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As stated in Committee, the purpose of clause 17 is to safeguard the benefit system against abuse where a customer deliberately decides not to follow standard medical advice in order to continue to receive benefit inappropriately. The clause is not an attempt in any sense to force people into accepting medical treatment or medication that they do not wish to take for genuine reasons—for example, on account of unacceptable side
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effects of drugs or fear of surgery. I hope that that reassures my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood on the issues that he raised.

Amendments Nos. 98 and 99 were tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, North-West who illuminated the Committee with observations on his experience in Glasgow. A league table of incapacity benefit has been published, so we know that the city of Glasgow has the constituencies with the highest level and the second highest level of incapacity benefit customers in the whole of the UK. Without wishing to enter the whole debate between my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) and the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (John Penrose), the changing nature of incapacity benefit is evident in that more women are now claiming it. But it is still the case that if one were to publish a list of the 100 parliamentary constituencies with the highest levels of incapacity benefit, 94 or 95, perhaps even 96, of them would be represented by Labour Members. I make no wider point than that, except to say that it is a result of the historical footprint of deindustrialisation and the fact that so many people were abandoned for a period when they lost their jobs and were out of the labour market for a prolonged time. As my hon. Friends have pointed out, if someone is on incapacity benefit for one year, they will on average be on it for nine years.

5.30 pm

My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, North-West asked about the Atos Origin operation. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, who has responsibility for disability issues, regularly answers parliamentary questions about the operational nature of Atos Origin and its procedures and practices. With a customer’s permission, the IB medical report may be made available to Members of Parliament and that is the right level of confidentiality.

My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, North-West also asked about terminal illness. He had a novel way of avoiding your wrath, Mr. Deputy Speaker, by admitting that he was widening the terms of the debate and hoping to sneak the issue past you. I hope to sneak a response past you in the same way, although it is of course open to you to call me to order. I hope that I may offer some comfort to my hon. Friend and also to my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries and Galloway (Mr. Brown) who doggedly pursued the issue in Committee. I have given a commitment to talk to my hon. Friends in greater detail about this and it is our intention to fast-track those with a terminal prognosis through the system so that they do not have to wait the 13-week assessment period. We also wish to find ways to pay the benefit much more quickly. We process claims for DLA in about a week and there is no reason why we cannot seek to achieve a similar turnaround for those with terminal illness in respect of ESA.

At present a person who is claiming IB or IS on the grounds of incapacity for work and who does not meet the PCA threshold has the option of either claiming IS at a reduced rate, set at 80 per cent. of the usual personal allowance, or of claiming jobseeker’s allowance while they are appealing against the PCA decision. That is because many customers believe that they will prejudice the appeal if they are seen to be
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claiming JSA, which has rather more onerous conditionality requirements than IB.

For ESA, we have decided to simplify the system. Where a customer does not satisfy the PCA, but continues to provide medical advice that they should refrain from work, entitlement to ESA at the assessment phase rate will continue pending the outcome of the appeal. That is a unique feature of the decision making process for social security, as normally when a person is not entitled to benefit it ceases and would be reinstated only when an appeal tribunal rules in the customer’s favour. Customers will be subject to ESA conditionality, not JSA conditionality, pending the outcome of the appeal. I hope that that reassures my hon. Friend on his important amendment. Amendment No. 98 is therefore unnecessary and I hope that my hon. Friend will not seek to press it.

Amendment No. 99, as has been suggested, goes much further than amendment No. 98 in that it seeks to treat people who have shown that they do not meet the criteria for limited capability for work-related activity as if they do so, solely because they are appealing against a decision that they do not. The effect would be to enable people in that position to receive a higher level of benefit and also not be subject to the normal conditionality regime simply because they have entered the appeals mechanism. I suspect that that is not the purpose behind the amendment and I again invite my hon. Friend not to press it.

In conclusion, I have outlined the reasoning behind the technicalities of the Government amendments, and sought to reassure my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood about our intentions in respect of medical treatment. In addition, I hope that I have reassured my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, North-West about his specific and important concerns, and that the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey accepts that there will be parliamentary scrutiny in the important period between 2008 and 2010. At the end of that period, the Government will table proposals to ensure that the right of independent and parliamentary scrutiny is further enshrined so that the effectiveness of the revised PCA, which is central to the introduction of the employment and support allowance, can continue to be assessed.

