Attendance Allowance for Children Under Two

Orders or the Day – in the House of Commons at 7:30 pm on 12th January 1988.

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`In section 35(5) of the Social Security Act 1975, at the end there shall be added the words "or any modification which discriminates on grounds of age against severely disabled children under the age of two."!—[Mrs. Beckett.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Margaret Beckett Margaret Beckett Shadow Minister (Social Security)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

We are now on an entirely different matter, the payment of the attendance allowance. There are stringent tests which those claiming attendance allowance have to satisfy—[Interruption.]

Photo of Dawn Primarolo Dawn Primarolo , Bristol South

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I cannot hear the speech of my hon. Friend. I shall be able to hear her now, because everyone has stopped speaking.

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

That is the most genuine point of order that has ever been put to me in the Chair

Photo of Margaret Beckett Margaret Beckett Shadow Minister (Social Security)

That is not as much of a compliment as it might seem, given some of the points of order that are raised.

As I was saying, there are stringent tests which those who claim attendance allowance have to satisfy before it can be awarded. I am confident that hon. Members on both sides of the House know of cases where attendance allowance has been denied although they might have felt that it should have been awarded. Even when the stringent tests are passed, as again hon. Members on both sides may be aware, a substantial period — six months — elapses before the allowance can be paid. There must be a sufficient degree of need, a sufficient amount of care required and, particularly in the cases of those who are physically disabled, a sufficient degree of pain incurred by those applying for the attendance allowance before there can be any question of the allowance being paid. In effect, for all of that six months, the conditions for the award have to be satisfied.

Many hon. Members will know, from their experience of their own constituency cases, of people who, unfortunately, are not as aware as all of us would wish of the circumstances in which attendance allowance can be claimed or of the fact that they may be entitled to it and who make late, sometimes very late, claims. Indeed, sometimes people have had a degree of pain and suffering and need not just for months but for years, and application for attendance allowance is made so late that the person on account of whose illness it could be paid dies before the award can come through.

There are stringent tests of eligibility for this payment and of the period before such a payment can be made. Six months is a very long time for someone to endure that degree of pain, if those are the circumstances of his or her illness. It is a long time for the individual and those seeking to care for that individual to endure that degree of need without the financial support and what must in those circumstances be the comparatively small amount of relief that attendance allowance may provide.

There is one small group—small in every sense of the word—who, whatever degree of pain or need they are experiencing, have to wait not six months, but two years. Children under the age of two can never, as the law stands, receive attendance allowance. They may well be, and in a number of cases certainly are, ruled out also for a whole range of other benefits.

Partly because resources are always under pressure and, indeed, under this Government are declining, the resources available to social services committees of local authorities and other groups which may seek to alleviate the problems of those in these circumstances are and will always be allocated on the basis of priority. Choices always have to be made and when there are cuts those choices are inevitably harder and the degree of consideration of priority is all the greater. In a very high percentage of cases, although not invariably, as the Minister is, I know, well aware, the definition of priority used is that of entitlement to other benefits, such as attendance allowance. Those who cannot qualify for attendance allowance, by definition, also often cannot qualify for the other help that might be available.

The argument for the cut-off age of two is based on the development of a normal child, but no normal child of any age could possibly receive an attendance allowance because, apart from the criteria to which I referred at the outset, which every person who applies for attendance allowance must meet, no child can be awarded attendance allowance unless his or her attendance needs are substantially in excess of that normally required by a child of the same age and sex". It is absolutely clear, as the Minister has admitted, that some children do fit that definition; they do experience not only the degree of need that would be required for an adult to pass those tests but a degree of need substantially in excess of that experienced by any normal child below the age of two.

There is no logic, justice or compassion in denying children who can pass those existing serious hurdles the payment of attendance allowance merely because when that attendance allowance was first placed on the statute book some 12 years or so ago it was thought right to have a qualifying age of two. The case does not stand up for a second to the serious examination which I am sure it is going to receive at the hands of my hon. Friends, and perhaps of hon. Members on the Government side.

We believe that the case which is being made for the removal of that arbitrary age barrier, that third hurdle for small children and their parents, is something that the House should have considered long ago and that this new clause should be carried tonight.

Photo of Mr Dave Nellist Mr Dave Nellist , Coventry South East

As my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett) has mentioned, this is the first time for a decade and a half that the full House has had the chance of debating and voting on whether there should be a lower age limit below which an attendance allowance cannot be made to someone with severe mental or physical disabilities. There have been plenty of questions during that period, particularly in the last three or four years, but tonight we have a chance to debate the reasons why the Government believe that the attendance allowance, which they accept should be paid to people over the age of two with disabilities which in many cases can be assessed well before that age, cannot be paid to those children.

