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Mr. Waterson: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for dealing with my point in such detail. Leaving aside small technical matters, does he now, as of today, envisage any significant additions to or subtractions from the list of exceptions, as shown in our new schedule and in his letter to the Committee?

Mr. Bradley: As the hon. Gentleman is well aware, we are a listening Government. The proposals are still making their way through the House. They will have to go to the other place, and further representations will be made. Final regulations will eventually be laid before the House for further debate. Until then, there is always an opportunity to make changes. If we accept his new schedule today, however, and add it to the Bill, that opportunity will be lost. I assume from his intervention that he will not press his new schedule.

In Committee, I undertook to table amendment No. 18, which corrects an unintended effect resulting from the drafting of clause 72. It amends section 3 of the Social Security Administration Act 1992, which provides for late claims to widows' benefit in rare cases such as those involving a missing person, when death is difficult to establish. The amendment will ensure that in such special circumstances, the current period of 12 months will continue to be allowed between the time when a body is discovered and identified, and the time when the widow is advised of this. I commend the amendment to the House and hope that the other amendments will be withdrawn or rejected.

10 Dec 1997 : Column 1112

Mr. Rendel: I am delighted to have the chance to wind up the debate. I do not intend to take much of the House's time over it.

To cut through some of the verbiage that has gone before, the heart of new clause 2 is that the Government are expecting to pay out less in benefits, by restricting the amount of backdating. If they pay out less in benefits by restricting backdating, that inevitably means that--

It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 15 (Exempted business),


Question agreed to.

As amended (in the Standing Committee), again considered.

Question again proposed, That the clause be read a Second time.

Mr. Rendel: With new clause 2, we are trying to overcome what will inevitably be a restriction in benefits to those who have the right to them, but who may not claim them in time. If anyone doubts that that will happen, he or she need only look at what the Government are saying about the drop in the amount that they are expecting to pay out in benefits as a result of clause 72.

I am especially worried about housing benefit. People have said to me that they are concerned about the difficulties of people who do not claim housing benefit on time. They get into arrears on their rent or their mortgage and as a result, they may later find themselves without a home. That should be of great concern to every hon. Member.

It is also true that many of the benefit forms that claimants face are off-putting. Some of them are long and complex. I was delighted to hear the Minister say in Committee and today that he is looking for imaginative solutions and for ways in which the claim forms can be made rather easier to understand. That will overcome some of the problems. I have no doubt, however, that there will still be a need for some complexity in the forms, and that some claimants will find them difficult to handle and will be put off making their claims in time for that reason alone.

We want those who are due benefits but who do not claim them on time, with good reason, to be given a chance to claim them more than one month late. I do not suggest that the Government should allow anybody to claim any time after the event. If people are dilatory and put off a claim for no good reason, there is some justification for saying that they should have pressure put on them to make their claim promptly, by the introduction of a restriction on the extent to which they can backdate the claim. If, however, people have a good reason for a late claim, it is only right and proper that the claim should be allowed from the time that the benefit was first due to them.

I am unhappy with the Minister's response, and we wish to press new clause 2 to a vote. Conservative Members may press new schedule 1 to a vote. We see some justification for having the special reasons put on the face of the Bill, and we shall support new schedule 1 if it is pressed to a vote.

10 Dec 1997 : Column 1113

We do not believe that it is possible to predict everybody's reasons for being late with a claim. For that reason alone, it would be better for the House to agree to new clause 2 rather than to new schedule 1. We would, however, rather have new schedule 1 than nothing. We believe that only new clause 2 will properly allow the Government to pay all the benefits to people who need them and are due them.

Mr. Waterson: I do not want to weary the House by going over the arguments for new schedule 1 yet again, self-evident and excellent though they are. Suffice it to say that the Minister has not explained adequately why he is not prepared to accept it. I am genuinely surprised that he is not. If he can write a letter to the Committee setting out the exceptions in such exquisite detail, there is no reason why that should not be part of the Bill. I shall move new schedule 1 formally, and I ask my hon. Friends to join me in the Lobby.

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

The House divided: Ayes 57, Noes 345.

