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The House having divided: Ayes 85, Noes 408.
Division No. 74]
[6.59 pm



AYES


Alexander, Danny
Baker, Norman
Barrett, John
Beith, rh Sir Alan
Brooke, Annette
Burgon, Colin
Burt, Lorely
Campbell, rh Sir Menzies
Campbell, Mr. Ronnie
Carmichael, Mr. Alistair
Caton, Mr. Martin
Clark, Ms Katy
Clegg, rh Mr. Nick
Cook, Frank
Corbyn, Jeremy
Cousins, Jim
Davey, Mr. Edward
Davies, Mr. Dai
Dobson, rh Frank
Drew, Mr. David
Farron, Tim
Flynn, Paul
Foster, Mr. Don
George, Andrew
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Gidley, Sandra
Godsiff, Mr. Roger
Goldsworthy, Julia
Grogan, Mr. John
Harris, Dr. Evan
Harvey, Nick
Havard, Mr. Dai
Heath, Mr. David
Hemming, John
Hoey, Kate
Holmes, Paul
Horwood, Martin
Howarth, David
Huhne, Chris
Hunter, Mark
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Jones, Lynne
Kennedy, rh Mr. Charles
Kilfoyle, Mr. Peter
Kramer, Susan
Lamb, Norman
Laws, Mr. David
Leech, Mr. John
Llwyd, Mr. Elfyn
Martlew, Mr. Eric
Mason, John
McDonnell, John

McFall, rh John
Mitchell, Mr. Austin
Moore, Mr. Michael
Mulholland, Greg
Oaten, Mr. Mark
Prentice, Mr. Gordon
Price, Adam
Reid, Mr. Alan
Rennie, Willie
Riordan, Mrs. Linda
Rogerson, Dan
Rowen, Paul
Russell, Bob
Sanders, Mr. Adrian
Simpson, Alan
Skinner, Mr. Dennis
Smith, Sir Robert
Stunell, Andrew
Taylor, David
Taylor, Dr. Richard
Teather, Sarah
Truswell, Mr. Paul
Wareing, Mr. Robert N.
Webb, Steve
Weir, Mr. Mike
Williams, Hywel
Williams, Mark
Williams, Mr. Roger
Williams, Stephen
Willott, Jenny
Wishart, Pete
Wood, Mike
Younger-Ross, Richard
Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Neil Gerrard and
Kelvin Hopkins
NOES


Afriyie, Adam
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, rh Mr. Bob
Ainsworth, Mr. Peter
Alexander, rh Mr. Douglas
Allen, Mr. Graham
Ancram, rh Mr. Michael
Anderson, Mr. David
Anderson, Janet
Arbuthnot, rh Mr. James
Armstrong, rh Hilary
Atkins, Charlotte
Atkinson, Mr. Peter
Austin, Mr. Ian
Bacon, Mr. Richard
Baird, Vera
Baldry, Tony
Balls, rh Ed
Banks, Gordon
Barker, Gregory
Barlow, Ms Celia
Baron, Mr. John
Barron, rh Mr. Kevin
Battle, rh John
Beckett, rh Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Bell, Sir Stuart
Bellingham, Mr. Henry
Benn, rh Hilary
Benton, Mr. Joe
Benyon, Mr. Richard
Beresford, Sir Paul
Berry, Roger
Betts, Mr. Clive
Binley, Mr. Brian
Blackman, Liz
Blackman-Woods, Dr. Roberta
Blears, rh Hazel
Blizzard, Mr. Bob
Blunkett, rh Mr. David
Blunt, Mr. Crispin
Bone, Mr. Peter
Borrow, Mr. David S.
Boswell, Mr. Tim
Bradshaw, Mr. Ben
Brazier, Mr. Julian
Brennan, Kevin
Brokenshire, James
Brown, Lyn
Brown, rh Mr. Nicholas
Brown, Mr. Russell
Browne, rh Des
Browning, Angela
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burnham, rh Andy
Burns, Mr. Simon
Burrowes, Mr. David
Butler, Ms Dawn
Butterfill, Sir John
Byers, rh Mr. Stephen
Byrne, rh Mr. Liam
Caborn, rh Mr. Richard
Cairns, David
Cameron, rh Mr. David
Campbell, Mr. Alan
Campbell, Mr. Gregory
Carswell, Mr. Douglas
Chapman, Ben
Chaytor, Mr. David
Chope, Mr. Christopher
Clappison, Mr. James
Clark, Greg
Clark, Paul
Clarke, rh Mr. Charles
Clarke, rh Mr. Kenneth
Clarke, rh Mr. Tom
Clelland, Mr. David
Clwyd, rh Ann
Coaker, Mr. Vernon
Coffey, Ann
Connarty, Michael
Cooper, Rosie
Cooper, rh Yvette
Cox, Mr. Geoffrey
Crabb, Mr. Stephen
Crausby, Mr. David
Creagh, Mary
Cruddas, Jon
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Mr. Jim
Cunningham, Tony
David, Mr. Wayne
Davidson, Mr. Ian
Davies, David T.C. (Monmouth)
Davies, Philip
Davies, Mr. Quentin
Davis, rh David
Denham, rh Mr. John
Dismore, Mr. Andrew
Djanogly, Mr. Jonathan