Danny Alexander: This has been a good debate, especially in respect of the need to secure continued independent assessment and scrutiny of the revised PCA. I welcome the Minister’s response to our criticisms of the initial dummy runs, and the problems that arose with them. I also welcome the fact that there will be another set of initial assessments, but the Minister’s partial concession that independent involvement will continue for the first two years of the new PCA does not go far enough.

As happened with the current system, many of the problems will not arise in the first two years of the new PCA. The Minister spoke earlier about the changing nature of disability over the years, and that is why we need an annual review. The hon. Member for Kingswood (Roger Berry) wondered whether the ODI was the right body for that purpose, but I think that, in consultation with other organisations, it could play that role very effectively. Therefore, although I welcome some of what the Minister said, I still want to press new clause 3 to a Division.

9 Jan 2007 : Column 186

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

The House divided: Ayes 226, Noes 307.
Division No. 018]
[5.37 PM


Afriyie, Adam
Ainsworth, Mr. Peter
Alexander, Danny
Arbuthnot, rh Mr. James
Atkinson, Mr. Peter
Bacon, Mr. Richard
Baker, Norman
Baldry, Tony
Barker, Gregory
Baron, Mr. John
Barrett, John
Beith, rh Mr. Alan
Bellingham, Mr. Henry
Benyon, Mr. Richard
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Blunt, Mr. Crispin
Bone, Mr. Peter
Boswell, Mr. Tim
Bottomley, Peter
Brake, Tom
Brazier, Mr. Julian
Breed, Mr. Colin
Brokenshire, James
Brooke, Annette
Bruce, rh Malcolm
Burns, Mr. Simon
Burstow, Mr. Paul
Burt, Alistair
Burt, Lorely
Butterfill, Sir John
Cable, Dr. Vincent
Cameron, rh Mr. David
Campbell, rh Sir Menzies
Carmichael, Mr. Alistair
Chope, Mr. Christopher
Clappison, Mr. James
Clark, Greg
Clegg, Mr. Nick
Clifton-Brown, Mr. Geoffrey
Conway, Derek
Corbyn, Jeremy
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Curry, rh Mr. David
Davey, Mr. Edward
Davies, David T.C. (Monmouth)
Davies, Philip
Davis, rh David (Haltemprice and Howden)
Djanogly, Mr. Jonathan
Dorrell, rh Mr. Stephen
Dorries, Mrs. Nadine
Duddridge, James
Duncan, Alan
Duncan Smith, rh Mr. Iain
Dunne, Mr. Philip
Durkan, Mark
Ellwood, Mr. Tobias
Evans, Mr. Nigel
Evennett, Mr. David
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Mr. Michael
Farron, Tim
Field, Mr. Mark
Foster, Mr. Don
Fox, Dr. Liam
Francois, Mr. Mark
Fraser, Mr. Christopher
Gale, Mr. Roger
Gauke, Mr. David
George, Andrew
Gibb, Mr. Nick
Gidley, Sandra
Gillan, Mrs. Cheryl
Goldsworthy, Julia
Goodman, Mr. Paul
Goodwill, Mr. Robert
Gove, Michael
Gray, Mr. James
Grayling, Chris
Green, Damian
Greening, Justine
Greenway, Mr. John
Grieve, Mr. Dominic
Gummer, rh Mr. John
Hague, rh Mr. William
Hammond, Mr. Philip
Hammond, Stephen
Hancock, Mr. Mike
Hands, Mr. Greg
Harper, Mr. Mark
Harris, Dr. Evan
Harvey, Nick
Hayes, Mr. John
Heald, Mr. Oliver
Heath, Mr. David
Heathcoat-Amory, rh Mr. David
Hendry, Charles
Herbert, Nick
Hoban, Mr. Mark
Hogg, rh Mr. Douglas
Hollobone, Mr. Philip
Holloway, Mr. Adam
Holmes, Paul
Horam, Mr. John
Horwood, Martin
Hosie, Stewart
Howard, rh Mr. Michael
Howarth, David
Howarth, Mr. Gerald
Hughes, Simon
Huhne, Chris
Hunt, Mr. Jeremy
Hunter, Mark
Hurd, Mr. Nick
Jack, rh Mr. Michael
Jackson, Mr. Stewart
Jenkin, Mr. Bernard
Johnson, Mr. Boris
Jones, Mr. David
Kawczynski, Daniel
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Kramer, Susan
Lamb, Norman
Lansley, Mr. Andrew
Laws, Mr. David