Division No. 113
[10.4 pm


AYES


Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy
Baker, Norman
Ballard, Mrs Jackie
Beggs, Roy
Beith, Rt Hon A J
Brake, Tom
Brand, Dr Peter
Breed, Colin
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Burnett, John
Burstow, Paul
Cable, Dr Vincent
Campbell, Menzies (NE Fife)
Chidgey, David
Cotter, Brian
Cunningham, Ms Roseanna
(Perth)
Dafis, Cynog
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Donaldson, Jeffrey
Ewing, Mrs Margaret
Fearn, Ronnie
Forsythe, Clifford
Foster, Don (Bath)
George, Andrew (St Ives)
Gorrie, Donald
Harris, Dr Evan
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Kennedy, Charles (Ross Skye)
Kirkwood, Archy
Livsey, Richard
Llwyd, Elfyn
McCartney, Robert (N Down)
Maclennan, Rt Hon Robert
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
Moore, Michael
Morgan, Alasdair (Galloway)
Oaten, Mark
Öpik, Lembit
Paisley, Rev Ian
Rendel, David
Ross, William (E Lond'y)
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Salmond, Alex
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Stunell, Andrew
Swinney, John
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Tonge, Dr Jenny
Tyler, Paul
Wallace, James
Webb, Steve
Welsh, Andrew
Wigley, Rt Hon Dafydd
Willis, Phil

Tellers for the Ayes:


Mr. Adrian Sanders and
Mr. Paul Keetch.


NOES


Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Alexander, Douglas
Allen, Graham
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)
Armstrong, Ms Hilary
Ashton, Joe
Atherton, Ms Candy
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, John
Banks, Tony
Barron, Kevin
Battle, John
Bayley, Hugh
Beard, Nigel
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough)
Bennett, Andrew F
Benton, Joe
Bermingham, Gerald
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blair, Rt Hon Tony
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Blunkett, Rt Hon David
Boateng, Paul
Borrow, David
Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brinton, Mrs Helen
Brown, Rt Hon Gordon
(Dunfermline E)
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Browne, Desmond
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Butler, Mrs Christine
Byers, Stephen
Caborn, Richard
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell-Savours, Dale
Canavan, Dennis
Cann, Jamie
Caplin, Ivor
Casale, Roger
Caton, Martin
Cawsey, Ian
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chaytor, David
Church, Ms Judith
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Clark, Dr Lynda
(Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clelland, David
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Cohen, Harry
Coleman, Iain
Colman, Tony
Connarty, Michael
Cooper, Yvette
Corbett, Robin
Corston, Ms Jean
Cranston, Ross
Crausby, David
Cummings, John
Cunliffe, Lawrence
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr John
(Copeland)
Dalyell, Tam
Darling, Rt Hon Alistair
Darvill, Keith
Davidson, Ian
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Davies, Rt Hon Ron (Caerphilly)
Dawson, Hilton
Denham, John
Dewar, Rt Hon Donald
Dismore, Andrew
Dobson, Rt Hon Frank
Doran, Frank
Drew, David
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Edwards, Huw
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff
Fatchett, Derek
Field, Rt Hon Frank
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Fitzsimons, Lorna
Flint, Caroline
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Foulkes, George
Galbraith, Sam
Galloway, George
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
George, Bruce (Walsall S)
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr Ian
Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Godman, Norman A
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Golding, Mrs Llin
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grocott, Bruce
Grogan, John
Gunnell, John
Hain, Peter
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Hanson, David
Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet
Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Healey, John
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hesford, Stephen
Hewitt, Ms Patricia
Hill, Keith
Hinchliffe, David
Hodge, Ms Margaret
Hoey, Kate
Home Robertson, John
Hood, Jimmy
Hoon, Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, Alan (Newport E)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Howells, Dr Kim
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hurst, Alan
Hutton, John
Iddon, Dr Brian
Illsley, Eric
Ingram, Adam
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Johnson, Miss Melanie
(Welwyn Hatfield)
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Ms Jenny
(Wolverh'ton SW)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Jowell, Ms Tessa
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Kelly, Ms Ruth
Kemp, Fraser
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Khabra, Piara S
Kidney, David
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
Kumar, Dr Ashok
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Lawrence, Ms Jackie
Laxton, Bob
Lepper, David
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Liddell, Mrs Helen
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Lock, David
Love, Andrew
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCartney, Ian (Makerfield)
McDonagh, Siobhain
Macdonald, Calum
McFall, John
McGuire, Mrs. Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKenna, Mrs Rosemary
McLeish, Henry
McNulty, Tony
MacShane, Denis
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mallaber, Judy
Mandelson, Peter
Marek, Dr John
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)
Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Martlew, Eric
Maxton, John
Meale, Alan
Merron, Gillian
Michael, Alun
Milburn, Alan
Miller, Andrew
Moffatt, Laura
Moonie, Dr Lewis
Moran, Ms Margaret
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Morgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W)
Morley, Elliot
Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon)
Mowlam, Rt Hon Marjorie
Mudie, George
Mullin, Chris
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Murphy, Paul (Torfaen)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
Olner, Bill
O'Neill, Martin
Organ, Mrs Diana
Osborne, Ms Sandra
Palmer, Dr Nick
Pearson, Ian
Pendry, Tom
Perham, Ms Linda
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter L
Plaskitt, James
Pond, Chris
Pope, Greg
Pound, Stephen
Powell, Sir Raymond
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Primarolo, Dawn
Purchase, Ken
Quin, Ms Joyce
Quinn, Lawrie
Radice, Giles
Rammell, Bill
Rapson, Syd
Raynsford, Nick
Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)
Reid, Dr John (Hamilton N)
Robertson, Rt Hon George
(Hamilton S)
Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW)
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Rogers, Allan
Rooker, Jeff
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Rowlands, Ted
Roy, Frank
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Ms Joan
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Ryan, Ms Joan
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Barry
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Shipley, Ms Debra
Short, Rt Hon Clare
Singh, Marsha
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)
Smith, Miss Geraldine
(Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Snape, Peter
Soley, Clive
Southworth, Ms Helen
Spellar, John
Squire, Ms Rachel
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stevenson, George
Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stoate, Dr Howard
Stott, Roger
Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
(Dewsbury)
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Temple-Morris, Peter
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Timms, Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Touhig, Don
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Desmond (Kemptown)
Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Vaz, Keith
Vis, Dr Rudi
Watts, David
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Wills, Michael
Wilson, Brian
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Woolas, Phil
Worthington, Tony
Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Wyatt, Derek