As hon. Members who served on the Standing Committee will be aware, my involvement in this issue began late last year when the grandparents of two young constgirls who are now 22 months old—Vicky and Alex Storer — wrote to me to describe the enormous difficulties the twins face. The family lives in the constituency of the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Stevens), who is present in the Chamber and who I hope will be supporting this new clause not only in a speech but also in the Lobby. The enormous difficulties with which that family has to cope because of the severity of Vicky's and Alex's disabilities could not fail to move any Member of the House who met the children. The children, with their parents and their aunt, were in the House with me today in order to publicise the need for this new clause to be carried.

From birth, the disability was clearly diagnosed by the attendant consultant paediatrician, the senior clinical medical officer for the area. Vicky and Alex have suffered much in the first 22 months of their life—heart surgery, brain drainage, fits and frequent resuscitation. In fact, all the social and medical evidence indicates that from their second birthday they will clearly get that attendance allowance, which by April will be a maximum of £33 a week. But why do they have to wait? Why cannot that attendance allowance be paid to them now?

As a parent, with two of my three children of a similar age to Vicky and Alex, one eight months and the other two years old, I have direct experience of the normal problems of and attention demanded by infants. But teething and, recently, conjuctivitis, nightly feeding, and so on, cannot be compared with the strain of coping with children with the degree of disability that Vicky and Alex and children like them suffer. For the first few months of their lives, they required permanent hospital care. It may be that the fact that their mother, Sandra, was formerly a psychiatric nurse at the Walsgrave hospital in Coventry, and Paula, her sister, is currently a nurse at that hospital has helped them to cope, but the strain has certainly told on them.

A £33 attendance allowance would make possible occasional professional help. It would allow Sandra and Peter, the girls' father, to do the shopping and other family jobs, confident that the children were being competently looked after. The job of looking after children with that degree of disability ought to be carried out on a 24-hour basis by a district health authority or a local authority social services department, and there is some help on offer from that direction. But some of the main help in recent months has been from the Crossroads carers assistance scheme, which in the midlands provides assistance to carers looking after people with disabilities, because successive cuts in the funding of the local and district health authorities have made them unable to cope with bairns and families like the Storers.

Because the lower age limit is two years for attendance allowance and five years for mobility allowance, those bairns are denied access to other things. For example, their parents cannot get an orange badge to put on the car to enable them to use parking spaces for the disabled at the hospital, outside the council offices, by the shops or wherever it may be. So what Sandra and Peter have to do is not only to cope with two disabled bairns but also to carry an oxygen cylinder and resuscitation equipment sometimes as much as 100 yards to get to where they want to go.

8 pm

Another consequence of their being unable to get attendance allowance is that from April—we know this because of the changes in social security payments which are going through — there will be a disabled child premium which we understand will be about £6·15 a week. Only those who currently or by April receive attendance or mobility allowance will be entitled to that disabled child premium. The premium covers the axing of additional help that families now receive, such as help with special diets or with laundry; this assistance will be replaced by the disabled child premium. But families with children under the age of two will not be entitled to the premium because they are not getting an attendance or mobility allowance.

Every hon. Member present in the Chamber or who reads the debate tomorrow in Hansard will know of similar cases in his or her area of children suffering from Down's syndrome, spina bifida, autism, strokes at birth or respiratory, cardiac or intestinal malfunction. I asked the Minister to give us his own assessment for today's debate of how many children under the age of two might be eligible for the new allowance, were the House to pass the clause this evening, but unfortunately those figures have not arrived in time for the debate, so I have to make my own estimate.

Let us say that about 10,000 or 12,000 children could be affected. Shortly before Christmas, the Minister gave me an estimate of the cost of extending provision to these children as about £17 million per year. My only comment on the size of that figure is that it is slightly less than half what it cost to refurbish the offices of the Minister, his Secretary of State and his colleagues across the road from 10 Downing street, that palace with its crystal chandeliers costing £38 million. Half that sum would have provided thousands of families with minimal financial assistance to allow them some extra professional help.

I have been in the House nearly five years, and during that time we have heard a lot about the Tory programme for returning people to the community, particularly when it comes to closing down some of the Victorian hospitals for those with mental handicap or mental illness. There is an element of that in this debate. Sandra and Peter Storer are doing the job of the hospital service. If those bairns were in hospital, they could be costing the taxpayer about £200 a week for professional care. Sandra and Peter are doing that job because they love their family, yet they are not even getting this £33 a week which would help them to cope. It is a cruel hoax for the Tories to speak about returning people to the community as if it was a benefit to the families concerned and then not to provide resources to enable those families to cope.

