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I was hoping that that was the main reason for it. In the Amendment we merely ask that needs should be reflected more effectively than they are now. Under the Amendment only the poorest will get the full benefit. Only the poorest will get their long-term benefits when their short-term benefits under the earlier Bill expire. There is little doubt that the majority of people with whom we are concerned in this Amendment have long-term needs, such as the sick.
The figures for sickness benefit show quite clearly that if a person has been sick for six months, the chances are, unhappily, that that person's health has broken down and he is, in effect, chronically sick and may well be in as much need of the long-term benefit as an old person. I am thinking, too, of the no-pension widow who is widowed just on the wrong side of 50 and who will get no pension after six months. If, as is likely, she requires additional help at the end of that time, the chances are that it will be required on a long-term basis. So I hope that the right hon. Lady will at any rate agree that here we are dealing with needs which are likely to be permanent.
I want to give one concrete illustration of how the Bill will work at the moment and how the Amendment would work. Let us take the case of a man earning £12 a week, with a wife and four children, who has been struck down by a serious illness. He will get some short-term graduated sickness benefit for six months under the earnings-related scheme. It is likely that he will get less than the full amount because of the earnings stop which the Minister introduced into the short-term scheme; but, because the wages stop under the Bill is more favourable than the earnings stop, it may be that the man will also get a supplementary allowance from the Commission.
Even if he is getting a supplementary allowance right from the beginning of his sickness, he will still have an 18-month gap between the end of the short-term benefit at six months and the beginning of the long-term rate of supplementary allowance at two years. He may well have three different rates of benefit within a period of two years. I cannot believe that that accurately reflects the need of that man and his family.
Under the Amendment, he would qualify for the 9s. long-term supplementary allowance as soon as his short-term benefit under the graduated scheme ran out at the end of six months; in other words, the two would be locked in.
If it is right, as I believe, to give the 9s. long-term supplementary allowance to pensioners at once, there is an equally strong case for saying that the sick man and his family should be eligible for it as soon as his graduated sickness benefit expires. I am sure that the right hon. Lady wants to reflect as accurately and as fairly as she can the needs of people in the allowances which they are given. I hope that she will be convinced of the justice of the Amendment.