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Mr. Denham: No, I have given way generously. If the hon. Gentleman does not like the fact that we took the action to protect the national insurance fund that his predecessors said they would take when in government, that is his difficulty.

We recognise that the rebate structure that has evolved over the past 20 years has created inequalities. It does not necessarily match the needs of the different types of contracted-out pension provision now available. Although we have made the necessary short-term changes, we shall review the whole rebate structure in the light of the pensions review and the introduction of stakeholder pensions to ensure that it underpins the Government's new pensions policy.

The Government keep their promises and we have kept our promises to pensioners--both today's pensioners and those who will retire in future. We promised to maintain the basic state pension as the foundation for retirement and to uprate it at least in line with prices. We have kept that promise and we shall honour the manifesto on which we were elected. We have done more: we shall spend £200 million this year and next giving all pensioners help with their heating bills. We are doing more: we have cut VAT on fuel--

Mr. Burns: Prices or earnings?

Mr. Denham: If the hon. Gentleman, who is the Opposition spokesman on the subject, cannot be bothered to reply to the debate, he can at least do without making interventions from a sedentary position.

We are doing more: we have cut VAT on fuel after the Conservative party tried to raise it to 17.5 per cent. We are cutting other VAT, so that more pensioners' homes can be insulated. We are allowing local authorities to invest capital receipts to improve the homes of pensioners, among others.

We are doing more. For 18 years the Conservative party did nothing for those pensioners--mainly women, usually over 75, often living alone--who do not receive the income support to which they are entitled. Instead, the Conservatives blamed pensioners for their poverty. The Government have set out to find out why those pensioners do not claim and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has announced nine pilot schemes to find the best ways of identifying those pensioners and encouraging them to claim. We promised in our manifesto to find ways of giving more automatic help to the poorest pensioners and these early actions will help us to find the best way to do so.

The Government have taken action for today's pensioners already. In our pensions review, we are talking to and meeting today's pensioners and giving them a voice at the heart of government. While we tackle the problems faced by today's pensioners, we want to help the pensioners of the future too.

Miss Ann Widdecombe (Maidstone and The Weald): I thank the Minister for giving way. As we have only

10 Mar 1998 : Column 422

three minutes left, I did not want him to forget one very important question, which he promised to answer. Has his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State ruled out means-testing the state pension?

Mr. Denham: I have made it perfectly clear that we shall honour the manifesto on which we were elected. We shall increase and we have increased the basic state pension at least in line with prices. I am not surprised that Conservative Members scream and shout, because they did not do what my hon. Friend the Economic Secretary to the Treasury has done and set about tackling the problem of pension mis-selling. They did nothing about that problem for five years.

Undoing the damage done by the Conservatives is not enough. We do not want only some people to enjoy a good second pension; we want as many people as possible to do so. That is why we are looking at ways to support and strengthen the framework for occupational pensions. However, not everyone can join an occupational pension scheme, which is why we are consulting on our plans for low-cost, value-for-money, flexible stakeholder pensions. That is also why we want to make sure that those who cannot save for a second pension, such as carers, many of whom are women, can also enjoy security in retirement. We know the scale of the pensions challenge. We know that we must build consensus on a new pension framework that will last. That is why we are consulting so widely with pensioners, employers, trade unions and pension providers. It is a challenge that we must meet.

Tonight, it is the Conservative party that is condemned. For 18 years, it took away pension rights and gave people nothing in their place. It mis-sold personal pensions and did nothing to clear up the mess. For years, it fought against even pension fairness in divorce. It ignored pensioners living in poverty and blamed them for their lack of money. It put VAT on fuel and wanted to raise it to 17.5 per cent.

Mr. James Arbuthnot (North-East Hampshire) rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.

Question put accordingly, That the original words stand part of the Question:--

The House divided: Ayes 161, Noes 294.

Division No. 197
[9.59 pm


AYES


Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)
Allan, Richard
Amess, David
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael
Arbuthnot, James
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Baker, Norman
Baldry, Tony
Beggs, Roy
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Boswell, Tim
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Brady, Graham
Brand, Dr Peter
Brazier, Julian
Breed, Colin
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Burnett, John
Burns, Simon
Cable, Dr Vincent
Campbell, Menzies (NE Fife)
Cash, William
Chapman, Sir Sydney
(Chipping Barnet)
Chidgey, David
Chope, Christopher
Clappison, James
Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Kensington)
Clark, Dr Michael (Rayleigh)
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth
(Rushcliffe)
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Collins, Tim
Cotter, Brian
Cran, James
Curry, Rt Hon David
Davies, Quentin (Grantham)
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)
Duncan Smith, Iain
Evans, Nigel
Faber, David
Fallon, Michael
Flight, Howard
Forsythe, Clifford
Forth, Rt Hon Eric
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Fox, Dr Liam
Gale, Roger
Garnier, Edward
George, Andrew (St Ives)
Gibb, Nick
Gill, Christopher
Goodlad, Rt Hon Sir Alastair
Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Gorrie, Donald
Gray, James
Greenway, John
Grieve, Dominic
Gummer, Rt Hon John
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Hammond, Philip
Hancock, Mike
Harris, Dr Evan
Harvey, Nick
Hawkins, Nick
Heald, Oliver
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas
Horam, John
Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Hunter, Andrew
Jack, Rt Hon Michael
Jenkin, Bernard
Johnson Smith,
Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Key, Robert
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Kirkwood, Archy
Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Lansley, Andrew
Leigh, Edward
Letwin, Oliver
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Lidington, David
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Livsey, Richard
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Luff, Peter
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
MacGregor, Rt Hon John
MacKay, Andrew
Maclean, Rt Hon David
McLoughlin, Patrick
Madel, Sir David
Malins, Humfrey
Maples, John
Maude, Rt Hon Francis
May, Mrs Theresa
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
Moss, Malcolm
Nicholls, Patrick
Norman, Archie
Öpik, Lembit
Ottaway, Richard
Page, Richard
Paice, James
Pickles, Eric
Prior, David
Randall, John
Redwood, Rt Hon John
Rendel, David
Robathan, Andrew
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Ross, William (E Lond'y)
Rowe, Andrew (Faversham)
Ruffley, David
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
St Aubyn, Nick
Sanders, Adrian
Sayeed, Jonathan
Shepherd, Richard
Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spring, Richard
Steen, Anthony
Streeter, Gary
Swayne, Desmond
Syms, Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Taylor, Sir Teddy
Townend, John
Trend, Michael
Tyler, Paul
Tyrie, Andrew
Viggers, Peter
Wallace, James
Walter, Robert
Wardle, Charles
Waterson, Nigel
Webb, Steve
Wells, Bowen
Whitney, Sir Raymond
Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Wilkinson, John
Willetts, David
Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Woodward, Shaun
Yeo, Tim
Young, Rt Hon Sir George