When we debated this matter in Committee on an amendment which allowed us to raise roughly the same subject matter, the Minister said: I have some sympathy for some of the points made by the hon. Member for Coventry, South-East". He said that the argument that we were putting forward was more difficult to resist, although the Committee should consider long and hard before accepting the amendment.

One of the reasons that he gave, and I accept it entirely, was his own personal experience. He said: During the past two years, in my extended family I have had experience of a child who suffered from meningitis soon after birth and who will be severely handicapped for the rest of her life. She is approaching the age of two, when she will get the attendance allowance."—[Official Report, Standing Committee E, 17 November 1987; c. 62.] Later in the debate, the Minister said, The intention in Amendment No. 17 to remove the age limit of two years has a strong, obvious and immediate appeal to anyone who is concerned with handicapped children and the stress … that is felt by families, particularly mothers." —[Official Report, Standing Committee E, 19 November 1987; c. 77.] I quite accept that, with his own experience, the Minister can see the scope of the problem. This leaves me with a simple question. If he understands it from his own experience, why will he not stand up at the Dispatch Box and extend the entitlement allowance, the conditions for which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South has said, are stringent, to the 10,000 or 12,000 children who are undergoing this same experience?

The reason that the Minister gave the Committee as to why the Government did not take this position was it is difficult to make assessments for children under the age of two … all of us who have children under the age of two have to give them a degree of care and attention that would almost certainly lead us, if they were older, to qualify for attendance allowance for much if not all the time. One of my children guaranteed that never once in two years did my wife and I have an uninterrupted night — they were mostly constantly interrupted — but the brother who came afterwards gave us two years of absolute peace, so there is no pattern even in the demands that normal healthy children put on their parents during the night." — [Official Report, Standing Committee E, 17 November 1987, c. 69.] I can accept that from my own experience of the past two years. But the children who are diagnosed from birth by all medical and social experts as unlikely to recover from conditions suffered from birth—such as Vicky and Alex—do not fall into the mould which the Minister described of normal children of a similar age. This is riot the normal pattern of parents looking after children. I did not have to carry round an oxygen cylinder and resuscitation equipment, nor did I have to check my bairns every two hours during the nights that I have been at home, and neither did the Minister. But that is the experience of Peter and Sandra Storer and of thousands of parents like them.

In that larger number of 10,000 or 12,000 children, there is a group of children to which I would like to draw attention. There can be absolutely no doubt that, right from birth, they will face horrifying problems in their perhaps tragically short lives. I refer to those who suffer from inherited blood disorders such as sickle sell anaemia or thalassemia major and related haemoglobin disorders. I am grateful for the assistance that I and my colleagues have been given on this by the Organisation for Sickle Cell Anaemia Research—OSCAR. Sickle cell anaemia is an inherited disorder of red blood cells affecting people whose forebears lived in those parts of the world where malaria is a scourge.

It is estimated that there are 4,500 sufferers in the United Kingdom, most of whom live in the major conurbations. The illness is chronic, unpredictable in its recurrence and variable in its manifestations, which usually appear in early infancy. Failing medical intervention, there is a high risk of death before the age of five — before they would become entitled to mobility allowance. If the sufferer survives, she or he risks major organ damage with impaired quality of life and reduced life expectancy. Parents and families face disruption to education, employment and normal family life. It is crucial for the purposes of this debate to understand how this disorder affects young children. At about six months of age, those suffering from sickle cell anaemia may experience a painful swelling of the hands and feet, lowered resistance to infection, bodily pains, tiredness, pallor and jaundice. The abnormal red blood cells are fragile and short-lived, leading to anaemia. These cells lose oxygen and become distorted, obstructing the small blood vessels and causing localised, irreversible tissue damage.

Neither I nor the Minister who will reply to the debate has any personal experience of this in regard to our children such as was mentioned in Committee. This sort of caring for children is completely different from the upbringing of normal children. There is no cure for sickle cell anaemia. Prophylactic measures include regular penicillin and occasional blood transfusions, high oral fluid intake, warm clothing, well heated rooms and remedial treatment when the painful crises may necessitate hospital admission or day-and-night nursing at home.

I could spend some time describing how all this affects not only the children who suffer from the disorder but their parents and their siblings but, as one would expect with that degree of disability, the effects are also economic and social and impinge on the quality and continuation of family life. The family and the marriage may break up because of the instability brought into the situation by a child with that degree of suffering. Even if the attendance allowance were to be paid, its present level is inadequate. Nevertheless, there would be an element, particularly for children under two, of respite and care available to minimise the effect on the family—although I stress that it ought to be the job of the district health authority or local authority to provide proper 24-hour care for parents and children in that position.

