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Mr. Darling: I will tell the hon. Lady how I do that. We want to ensure, wherever possible, that everyone of working age, including people on incapacity benefit, is seen, so that we may offer them the appropriate help and support. If we decided at the outset that we would routinely write off large numbers of people and not invite them for interview, that would defeat the object of the exercise.

I believe that the hon. Lady would accept that it is a minority of people who would not at some stage be able to come in for interview and receive that help and support. I know of her interest in this matter, which has arisen for perfectly understandable reasons that I shall not go into now, and I can understand exactly the type of case that she has in mind, to which I am extremely sympathetic, but I do not accept the argument that our staff should routinely be reluctant to invite people in, because many people who could come in might benefit from that help.

The hon. Member for Northavon (Mr. Webb) spoke nonsense about the guidance on suicide, which has applied to our staff for years. As he might imagine, we routinely encounter people in the present benefits system who might be at risk of suicide. The guidelines issued to our staff state very clearly that they should be sensitive. I am very sorry—

Mr. David Cameron (Witney) rose

Mr. Darling: I will not give way just now.

When it comes to scaremongering and upsetting people, the hon. Member for Northavon has done more than his fair share, particularly over the past few days, including the weekend.

We have introduced powers to waive and to postpone interviews. I hope that that knowledge will allay some of the concerns expressed by the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton and my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (David Winnick). No one wants our staff or the Government to act unreasonably, but I repeat that we want to ensure that people who would benefit from help and support get it.

It is important that we avoid the present position, whereby someone can go a considerable time—perhaps years—without help and support. We are now moving to

25 Oct 2001 : Column 495

a position where, no matter what benefit people are claiming, their circumstances will be reviewed at least once every three years, to ensure that we do not let people lie for year after year without getting the help and support that they need.

I hope that when Members consider the regulations tonight, they will see that the Government are acting reasonably and are doing something that Governments should have done years ago. It cannot be right that we leave people with no help or support. It is extremely interesting that, despite the fact that we heard an extremely long speech from the hon. Member for Havant and another from the hon. Member for Northavon, at no point did we hear an alternative approach or a single workable or affordable measure that would help to deal with this difficult problem. In contrast, we can show that over the past four years, through the new deal and other measures, and through the single gateway to the benefits system, we are moving forwards and doing more to help people than ever before. I am determined that we, as a Government, ensure that we help people get back into work wherever possible, as well as offering far more effective support to those who cannot work.

In that spirit, I hope that the House will endorse the regulations, so that we may help the millions of people denied help for too long in the past.

5.40 pm

Mr. Willetts: With the leave of the House, I refer the Secretary of State to the manifesto for disabled people that we published at the general election. The Labour party did not produce a manifesto for disabled people; we did and it contained practical measures to help them, including implementing the points made by the National Audit Office, which one Labour Member rightly raised, about the failure of the present system of medical assessment.

This measure is another example of a Government who are preoccupied with regulations when the real problem is the delivery of medical assessments, for which there is already ample regulatory and legal provision.

The Secretary of State has been caught out in a bogus crackdown, trying to spin tough policies. His colleague the Prime Minister was doing so in July. Today, the Secretary of State has had to beat an undignified retreat, abandoning statements that he made on the record in oral questions in attempting to explain the policy launched at the Institute for Public Policy Research.

We welcome the fact that as a result of our motion we have had this debate. We are certainly committed to ensuring that, wherever possible, people on incapacity benefit are helped into work. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): Is it your wish that the motion be withdrawn?

Hon. Members: No.

It being one and a half hours after the commencement of proceedings on the motion, Mr. Deputy Speaker put the Question, pursuant to Standing Orders Nos. 16(1) and 17(2) and Order [20 November 2000].

The House divided: Ayes 38, Noes 302.

25 Oct 2001 : Column 496

Division No. 44
[5.41 pm


Allan, Richard
Barnes, Harry
Beith, Rt Hon A J
Breed, Colin
Brooke, Annette
Burstow, Paul
Cable, Dr Vincent
Calton, Mrs Patsy
Chidgey, David
Cotter, Brian
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Doughty, Sue
Foster, Don (Bath)
Gidley, Sandra
Green, Matthew (Ludlow)
Harris, Dr Evan (Oxford W)
Harvey, Nick
Heath, David
Holmes, Paul
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Jones, Lynne (Selly Oak)
Lamb, Norman
Laws, David
McDonnell, John
Price, Adam
Pugh, Dr John
Reid, Alan (Argyll & Bute)
Rendel, David
Robertson, Angus (Moray)
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Skinner, Dennis
Tonge, Dr Jenny
Tyler, Paul
Webb, Steve
Williams, Hywel (Caernarfon)
Williams, Roger (Brecon)
Willis, Phil
Winnick, David

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Andrew Stunell and
Mr. Nigel Jones.


