Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Earl Russell: My Lords, we on these Benches support the amendment for reasons that my noble friend Lady Williams and I have already given. I shall not repeat them.

Lord Newton of Braintree: My Lords, I did not move my previous amendment in the interests of speeding up the procedure. Perhaps I may express my strong support for what my noble friend Lord Higgins said from the Front Bench. A lone parent who has been out of the labour market for a long while may be uncertain about the prospects of employment, and how long he will be able to hold down the job.

By holding down the job for only 12 weeks and one day one loses all the benefits of the current lone parent premium arrangements. That is a large risk to ask people to take in those circumstances. There are consequences relating to housing benefit and help with rent. Had I moved the amendment a few moments ago I should have spoken on that at great length. Over the next 18 months, my noble friend's arguments will be greatly strengthened because of the gap which exists before the subsequent measures come into effect. During that period the penalty is greater than if the whole of what has been described (with a certain lack of credibility) as a package were in place.

There is a strong case for a period of 12 months. That case is even stronger because of the way in which the Government are introducing the changes in bits and pieces. I hope that the noble Baroness will see some way to make a further concession.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I have listened carefully to the arguments on the amendment. The aim which we share is that lone parents are not discouraged from taking up work by the risk of losing a somewhat higher rate of benefit should the work break down.

As noble Lords know, our priority is to provide support to lone parents in overcoming barriers to work. We are already doing this through the new deal for lone parents and the national child care strategy.

We have listened to the concerns of lone parents participating in our new deal. It is clear that they were concerned--noble Lords were right to raise the issue--about the absence of a linking rule for the lone parent premium in income support, and this was affecting their confidence in taking work. That is why the Chancellor announced in his Budget our intention to address these concerns.

23 Apr 1998 : Column 1311

That is why it was made clear in Committee that we have introduced a 12 week linking rule for the lone parent premium in income support and jobseeker's allowance. This means that lone parents who are currently receiving either of these benefits will be able to take a job knowing that if it turns out to be short term they will not be worse off if they have to return to benefit. It also means that a lone parent who finds a partner can return to the same rate of benefit if the relationship turns out to be short lived.

The introduction of a 12 week linking period is in line with the recommendation of the Social Security Advisory Committee which recommended a linking period of "at least eight weeks". We have exceeded that. We believe that 12 weeks is a reasonable period for linking. It provides the lone parent with enough time, once they have started work, to decide whether any problems which arise, for example with childcare, can be resolved. Unlike the noble Baroness I believe that over a period of three months one learns whether one's childcare arrangements are robust. And our new deal for lone parents will provide in-work support to help them address these problems.

However, if the lone parent decides that a problem is insurmountable they will be able to return to benefit at the same rate as before. We therefore believe that a 12 week linking rule in income support and jobseeker's allowance will increase lone parents' confidence in taking work, by taking some of the risk from them on to our shoulders.

Amendment No. 61 recommends a one year linking rule. We believe that this is an unnecessarily long period. Disabled people may have, in addition to other problems of risk, the difficulty of their own health. In particular those with mental health problems may have the difficulty as to whether their health can withstand sustained work over a long period of time when their condition may fluctuate. That is why we have proposed a different linking period for disabled people. We believe from experience that the risk for them is that much greater. We do not believe that the same arguments apply to lone parents. We believe that by following the suggestions of the very real expertise embedded in the Social Security Advisory Committee the 12 week linking period is valid. A longer period would prove not only costly but complex to administer. As a result, I hope that your Lordships will feel able to reject the amendment.

Lord Higgins: My Lords, I listened with care to the noble Baroness's remarks. It is essentially a question of assessment of risk so far as the individuals are concerned. That said, the fact also has to be taken into account that if they continue in employment, then there will not be any additional problem. It is a matter of judgment as to exactly how this matter ought to be tackled. On balance, it is better that it should be done in the way that we suggest. I therefore feel it appropriate to take the opinion of the House.

23 Apr 1998 : Column 1312

7.31 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 61) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 64; Not-Contents, 65.