Let me describe a point that was raised in Committee to illustrate the continuation of care that is needed for those who suffer from such conditions as thalassemia major. One of the ways to alleviate the condition partially is by using a drug called, I believe, Desferal, but that drug must be administered over an eight or 10-hour period, several times a week, to children — particularly very young infants—with a hypodermic needle inserted in the stomach overnight. That necessitates the parent constantly getting up to check not only that the baby is all right, but that the needle has not worked itself free from the stomach.

That seems to me to satisfy all the criteria — even with the Government's extended restrictions—for those who need constant supervision. From the age of two, the child — or, rather, the parent — would receive the necessary financial assistance, but the problem is occurring now, and it does not start at the age of two.

It would have been possible, even with the time allocated to tonight's debate, to give a wider range of examples of the problems experienced by the families of a few thousand children in this country who are so severely disabled and face such serious problems that that minor amount of money—£33.00 a week, from April—could provide some degree of alleviation. I trust that my comrades who speak later in the debate will be able to give further examples. However, there has been no serious attempt in the past decade and a half to change the law, and there has been no attempt during the Committee stage to justify the Government's position.

I hope that I am not stealing the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South (Ms. Primarolo), who pointed out that no research had been undertaken to justify the Government's decision that the allowance should start at the age of two. We are discussing children in whom the diagnosis can be made — because of a disorder in the blood, or because of the severity of their physical or mental disability from birth — that their problems will be with them for the rest of their lives, which in many cases are tragically short. There can be no justification for the Government not to be prepared to cough up a minimal amount such as £17 million to aid the families of such children.

Vicky and Alex were here today. Some hon. Members may have seen them. Certainly, I hope that more publicity will be given to their case in the days ahead. Peter and Sandra, who raised this case, and the children's grandparents, recognised when they first approached me in the autumn of last year that March, when they would be two years old, was probably too early for a change in the law. But they have put themselves out to ensure that other families do not have to undergo, in the months and years ahead, the trauma that they have had to suffer in bringing up their children.

If the Minister and his hon. Friends wish this evening to give some reality to the talk of people being returned to the community, and of the Tory party being the party of the family, they will act tonight. If they wish to give some reality — admittedly, this is a slightly extraneous point—to the view that I expect to hear on Friday, 22 January, when we debate a private Member's Bill on the curtailment of the age limit on abortion, that, following an amniocentesis test at 18 or 20 weeks or later, it is wrong for a foetus to be terminated because it may turn out to have a severe physical or mental disability — if Tory Members care so much about young bairns with disabilities — they will help their families tonight by extending the £33.00 a week attendance allowance to those under two.

I hope that, when we divide the House, we shall have not only the solid assistance of 149 Labour comrades who have corresponded with me over the Christmas recess and promised me their support, but that of some of the Tory Members who have listened to tonight's debate.

Photo of Tim Boswell Tim Boswell , Daventry 8:15 pm, 12th January 1988

The House will be familiar with the lot of a Conservative Back Bencher on a Standing Committee. I had the pleasure of serving on the Social Security Bill Committee. It could be encapsulated in the words of Thomas Hobbes: nasty, brutish and short. If we leave aside the nastiness and the brutishness — although certainly some of the sufferings of which we have heard are indeed nasty and brutish for the families concerned—it is still true that, whichever party happens to form the Government, speeches from Government Back Benchers tend, remarkably, to be short. Nevertheless, students of body language who attended the Committee sittings will have noticed a tendency on my part, if not on that of others, to sympathise with the position advanced tonight. Those of us who are parents of healthy children are bound to feel considerable sensitivity and sympathy on behalf of the children and parents whom we meet to whom that does not apply, and who face dreadful problems.

While I have some sympathy with the new clause, I must tell the House that I do not propose to vote for it. I should like, however, to put down one or two markers. My first, and major, reason is that I find it rather remarkable, and a shade distasteful, that a position on attendance allowance that obtained throughout the period of Labour Government is now being raised, because it is a cause that naturally attracts human sympathy, to the character of a political stunt.

Photo of Margaret Beckett Margaret Beckett Shadow Minister (Social Security)

Does the hon. Gentleman recognise first that—sadly, in my view—it is now nearly 10 years since a Labour Government were in office; and, secondly, that nothing would have given us greater pleasure than to be in a position as a Labour Government to carry out precisely this measure? I am 100 per cent. certain that, as an Opposition Back Bencher, the hon. Member would have received a quite different hearing from me, or from anyone else in the position of Minister for Social Security, from that which, sadly, we expect from the Conservative Benches tonight.

