|Back to Table of Contents
|Lords Hansard Home Page
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the one-sentence answer is that the amendment is unnecessary. The Secretary of State will set fees on the basis of full cost recovery, and full cost recovery will cover all the costs mentioned in the amendment.
There is also a three-sentence answer which I think Westminster would like me to give. The amendment is about the transitional periodthe start-up period. During that period, there will be 155,000 personal licence applications nationwide from existing holders of justices' licences. Each of those will cost £30. In addition, 180,000 businesses will convert from their existing licences to premises licences, and those licences will cost £100 to £500. All these fees will be upfront, and during the transitional period there will be no enforcement costs whatsoever because the justices' licences will still be in force. Local authorities will be quids in.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister for that answer, although I am not sure that Westminster will necessarily agree that authorities will be quids in. They will have to do the arithmetic and tell us whether they are satisfied with the figures that he has given. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
This is a probing amendment. We believe it sensible to give those who have held a justices' licence 12 months in which to apply for a new licence. It gives people who may be out of work at the time of the change a chance to apply for one of the new personal licences. We very much hope that the Government will look favourably on the amendment. I beg to move.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I think there is a misunderstanding in the amendment. At any time during the transitional period, anybody who has a justices' licence will be able to qualify automatically for a personal licence, and he can do it early or late in the transitional period. The amendment says that anybody who ceased to have a justices' licence in the 12-month period before the transitional period but had one before that is also automatically qualified. That is not the purpose of the Bill. We are saying that those who are engaged in the licensed tradein other words, those who have a justices' licenceare accepted as being fit and proper persons, to use the existing wording, and therefore it is proper that they should qualify automatically for a personal licence. Once they have given one up, the question arises: why did they?
The amendment excludes those whose licences have been revoked. Have they given their licence up because they lost interest or because they feared that it would be revoked if they did not abandon it first? The prospect should be thought about; it is better to leave the provision the way it is.
Lord Redesdale: My Lords, on that evocative note, I should like to thank the Minister for his reply and all the Ministers for the helpful way in which this stage of the Bill has been dealt with. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Baroness Hollis of Heigham) rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 5th February be approved [10th Report from the Joint Committee].
As your Lordships are aware, these draft orders are a routine annual event but they are, none the less, an important part of DWP business. The uprating order will increase most benefits from April in the normal way in line with the retail prices index for national insurance benefits and the Rossi index for income-related benefits. For the 12 months ending in September, the RPI increased by 1.7 per cent and, in the same period, the Rossi index increased by 1.3 per cent. The second order will increase the guaranteed minimum pension by 1.7 per cent in line with RPI so that it holds its value. However, as usual, we want to increase some benefits by more than inflation.
We are continuing to do more to help families to balance their work and home lives. We are again raising the standard rate of maternity allowance and statutory maternity pay by substantially more than inflation, from £75 to £100 a week. Around 350,000 families a year will benefit from these increases and other improvements to maternity allowance and statutory maternity pay. Additionally, we are introducing statutory paternity pay and statutory adoption pay at the same standard rate.
We are further helping the poorest families by aligning the child allowances in income support and jobseeker's allowance with child tax credit rates so that those families will be able to benefit from the increased generosity in those tax credits. For example, the disabled child premium will increase substantially from £35.50 to £41.30 and the enhanced disability premium for a child will increase from £11.25 to £16.60. We know it is particularly hard for families on low incomes who are bringing up children with disabilities, so we believe it is right that they, in particular, should see a substantial rise. Indeed, all the child allowances will be increased by more than inflation, which will benefit around 1.3 million families.
We continue to show our commitment to tackling pensioner poverty. In this order, we are again doing more for pensioners and giving significant help to the elderly. As in every year since introducing the minimum income guarantee, we will increase it in line with earnings. In April it will rise to £102.10 for a single person and to £155.80 for a couple. As a direct result of MIG, a single person will be at least £18 per week better off and a pensioner couple £28 per week better off than they were in 1997. In conjunction with winter fuel payments and free TV licences for older pensioners, we see that a single pensioner is at least £22 per week better off and a pensioner couple will have gained more than £31 per week.
The pension credit, which will be introduced in October, will guarantee a minimum income at these basic rates. In addition, it will directly reward the savings and second pensions of pensioners on low and modest incomes. Those who have worked hard and saved hard will get the benefit of their labours. The average gain will be around £400 a year. In addition,
Lord Higgins: My Lords, this is an annual event. Customarily, it tends to be wide-ranging in your Lordships' House, whereas in another place it tends to be fairly restricted. In view of the fact that we have a general debate on pensions tomorrow, I propose to deal with the matter rather more specifically than we have done in the past. Over several years, the select group of people here this evening have had a number of debates on these issues.