Dobbin, Jim
Dodds, Mr. Nigel
Donaldson, rh Mr. Jeffrey M.
Donohoe, Mr. Brian H.
Doran, Mr. Frank
Dorries, Nadine
Dowd, Jim
Duddridge, James
Duncan, Alan
Duncan Smith, rh Mr. Iain
Dunne, Mr. Philip
Eagle, Angela
Eagle, Maria
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs. Louise
Ellwood, Mr. Tobias
Engel, Natascha
Ennis, Jeff
Evans, Mr. Nigel
Evennett, Mr. David
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Mr. Michael
Farrelly, Paul
Field, rh Mr. Frank
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flello, Mr. Robert
Flint, rh Caroline
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Mr. Michael (Worcester)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings and Rye)
Fox, Dr. Liam
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Francois, Mr. Mark
Fraser, Christopher
Gale, Mr. Roger
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
Garnier, Mr. Edward
Gauke, Mr. David
George, rh Mr. Bruce
Gibb, Mr. Nick
Gillan, Mrs. Cheryl
Gilroy, Linda
Goggins, Paul
Goodman, Helen
Goodman, Mr. Paul
Goodwill, Mr. Robert
Gove, Michael
Gray, Mr. James
Green, Damian
Greening, Justine
Griffith, Nia
Griffiths, Nigel
Gummer, rh Mr. John
Gwynne, Andrew
Hain, rh Mr. Peter
Hall, Mr. Mike
Hall, Patrick
Hamilton, Mr. David
Hammond, Mr. Philip
Hammond, Stephen
Hanson, rh Mr. David
Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Harper, Mr. Mark
Harris, Mr. Tom
Hayes, Mr. John
Heald, Mr. Oliver
Healey, rh John
Heathcoat-Amory, rh Mr. David
Henderson, Mr. Doug
Hendry, Charles
Heppell, Mr. John
Herbert, Nick
Hesford, Stephen
Heyes, David
Hill, rh Keith
Hoban, Mr. Mark
Hodgson, Mrs. Sharon
Hollobone, Mr. Philip
Holloway, Mr. Adam
Hoon, rh Mr. Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Horam, Mr. John
Howarth, rh Mr. George
Howarth, Mr. Gerald
Howell, John
Howells, rh Dr. Kim
Hoyle, Mr. Lindsay
Hughes, rh Beverley
Humble, Mrs. Joan
Ingram, rh Mr. Adam
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Jack, rh Mr. Michael
Jackson, Glenda
Jackson, Mr. Stewart
James, Mrs. Siân C.
Jenkin, Mr. Bernard
Jenkins, Mr. Brian
Johnson, Ms Diana R.
Jones, Mr. David
Jones, Helen
Jones, Mr. Kevan
Jones, Mr. Martyn
Jowell, rh Tessa
Joyce, Mr. Eric
Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan
Keen, Ann
Kelly, rh Ruth
Kemp, Mr. Fraser
Kennedy, rh Jane
Key, Robert
Khan, Mr. Sadiq
Kidney, Mr. David
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Knight, rh Mr. Greg
Knight, rh Jim
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Laing, Mrs. Eleanor
Lait, Mrs. Jacqui
Lammy, rh Mr. David
Lancaster, Mr. Mark
Lansley, Mr. Andrew
Laxton, Mr. Bob
Lazarowicz, Mark
Leigh, Mr. Edward
Lepper, David
Letwin, rh Mr. Oliver
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Mr. Ivan
Lewis, Dr. Julian
Liddell-Grainger, Mr. Ian
Lidington, Mr. David
Lilley, rh Mr. Peter
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony
Loughton, Tim

