moving an important Adjournment debate on Nottinghamshire. She took part in that debate.

The hon. Lady describes our record as one of squalid cuts. I and other Conservative Members cannot recognise that description. It is simply not true. I do not want to bandy statistics with the hon. Lady because, as she will agree, that is not sensible. However, this year we are spending £1 billion a week on social security, there has been a 36 per cent. real increase in the past 10 years and cash benefits for long-term sick and disabled people have doubled in real terms since 1979.

I am quite content to agree with the hon. Lady that there is still an awful lot more to be done about these matters, but she should at least give credit where it is due and agree that the Government have prioritised some of these issues and done a great deal to help.

Ms. Short : One reason for the increase in spending is that unemployment is still higher than it was when the Government came to power. Secondly, we have more of an elderly population than we used to have. The hon. Gentleman should also know that the Government have been in power 10 years and that roughly every 20 years the

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income available in Britain doubles. The income of people in the same position as the hon. Gentleman will have increased significantly because of the general economic growth we have experienced every year since the second world war, if not before. Those in greatest need--the old, the sick and so on--are becoming relatively worse and worse off and are not sharing in the benefits of general economic growth. To say that there has been some growth in spending does not answer my fundamental point.

Mr. Mitchell : I do not accept the hon. Lady's last point, although I have some sympathy with her first two. The Government's record on this matter is good. The hon. Lady should pay credit where it is due and acknowledge that in those important matters, the Government have prioritised expenditure. I do not wish to make a particularly party political point, but the Government's record is a great deal better than that which the last Labour Government achieved. I entirely accept that they had aspirations, but they were not able to deliver the economic goods to meet them.

Two of the Government's most important priorities should be to tackle the problem facing the disabled and give aid and support to those coping with long-term sickness. The hon. Lady mentioned child benefit. That is not an easy issue to deal with, but we should at least accept that it would have been ludicrous to increase child benefit last year. To do so would have helped people like me with young families who are not prime candidates for it. It would not have helped those who most need it. The extra help that we have been able to give this year means that 1.5 million families and 3 million children, who would not have gained from an increase in child benefit, have benefited. It is important to recognise that.

The hon. Lady also mentioned pensions. Perhaps we could do more for pensioners. I believe that we could. The Government have honoured their electoral pledge. There are five new measures that will benefit pensioners from this April. For example, 200,000 elderly and disabled people living in residential care and nursing homes will benefit from an increase of £10 in their weekly benefit limit. That is important. Last year, I and many of my hon. Friends argued strongly that the poorer pensioners' package should be brought forward. That proposal has been implemented and will do a lot to help those people who are least well off. The hon. Lady should welcome that and I regret that she did not do so in her speech.

Much is changing in the pension world. By the time that I retire there will be a different picture for pensioners from that which now exists. It will then be much easier to help those who are least well off and those who fall through the net.

The hon. Lady hinted at a comparison between British pensions and those paid overseas ; to do so is beguiling, but wrong. The only countries with a universal state pension are the United Kingdom, Ireland and Denmark. Only the United Kingdom provides separate pensions for wives who have not worked. The Labour party omit the part which occupational pension schemes play in British pensioners' total income when they produce the figures. Above all means-tested benefits in this country for elderly people are among the best in Europe.

About a year ago an interesting comment was made by the president of Pensioners' Voice, Mrs. Dorothy Rhodes

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Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West) rose --

Mr. Mitchell : I shall just finish my point.

My hon. Friend the Member for Taunton (Mr. Nicholson) has already made this point but it bears repetition. Mrs. Dorothy Rhodes said : "We have talked about percentages of pensions in Europe, and I have been one who has spoken loudly in support of parity with Europe, but during the past year I have been to Pensioners Congresses in Italy and Greece and, having spoken at length to those who actually receive the Euro pensions [sic] and discovered that in many cases the actual cash received in relation to the cost of living is often lower than in the UK, I am revising my opinion ; for in no way can our Federation ask for an equality that would disadvantage our own people."

If that lady is revising her opinion, just possibly the hon. Member for Ladywood might consider revising hers.

Mr. Flynn : Opposition Members who have been here since 5 o'clock are getting vivid feelings of de ja vu. The hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. Nicholson) made not only the point but the hon. Gentleman's entire speech and to avoid my answering the speech again it might be useful if the hon. Gentleman returned to a speech of his own.