Leech, Mr. John
Letwin, rh Mr. Oliver
Liddell-Grainger, Mr. Ian
Lidington, Mr. David
Lilley, rh Mr. Peter
Llwyd, Mr. Elfyn
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
Mackay, rh Mr. Andrew
Malins, Mr. Humfrey
Maples, Mr. John
May, rh Mrs. Theresa
McDonnell, John
McIntosh, Miss Anne
McLoughlin, rh Mr. Patrick
Mitchell, Mr. Andrew
Moss, Mr. Malcolm
Mulholland, Greg
Mundell, David
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Neill, Robert
Newmark, Mr. Brooks
O'Brien, Mr. Stephen
Oaten, Mr. Mark
Öpik, Lembit
Osborne, Mr. George
Ottaway, Richard
Paice, Mr. James
Paisley, rh Rev. Ian
Paterson, Mr. Owen
Pelling, Mr. Andrew
Penrose, John
Pickles, Mr. Eric
Price, Adam
Prisk, Mr. Mark
Pritchard, Mark
Pugh, Dr. John
Randall, Mr. John
Redwood, rh Mr. John
Reid, Mr. Alan
Rifkind, rh Sir Malcolm
Robathan, Mr. Andrew
Robertson, Hugh
Robertson, Mr. Laurence
Rogerson, Mr. Dan
Rosindell, Andrew
Ruffley, Mr. David
Russell, Bob
Sanders, Mr. Adrian
Scott, Mr. Lee
Selous, Andrew
Shapps, Grant
Shepherd, Mr. Richard
Simmonds, Mark
Simpson, David
Simpson, Mr. Keith
Smith, Sir Robert
Soames, Mr. Nicholas
Spelman, Mrs. Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spink, Bob
Spring, Mr. Richard
Stanley, rh Sir John
Streeter, Mr. Gary
Stunell, Andrew
Swayne, Mr. Desmond
Swinson, Jo
Syms, Mr. Robert
Taylor, Mr. Ian
Taylor, Matthew
Taylor, Dr. Richard
Teather, Sarah
Thurso, John
Tredinnick, David
Tyrie, Mr. Andrew
Vaizey, Mr. Edward
Vara, Mr. Shailesh
Viggers, Peter
Villiers, Mrs. Theresa
Walker, Mr. Charles
Walter, Mr. Robert
Waterson, Mr. Nigel
Watkinson, Angela
Webb, Steve
Weir, Mr. Mike
Whittingdale, Mr. John
Wiggin, Bill
Willetts, Mr. David
Williams, Hywel
Williams, Mark
Williams, Mr. Roger
Willis, Mr. Phil
Wilshire, Mr. David
Wilson, Mr. Rob
Wilson, Sammy
Winterton, Ann
Winterton, Sir Nicholas
Wishart, Pete
Wright, Jeremy
Yeo, Mr. Tim
Young, rh Sir George
Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Jeremy Browne and
Jenny Willott

Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, rh Mr. Bob
Alexander, rh Mr. Douglas
Allen, Mr. Graham
Anderson, Mr. David
Anderson, Janet
Armstrong, rh Hilary
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, Mr. Ian
Austin, John
Bailey, Mr. Adrian
Baird, Vera
Balls, Ed
Banks, Gordon
Barlow, Ms Celia
Barron, rh Mr. Kevin
Bayley, Hugh
Beckett, rh Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Bell, Sir Stuart
Benn, rh Hilary
Benton, Mr. Joe
Berry, Roger
Betts, Mr. Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blackman-Woods, Dr. Roberta
Blears, rh Hazel
Blizzard, Mr. Bob
Borrow, Mr. David S.
Bradshaw, Mr. Ben
Brennan, Kevin