It is appropriate to look at the history of recent increases in the state pension. For simplicity's sake, I shall take merely the figures for the single state pension rather than going into all the detail. In successive years we have had increases ofnotoriouslyonly 75p, followed by £5, followed by £3 and now followed by £1.95. That is an erratic sequence, with significant variation, which may have been the result of an impending election at an appropriate stage in that sequence of events. Basically, as the noble Baroness pointed out, the state pension is being uprated in line with the RPI. We understand, therefore, why the figure is as it is in this year's uprating.
I should like to pursue a couple of points that arose in our debates last year about which we are still not clear. The Government said that they hoped to move from a situation in which 40 per cent of benefits for pensioners were funded privately and 60 per cent by the state to the reverse ratio; namely, 60 per cent private sector and 40 per cent state sector. Although I
Hospital downrating, and particularly the timing of it, was the other issue that preoccupied us a good deal last year. Can the noble Baroness confirm that the extension of the period came into operation on the due date? While I think that it is common ground in all parts of the House that there should not be duplication of benefits, the amount that is actually deducted seems to us to have been the same for a very long time. Unless I have missed something, there is a case for reviewing that. I hope that the Minister will say that that is so.
Generally speaking, what we get here is continuation of the Government's policy on means testingwhich is I think the right expression; not simply, as the noble Baroness would suggest, "targeting". There is an ever-widening gap as a result of this order and the ones that preceded it between the basic state pension and the minimum income guarantee. In 1996, the difference was only £5.90. In 1999, it increased to £8.25; in 2000, to £10.95; in 2001, to £19.65; in 2002, to £22.65; and in 2003, to £24.65. So we do have an ever widening gap between the provision of the state pension and the provision of the minimum income guarantee. I think that there is concern about that because of the ever higher percentage of those who are on the minimum income guarantee and are likely to be so in future.
In a recent study, the Pensions Policy Institute suggested that something like three-quarters of today's workers are likely to end up on means-tested benefits when they retire. Will the noble Baroness confirm whether that is the Government's view? If it is, at some stage we will have to ask ourselves who will have to pay for that amount of means-tested benefits. It appears that it will be a very considerable problem.
The noble Baroness has put some stress on the improvement of the position of pensioners, but here again the study to which I referred suggests that, in 1979, the income of the bottom fifth of pensioners was 23 per cent of average earnings, whereas by 200001 it had fallen to just 21 per cent. I think that that is somewhat inconsistent with the general policy that the noble Baroness says the Government are pursuing.
I turn to the other point on which I have repeatedly tried to get an answer from the noble Baroness. I hope that we can have an answer. I am trying to establish how large a fund it will be necessary to build up in future to take one above the minimum income guarantee. The increases in means-tested benefits are clearly having a serious impact on the incentive to provide for one's own pension. If one can quantify that, one can get some idea of how much people have to build up in a fund to get anything back in return.
The other main issue with which we have been concerned over the years is take-up. What is particularly worrying is the lack of statistics. Generally speaking, figures for take-up have emergedthat is an appropriate way to put itfrom the government
Those are the last figures that we have had. The later figures have still not been published. Even if they were published tonight, the delay would have been something like two years. I do not understand why the figures take so long to produce. It is important that we have up-to-date figures on take-up, not least because the added complexity of the government proposals is likely to mean that the take-up figures decline. Help the Aged suggests that one in three pensioners does not claim all the income support to which they are entitled. Do the Government agree with that figure?
The complexity is building up more and more. In the report of the Public Accounts Committee on such matters so far as the new tax credits are concerned, the suggestion is that the administrative costs and so on are likely to be more than £1 billion. Witnesses from the Revenue in front of the PAC suggested that the complexity of the computer required was something like eight times greater than that of the computer needed for the collection of self-assessed income tax. While the increases are welcome, if that is so we should have growing concern about the degree to which people entitled to benefits understand them, and the problems so far as the administration of the benefits is concerned.
The noble Baroness dealt with the Guaranteed Minimum Pensions Increase Order 2003 in a single sentence, simply describing precisely what is to be done. However, a number of issues arise from that sentence, and I shall deal with only one or two. The guaranteed minimum is what operating company schemes that have contracted out have to make sure is paid. It is obviously very important that the position of such pensioners should be protected. However, in the light of some recent casesthe Maersk case was one particularly difficult example, but I do not expect the Minister to reply on it unless she feels able to do sowhat happens when a company winds up its scheme when the resources available to meet its commitments appear inadequate? Can the Minister tell us whether the guaranteed minimum pension, which was due under that scheme, will still be paid? If so, from what funds and to what extent? That payment has priority over other payments that may be due. This is an important issue because, alas, in the situation in which we now find ourselves with regard to company schemesthat is for a variety of reasons, which we shall no doubt debate in greater detail tomorrowthe position of pensioners may well be seriously undermined.