Mr. Mitchell : All that demonstrates is that my hon. Friend the Member for Taunton is a wise man who, like me, makes important points which the hon. Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn) should bear in mind. When I read that quote--it is quite clear that the hon. Gentleman did not like it- -I said that the point might have already been made by my hon. Friend, but was important enough to bear repeating.

Mr. David Nicholson (Taunton) : The Opposition do not like it.

Mr. Mitchell : As my hon. Friend says, the Labour party do not like it when we make the facts clear.

I particularly welcome a number of changes in this year's social security upratings, some of which fall wider than the regulations, but are extremely important. I am particularly pleased that the disability premium for families with disabled children who are also on income-related benefit has been increased. That will give extra help to 20,000 families, which is extremely important.

The carers' premium, which has been introduced into income support for those receiving invalid care allowance of £10 per week is also important and will help 30,000 carers. I am pleased that mobility allowance will be extended to deaf and blind people. That is worth £26.25 more per week to 3,000 people.

Mr. Jimmy Dunnachie (Glasgow, Pollok) : The hon. Gentleman is in the wrong debate.

Mr. Mitchell : The hon. Gentleman says that I am in the wrong debate, but these are important matters to do with this year's upratings.

The overdue changes in attendance allowance are particularly welcome. More money will be made available to terminally ill people without the normal six-month waiting period. That will help 50,000 people by anything up to £37.55 a week and is extremely important. This year's measures, over and above the normal uprating, will reach 500,000 seriously ill disabled people and carers.

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Ms. Short : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I do not want to be unfair to the hon. Gentleman, but his speech is completely out of order. We are debating a number of regulations to which he is not referring. He appears to be discussing issues that were before the House before the vote at 7 o'clock.

Mr. Deputy Speaker : I must confess that I find it difficult to follow where we are with so many different and complex regulations before us. I am sure that the whole House finds this difficulty, but I hope that the hon. Gentleman will make it clear to which of the regulations he is referring.

Mr. Mitchell : I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for reminding me of that. I am dealing with an overview of many of the regulations--

Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. I am sorry, but although there is a temptation to have a general debate, the hon. Gentleman must relate his remarks to the specific regulations before the House.

Mr. Mitchell : I am again grateful, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I shall turn to a number of specific aspects of the regulations the first of which is the Social Fund Cold Weather Payments (General) Amdt. Regulations 1989. The Government deserve credit for that for two reasons : first, for bringing forward the date to 1 January. It must have been tempting for social security Ministers to save it until later but they did not do so. Secondly, they deserve credit for doubling the capital limit to £1,000. That was much needed, and I am glad that it has been done. My hon. Friend the Minister might consider going further with this matter next year and I hope that she will listen to Help the Aged and to the local authorities to find out whether anything else could be done to improve the operation of the scheme.

Secondly, it is right to reform the recoupment regulations. My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young) made a fair point when he said that it is wrong for state benefits to subsidise compensation that is paid out by insurance companies under valid insurance policies. We should act as guardians of the taxpayer and ensure that sums which are lost to the taxpayer are recouped. The insurance companies should pay out. Thirdly, my right hon. Friend the Minister of State said that the private sector was consulted about the administrative details. That is long overdue and unusual. The business community often says that it is not consulted. I am glad that it was consulted on this occasion.

Fourthly, I greatly welcome the help for families whose children are in care but who return home for the weekend and for holidays. I have some sympathy with the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood, (Ms. Short) on this and I hope that the Minister will deal with the point. We must provide direct support for families united in this way. I am very pleased that additional funds will be provided through income support for children who return home for holidays and at the weekend.

Finally, if a new system is introduced, which I believe will be both fairer and better than the old one, there must be transitional arrangements, but at some point they must be brought to an end, I welcome that aspect, too. I strongly support the Government tonight and I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to take part in the debate on these regulations.

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8.21 pm

Mr. Eddie Loyden (Liverpool, Garston) : I want to refer to regulation 13, which was so ably spoken to by my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Clay). We welcomed the extension of the transitional period. However, since then, it has become clear that vibration white finger is now found in industries where it was not previously considered a problem. We have to thank welfare rights officers for having drawn to our attention the fact that so many people suffer from the disease.