Tellers for the Ayes:


Mr. Stephen Day and
Mr. John Whittingdale.


NOES


Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Alexander, Douglas
Allen, Graham
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)
Ashton, Joe
Atherton, Ms Candy
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, John
Banks, Tony
Barnes, Harry
Battle, John
Bayley, Hugh
Beard, Nigel
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough)
Bennett, Andrew F
Benton, Joe
Bermingham, Gerald
Berry, Roger
Best, Harold
Blackman, Liz
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Blunkett, Rt Hon David
Boateng, Paul
Borrow, David
Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brinton, Mrs Helen
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Browne, Desmond
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Butler, Mrs Christine
Byers, Stephen
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Canavan, Dennis
Caplin, Ivor
Casale, Roger
Caton, Martin
Cawsey, Ian
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chaytor, David
Church, Ms Judith
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clelland, David
Clwyd, Ann
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Cohen, Harry
Coleman, Iain
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Corbett, Robin
Corbyn, Jeremy
Corston, Ms Jean
Cox, Tom
Cranston, Ross
Crausby, David
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Dalyell, Tam
Darling, Rt Hon Alistair
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Davidson, Ian
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Davies, Rt Hon Ron (Caerphilly)
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H)
Dawson, Hilton
Denham, John
Dewar, Rt Hon Donald
Dismore, Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Donohoe, Brian H
Dowd, Jim
Drew, David
Drown, Ms Julia
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff
Etherington, Bill
Field, Rt Hon Frank
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Fitzsimons, Lorna
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Foulkes, George
Fyfe, Maria
Galbraith, Sam
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
George, Bruce (Walsall S)
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr Ian
Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grocott, Bruce
Gunnell, John
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Hanson, David
Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet
Healey, John
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hesford, Stephen
Hill, Keith
Hinchliffe, David
Hoey, Kate
Home Robertson, John
Hoon, Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, Alan (Newport E)
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hutton, John
Iddon, Dr Brian
Ingram, Adam
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Johnson, Miss Melanie
(Welwyn Hatfield)
Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Ms Jenny
(Wolverh'ton SW)
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Kelly, Ms Ruth
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Khabra, Piara S
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)
Kingham, Ms Tess
Kumar, Dr Ashok
Lawrence, Ms Jackie
Laxton, Bob
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Liddell, Mrs Helen
Linton, Martin
Livingstone, Ken
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Lock, David
Love, Andrew
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCafferty, Ms Chris
McCartney, Ian (Makerfield)
McDonagh, Siobhain
McDonnell, John
McFall, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McLeish, Henry
McNamara, Kevin
McNulty, Tony
MacShane, Denis
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWalter, Tony
Mallaber, Judy
Mandelson, Peter
Marek, Dr John
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Meacher, Rt Hon Michael
Meale, Alan
Michael, Alun
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Milburn, Alan
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Austin
Moffatt, Laura
Moonie, Dr Lewis
Moran, Ms Margaret
Morgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W)
Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon)
Mountford, Kali
Mudie, George
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
O'Hara, Eddie
Olner, Bill
O'Neill, Martin
Palmer, Dr Nick
Pearson, Ian
Pendry, Tom
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter L
Plaskitt, James
Pond, Chris
Pope, Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Prescott, Rt Hon John
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)
Rooker, Jeff
Rooney, Terry
Rowlands, Ted
Ruane, Chris
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Ryan, Ms Joan
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Singh, Marsha
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)
Smith, Miss Geraldine
(Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Soley, Clive
Southworth, Ms Helen
Spellar, John
Squire, Ms Rachel
Steinberg, Gerry
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stoate, Dr Howard
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
(Dewsbury)
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Timms, Stephen
Todd, Mark
Touhig, Don
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Vis, Dr Rudi
Walley, Ms Joan
Wareing, Robert N
White, Brian
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, Rt Hon Alan
(Swansea W)
Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Wilson, Brian
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Wise, Audrey
Wood, Mike
Woolas, Phil
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)

Tellers for the Noes:


Mr. Clive Betts and
Mr. David Jamieson.

Question accordingly negatived.

10 Mar 1998 : Column 425

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 31 (Questions on amendments), and agreed to.

10 Mar 1998 : Column 426

Mr. Deputy Speaker forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to. Resolved,


It being after Ten o'clock, Mr. Deputy Speaker put the Questions which he was directed to put at that hour, pursuant to Standing Order No. 55(1) (Questions on voting of estimates, &c.).


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