My second point on the second order is that the actual calculation of the rebate paid with regard to those in company schemes seems to have a somewhat doubtful statistical basis. There was reference to that in another place, particularly with regard to the assumptions that the Government Actuary made,
The Government Actuary's report was interesting in a number of respects, not least with regard to the lack of data. He said that although he believes that different levels or patterns of contracting out could have a materialthat word is used in the technical senseeffect on the cash flow of the national insurance fund, the reduction of NIRS2 led to a lack of data that means that we do not have satisfactory data on contracting out. I understand from the report that that is likely to be improved but the data is still being analysed and validated. When is that process likely to be completed?
In some ways, this is a very traditional set of orders: they involve the usual up-rating in relation to the RPI, the Rossi index and so on. However, it must be considered carefully in the overall context of pensions provision, about which there is great concern. If we can have answers on the technical points this evening, that will help to clarify the situation.
Earl Russell: My Lords, by long tradition, this order is taken as an occasion on which to have a general debate on the state of the social security system. I do not wish to take issue with any specific points in the order but I will examine some of the general principles underlying the Government's approach to social security, which may give rise to debate.
The Minister is, I am sure, all too familiar with my views that, first, the New Deal is carrying too great a weight in the Government's strategy to relieve poverty; and, secondly, that too much credit is being given to the New Deal in proportion to the state of the global economy.
It is just possiblebut, I believe, improbablethat the noble Baroness remembers me advising her in a debate on the humble Address in 2001 to give some of the credit to the global economy before she has to give some of the discredit to the global economy in the next downturn. It is not the responsibility of Opposition spokesmen to talk the economy into downturn but it would be a rash person who said that the economy was never again going to have a downturn. I do not intend to be that rash person. I agree that other people are prepared to be that rash person, but I do not want to take the responsibility; I am no expert in the subject.
Since the publication of the report by the National Audit Office a year ago there is even more question than before about the Government's argument that there is no element of substitution in the people who got jobs after going through the New Deal. The Government claim 250,000 for the New Deal for
I shall not say that the view which happens to suit the case I am arguing is necessarily, therefore, right. I would listen with great interest to a reply from the noble Lord, Lord Layard, to that particular argument. I have not yet heard such a reply. When I hear it I shall listen to it and try to judge it on its merits. It does at least raise a considerable question.
Behind the New Deal, especially in the early years of this Government, there was for a while a strong tendency to assume that the problem was to make people want to work. The extent of the use of disentitlement implies that. It is less strongly threatened than it used to be. I do not think it has disappeared. I do not think that this is a particularly severe problem. For most people work is not only their remuneration; it is also their social life. It is their way of getting involved with the rest of the world; of having a community and of meeting with and talking to people. We do not need a policy which is based on the draconian attempt to press people into work.
When we consider what has happened, it is true that there is a good deal of work about. In some areas, for example Newbury, unemployment is remarkably low. However, the national, regional and even borough figures conceal what is happening in some of the very serious cases. It is only in the past hour that I have got my hands on the Indices of Deprivation published by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. I cannot claim to have analysed those figures properly in one hour and shall not do so. However, they show what I believe I had already observed: quite an alarming development of poverty on a ward level. Looking at areas which I happen to know because they are close to where I live, one thinks one sees what is painfully familiar to those who have lived in America; that is, the development of ghettos, not all of which are black.
The Minister must be familiar with the number of times I have cited the case of Carlton ward, Kilburn, which is the ward next door to mine. In 1992 37 per cent of the population of that ward were on means-tested benefits. It has come up a bit in the world since, but it is still a severely disadvantaged ward. There are a good many of those in London. There are quite large numbers in places such as Hackney and Tower Hamlets. There are two in Camden: Somerstown and St Pancras. We should not go away with the idea that severely deprived wards are all in the north of England; they are not. Poverty is just as poor in London as it is in the North.
Poverty next door to gross and ostentatious riches is probably even more painful than poverty when it is the norm of the community in which one lives. American crime figures clearly illustrate that. The worst are the poor areas on the very edge of the rich areas. I do not see why that should be different in London.
Whether the Government's strategy is suited to these new ghettos is a question worth serious thought. Overall, according to the New Policy Institute, there has been a fall of 1 million or 7 per cent in those living
Are all those jobs really available to people in especially deprived wards? If they are available, they are not going to them. What is happening in those wards? We are seeing the development of multiple inequalities. For example, figures show that it is far harder to get insurance in those areas than in many others. It is often much harder to get transport, so it is much harder to get to work if it is available in the area. In addition, 20 per cent of households still have no bank account, which is a problem in deprived areas because banks do not particularly want to go there.
