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Lord Rix: My name is not attached to this amendment. I only wish it were. Unfortunately, I use a shower bath and therefore I have not had the chance in the recent past to tot up the figures concerned with disability. But I do know that they are considerable. I support both the previous speakers in that regard.
I should like to point out something to the Minister on which he may care to reflect. In the recent past an amendment put forward by my noble friend Lord Freyberg in your Lordships' House with regard to war widows was agreed to. It was based, perhaps, on emotion, but it was also based on fairness. I am glad to say that your Lordships' House accepted the amendment, as did another place. I believe that fairness applies to Amendments Nos. 113, 114, 115 and 120. It could only redound to the credit of your Lordships' House and to the Government if they were to accept these amendments on behalf of disabled people.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: It is not often that the noble Earl, Lord Russell, in his amusing historical examples, gives a piece of history that is modern enough to be within my lifetime. If I am right, I do not actually think that Glenn did go to the moon. He may have been the first man to go around the earth. Indeed, he may not even have been that. It may have been a Russian. But he certainly was not the first man to go to the moon. If I am right about that, I am afraid that all my belief in the noble Earl's more distant historical stories will have been shattered. However, I am sure that I can forgive him one small slip of the memory in this case.
I fully recognise the useful and important service which unemployed disabled people do by sitting on a disability appeal tribunal. However, I do not believe it is appropriate to ignore substantial income received by unemployed people who carry out any work while on benefit, however worth while the nature of the task. The current fee for a lay member of a tribunal is £113. That is a substantial sum which this amendment would allow the claimant to receive in addition to his full benefit entitlement.
Disregarding sums received by those sitting on disability appeal tribunals would lead to inequities between claimants with a disability and other claimants, many of whom could have justifiable, if different, claims for similar special treatments. Indeed, they may also sit on appeal tribunals. The basic principle is that JSA is there to support claimants while they are unemployed and looking for work. That principle is seriously undermined if claimants are able to top up their benefit with earnings which are considerable and which could reduce the incentive for them to move off benefit and back into employment.
There is already special provision in JSA for disabled people who undertake small amounts of work. They will be entitled to a £15 disregard on earnings. That is £10 more than the standard disregard, which we discussed earlier, and £5 more than the couple disregard of £10. In addition, under JSA, as I explained in the previous amendment, half of any amount above the disregard, which includes the £113 fee that I mentioned, will in fact be counted towards the build-up of a new back-to-work bonus. That in its turn will mean that people would be better off; they will get that money when they leave unemployment and find a job. Therefore they will get some of the money back at that point.
I hope that my noble friend accepts that I fully understand the point he makes and very much appreciate the work that people do on such tribunals. But I believe that it would not be right to discriminateif I may say soin favour of disabled people against other people in similar circumstances of unemployment or whatever who may sit on appeal tribunals.
I turn to Amendment No. 114, which seeks to allow any capital payment received as a result of a personal injury to be disregarded in assessing entitlement to benefit. I can assure my noble friend that there is no need for this amendment. It is our intention to model the arrangements for income-based jobseeker's allowance closely on the arrangements which apply in income support. Regulations already provide that any capital sums deriving from personal injury payments are disregarded if they are placed in trust. We intend to carry forward that principle in JSA.
The arrangements enable long-term provision to be made for people who have ongoing needs resulting from their injuries. As now, £10 per week of any discretionary income from the trust, plus any discretionary payments
Lord Swinfen: Perhaps I may interrupt my noble friend. He said that capital placed in trust would be disregarded. What is the position? Does the disabled person have to put that capital into trust himself? Some people are disabled in such a way that they cannot always handle their own affairs. Alternatively, can that capital be put in trust by someone else acting on their behalf? Or does it have to be put into trust by the person paying the damages for the injury?
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: That is a fairly detailed question but I would guess that the question of by whom the money is put into trust is of no importance. In fact, whether the person himself put it in or whether it was put in on his behalf, the position remains as I stated. So it does not matter.
I was dealing with other payments of income and I had just mentioned the example of payments not out of a discretionary trust. They will be taken into account. We believe that allowing people to benefit from discretionary income strikes the correct balance. It would clearly be a misuse of public funds to ignore significant income available in a system intended to help people whose resources are insufficient to meet their day-to-day needs.
We also believe that to ignore capital deriving from personal injury payments without any restriction would not necessarily encourage long-term provision. Clearly, if the person involved needs long-term care at any level, the sensible thing is to encourage provision to be made for the money to be available in the longer term through a trust. If that was not done, it would be administratively very difficult to separate that capital from any other capital that the person may hold.
We recognise that people with disabilities can incur increased living costs, which is why the disability premiums which currently apply in income support will be carried forward into income-based JSA. These are paid in recognition of the extra living expenses such as extra heating, special diets, more expensive travel, or laundry costs which people with disabilities can face. In addition, a higher £15 earnings disregard will be payable in recognition of the extra expenses that disabled people might incur while working.
However, income-based JSA, like income support, is intended to help people whose resources are insufficient to meet their day-to-day living expenses. It is only right that, in a system based on means, any income which is available to meet a person's needs should be taken into account, and that those with substantial capital resources should also have their benefit affected by this. As now, capital and most income other than earnings and occupational pensions will not affect entitlement to contributory JSA.
We also recognise the value which schemes such as Motabilitywhich was mentioned by my noble friendprovide for disabled people. The rules that allow a vehicle to be provided in return for the assignment of any mobility component which a person receives will continue and, in this case, no capital or income will fall to be taken into account for the purpose of JSA.
I appreciate that perhaps I have given my noble friend a mixed bag of replies, some of which I am sure he will find more than satisfactory. I suspect that on the first amendment he may still not agree with me, but I hope that he understands my argument about equity with other people. I hope also that he accepts my assurances on the various points that I have tried to cover in my response to him.
Lord Swinfen: I feel that the whole Committee will be delighted to know that the noble Earl did not damage himself because we benefit very much from what he has to say, particularly the historical anecdotes that he brings out. He may be slightly wrong, as my noble friend suggests, on what happens within our own lifetime but on his own subject no one can better him.
As my noble friend said, he has produced a mixed bag of welcome and possibly not so welcome information in his reply. I shall digest it at greater leisure when I have had an opportunity to read it in the Official Report. It means that I may come back on one or two points at the next stage of the Bill. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.