Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I thank all those who have taken part in this brief debate. Perhaps I may comment on the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, although the noble Lord, Lord Addington, has already done this for us admirably. The noble Lord suggested that community care was under strain now and that it would be unwise to add to the problems and burdens. If we were doing the opposite of what the amendment suggests--in other words, if we currently paid people cash and the Opposition Benches were proposing instead to move onto services--the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, would be absolutely right--we would be increasing the workload of local authorities as they would have to do the work in-house. However, the reverse is true. The amendment seeks to allow local authorities to offload, if I may put it that way, onto disabled people the responsibility for administering those services which otherwise the local authorities would have to administer. The amendment therefore reduces the workload and makes it more possible to deliver the objectives of care in the community which we all want. Therefore, I believe that the noble Lord's point is inappropriate.

Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for giving way. It is not so much a question of what the load will be eventually as bringing in a new system. The local authorities will have to get down to bringing in a new system on top of the community care responsibilities which they have at the moment. We all hope that once it has settled down and direct payments are going to individual disabled people there will be less of a load. But it is the burdening of them with a new system that I was talking about.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, again I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, has overlooked the fact that at the moment something like 60 local authorities run direct payment schemes already--

Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, that is another system.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: --and they often make payments to people with learning difficulties and those over 65 years of age. If this amendment is not accepted and those groups have to remain outside the national scheme, that same local authority will be introducing a direct payment scheme of its own to fit the Government category and have to keep in place a second scheme, which is the third party scheme, to cope with the additional people. Therefore, if the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, is concerned about the load on local authorities, they would be allowed to make that decision

20 Feb 1996 : Column 1036

locally so that they are not forced into running two schemes in parallel, because the Government will not allow them to bring the two schemes together into one where it best suits local circumstances. I repeat that if this amendment is not accepted, the workload on local authorities will not be reduced but, on the contrary, increased.

I was very sorry that the Minister repeated her objections. Her basic argument is that the Government wish to go slowly to see how things go. One cannot tell how things will go unless there are also pilot schemes which pioneer and from which one can learn. We have said time and again that very often one of the difficulties with social security legislation is that it is nationwide and one never gets any pioneering or piloting or feedback in order that one can learn from experience and experiment. The amendment would allow central government and local authorities to learn from other people's best practice.

Finally, the Minister suggested that she hoped to bring people with learning difficulties into the scheme as soon as she felt that local authorities could do so. The amendment that was so narrowly defeated in this House would also have brought those over the age of 65 within the scheme, and not just those with learning difficulties. They would remain the largest groups, many of whom would welcome, want, need and benefit from it. For those groups in particular I seek the opinion of the House.

7.2 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 1) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 100; Not-Contents, 113.

Division No. 1


Acton, L. Addington, L. Archer of Sandwell, L. Ashley of Stoke, L. Beaumont of Whitley, L. Berkeley, L. Birk, B. Blease, L. Borrie, L. Broadbridge, L. Bruce of Donington, L. Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Carter, L. Clinton-Davis, L. Cocks of Hartcliffe, L. Craigavon, V. David, B. Dean of Beswick, L. Desai, L. Diamond, L. Dormand of Easington, L. Dubs, L. Ezra, L. Falkender, B. Falkland, V. Farrington of Ribbleton, B. Fisher of Rednal, B. Geraint, L. Gladwin of Clee, L. Graham of Edmonton, L. [Teller.] Grey, E. Hamwee, B. [Teller.] Harris of Greenwich, L. Haskel, L. Hayman, B. Healey, L. Hollis of Heigham, B. Howie of Troon, L. Hughes, L. Irvine of Lairg, L. Jeger, B. Jenkins of Hillhead, L. Jenkins of Putney, L. Judd, L. Kennet, L. Kilbracken, L. Kinloss, Ly. Kirkhill, L. Lester of Herne Hill, L. Lovell-Davis, L. Macaulay of Bragar, L. McGregor of Durris, L. McIntosh of Haringey, L. Mackie of Benshie, L. McNair, L. McNally, L. Mallalieu, B. Mar and Kellie, E. Masham of Ilton, B. Mason of Barnsley, L. Mayhew, L. Merlyn-Rees, L. Milner of Leeds, L. Mishcon, L. Monkswell, L. Morris of Castle Morris, L. Murray of Epping Forest, L. Nicol, B. Ogmore, L. Palmer, L. Pearson of Rannoch, L. Peston, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. Prys-Davies, L. Rea, L. Redesdale, L. Richard, L. Rochester, L. Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L. Russell, E. Sefton of Garston, L. Serota, B. Sewel, L. Stedman, B. Stoddart of Swindon, L. Strabolgi, L. Taverne, L. Taylor of Gryfe, L. Thomson of Monifieth, L. Tope, L. Tordoff, L. Turner of Camden, B. Varley, L. Wedderburn of Charlton, L. Whaddon, L. White, B. Williams of Crosby, B. Williams of Elvel, L. Winston, L. Young of Dartington, L.