Abbott, Ms Diane
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)
Ainger, Nick
Alexander, Douglas
Allen, Graham
Anderson, Rt Hon Donald
(Swansea E)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, John
Bailey, Adrian
Banks, Tony
Battle, John
Bayley, Hugh
Beard, Nigel
Beckett, Rt Hon Margaret
Beggs, Roy
Bennett, Andrew
Benton, Joe
Best, Harold
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Blunkett, Rt Hon David
Boateng, Rt Hon Paul
Borrow, David
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brennan, Kevin
Brown, Rt Hon Nicholas
(Newcastle E & Wallsend)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Browne, Desmond
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burnham, Andy
Burnside, David
Byers, Rt Hon Stephen
Cairns, David
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Casale, Roger
Cawsey, Ian
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chaytor, David
Clark, Mrs Helen (Peterborough)
Clark, Dr Lynda
(Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clelland, David
Clwyd, Ann
Coffey, Ms Ann
Coleman, Iain
Colman, Tony
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Rt Hon Robin (Livingston)
Corston, Jean
Cousins, Jim
Cox, Tom
Cranston, Ross
Crausby, David
Cruddas, Jon
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Tony (Workington)
Curtis–Thomas, Mrs Claire
Darling, Rt Hon Alistair
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
David, Wayne
Davidson, Ian
Davis, Rt Hon Terry
(B'ham Hodge H)
Dawson, Hilton
Dean, Mrs Janet
Denham, Rt Hon John
Dhanda, Parmjit
Dobson, Rt Hon Frank
Donohoe, Brian H
Doran, Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drew, David
Drown, Ms Julia
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Edwards, Huw
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff
Etherington, Bill
Farrelly, Paul
Field, Rt Hon Frank (Birkenhead)
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Foster, Michael (Worcester)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Foulkes, George
Francis, Dr Hywel
Gapes, Mike
George, Rt Hon Bruce (Walsall S)
Gerrard, Neil
Gilroy, Linda
Goggins, Paul
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grogan, John
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hamilton, David (Midlothian)
Hanson, David
Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet
Harris, Tom (Glasgow Cathcart)
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hendrick, Mark
Hepburn, Stephen
Hesford, Stephen
Hewitt, Rt Hon Ms Patricia
Heyes, David
Hill, Keith
Hinchliffe, David
Hodge, Margaret
Hood, Jimmy
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, Rt Hon Alan (Newport E)
Howells, Dr Kim
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hurst, Alan
Iddon, Dr Brian
Illsley, Eric
Ingram, Rt Hon Adam
Jackson, Glenda (Hampstead)
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Johnson, Miss Melanie
(Welwyn Hatfield)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Jones, Kevan (N Durham)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Jowell, Rt Hon Tessa
Joyce, Eric
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Kemp, Fraser
Khabra, Piara S
Kidney, David
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)
Knight, Jim (S Dorset)
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Lammy, David
Lawrence, Mrs Jackie
Laxton, Bob
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lepper, David
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Liddell, Rt Hon Mrs Helen
Linton, Martin
Love, Andrew
Lucas, Ian
Luke, Iain
Lyons, John
McAvoy, Thomas
McCafferty, Chris
McDonagh, Siobhain
MacDonald, Calum
MacDougall, John
McFall, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McKenna, Rosemary
McNamara, Kevin
McNulty, Tony
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Martlew, Eric
Meacher, Rt Hon Michael
Meale, Alan
Merron, Gillian
Michael, Rt Hon Alun
Milburn, Rt Hon Alan
Miller, Andrew
Moffatt, Laura
Moonie, Dr Lewis
Moran, Margaret
Morgan, Julie
Morley, Elliot
Mudie, George
Mullin, Chris
Munn, Ms Meg
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Murphy, Rt Hon Paul (Torfaen)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
O'Hara, Edward
Olner, Bill
O'Neill, Martin
Osborne, Sandra (Ayr)
Owen, Albert
Pearson, Ian
Perham, Linda
Picking, Anne
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter
Plaskitt, James
Pollard, Kerry
Pond, Chris
Pope, Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Ken
Quin, Rt Hon Joyce
Quinn, Lawrie
Rapson, Syd
Raynsford, Rt Hon Nick
Reed, Andy (Loughborough)
Reid, Rt Hon Dr John (Hamilton N)
Robertson, John
(Glasgow Anniesland)
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Rooney, Terry
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Ryan, Joan
Sarwar, Mohammad
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Shaw, Jonathan
Shipley, Ms Debra
Simon, Siôn
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Singh, Marsha
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Geraldine (Morecambe)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Soley, Clive
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stevenson, George
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stoate, Dr Howard
Stringer, Graham
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Tami, Mark
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Timms, Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark
Touhig, Don
Trickett, Jon
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Tynan, Bill
Vis, Dr Rudi
Walley, Ms Joan
Ward, Ms Claire
Wareing, Robert N
Watson, Tom
Watts, David
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, Rt Hon Alan
(Swansea W)
Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Wills, Michael
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Woolas, Phil
Worthington, Tony
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Wyatt, Derek

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Ivor Caplin and
Mr. John Heppell.

Question accordingly negatived.

25 Oct 2001 : Column 498

25 Oct 2001 : Column 499

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