All Governments have overlooked the fact that when people start work they will, in almost all cases, be putting their health, or even their life, at risk. Most workers are completely unaware of the dangers of working in certain industries. Mine workers suffer from pneumoconiosis and emphysema and building workers suffer from asbestosis, while workers in shipbuilding, ship repairing and other industries suffer accidents, and workers in the chemical and rubber industries suffer from carcinoma of the bladder. Workers suffer from many other diseases simply because they work in certain industries. The Government should allow them to claim benefit for industrial diseases. Workers have difficulty in establishing their right to benefit. It is difficult for them to prove that their disease was caused by their working environment. In its heyday, Merseyside employed 24,000 workers in the shipbuilding and ship repair industries, but that number has long since been cut. No doubt my hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) will confirm that there are only about 1,000 workers in those industries.

Mr. Frank Field (Birkenhead) : About 2,500.

Mr. Loyden : There is no comparison between that figure and the 24, 000 workers who previously worked in the shipbuilding and ship repairing industries. Many of them are now out of contact with various organisations, in particular the trade unions, who could give them advice.

The Government spent a large amount of money on television advertising when they decided to privatise certain industries. It is shameful, therefore, that the Department of Social Security has not spent money on television advertisements so that workers might know about their right to industrial and other benefits. It would be inappropriate to end the transitional period ; many people still do not know about their right to benefit. The scheme ought to go further.

Mr. Clay : Before my hon. Friend leaves the point about Government publicity, will he confirm that I am right in believing that in the case of vibration white finger, which became a prescribed industrial disease in 1985, the Government provided no publicity whatsoever about its having become a prescribed industrial disease? Despite that fact, they want to revoke legislation that would permit late claims, with good cause, to be made for industrial benefit.

Mr. Loyden : That is a very important point. I hope that the Minister will take it on board.

The magic figure of 14 per cent. excludes many people from benefit. I do not accuse the Minister of conspiring to set that figure, but civil servants have probably said that such a figure would preclude many thousands of people from claiming benefit. There is evidence that industrial disease and injury figures are set at a certain level in order to exclude genuine cases of industrial disease and injury

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which can result in disability and even death. The Opposition are very concerned about that, as well as about industrial disease and accidents throughout industry. I emphasise the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North that the transitional period ought not to be revoked, so that people with a rightful claim can claim benefit.

8.28 pm

Mr. Lewis Stevens (Nuneaton) : The hon. Members for Liverpool, Garston (Mr. Loyden) and for Sunderland, North (Mr. Clay) offered reasonable points of view on why the Opposition wanted to debate these regulations. Difficulties always arise when people come forward to claim for industrial injuries, but the first decisions were taken in 1986 and there must be a cut-off at some point. It is not unreasonable to implement it now.

The hon. Member for Garston said that these people had been given a considerable extension of time and were grateful for that--

Mr. Loyden : I said "a brief period".

Mr. Stevens : I apologise.

The Government have been reasonable. It is true that, when people leave industries, their trade unions have more difficulty in tracing them and they have problems finding their unions again, but the vast majority of people have had a good chance to claim.

The hon. Member for Sunderland, North asked whether social security was designed to give people their just entitlement or whether it was an obstacle around which only those who were clever and persistent enough could get. When we debated the Social Security Act 1986, it was clearly the Government's intention to simplify an extremely complex system which lent itself precisely to those who could work the system and thus come off better than those who went through the routine procedures only to end up in an unsatisfactory position. The new system is more simplified and easier to understand.

Ms. Short : The new system has replaced a system that the hon. Gentleman describes as complex but which I would say provided for need. The new system is meaner.

Mr. Stevens : That is exactly what I would expect the hon. Lady to say. Hers is the attitude that the Opposition displayed throughout the passage of the 1986 Act and ever since. Whenever the Government try to help specific groups of people, the Opposition say that they are wrong or not doing enough. When in government, the Opposition never even contemplated directly helping some of these groups, but they ignore that completely.

The hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) started from the premise that we should have stuck to a link with pay. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short) took the same line when working out what she called cuts. If the Opposition had been in government for the past 10 years, they would not have had the slightest chance of maintaining the link. They messed up the situation when in government. They needed economic growth to be able to put the money into the benefit system. As my hon. Friends have said, this Government can put £1 billion a week into the system, and have spent it on, for example, the disabled. The mobility allowance is now claimed by six times as many people as before, and that is a significant difference.

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Whatever the Government do, the Opposition always say it is not enough, but they would not generate the economic growth to do as much themselves. They want to cut--

Mr. Patrick Thompson : Surely my hon. Friend recalls that the last time the Opposition formed the Government they had to go to the International Monetary Fund for money, and they made cuts the like of which we have not seen since and hope never to see again.

Mr. Stevens : My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Earlier, the hon. Member for Ladywood said that the Government cut taxes, so the money did not go to the Exchequer. She should have attended some of our Treasury debates. We cut some of the high rates of tax, and that increased the money coming into the Treasury, which could then be spent on social security and so on.

The Opposition are guilty of a strange contradiction over the recoupment regulations. As I understand it, the system did not disadvantage people who were recipients ; the money was taken from the insurance companies. It is rare to find the Opposition supporting the insurance and financial sector, yet here they are, dedicated to saving insurance companies money.

Ms. Short : It is not good enough to put false propositions before the House and to seek to mislead people in the country. We all agree that if people are compensated for loss of income with a state benefit the insurance money should be paid to the state. But the Government have wrongly taken power to take money paid to people not for the loss of income but for pain and suffering--to recoup state benefits.

Mr. Stevens : That is what the hon. Lady said before, but it does not alter the fact that the insurance companies should pay. They receive the premiums from companies and from people.

We welcome the raising of the capital ceiling for cold weather payments to £1,000. That is helpful. I also agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Thompson), who said that young people visiting home should have no detrimental effect on the support that their parents receive. I, too, ask my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary to extend the eight -week period--

Ms. Short : Good for you--very brave.

Mr. Stevens : All the regulations are evidence that the changes that the Government have made to improve the social security system have generally been in favour of individuals and groups. I only wish that the Opposition would look more kindly on the upratings announced earlier ; they were good news for people. The Opposition, however, take delight in trying to squash the good news and degrade what is being provided. That suggests that they do not care about the people who receive social security and are more interested in making political points at the expense of the Government. They may always say that they want more, but they should at least give credit to the Government for what they have done for those most in need. 8.37 pm

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North) : I want to put the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Stevens) right on one point. The Opposition are certainly interested in those who

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receive or should be receiving social security. We are passionately interested in trying to improve their lot, and time and again, in letters or in our regular surgeries, we come up against constituents who come to us for help and who live on the barest minimum incomes. I ask the hon. Gentleman to bear that in mind. No doubt Conservative Members will earn their brownie points from the Whips Office for coming here and trying to justify and defend the Government's social security policy.

I want to concentrate on the cold weather payments. As my hon. Friends will know, I have raised this matter in the House several times over the years. Pensioners on income support and those just above that level undoubtedly face immense difficulties in paying their fuel bills during the winter months. I remind the House of the increases in the price of gas and electricity. Between November 1979 and November 1989 the pensioners prices index rose by about 85 per cent. But gas went up by 127 per cent. in that time and electricity by 96 per cent. Moreover, fuel takes up a larger part of a pensioner's budget, as we all know.

In some respects, the fact that temperatures this year have not triggered off the cold weather payments illustrates my argument. It could be argued that, rather like last year, we are witnessing an ordinary British winter with some storms thrown in. However, temperatures have not reached freezing, so cold weather payments have not been made. But imagine what this House would be like if there were no heating on now. I am sure that every hon. Member ensures that his or her home is heated. It is not freezing, but some form of heating is necessary wherever we are, be it at work in the House of Commons, or in our private homes.

As a result of various comments that I have made in the local press, many of my constituents with small incomes, mainly pensioners but not entirely so, have complained to me bitterly about the rent that they pay. I raised the matter during social security questions on Monday when I gave as an illustration a constituent of mine with an income of £54 a week who, due to the substantial reduction in housing benefit, is paying £10 a week in rent. That is not due to the local authority ; it is due purely to the Government's policy on substantially reducing housing benefit.

Mr. Loyden : Disgraceful.