Photo of Tim Boswell Tim Boswell , Daventry

I am grateful for the hon. Lady's comments. However, she will be surprised to learn that, even as a new Member, I know enough not to dive into the realms of the hypothetical. I can, however, record that that was the position under the previous Administration. That was a few years ago, and we hope that matters will improve, but we find what is happening tonight remarkable.

It is perhaps part and parcel of the tactics that have been deployed on the Standing Committee, and on other occasions, by the Opposition that the cost of this change is relatively small. The figure that I pencilled in was £13 million. I understand from the Minister that it is now some £17 million—although, as those of us who have worked in advising Government in previous capacities know, even £10 million, or indeed, £1 million, is fought over in departmental budgets nowadays.

If we had a self-denying ordinance from the Opposition that this was the one area in which they were prepared to interest themselves, and that they would, as the Americans say, major on it, that might be one thing. But when it is accompanied by all other issues with which I have much less sympathy — what may be termed consistent, constant and strident ululation, together with the ruthless clocking up of the taximeter of cost—I part company with the Opposition.

During the Committee stage, I busied myself by attempting to keep some record of the overall costs. I found that the cost of the seven items that I could identify exceeded an additional £700 million a year. When I added the uncosted or unquantifiable items, the figure was well over £1 billion a year. What is proposed tonight on that narrow issue must be seen in the context of the general commitment to what I can only call irresponsibility.

The other reason why I have reservations about the new clause is that I believe that there is sense in not merely following the present practice with attendance allowance. We should be looking, as the Government are looking, at the whole aspect of disability. I say that not to put it off, but to try to achieve the right solution. It is easy for us to consider distressful situations that apply to children and say, "Let's do something about them. What's the most obvious and available measure we can adopt? Let's do it." That may not be the right way to proceed and I will explain why.

I want to consider the specifics of the issue. I listened with great care to the debate in Committee and to the Minister's sensitive reply to the points.

Photo of Tim Boswell Tim Boswell , Daventry

I am sorry that the hon. Lady feels that that is rubbish. I seem to remember that at the time the Minister was treated with respect because he went out of his way — and he can speak for himself on this — to respond sensitively to the points that were made.

The Minister said in Committee that he would have to respond to these points and consider how to deal with them later. First, he will have to consider whether it is possible reliably to assess those children not just before the age of 24 months, but, in practice, before 18 months as there will be a six months waiting period. Further, is it possible to assess a sufficient proportion of those children not to create an undesirable degree of difference of treatment between one class and another? If it is possible to produce a reasonably satisfactory assessment formula so that children can be assessed before the age of 18 months so that attendance allowance can be paid by the age of two years or before, no one would be more pleased than I. I hope that the Minister will consider seriously whether that can be achieved. A situation in which only a handful of cases might be so assessable and which many others would follow later might be invidious.

I know that the Minister spent some time in Committee in considering the next point. Even if an assessment can be made—and I feel instinctively that it could be arid we could perhaps over the years consider reducing the age —would it be possible to make a practical distinction about the level of extra care required for people in that position? I hope and believe that it would be possible to isolate some cases where one could clearly see that extra care was required as the needs were greater. We should then meet such cases in due course.

Finally, as attendance allowance is treated frequently as the passport to other benefits or available facilities, even if the final decision is not to opt for attendance allowance in those cases, will the Minister consider whether some way can be found to achieve a passport system for those children? I very much agree with the hon. Member far Coventry, South-East (Mr. Nellist) on that point. It is clear to all hon. Members who have heard the debates and considered the matter that there are many cases of distress. We are grateful as parents that most of us have been spared such cases. We would like to help those people involved. In the sense of the debates that have taken place, I want the Government to consider those matters as matters of the highest priority, if not tonight, then in future.

Photo of Mr Dafydd Wigley Mr Dafydd Wigley , Caernarfon

I am glad to follow the hon. Member for Daventry (Mr. Boswell) on this matter. This debate is similar to a fairly long debate that we had in Committee, although the wording of the new clause is different. I am glad that we have had an intervention from the Conservative Benches. The Committee stage would have been more worthwhile had it been possible to have a proper debate across the Floor of the Committee. Conservative Members were clearly bound and gagged by their Whips and did not take any constructive part in the debate.