Brown, Lyn
Brown, rh Mr. Nicholas
Brown, Mr. Russell
Browne, rh Des
Bryant, Chris
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Burnham, Andy
Butler, Ms Dawn
Byers, rh Mr. Stephen
Byrne, Mr. Liam
Cairns, David
Campbell, Mr. Alan
Campbell, Mr. Ronnie
Caton, Mr. Martin
Cawsey, Mr. Ian
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Ben
Chaytor, Mr. David
Clapham, Mr. Michael
Clark, Ms Katy
Clark, Paul
Clarke, rh Mr. Charles
Clarke, rh Mr. Tom
Clelland, Mr. David
Clwyd, rh Ann
Coaker, Mr. Vernon
Coffey, Ann
Cohen, Harry
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank
Cooper, Rosie
Cooper, Yvette
Cousins, Jim
Crausby, Mr. David
Creagh, Mary
Cruddas, Jon
Cryer, Mrs. Ann
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Mr. Jim
Cunningham, Tony
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs. Claire
David, Mr. Wayne
Davidson, Mr. Ian
Davies, Mr. Dai
Dean, Mrs. Janet
Devine, Mr. Jim
Dhanda, Mr. Parmjit
Dismore, Mr. Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Donohoe, Mr. Brian H.
Doran, Mr. Frank
Dowd, Jim
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs. Louise
Engel, Natascha
Ennis, Jeff
Farrelly, Paul
Field, rh Mr. Frank
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flello, Mr. Robert
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Foster, Mr. Michael (Worcester)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings and Rye)
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Gapes, Mike
George, rh Mr. Bruce
Gerrard, Mr. Neil
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Gilroy, Linda
Goodman, Helen
Griffith, Nia
Griffiths, Nigel
Grogan, Mr. John
Gwynne, Andrew
Hall, Mr. Mike
Hall, Patrick
Hamilton, Mr. David
Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Harris, Mr. Tom
Healey, John
Henderson, Mr. Doug
Hendrick, Mr. Mark
Hepburn, Mr. Stephen
Heppell, Mr. John
Hesford, Stephen
Hewitt, rh Ms Patricia
Heyes, David
Hill, rh Keith
Hillier, Meg
Hodge, rh Margaret
Hodgson, Mrs. Sharon
Hoey, Kate
Hoon, rh Mr. Geoffrey
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, rh Mr. George
Hoyle, Mr. Lindsay
Hughes, rh Beverley
Humble, Mrs. Joan
Hutton, rh Mr. John
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Illsley, Mr. Eric
Ingram, rh Mr. Adam
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Jackson, Glenda
James, Mrs. Siân C.
Jenkins, Mr. Brian
Johnson, rh Alan
Johnson, Ms Diana R.
Jones, Helen
Jones, Mr. Kevan
Jones, Lynne
Jones, Mr. Martyn
Joyce, Mr. Eric
Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keeley, Barbara
Keen, Alan
Keen, Ann
Kelly, rh Ruth
Kemp, Mr. Fraser
Kennedy, rh Jane
Khan, Mr. Sadiq
Kidney, Mr. David
Kilfoyle, Mr. Peter
Knight, Jim
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lammy, Mr. David
Laxton, Mr. Bob
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lepper, David
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Mr. Ivan
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony
Love, Mr. Andrew