Aberdare, L. Addison, V. Aldington, L. Archer of Weston-Super-Mare, L. Ashbourne, L. Astor of Hever, L. Barber, L. Belhaven and Stenton, L. Beloff, L. Birdwood, L. Blaker, L. Blatch, B. Bowness, L. Brabazon of Tara, L. Brigstocke, B. Brougham and Vaux, L. Burnham, L. Cadman, L. Campbell of Alloway, L. Campbell of Croy, L. Carnegy of Lour, B. Carnock, L. Chesham, L. [Teller.] Clanwilliam, E. Clark of Kempston, L. Colwyn, L. Courtown, E. Cox, B. Craigmyle, L. Cranborne, V. [Lord Privy Seal.] Crathorne, L. Cross, V. Cumberlege, B. Dean of Harptree, L. Dixon-Smith, L. Dundonald, E. Eccles of Moulton, B. Eden of Winton, L. Elles, B. Elton, L. Faithfull, B. Ferrers, E. Finsberg, L. Flather, B. Fraser of Carmyllie, L. Gardner of Parkes, B. Gilmour of Craigmillar, L. Gisborough, L. Glentoran, L. Gray of Contin, L. Grimston of Westbury, L. Hamilton of Dalzell, L. Harding of Petherton, L. Hardwicke, E. Harmar-Nicholls, L. Hemphill, L. Henley, L. HolmPatrick, L. Hothfield, L. Howe, E. Inglewood, L. Kenilworth, L. Kimball, L. Kinnoull, E. Leigh, L. Lindsay, E. Lindsey and Abingdon, E. Long, V. Lucas, L. Lucas of Chilworth, L. Lyell, L. McColl of Dulwich, L. Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L. Mackay of Clashfern, L. [Lord Chancellor.] Marlesford, L. Massereene and Ferrard, V. Miller of Hendon, B. Mountevans, L. Munster, E. Napier and Ettrick, L. Norfolk, D. Northesk, E. Orr-Ewing, L. Park of Monmouth, B. Peel, E. Pender, L. Peyton of Yeovil, L. Prior, L. Rankeillour, L. Reay, L. Rees, L. Rennell, L. Renton, L. St. John of Fawsley, L. Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly. Seccombe, B. Shaw of Northstead, L. Skelmersdale, L. Stewartby, L. Stodart of Leaston, L. Strange, B. Strathcarron, L. Strathclyde, L. [Teller.] Teviot, L. Tollemache, L. Torrington, V. Trumpington, B. Tugendhat, L. Ullswater, V. Vinson, L. Wilcox, B. Wynford, L. Young, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

20 Feb 1996 : Column 1038

7.9 p.m.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham moved Amendment No. 2:

Page 1, line 19, at end insert ("in such a manner which, had the authority provided a service, would be subject to section 17 of the Health and Social Services and Social Security Adjudication Act 1983.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this amendment returns us to the issue of the level playing field. I am sorry to revisit this again and to take up the time of the House; but whenever we have tried to raise this matter the Minister has said that such an amendment is not necessary, whereas the professionals, those who actually deliver the policy, believe that it is necessary. I hope that this time we may be able to persuade the Minister.

The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that the charging policy that currently applies in a local authority in respect of services should apply equally within the local authority with regard to direct payments. On Report the Minister made it clear that she entirely agreed with the argument behind the amendment: that those who receive direct payments should not be treated any less favourably than others. At the moment, a local authority may offer free services, may make a flat charge or use a means test. We hope that whatever the local authority does in respect of services, the provision for direct payments should be identical otherwise there is a perverse financial incentive to move from one to the other rather than to make the decision on the merits of the case.

The origins of charging are in the Health and Social Services and Social Security Adjudications Act 1983 which makes it clear that local authorities may take into account a person's ability to pay where it is "reasonably practicable" to do so. The phrase "reasonably practicable" in the 1983 Act has determined local authorities' charging policy for services. However, this Bill does not contain the phrase "reasonably practicable"; instead there is the phrase, "taking financial means into account". However one looks at it, that phrase implies a means test, whereas the law that frames services does not. Therefore, it appears that a local authority must means test whether or not it wants to do so.

If that is not what the Minister means to happen, the Bill is sending out the wrong signals. The Minister said on Report that if the Government were sending out the wrong signals, they would correct those wrong signals by sending out Section 7 guidance. Why? Why send out guidance to correct ambiguous wording in a Bill when you can clarify the wording of the Bill and avoid the need to send out guidance? The Bill should say what it means and should be capable of being clearly understood. How can we make the Bill clear? We could include in this Act identical wording to that in the 1983 Act, which is what we tried to persuade the Minister to

20 Feb 1996 : Column 1039

accept in Committee and on Report. Alternatively, as the amendment suggests, we could refer back to the 1983 Act. Either way would stop the Bill sending out the wrong signals.

It is no use the Minister saying that the words mean the same. She may mean them to mean the same, but if when reading them people do not understand them as meaning the same, the Bill is sending out the wrong signals. The disability organisations are most concerned about that. If there is no difference between the Minister and these Benches on the intention, why are the Government resisting changing the words? At worst, to do so is harmless; at best, it makes the situation clear beyond all doubt. Why leave in an ambiguity--and ambiguity there is because people outside this House are confused--when you can clarify the position on the face of the Bill? I beg to move.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page