Mr. Winnick : As my hon. Friend rightly says, to have an income of £54 a week and to pay £10 a week is disgraceful, but in addition to the cost of food and other daily essentials, money has to be found for fuel. Pensioners' fuel bills, after all, are like ours. There is no discount because they are pensioners. The Government may argue that the bills can be paid in weekly or monthly instalments--I accept that--but at the end of the day the same amount of money has to be paid and, as I have just said, during the past 10 years gas has gone up 127 per cent. and electricity 96 per cent. That is why the Opposition are deeply concerned about the poorest in our community, and certainly pensioners on the basic minimum, who clearly do not have sufficient income to heat their homes adequately.

I accept, of course, that the increase in the capital threshold from £500 to £1,000 for cold weather payments is a step in the right direction. We would not for one moment argue otherwise. Common sense ensures that that is right. But many conditions have to be met before the cold weather payment is made. The average temperature

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has to fall to freezing point for seven consecutive days before the £5 a week is paid. Moreover, the discretionary social fund does not meet the cost of fuel consumption. It is no good the poorest pensioners on income support going along to the DSS office because they do not have sufficient funds and asking for help with winter fuel payments. By regulation, no additional help would be given. Heating allowance ended when income support replaced supplementary benefit. Before the changes in April 1988, some £400 million a year was received in additional payments, quite apart from the cold weather payments. But that all ended when supplementary benefit went and income support came in. The Minister will argue, no doubt, that that sum of money has been duly absorbed in the income support premiums, but I doubt whether that is the case.

Pensioners have less income because the pension is no longer increased in line with earnings. We have already given the figures. As a result of the decision by the Government in 1980, a married pensioner will have lost £21 a week in April and a single pensioner £13 a week. That simply means less money to pay for fuel during the winter months.

Reference has been made in previous debates to the dangers of hypothermia and other cold-related diseases to the elderly in the winter months. Far more elderly people die during the winter months in Britain than in a number of other European countries. Undoubtedly, one reason must be the poverty that exists among so many of our elderly people for all the reasons that I have been explaining. We in Britian suffer from fuel poverty. Far too many of our elderly people simply do not have an income that is adequate to meet their fuel bills. Winter is a nightmare for so many of our elderly people. Our constituents have done nothing wrong. They have simply not earned enough money during their working lives. They do not have much by way of an occupational pension, if any, and if they do, if they are council tenants, it is taken into account in housing benefit. It is wrong that those people should be penalised every winter in the manner that I have been describing.

Much more needs to be done. I would like £5 a week, which after all does not add up to much, to be paid during the winter months regardless of the temperature. Hon. Members should not forget that even if it is freezing, cold weather payments can be made only to those on income support. I have said it before and I do not care how many times I say it, and I shall go on doing so until the situation improves : we should be thoroughly ashamed that we allow our elderly people to suffer the poverty, discrimination and deprivation in the winter months that we do.

Conservative Members have a responsibility to put the kind of pressure on their Government that Opposition Members would be doing if a Labour Government were not carrying out the kind of policies that we would wish to see. There is no doubt about that ; we have done it before. We would be putting pressure on a Labour Government. However, Conservative Members have come along tonight and made nice complacent speeches. I only wish that they could be more concerned with the poor pensioners who have to suffer the hardship that Conservative Members, and we ourselves, do not have to suffer.

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8.47 pm

Mr. Patrick Thompson (Norwich, North) : I am grateful for the opportunity to speak briefly in this important debate. I listened with interest to the remarks of the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick). In my constituency also there is concern about elderly people who suffer from cold. That is why I pay tribute to the Government. They were the first Government to introduce severe weather payments some years ago. The least that the hon. Gentleman could have done was pay tribute to them for that. We can look at the details of the scheme, but once again it is a Conservative Government who have taken action and who have moved forward on cold weather payments.

I want to speak briefly on the Opposition's motion to annul the Income Support (Transitional) Amendment No. 2 Regulations 1989 which were laid before the House just before Christmas. It is important to set the whole question of the transitional arrangement in income support against the background of the Government's achievement in income support.

I was amazed that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short), should challenge my hon. Friend the Member for Gedling (Mr. Mitchell), who rightly pointed to the fact that spending on social security under the Government has risen by 36 per cent. in real terms since 1979. She also challenged the correct assertion of my hon. Friend that we are now spending £1 billion a week on social security benefits.