Lucas, Ian
Mackinlay, Andrew
Mactaggart, Fiona
Mahmood, Mr. Khalid
Malik, Mr. Shahid
Mallaber, Judy
Mann, John
Marris, Rob
Marsden, Mr. Gordon
Martlew, Mr. Eric
McAvoy, rh Mr. Thomas
McCarthy, Kerry
McCarthy-Fry, Sarah
McCartney, rh Mr. Ian
McDonagh, Siobhain
McFadden, Mr. Pat
McFall, rh John
McGuire, Mrs. Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McNulty, Mr. Tony
Meacher, rh Mr. Michael
Meale, Mr. Alan
Merron, Gillian
Michael, rh Alun
Milburn, rh Mr. Alan
Miliband, rh David
Miliband, Edward
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Mr. Austin
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moon, Mrs. Madeleine
Morgan, Julie
Morley, Mr. Elliot
Mountford, Kali
Mudie, Mr. George
Mullin, Mr. Chris
Munn, Meg
Murphy, Mr. Denis
Murphy, Mr. Jim
Murphy, rh Mr. Paul
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Mr. Mike
O'Hara, Mr. Edward
Olner, Mr. Bill
Osborne, Sandra
Owen, Albert
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Pearson, Ian
Plaskitt, Mr. James
Pope, Mr. Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Bridget
Prentice, Mr. Gordon
Prescott, rh Mr. John
Primarolo, rh Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Mr. Ken
Purnell, James
Rammell, Bill
Raynsford, rh Mr. Nick
Reed, Mr. Andy
Reed, Mr. Jamie
Reid, rh John
Riordan, Mrs. Linda
Robertson, John
Robinson, Mr. Geoffrey
Rooney, Mr. Terry
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Christine
Salter, Martin
Sarwar, Mr. Mohammad
Seabeck, Alison
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Mr. Barry
Sheridan, Jim
Simon, Mr. Siôn
Simpson, Alan
Singh, Mr. Marsha
Skinner, Mr. Dennis
Slaughter, Mr. Andrew
Smith, rh Mr. Andrew
Smith, Ms Angela C. (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
Smith, Angela E. (Basildon)
Smith, Geraldine
Smith, rh Jacqui
Snelgrove, Anne
Soulsby, Sir Peter
Southworth, Helen
Spellar, rh Mr. John
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Straw, rh Mr. Jack
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Sutcliffe, Mr. Gerry
Tami, Mark
Taylor, Ms Dari
Taylor, David
Thomas, Mr. Gareth
Thornberry, Emily
Timms, rh Mr. Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mr. Mark
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Mr. Paul
Turner, Dr. Desmond
Turner, Mr. Neil
Ussher, Kitty
Vaz, rh Keith
Vis, Dr. Rudi
Walley, Joan
Waltho, Lynda
Ward, Claire
Wareing, Mr. Robert N.
Watson, Mr. Tom
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, rh Mr. Alan
Williams, Mrs. Betty
Wills, Mr. Michael
Winnick, Mr. David
Winterton, rh Ms Rosie
Woodward, Mr. Shaun
Woolas, Mr. Phil
Wright, Mr. Anthony
Wright, David
Wright, Mr. Iain
Wright, Dr. Tony
Wyatt, Derek
Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Frank Roy and
Mr. Dave Watts
Question accordingly negatived.
9 Jan 2007 : Column 187

9 Jan 2007 : Column 188

9 Jan 2007 : Column 189

9 Jan 2007 : Column 190

New Clause 7

Participation in work-focused interviews

‘(1) Members of the support group wishing to participate in work-focused interviews may do so on a voluntary basis.

(2) The Secretary of State may by regulation define—

(a) the maximum numbers of interviews they may attend,

(b) circumstances in which participation in one or more interviews is not a condition of entitlement to the full amount payable under the employment and support allowance.’.— [Mr. Ruffley.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Ruffley: I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments:

No. 3, page 8, line 1, leave out clause 10.

No. 58, in clause 10, page 8, line 6, at end insert ‘and

(c) not in the assessment phase of a claim for an employment and support allowance,’.

No. 116, page 8, line 9, at end insert—

‘(1A) Such an assessment may not take place earlier than 2 weeks after the assessments to determine limited capability for work or limited capability of work-related activity.’.

No. 57, page 8, line 18, at end insert

‘in accordance with the choice and requirements of such a person’.

No. 1, page 8, line 21, leave out paragraph (f).

No. 2, page 8, line 32, leave out subsection (3).

No. 87, in clause 12, page 11, line 22, at end insert—

‘(j) for notifying a person not subject to a requirement to undertake work-related activity that he may participate in work-related activity on a voluntary basis.’.

No. 4, in clause 15, page 13, line 5, leave out ‘10’ and insert ‘11’.

Mr. Ruffley: New clause 7 relates to an extremely important group of individuals: those in the support group, who will enjoy the benefits of the new allowance. They are the most severely in need. They are quite separate from those in the employment group who, under the assessment in clause 9, are judged to be capable of work-related activity—not so support group members. However, even though, under the Bill, support group members are not under any obligation to undertake work-related activity, in a far-sighted and welcome way Ministers have made it clear that support group members may be able to volunteer for work-related activity and all the support and resourcing that comes with the undertaking of work-related activity.

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