Love, Mr. Andrew
Lucas, Ian
Mackay, rh Mr. Andrew
Maclean, rh David
Mactaggart, Fiona
Mahmood, Mr. Khalid
Main, Anne
Malik, Mr. Shahid
Malins, Mr. Humfrey
Mallaber, Judy
Mann, John
Maples, Mr. John
Marris, Rob
Marsden, Mr. Gordon
Marshall-Andrews, Mr. Robert
Mates, rh Mr. Michael
May, rh Mrs. Theresa
McAvoy, rh Mr. Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCafferty, Chris
McCarthy, Kerry
McCarthy-Fry, Sarah
McDonagh, Siobhain
McFadden, rh Mr. Pat
McFall, rh John
McGovern, Mr. Jim
McGuire, rh Mrs. Anne
McIntosh, Miss Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McKenna, Rosemary
McLoughlin, rh Mr. Patrick
McNulty, rh Mr. Tony
Merron, Gillian
Michael, rh Alun
Miliband, rh Edward
Miller, Andrew
Miller, Mrs. Maria
Milton, Anne
Moffat, Anne
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Morgan, Julie
Morley, rh Mr. Elliot
Mullin, Mr. Chris
Mundell, David
Munn, Meg
Murphy, rh Mr. Jim
Murphy, rh Mr. Paul
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Mr. Mike
O'Brien, Mr. Stephen
O'Hara, Mr. Edward
Osborne, Mr. George
Ottaway, Richard
Owen, Albert
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Pearson, Ian
Penning, Mike
Penrose, John
Pickles, Mr. Eric
Plaskitt, Mr. James
Prentice, Bridget
Primarolo, rh Dawn
Prisk, Mr. Mark
Pritchard, Mark
Purnell, rh James
Randall, Mr. John
Raynsford, rh Mr. Nick
Redwood, rh Mr. John
Reed, Mr. Andy
Reed, Mr. Jamie
Reid, rh John
Robathan, Mr. Andrew
Robertson, Hugh
Robertson, John
Robertson, Mr. Laurence
Robinson, Mr. Geoffrey
Rooney, Mr. Terry
Roy, Lindsay
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Christine
Ryan, rh Joan
Sarwar, Mr. Mohammad
Scott, Mr. Lee
Seabeck, Alison
Selous, Andrew
Shapps, Grant
Sharma, Mr. Virendra
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Mr. Barry
Shepherd, Mr. Richard
Sheridan, Jim
Simon, Mr. Siôn
Simpson, Mr. Keith
Slaughter, Mr. Andy
Smith, rh Mr. Andrew
Smith, Ms Angela C. (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
Smith, Angela E. (Basildon)
Smith, Geraldine
Smith, rh Jacqui
Snelgrove, Anne
Soames, Mr. Nicholas
Soulsby, Sir Peter
Southworth, Helen
Spellar, rh Mr. John
Spink, Bob
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Straw, rh Mr. Jack
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Mr. Graham
Sutcliffe, Mr. Gerry
Swayne, Mr. Desmond
Swire, Mr. Hugo
Syms, Mr. Robert
Tami, Mark
Taylor, Ms Dari
Thomas, Mr. Gareth
Thornberry, Emily
Timms, rh Mr. Stephen
Timpson, Mr. Edward
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mr. Mark
Touhig, rh Mr. Don
Tredinnick, David
Trickett, Jon
Turner, Mr. Andrew
Turner, Dr. Desmond
Turner, Mr. Neil
Twigg, Derek
Tyrie, Mr. Andrew
Ussher, Kitty
Vara, Mr. Shailesh
Villiers, Mrs. Theresa
Walker, Mr. Charles
Wallace, Mr. Ben
Walley, Joan
Walter, Mr. Robert