Schools tend to be a problem, too, as they tend to close in these areas. St. George's school, which has been much mentioned, is on the edge of Carlton ward, Kilburn, and draws most of its intake from itor did. Before that school closed, it was obvious for quite some time that it was not a trouble-free environment. I am not surprised at that, because for a trouble-free environment, one needs hope, and for people coming out of those areas there is not much hope. The threat of withdrawal of benefits if they do not do what is wanted will not contribute to the hope that is needed.
The areas in London particularly afflicted seem to have one or both of two characteristics. First, they may have a high proportion of social housingand Carlton ward, Kilburn, is almost entirely social housing. I remember the local paper becoming very much exercised when all the lifts were out of action for three weeks in the height of summer. The old age pensioners living on the 21st floor were in considerable difficulty when they needed to do their shopping, and no one did anything about it. Repair is another problem in that area.
Secondly, there is the problem of ethnic minorities. Harlesden, in Kilburn, is another of the affected wards; one needs only to drive through Harlesden to realise that it is predominantly an ethnic minority area. Stonebridge, in Kilburn, is a high scorer on both counts.
That suggests a fairly considerable problem. I can cite figures published by the Child Poverty Action Group about average equivalent income for households with at least one earner. For white households, it is £225 a week; for Caribbean, £184; for Indian and African Asian, £167 to £172; and for Pakistani and Bangladeshi, £94. It is no wonder that we need to worry about our relations with the Islamic community. Those figures are in themselves enough cause for worry.
Purely on the spur of the moment, I ventured the opinion in the debate last Friday on the Equality Bill introduced by my noble friend Lord Lester that the cases of discrimination that we were discussing might account for more inequality than class does. It is a difficult question to tackle as a subject for research,
We need to think much more about access to work in terms of removing discrimination. That applies also to age discrimination. The figures for those over 50 who want to work and are unable to do so are far higher than the figures of recorded unemployment. That matter needs serious attention. Two-thirds of heads of households living in social housing lack paid work. Housing is clearly one of the failures in this area. I do not for one minute pretend to have the solution, but I do think that between us we should be looking for one.
There is a whole series of serious problems. The Government may be relieved to hear that one cheerful statistic in these areas is that the level of burglaries is falling sharply. One would never guess that from reading the papers. It is typical of them to pick up the one thing that is going right and say that it is the one thing that is going wrong.
There is a great deal that is going wrong. The development of ghettos does not encourage hope. We need some fairly significant rethinking of policy in order to prevent that development from going any further. I do not think that the New Deal is the answer to it. I do not pretend to know what is, but I am sure that the Minister and her colleaguessuitably encouragedare perfectly ready to join in constructive thinking about that themselves. I very much hope that they will do so.
I thank noble Lords for their contributions. I always find the quality of comments and questions in this House impressive. The noble Lord, Lord Higgins, to some extent was seeking to acquire bullets to fire for tomorrow afternoon's debate. Let me see if I can help him. He still has to place them on target, but that is a secondary and subsidiary issue.
The noble Lord's first point was about the 60:40/40:60 issue. I repeatas I have said on several occasionsthat that is an aspiration that we are working towards. Obviously issues such as the pension credit and so on may affect those figures. We expect pension expenditure by the Government in GDP terms to remain roughly consistent at around 5 per cent of GDP over the next 30 to 50 years. That breaks down into basic state pension of about 3 per cent, SERPS S2P of about 1 per cent and MIG, pension credit and other pension-related benefits of about 1 per cent. They vary somewhat between each other, but together they represent about 5 per cent.
Expenditure on pensions represented by the private sector will depend to some extentas we shall no doubt explore tomorrowon the degree to which voluntary contributions and savings continue to grow, despite what is happening to the stock market.
Secondly, the noble Lord asked me about hospital downrating. The "more generous terms"in other words, the fact that it will kick in laterwill come into effect in October 2003. The main reason for that is to coincide with the introduction of pension credit; otherwise, the complexities of entering one system and then untangling it would be substantial. So it will be introduced from October 2003.
I shall deal with Maersk before I turn to the noble Lord's main push about means testing, targeting and so on. He was kind enough to inform me that he wanted to ask this question. I have done what I can in the time since we spoke. If there is additional information that I can give, I shall write to him.
My understanding of the case is that the scheme has 196 deferred members. It would appear that there are no current members, so GMPs are not in payment yet. The scheme is solvent. There is about £6.4 million currently in the fund. It is marginally funded over the MFR. GMPs rank high in the priority order above other pension commitments. They are ring-fenced. That should mean that GMPs may representif someone has a pension of say £10,000about 20 per cent of the pension. My understanding is that that should mean that they are secure. But if in any respect I have misled the noble Lord, I will make sure that he has a clear statement from us when I can get one. The issue is quite technical, but I understand that GMPs are secure and ring-fenced. There is no reason to think that they cannot be paid fully and properly. There is more of a dispute about the rest of the pension.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page