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Lord Ashley of Stoke: My Lords, I think that my noble friend Lady Hollis is rather remiss in saying that the Government have received no thanks for the good things that they do. A number of noble Lords--including the noble Lord, Lord Morris, and myself--have been at great pains to praise the Government for the good things that they have done. She is not justified in saying that there were no thanks to the Government for the good things that they have done.

I find it astonishing that anyone so expert and persuasive as my noble friend is unable to persuade the House to her way of thinking. I can only conclude that

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it is not the presentation that is wrong but the policy. She is saddled with it; it is her bad luck. I offer her my sympathies.

I listened very carefully to my noble friend. I am afraid she has not made out a case for abolishing the severe disability allowance for new claimants. I do not propose to go over the old ground; we have done so time and time again. Basically, the Government are trying to juggle benefits. They have made a worthwhile, admirable attempt--but some of the balls are falling to the floor. That is one of the reasons why we cannot accept the proposition of my noble friend.

There is a basic flaw in all these proposals, which I have dealt with in previous amendments; namely, the poor are being asked to pay for the very poor. That is not justifiable. The very poor should be paid for by the wealthy or by the general taxpayer. There is no getting away from that basic principle.

My noble friend says that the time for the SDA has passed. In that case, the Government should put forward proposals to deal with those whose lives have been influenced and helped by the SDA. They have not done so for all of them. I said in moving the amendment that if the Government are unable to accept my compromise amendments, I would withdraw them and press Amendment No. 144 to delete the clause at the appropriate time. Accordingly, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 138 and 139 not moved.]

Lord Rix moved Amendment No. 140:

Page 68, line 5, after (“cases") insert (“which shall include those in which he is a student undertaking a course of further or higher education,")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Government were quick to respond to the concerns expressed by the disability lobby about their original proposals that only those aged under 20 would benefit from the transfer from severe disablement allowance to incapacity benefit. Mencap was prominent among those seeking a higher age limit, because those with learning disabilities are properly seen as slow learners rather than non-learners, and are therefore likely to be studying and training into their early twenties. We welcomed the inclusion of those undertaking training or education which began before the age of 20, provided that claim to benefit was made before the age of 25.

That modification of the original proposal brought within the scope of the benefit improvement those whose capacity for work was not self-evident to everyone until early adulthood. It catered in particular for those whose special educational needs were catered for within the mainstream education system. It put them on a par with those severely disabled young people who become eligible for incapacity benefit while still at school. However, we were completely taken aback by, and promptly questioned, the limitation of the age 25 concession to those in higher education or training, apparently excluding those in further education. People with learning disabilities

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have an Open University course designed for them, and there are the beginnings of access to university campus resources, but in general, people with learning disabilities are by definition not engaged in higher education. They are quite extensively engaged, however, in further education: in specialist further education colleges, ordinary sector colleges and social education centres where there is outreach teaching from FE colleges, including new electronic links with FE colleges.

We have for some months been pressing Ministers and their officials to put further education on a par with higher education. That is what we understood to be the original intention. The logic is incontrovertible. Our focus has been on those applying for benefit for the first time. It seems to me that the same incontrovertible logic applies to those receiving SDA at the changeover point, under age 25, and receiving further or higher education or training which began before the age of 20. I beg to move.

Lord Addington: My Lords, I support the amendment. The distinction between further and higher education is rather silly; the two merge into one another. Whether someone is eligible for higher education, the education is ongoing and it is education in the true sense of the word. It should be pushed forward. My party was fairly active in supporting the case in another place.

Baroness Darcy de Knayth: My Lords, I support the amendment for the reasons the other two speakers have given.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, first I thank the noble Lord, Lord Rix, for tabling the amendment. It gives me the opportunity to make clear the Government's position on the issue. I am pleased to say that we agree wholeheartedly with the purpose behind it. Following representations by the noble Lord, Lord Rix, our intention to extend the age cut-off to 25 for people in higher education will not help certain young people with severe learning disability who are in mainstream education beyond the age of 20. Following those representations, we have decided to widen the concession to include people in any form of education or work-based training. I hope that this further concession will be good news to Mencap, of which the noble Lord, Lord Rix, is president, as well as to your Lordships.

As noble Lords know, we intend to prescribe in regulations the circumstances in which the extended age 25 cut off will apply. We believe that it is particularly suitable for secondary legislation due to the level of detail necessary to ensure the inclusion of the new group, as well as the changing nature of educational prescription. We want to get the detail right and the use of regulations will give us this flexibility.

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I hope that my reassurance on the matter and our commitment that we will take on board the spirit of the amendment will persuade the noble Lord that his amendment is no longer necessary.

Lord Rix: My Lords, I am happy to be so persuaded. I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 141 not moved.]

