Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.Donate to our crowdfunder
As one who served on the Committee, I take this opportunity to thank those organisations that worked hard to brief us. I think of the Child Poverty Action Group, the Spastics Society, a number of others and some individuals. It would be churlish not to mention the help we received from Tony Lynes, Chris Davies and others who did tremendous work in Committee.
I oppose the Third Reading of the Bill for three reasons. One is the characteristics of my constituency. My constituency has unemployment running at 23 per cent., an aging population, a high dependency on supplementary benefits, seasonal unemployment arising from the tourist industry, with low wages and the need for family income supplement. The background is one of industrial disease, about which we have heard so much in debates on the Bill. In consequence of that and other factors, there is a high level of disablement. All these features highlight the bad aspects of the Bill and how people will suffer as a result of this measure.
Wales, it has been estimated, will lose between £50 million and £100 million a year as a result of this legislation. That must therefore be resisted. There is grave concern among disablement organisations about the way in which those who are most severely disabled will suffer and how some of the general changes will impact on the standard of living of the disabled. For all those reasons, I have grave misgivings about the Bill.
Young people will lose income. Consideration must be given to how the change in housing benefits will hit students, pensioners having to pay 20 per cent. of their rates, the inequities of the social fund, the cash limitation and the lack of an appeal system. There is also the way that school meals are being phased out so that disabled children who go to special schools in my area will no longer be able to have free school meals as a direct result of the legislation. The Government have come up with nothing at all.
The death grant has also been badly handled.
A few crumbs have come out of the debate. I am grateful that the Government have decided to consider the problem of seasonal unemployment. We still have not heard the outcome of their investigations, but I hope that some help will be provided.
Last night the Minister was cut off in mid-sentence in a truncated debate when he was replying about the mobility allowance. He said:
The issues that have been raised are extremely important and complicated, and there is much anxiety outside the House".—[Official Report, 19 May 1986; Vol. 98, c. 74]
Those were the Minister's words on the mobility allowance and they were chopped. We hope that in the other place the Government will come forward with a response on the points that were made last night.
In the end, we must decide what priorities we have as a House and as a community. We must decide whether these priorities lie with the needy, the unemployed, the sick and the disabled, or whether the priority is to reduce taxation. I believe that the original objective of the Bill was to reduce public expenditure. It has led to a reduction in the costs for those who most need to be sustained.
The words of the hon. Member for Kensington (Sir B. Rhys Williams) will ring in the ears of the Government and their supporters. This Bill will be a millstone around the Government's neck as they go into the next general election.