Division No. 3


Addington, L.
Alderdice, L.
Ampthill, L.
Anelay of St. Johns, B.
Avebury, L.
Balfour, E.
Blatch, B.
Brabazon of Tara, L.
Burnham, L. [Teller.]
Byford, B.
Carnock, L.
Chesham, L.
Denton of Wakefield, B.
Dholakia, L.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Elliott of Morpeth, L.
Ezra, L.
Fraser of Carmyllie, L.
Gisborough, L.
Goodhart, L.
Hamwee, B.
Higgins, L.
Hooper, B.
Kenilworth, L.
Kingsland, L.
Leigh, L.
Lester of Herne Hill, L.
Linklater of Butterstone, B.
Lyell, L.
McColl of Dulwich, L.
Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.
Macleod of Borve, B.
McNair, L.
McNally, L.
Maddock, B.
Miller of Hendon, B.
Newby, L.
Newton of Braintree, L.
Northesk, E.
Ogmore, L.
Rankeillour, L.
Rawlings, B.
Razzall, L.
Redesdale, L.
Renton, L.
Rochester, L.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Rotherwick, L.
Russell, E. [Teller.]
Sandberg, L.
Seccombe, B.
Skelmersdale, L.
Smith of Clifton, L.
Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Strathclyde, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Thurso, V.
Tope, L.
Tordoff, L.
Trefgarne, L.
Wade of Chorlton, L.
Wallace of Saltaire, L.
Williams of Crosby, B.
Wise, L.


Acton, L.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Berkeley, L.
Borrie, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Burlison, L.
Carter, L. [Teller.]
Clinton-Davis, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.
Currie of Marylebone, L.
Davies of Oldham, L.
Desai, L.
Donoughue, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Dubs, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Gallacher, L.
Gilbert, L.
Gladwin of Clee, L.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Grantchester, L.
Hanworth, V.
Hardie, L.
Hardy of Wath, L.
Haskel, L. [Teller.]
Hayman, B.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Howie of Troon, L.
Hoyle, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Janner of Braunstone, L.
Jay of Paddington, B.
Jenkins of Putney, L.
Kennedy of The Shaws, B.
Kilbracken, L.
Mallalieu, B.
Monkswell, L.
Montague of Oxford, L.
Murray of Epping Forest, L.
Nicol, B.
Paul, L.
Plant of Highfield, L.
Prys-Davies, L.
Puttnam, L.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Renwick of Clifton, L.
Richard, L. [Lord Privy Seal.]
Rogers of Riverside, L.
Sewel, L.
Simon, V.
Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Thomas of Macclesfield, L.
Watson of Invergowrie, L.
Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Whitty, L.
Williams of Mostyn, L.
Winston, L.
Young of Dartington, L.
Young of Old Scone, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

23 Apr 1998 : Column 1313

7.39 p.m.

Lord Higgins moved Amendment No. 62:

After Clause 71, insert the following new clause--

Maintenance of lone parent premium: disability

(" . In making regulations under Part VII of the 1992 Act, the Secretary of State shall ensure that a lone parent who was before 1st April 1998 in receipt of the disability premium payable with income support or income-based jobseeker's allowance and who ceases to be eligible for that premium shall continue to be entitled to the lone parent rate of family premium.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I was hesitating, given the recent result of the Division. Amendment No. 62 stands in my name and that of my noble friend Lady Anelay of St Johns. It concerns the maintenance of the lone parent family premium. The amendment seeks to clarify a point, which was made by the advisory body, regarding lone parents who were in receipt of a disability premium which was payable with income support. The amendment seeks to protect their position if they cease to be eligible for the premium and to ensure that none the less they continue to be entitled to the lone parent rate of family premium.

The matter was considered by the advisory body. The Government, in a rather strange response--their initial response, as I understand it--suggested that the numbers were so small that they were scarcely worth bothering about. Perhaps it was not quite as harsh as that, but broadly speaking it was to that effect. It seemed to us that there was a case for the amendment which the advisory body considered, and we would appreciate the Minister's comments. I beg to move.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page