Ms. Short : I did not challenge it.

Mr. Thompson : I remember the hon. Lady's exact words. She failed to recognise that it is only because of the economic growth and success under this Government that we have been able to increase payments to those levels.

Transitional arrangements protect people affected by the more efficient targeting of benefits. In my constituency in Norwich few people when they think about it challenge the Government's intention to target benefits where the need is greatest. That must be right, and it is one of the reasons why we are debating these regulations tonight. Total expenditure on income support will reach £7.7 billion this year.

I express amazement that the Opposition, led by the Leader of the Opposition, wish to annul a measure which will benefit families in my contituency by as much as £10 a week or more. The Opposition Front- Bench team is ill advised to put out the message in my constituency and elsewhere that the Opposition want to annul a measure which will provide such benefits.

The Government's record on support for the family is good. I shall use even more statistics to make my case, because they speak truths which cannot be refuted by Opposition Members. In 1990-91, the Government will spend almost £10 billion on the whole range of benefits for the family. That is an increase of 27 per cent. in real terms since 1979. In case the hon. Member for Ladywood and her colleagues have forgotten, it was their Government who cut such support by 7.3 per cent.

I do not wish to stray too far from the regulations. The Government's record on family support leaves the record of previous Labour Governments completely in the shade. The facts speak for themselves. With a little help from the Library, the staff of which I commend--I shall speak later about the complexity of the social security regulations and

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be a little more controversial--I have found out that a family on income support of £50 a week may have a transitional addition of some £10 a week, making a total income of £60 a week.

We now come to the point of the transitional regulations. If the family have a child under the age of 11 in the care of a local authority who rejoins the household for a short period, the family's income support could be increased by some £11.75, leading to a total of £61.75. Under the unamended regulations, which would still apply if the Government had not taken the action that we are debating tonight, such a family in my constituency would receive only £1.75 extra to help with the child.

It must be right to introduce these regulations to bring back transitional support. I have read the regulations and with the help of expert advice I have got it right. The family will benefit by some £10.

I support the Government in laying the statutory instrument before the House. I repeat that I am amazed that the Opposition, led by the Leader of the Opposition, seek to annul such a measure. My constituents will find it difficult to understand the points that the hon. Lady made in defence of that position.

My second point is rather different. I should like to quote from the written evidence submitted to the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments on this matter. I make no apology for reading it out in full :

"Regulation 14(1) of the Transitional Regulations provides for the reduction of transitional additions. In particular regulations 14(1)(a) and 14(1)(d) provide for reduction in the additions by increases in the applicable amount. There is no provision in these Regulations for the increase or re-introduction of a transitional addition once it is reduced or lost."

In case you are wondering why I am reading this out, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the reason will become clear in the next paragraph. "The unintended consequence of the interaction of the provisions of regulation 16 of the General Regulations and regulation 14 of the Transitional Regulations is a loss in benefit to families whose children are in the care of the local authority if such children subsequently come home on leave."

I draw attention to the word "unintended". In the drafting of the regulations, it was not noticed that the effect would be a loss in benefit.

My last substantive point is that we do not have a satisfactory system for drafting social security regulations which are comprehensible to those who work closely in the system, never mind to Back-Bench Members of Parliament trying to debate them. That is amply illustrated by the statutory instrument.

My last quotation supports a campaign which I first initiated and supported in 1984, a campaign to get rid of gobbledegook in government and to move towards more comprehension, particularly of social security matters :

"In regulation 14 of the Income Support (Transitional) Regulations 1987(b) (reduction and termination of transitional and personal expenses addition) after paragraph (1F) there shall be inserted the following paragraph--

(1G) Notwithstanding paragraph (1)(a) or (d), where a claimant's applicable amount increases because a child or young person mentioned in paragraph (5)(c) of regulation 16 of the General Regulations (circumstances in which a person is treated or not treated as a member of the household) is treated as a member of the claimant's household under paragraph (6) of that regulation, the claimant's transitional addition shall not be reduced by the amount of that increase unless the child or young person has been treated as a member of the household for a continuous period which exceeds eight weeks'.".

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