The hon. Member for Daventry has made valid points and it is worthwhile for me to attempt to respond to them. First, he said that it was not reasonable to consider the matter because the Labour Government had not considered it 10 years ago. The fact that the Labour Government did not consider it is no reason why the Conservative Government or a future Labour Government should not consider it. If the Conservative Government were to restrain themselves to doing only what Labour Governments have done in the past, presumably Conservative Members would not agree with everything that their Government were doing. The hon. Gentleman's argument was very superficial.

He allied with that point the cost of the total proposals put forward in Committee for improving the lot of disabled people and others. He said that it was approximately £1 billion. Yes, that is a lot of money, but it is only about half of what would be produced by reducing income tax from 27p to 25p in the pound. At a time when that is being actively canvassed and discussed, I should have thought that a reasonable alternative use of those resources—even if not what the hon. Gentleman called "economically responsible"—would certainly have a social responsibility far in excess of its economic cost. Indeed, the small element of £20 million for those children out of £1,000 million is money well spent. Even if the rest of the package is expensive and unacceptable, that is no reason for cutting out the one element which may appeal to the hon. Gentleman. Therefore, I reject his argument on that point as well.

The hon. Member for Daventry referred to the need to assess below the age of 18 months and said that there is a danger of discrimination. Of course there is a danger of discrimination. However, discrimination exists now against everyone below the age of two who may well be clearly in need of assistance, and if there were criteria at all, those children would fall within them.

The new clause deals with discrimination. We are currently discriminating against people who clearly should receive some kind of assistance. There are many people over the age of two, including the elderly, whose condition is nothing like as severe as that of some children to whom reference has been made today. It would have been a lesser discrimination to have an ability to pay an allowance before the age of two against a set of criteria. That set of criteria may need to be slightly different because of the kind of children we are talking about and because of the normal pattern of "expected burden" of any children below the age of two. However, surely it is as possible to produce a set of guidelines for those circumstances as it is to produce guidelines for older people. After all, people aged 80, 90 or 100 may be expected to need care and attendance allowance is paid in those circumstances. It should also be practically possible to pay such an allowance for those under the age of two.

The hon. Member for Daventry said that, even if it was possible to make an assessment, it would be difficult to determine the need for extra care. With respect, that question arises in all cases of attendance allowance. No one type of care is needed. Circumstances vary from category to category. We all have constituents who receive attendance allowance and we are pleased about that, although sometimes we think that their cases may be marginal. Others patently need the allowance.

The hon. Member for Daventry said that he was going to make four points, yet I have commented on five that he made. He referred to the passport question. I accept that if there were other ways of getting a passport to other benefits including invalid care allowance which may be passported by attendance allowance, that would be a way out of the hon. Gentleman's argument. However, we are not considering them tonight. We are debating a new clause to try to ensure that we make provision for those children below the age of two who place an extra cost and burden on their parents way beyond the normal responsibility of minding children at that age.

We won the argument in Committee overwhelmingly. In fact, there was not a lot of argument because the Minister agreed with us half the time. I suspect that we will win the argument tonight. I want to remind the Minister briefly of the points rehearsed in Committee which have not been adequately answered. I believe that the Minister acknowledges that extra costs are involved. Therefore, it is a question of getting a mechanism to help parents. There are also extra burdens for the parents of children below the age of two if there is a disability in that when that disability is first diagnosed—and that is likely to be around the age of one — parents will be going backwards and forwards on day trips to hospitals and will incur considerable extra costs. At a later stage they may have some stability in looking after their children, but at the point of diagnosis when they are uncertain about how to cope the extra cost can be even greater than it will be later.

The Minister did not respond in Committee to the question of how there could be objective attendance allowance assessment for older people. If the needs of older people who qualify for attendance allowance can be taken as a barometer, surely it must be possible to devise a system to meet the needs of those below the age of two.

8.30 pm

In Committee we dealt with the issue of community care, or the lack of it. The hon. Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Nellist) mentioned the absence in many areas of services that give adequate support to parents with disabled children below the age of two. If those services are not available through the local authorities or the area health authorities, the least that we can do is to give them some flexibility to buy into those services by having such resources. We are not talking about an enormous sum of money, or an enormous departure from principle. We are talking about an area in which at the moment the Government are not looking very bright. I should have thought that, in the case of young disabled children below the age of two, the Government would seek a way forward in which their performance could be seen to be a little more creditable than it has been recently. On that basis, I suggest that the new clause be accepted.

Photo of Mr Lewis Stevens Mr Lewis Stevens , Nuneaton

I had not recognised how serious and sad was the case of many young children until that of Mr. and Mrs. Storer and their twins occurred in my constituency, about which the hon. Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Nellist) has reminded the House. It was so tragic for those parents to be sure at that early stage that they would have difficulties with their children almost from birth and for many years to come, with little likelihood of any substantial relief or improvement.