Waltho, Lynda
Ward, Claire
Waterson, Mr. Nigel
Watkinson, Angela
Watson, Mr. Tom
Watts, Mr. Dave
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Whittingdale, Mr. John
Wicks, rh Malcolm
Wiggin, Bill
Willetts, Mr. David
Williams, rh Mr. Alan
Williams, Mrs. Betty
Wills, rh Mr. Michael
Wilson, Phil
Wilson, Mr. Rob
Wilson, Sammy
Winterton, rh Ms Rosie
Woolas, Mr. Phil
Wright, David
Wright, Mr. Iain
Wright, Jeremy
Wright, Dr. Tony
Young, rh Sir George
Tellers for the Noes:

Barbara Keeley and
Mr. Frank Roy
Question accordingly negatived.
17 Mar 2009 : Column 833

17 Mar 2009 : Column 834

17 Mar 2009 : Column 835

17 Mar 2009 : Column 836

New Clause 4


Disability living allowance for blind claimants

‘(1) Section 73 of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992 (c. 4) (the mobility component) is amended as follows.

(2) In subsection (1), after paragraph (b) insert—

“(ba) he falls within subsection (2A); or”.

(3) In subsection (1A) (a), after “(b)”, insert “, (ba)”.

(4) After subsection (2), insert—

“(2A) A person falls within this subsection if—

(a) he is blind; and

(b) he satisfies such other conditions as may be prescribed.”.

(5) In subsection (5), after “(2)(a)”, insert “or subsection (2A)(a)”.

(6) In subsection (11)(a), after “(b)”, insert “, (ba)”.’.— (John Robertson.)

Brought up, and read the First time.

John Robertson: I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: With this it will be convenient to discuss new clause 10— Mobility component of disability allowance—

‘(1) Section 73 of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992 (c. 4) (mobility component of disability living allowance) is amended as follows.

(2) In subsection (1), for paragraph (b) (together with the “or” at the end of it) substitute—

“(ab) he falls within subsection (1AB) below; or

(b) he does not fall within that subsection but does fall within subsection (2) below; or”.

(3) In subsection (1A)(a), after “paragraph (a),”, insert “(ab),”.

(4) After subsection (1A) insert—

“(1AB) A person falls within this subsection if—

(a) he has such severe visual impairment as may be prescribed; and

(b) he satisfies such other conditions as may be prescribed.”.

(5) In subsection (11)(a), after “subsection (1)(a),”, insert “(ab),”.’.

7.15 pm

John Robertson: The new clause is self-explanatory and needs little introduction, but the clarity and familiarity of the issue should not obscure the justness of the case
17 Mar 2009 : Column 837
and the need to right a long-standing wrong. The new clause would amend the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992 so that a blind person can qualify for the higher-rate mobility component of the disability living allowance, something that the 1992 Act excludes them from unless they are also physically unable to walk.

It is easy to see why the exclusion does not make sense, and more than 220 MPs have signalled their support for this change by signing early-day motion 340, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Miss Begg), which has been the most popular EDM in the current Session. I would also like to thank all the right hon. and hon. Members who put their names to the new clause. The groundswell behind this activity is down to the work of the Royal National Institute of Blind People and I pay tribute to its campaigning on the issue and its work across the board. I have worked with that charity on welfare reform issues for a number of years and it has never let me down.