Baroness Hollis of Heigham moved Amendments Nos. 142 and 143:

Page 68, line 18, at beginning insert (“Regulations may provide that persons who have previously been entitled to short-term incapacity benefit under paragraph (b) of subsection (1) above shall, in prescribed circumstances, be entitled to such benefit under that paragraph notwithstanding that they do not satisfy the condition set out in paragraph (b) of subsection (2A) above.
Page 68, line 20, leave out (“subsection (2A) above") and insert (“paragraph (e) of that subsection")

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 61 [Abolition of severe disablement allowance]:

Lord Ashley of Stoke moved Amendment No. 144:

Leave out Clause 61

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 144. As I have already spoken to it, I wish to test the opinion of the House.

9.45 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 144) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 119; Not-Contents, 81.

Division No. 5


Ackner, L.
Addington, L.
Anelay of St. Johns, B.
Ashley of Stoke, L.
Astor of Hever, L.
Attlee, E.
Avebury, L.
Barker, B.
Bathurst, E.
Bell, L.
Berners, B.
Blackwell, L.
Blatch, B.
Blease, L.
Bradshaw, L.
Bridgeman, V.
Brougham and Vaux, L.
Buccleuch and Queensberry, D.
Burnham, L.
Buscombe, B.
Byford, B.
Cadman, L.
Campbell of Croy, L.
Carnarvon, E.
Carnegy of Lour, B.
Carr of Hadley, L.
Clement-Jones, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.
Cox, B.
Crickhowell, L.
Cross, V.
Darcy de Knayth, B.
Denham, L.
Dholakia, L.
Dixon, L.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Donegall, M.
Dundee, E.
Falkland, V.
Fookes, B.
Geddes, L.
Glenarthur, L.
Goodhart, L. [Teller]
Goschen, V.
Gray, L.
Hamwee, B.
Harmsworth, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L.
Harris of Peckham, L.
Henley, L. [Teller]
Higgins, L.
HolmPatrick, L.
Hooper, B.
Iveagh, E.
James of Holland Park, B.
Jenkin of Roding, L.
Kingsland, L.
Lawrence, L.
Leigh, L.
Lester of Herne Hill, L.
Lindsey and Abingdon, E.
Linklater of Butterstone, B.
Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Luke, L.
Lyell, L.
Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.
Mackay of Drumadoon, L.
McNair, L.
McNally, L.
Maddock, B.
Mancroft, L.
Mar and Kellie, E.
Masham of Ilton, B.
Methuen, L.
Miller of Hendon, B.
Monk Bretton, L.
Montgomery of Alamein, V.
Montrose, D.
Morris of Manchester, L.
Mountevans, L.
Moynihan, L.
Munster, E.
Napier and Ettrick, L.
Newby, L.
Norrie, L.
Norton of Louth, L.
Park of Monmouth, B.
Razzall, L.
Redesdale, L.
Rennard, L
Renton, L.
Rix, L.
Roberts of Conwy, L.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Rotherwick, L.
Rowallan, L.
Russell, E.
Selsdon, L.
Sempill, L.
Sharp of Guildford, B.
Shaw of Northstead, L.
Stodart of Leaston, L.
Teviot, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Thurso, V.
Tope, L.
Tordoff, L.
Torrington, V.
Townshend, M.
Turner of Camden, B.
Vivian, L.
Walker of Worcester, L.
Wallace of Saltaire, L.
Watson of Richmond, L.
Wilcox, B.
Williams of Crosby, B.
Wise, L.


Acton, L.
Ahmed, L.
Alli, L.
Amos, B.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Bach, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Berkeley, L.
Blackstone, B.
Borrie, L.
Bragg, L.
Brett, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Burlison, L.
Carter, L. [Teller]
Chandos, V.
Christopher, L.
Clarke of Hampstead, L.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Crawley, B.
David, B.
Davies of Coity, L.
Davies of Oldham, L.
De Ramsey, L.
Desai, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Dubs, L.
Eatwell, L.
Elder, L.
Evans of Watford, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Faulkner of Worcester, L.
Filkin, L.
Gilbert, L.
Gordon of Strathblane, L.
Goudie, B.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Grantchester, L.
Grenfell, L.
Hacking, L.
Hanworth, V.
Hardy of Wath, L.
Harris of Haringey, L.
Hayman, B.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Hoyle, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L. (Lord Chancellor)
Janner of Braunstone, L.
Jay of Paddington, B. (Lord Privy Seal)
Kennet, L.
King of West Bromwich, L.
Lea of Crondall, L.
Lipsey, L.
Lockwood, B.
Macdonald of Tradeston, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller]
Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L.
Marsh, L.
Merlyn-Rees, L.
Milner of Leeds, L.
Monkswell, L.
Montague of Oxford, L.
O'Neill of Bengarve, B.
Pitkeathley, B.
Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Rea, L.
Rendell of Babergh, B.
Sawyer, L.
Simon, V.
Strabolgi, L.
Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Thornton, B.
Warner, L.
Warwick of Undercliffe, B.
Whitty, L.

Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.

13 Oct 1999 : Column 472

[Amendment No. 145 not moved.]

Clause 64 [Certain overpayments of benefit not to be recoverable]:

9.58 p.m.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham moved Amendment No. 146:

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