Like other people, I consider children and babies to be problems for any parents. It is not easy for all parents for several months. Outsiders do not readily recognise that children may have physical or mental difficulties. When one looks a little more deeply into the real difficulties which such parents must undergo, one realises that almost from the moment that those children arrive home there can be no normal family life. The family is committed to providing children or babies with the basic necessities—feeding them, looking after them, playing with them and enjoying them—but to disabled children they must be totally committed, which prevents the family from having any normal relaxation.

With babies, at least one can relax for an hour or two when they are in bed. In the sad case of Mr. and Mrs. Storer and their children, there is little opportunity for the family to relax unless someone else takes over. That is when there is need for an attendance allowance. It would provide some relief for the family and enable it to have some physical and mental relaxation and carry on a normal life. They need some recreation so that they can give that tremendously full commitment to their children.

In general, there is an age limit of 18 months plus six months, or two years. It is easy to see how such an arrangement could come about. If one examined statistics and drew a distribution curve to show how difficulties with children come into that curve, one would see that many ailments, illnesses and disabilities are recognised at about 12 months. At that stage it is certain that those disabilities really exist and will continue. In cases such as that of Mr. and Mrs. Storer, those disabilities were recognised when the babies were in hospital, and certainly as soon as they came home there was little doubt. A very well qualified consultant, a lady who does not exaggerate and who does not unnecessarily alarm people, even politicians, as some doctors may do — she is a very realistic and understanding person—said that from a very early stage it was possible to know that those children would undergo physical and mental disabilities which would create problems for the family.

We must look for a way to give support to such families from the earliest possible time. That time may be a few weeks or a few months after they are born. Perhaps we should apply a rule of six months, as we do for the attendance allowances, as that would still bring the time available for payment well forward of two years. We should consider that.

The hon. Member for Coventry, South-East spoke about the availability of support, whether through attendance allowance or other support. Help should be available directly when those families take the babies home. In my constituency case I had the impression that help was not quickly forthcoming. It was not easy for the parents to find out that help was available.

Even if it is a matter of attendance allowance, one must look at similar cases and different disabilities and ensure that there is medical or social help automatically available to those families and that at an early stage there is somewhere for them to turn to. There are many services available in Britain. I shall not make any political point about how good or bad they are, but they are available. Yet it is not easy to say where help should come from for such families at the time mentioned by the hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley), the age at which the diagnosis first comes about. Families are taking their children to the hospital to find out about their disabilities. Once they have been properly diagnosed and confirmed, some action can be taken and some procedure put in place to look after those children. But until that time, those weeks and months are desperate times and families have more concern during the time of uncertainty than when the diagnosis is confirmed and they recognise that they have practical difficulties.

I raised that point on Second Reading, partly in the hope that as the Bill went through Committee the matter would be debated. I was not able to serve on the Standing Committee, but I am sure from the words of the hon. Member for Coventry, South-East that it was debated. Indeed, there was sympathy from the Government Benches for an improvement in help—perhaps., through the attendance allowance. It is obvious from that there will not be a Government amendment stating what changes should be made.

I shall be interested to hear my hon. Friend the Minister's response. The new clause seeks to ensure that a family receives support from an early stage and that is right. However, I understand that it may well cause problems in its practical application and in providing adequate support in different cases. My hon. Friend might suggest that various reviews are taking place to try to define more precisely the needs of disabled people in general which may also cover the needs of young children and that the objective of the new clause may be achieved better at a later stage in the Bill or in a subsequent Bill.

Such explanations I shall listen to. However, I hope that my hon. Friend will be able to say that the Government intend to provide cover for the type of cases to which I and the hon. Member for Coventry, South-East have referred and the many others that might exist. I hope that he will say that the Government intend to review support available both in the form of attendance allowances and by other means, and to bring forward measures to assist such cases at an appropriate point.

My hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Mr. Boswell) spoke about a time when that might happen, and I hope that it will be in months, not years. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will reassure me that the Government intend in the near future to introduce measures to provide full and proper support for families with children under two years of age as soon as their disabilities are properly diagnosed. If he does, it may well be that I can support the Government, and not the new clause. Without such an assurance, I shall be tempted to support the clause.

Photo of Dawn Primarolo Dawn Primarolo , Bristol South

I want to try to answer some of the points that have been made and to draw the debate back to the essential problem that the new clause seeks to address.

