These clauses amend the existing legislation so that new claimants, who would normally have to have paid, or be treated as having paid, 26 weeks of class 1 national insurance contributions in one of the last two years prior to the claim, could qualify for ESA. In the July 2008 Green Paper, the Government said:
We will retain existing protections that allow disadvantaged groups such as carers and young disabled people to qualify for ESA.
I seek an assurance from the Minister that that still applies. In the impact assessment an assessment was given that there would be approximately 20,000 fewer people claiming ESA and 5,000 fewer people claiming JSA by 2013-14. I should like to ask the Minister what will happen to those people. What will they be claiming instead of the contributions? Do we have a guarantee that they will not be losing income? The Child Poverty Action Group said in its response to the Green Paper:
The proposals on reforming the contribution conditions will reduce the number of claimants who qualify for contributory ESA and JSA. Those who find they no longer qualify will either have reduced income or be reliant on the means-tested element of either benefit.
What estimate has been made of those 25,000 people who may not submit a claim? Has any calculation been done to say what the impact is in terms of their losing income? Does the assurance that was given in the Green Paper about disadvantaged groups still apply?
It is very kind of you to invite me to speak to the Committee, Mr. Hood, but I was not going to. I have spent the whole day giving assurances and guarantees that are already extant and I am getting fed up with it.