Tellers for the Noes:


Mr. David Jamieson and
Mr. Jim Dowd.

Question accordingly negatived.

10 Dec 1997 : Column 1116

New schedule 1


'EXCEPTIONS TO THE BACKDATING OF BENEFITS

All Benefits

1. The backdating of benefits for a period longer than one month may be allowed for--
(a) cases where entitlement to benefit is dependent on the claimant's, or another person's entitlement to another benefit; and
(b) Family Credit and Disability Working Allowance claims, where a previous claim to Income Support or Jobseeker's Allowance has been refused because the claimant or partner is in remunerative work and the Family Credit or Disability Working Allowance Claim is made within 14 days of the determination on the Income Support or Jobseeker's Allowance claim.
Income Related Benefits

2. The backdating of income related benefits for a period no longer than one month may be allowed for--
(a) claimants who have difficulty communicating because of learning, language or literacy difficulties;
(b) claimants who are deaf or blind for whom there is no one else to make their claim;
(c) claimants who are ill or disabled for whom there is no one else to make their claim, except in the case of a claim for Jobseeker's Allowance;
(d) claimants who were given misleading information by an officer of the Department of Social Security or of the Department for Education and Employment;
(e) claimants who were given misleading advice in writing by a solicitor or other professional adviser, or by a medical practitioner, a Local Authority or by a person working in a Citizens Advice Bureau or a similar advice agency;
(f) claimants who have been given misleading information in writing about their income or capital by their employer or former employer, or by a bank or building society;
(g) claimants who are required to deal with a domestic emergency affecting them, for whom there is no one else to make the claim; and
(h) claimants who are prevented from attending the appropriate office by adverse weather conditions.

10 Dec 1997 : Column 1117

Delayed Claims

3. The backdating of income related benefits for a period no longer than one month may be allowed in cases where claimants are forced to delay claiming because--
(a) the appropriate office, where the claimant would be expected to make a claim, was unable to provide a service and alternative arrangements were not available;
(b) the claimant was unable to attend the appropriate office due to difficulties with his normal mode of transport and there was no reasonable alternative available;
(c) there were adverse postal conditions;
(d) the claimant was previously in receipt of another benefit, and notification of expiry of entitlement to that benefit was not sent to the claimant before the date that his entitlement expired;
(e) for Family Credit or Disability Working Allowance the claimant had previously been entitled to Income Support or Jobseeker's Allowance and the claim for Family Credit or Disability Working Allowance was made within one month of expiry of entitlement to the previous benefit;
(f) for Income Support or Jobseeker's Allowance the claimant had previously been entitled to Family Credit or Disability Working Allowance and the claim for Income Support or Jobseeker's Allowance was made within one month of expiry of entitlement to the previous benefit;
(g) the claimant recently separated from his partner; or
(h) a close relative of the claimant recently died.
Refugees

4. Refugees may be allowed, where the Secretary of State thinks it appropriate to claim backdated awards of Income Support, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit to the date of the asylum application.
Incapacity Benefit, Severe Disablement Allowance and Maternity Allowance

5. Claims for Incapacity Benefit, Severe Disablement Allowance and Maternity Allowance may be allowed to be backdated if employers delay in notifying the claimants that they had no entitlement to Statutory Sick Pay or Statutory Maternity Pay.
Further Exceptions

6. Further exceptions may be allowed in such cases or circumstances as may be prescribed.--[Mr. Waterson.]

Brought up, and read the First time.


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