Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Earl Russell: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. I have never before observed her use of a careful and defensive straight bat. Normally the Minister enjoys playing shots. This was an absolutely straightforward,

7 May 1998 : Column 810

defensive exercise. If it is axiomatic that the Government must climb halfway down, I think she gave an effective, convincing defence as to why they should come to rest on this ledge rather than another. But why they should not reach the ground, I did not hear. I think there is sense in Hilaire Belloc's advice that if you were born to walk the ground, remain there, and do not fool around. If I may say so to the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, one other reason matters might not be referred to the Social Security Advisory Committee is if the changes are wholly beneficial. As regards these regulations, that would have been justified under that principle as well as the other.

Lord Higgins: My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord for those comments. I take that point. However, from time to time views on what is beneficial may vary between the two sides of the House, or even between noble Lords on this side of the House. As regards urgency, I am puzzled about a matter. Is it not the case that if the Government had carried out the consultation previously these measures would have been incorporated in the original provisions and it would not be necessary now to treat them as a matter of urgency?

Earl Russell: My Lords, I take that point. There is something of a mystery about why the Government changed their mind when they did. My honourable friends obviously had a big part in that. I suspect also that they spotted, as I and others in my party did, that these matters were becoming quite a big issue in the London local elections. However, we shall have to wait a few hours before we return to that issue.

The important point relates to the review. I was pleased to observe the Minister nod on the point that income support is not meant to meet housing costs. That is an important principle. However, I also noted her statement that the Prime Minister said that it is not practicable to use the review to reverse the cut. I do not understand exactly how those principles sit together. If the cut is not reversed the principle that income support is not being used to meet housing costs is at least brought into question. That principle is of considerable importance in social security policy.

As the housing benefit review progresses, we shall undoubtedly have to return to that point. I do not think that we can pursue it with profit any further tonight. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

        House adjourned at ten minutes past eight o'clock.

7 May 1998 : Column 809

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page