In addition, I pay tribute to a number of people who have been inspirational in their work on this and other disability issues over the years, such as my constituent Alan McDonald, whom I will mention again later, my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South and my right hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett). I should also recognise the work done by the hon. Member for Bournemouth, West (Sir John Butterfill), who tabled a motion on the issue a number of years ago. It is disappointing to say the least that he was not only years ahead of his party on this matter, but that Conservative Members could not find it within themselves to say a single word in support of the change in Committee. Their friends in the Scottish National party are no better. Their names are absent from this new clause, but given that they never passed on the £34 million they received for disabled children, I am not surprised. They have made no contribution on this matter.

Bob Spink: Before the hon. Gentleman moves on, may I congratulate him on his work in tabling new clause 4? Is he aware that it would cost only £40 million for the Government to give way on this matter? That is a very manageable amount. Will he join me in urging the Government to be positive and generous tonight, so that we do not have to vote on this new clause?

John Robertson: Let me think about that—yeah, okay. I was looking to see whether the hon. Gentleman had been reading my speech; I always thought that he should have crossed over to our side anyway.

Jim Dowd (Lewisham, West) (Lab): He will.

John Robertson: My hon. Friend says that the hon. Gentleman will. I look forward to it. He is a great gentleman and I have a lot of time for him.

New clause 10 is grouped with new clause 4. I have tabled it to cover all bases on the issue and so that we have something that will work in practice. Although both clauses are basically the same, it was important to have new clause 10 to ensure that we discussed the issue. That is why we have two new clauses that are almost the exact mirror image of each other, but with different words.


17 Mar 2009 : Column 838

The exclusion of blind people from the higher rate must surely have been a mistake and an unintended consequence of the 1992 Act. Despite facing some of the biggest and often most insurmountable barriers to independent mobility, blind people were denied the higher rate of mobility support, which was limited to those who face physical barriers to getting around.

Mr. Jim McGovern (Dundee, West) (Lab): I, too, commend my hon. Friend for his work on this matter. My constituent Claire Hansen is an articulate, intelligent and highly motivated young lady, but she can leave her house only once a week because she suffers from Usher syndrome, which causes partial sight and hearing loss to varying degrees. She needs a taxi when she leaves the house. Does my hon. Friend agree that £29 a week extra would allow her more independence and allow her to leave her house more than once a week?

John Robertson: I thank my hon. Friend, who is obviously the best MP in Dundee—or so he tells me, and I have no reason to disbelieve him. The funny thing is that he, too, has been looking over my shoulder. I was about to go on to talk about the £29 extra.

The higher rate of mobility allowance is only £29 extra on top of the lower, but that works out at more than £1,500 year. There is no good reason for discriminating between someone who faces physical barriers to mobility and someone who is unable to move around safely and independently due to blindness. I should like to tell the House about one of my constituents, whom I mentioned earlier. His case highlights that paradox. Alan McDonald has been blind from birth, has orientation problems and faces huge hurdles in getting around. He is unable to use public transport because of his difficulties in getting on and off buses and trains, and he either needs to spend his other benefits on taxis, although they are meant to provide other support, or is forced to rely on his sister for lifts to wherever he needs to go. Otherwise, he has to stay at home.

Alan’s blindness is not the only barrier to his mobility. He is awaiting a second kidney transplant and will undergo surgery for hardening of the arteries in a few months’ time. Despite all those difficulties, he has been told on several occasions that he simply cannot qualify for the higher rate, because he is physically able to walk. Yes, he can walk—he can walk into wheelie bins or traffic lights or out into the middle of the road. But he can walk, so he does not get the money. The barriers that he faces are just as great as those faced by someone who cannot walk, and the situation is nonsensical. I swear to the House that I believe that the Minister has to consider such things. It is unbelievable that somebody with such disabilities cannot get the higher rate of disability allowance; it is unbelievable that they cannot get £29 extra. Blind people such as Alan feel justifiably angry about that discriminatory and unfair treatment.

For me, the reason for having a Labour Government is so that we can make changes such as this and give support to people who need it. This is no less important than a global financial crisis, in which doing nothing is not an option. The RNIB estimates that about 26,000 people would be included in the higher rate of the mobility component if this change were made. I understand that the proposal has been costed at an initial £12 million for set-up and a further £47 million a year—a drop in the ocean by today’s standards.


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