It is regrettable that the h on. Member for Daventry (Mr. Boswell) sought to introduce financial considerations and to calculate how much the Opposition proposals added up to. He may not need reminding, but I shall do so all the same, that each amendment is voted upon individually and he can support this proposal without supporting all the others, although obviously we would wish him to do so. Parents with disabled children do not want sympathy from the House. Sympathy is not enough. Understanding is not enough. It is cheering, but it does not help them.

The hon. Member also asked whether we need some complicated formula to work out whether a child under two requires an attendance allowance. Such a formula already exists in the Bill to work out how everybody else qualifies for an attendance allowance.

Photo of Tim Boswell Tim Boswell , Daventry

Will the hon. Lady accept that the issue is not whether there is a formula in being, but whether it is appropriate to the special situation and the areas of uncertainty which were rightly identified in Committee in the assessment of the need for and the level of special care for such children? That is the issue on which we await the Minister's reply.

Photo of Dawn Primarolo Dawn Primarolo , Bristol South 8:45 pm, 12th January 1988

I do not remember the Minister addressing that point in Committee. My hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Nellist) referred to the proposed changes to the Abortion Act 1967 and the fact that it is possible to diagnose hereditary diseases and severe abnormalities before birth. It is possible to work out from that whether a child will require more care than a normal able-bodied child under two.

It is obviously correct that a Labour Government allowed the age bar. It should not have done so, and I hope that the Labour party is now big enough to admit that and to say that the next Labour Government will change it. Comments were made in the previous debate on child benefit about the value that our society places on children and on understanding their needs. I hope that that is greater now than it was 10, 15 or 20 years ago.

This matter was raised with me by my constituents in September of last year and I wrote to the Minister to ask why there was an age bar. The age bar says that even if a child has all the disabilities that would qualify him for an attendance allowance at the age of three, if he is under two, he is disqualified. That age bar has nothing to do with an assessment of a child's needs. The Minister said that clearly in his reply to me of 14 September when he said: Unfortunately, a line has to be drawn somewhere. It is an arbitrary line for a cut-off date.

The other main plank of the Government's argument has been that it must be proved that a disabled child under two requires care substantially in excess of that required by a normal child under two. I asked the Library to find out whether any research has been done on the care needed by a child with an inherited disorder or severe disability compared with a so-called normal child under two. There has been no such research. There has been research and statements on the care needed by a so-called normal child and there has been research on disabled children, but no comparison has been made. There has been no evaluation of the differences. The Government have taken refuge exclusively behind the barrier that all two-year-olds require substantial care.

I am sure that those hon. Members who are parents understand clearly the problems of lack of sleep caused by a child who is under two who does not want to sleep through the night. It may be rather like discussing matters here late at night. [HON. MEMBERS: "Much worse."] At least there is the pleasure of one's children and the knowledge that they will grow up into decent members of our society. Such satisfaction is not always the outcome of debates in the Chamber. Indeed, the Opposition have won only one vote so far, and that was in relation to the Post Office.

The basis of the Government's argument is that all children under two require the same amount of care. Therefore, we need to demonstrate that that is not the case. We do not particularly want to read out the endless horror stories of those children and their parents but we must underline the fact that caring for such a child is not the same as caring for a normal under-two-year-old.

I shall give the general outline of a letter that I received about a child born with a hereditary disease which meant that it did not have all its skin. Sufferers from that disease have varying amounts of skin on different parts of their body. Parts of their skin are very thin and are likely to break and blister. It is an extremely painful illness. Those who have had to change nappies can imagine the problems of a child suffering from that disease when it is very young and still requires nappies.

The parents in question wrote to me about their daughter who, unfortunately, lived for only 12 weeks. She had only 30 per cent. of the normal amount of skin. She was in great pain and needed much care. Both parents stayed at home, which put an immense emotional strain on them, especially as they did so in the sure knowledge that the child would die. After eight weeks the parents simply could not cope any longer with the strain of caring for that child 24 hours a day and had to resort to having her put back into hospital care. They did not have the necessary support to relieve them from the exhaustion and deprivation that they were suffering. It seems to me that that experience is not the same as caring for a normal 12-week-old baby. There is a world of difference. The condition is medically known. It can be diagnosed and its effects are known. Age is not a problem in that case.

The work of OSCAR on sickle cell anaemia has been referred to. It is an inherited disease and the symptoms of those suffering from it are well charted. The crises of that illness are particularly acute in children of two and under and drugs have to be administered to those children throughout the night. The crises occur about every six weeks or so and last for several weeks and the child will be in extreme pain and discomfort during that period. Naturally that is reflected in its behaviour. Clearly, caring for such a child is not the same as caring for a child under two who is teething and in pain.

The Government persist in hiding behind a barrier that is totally transparent. They say that they cannot assess the difference between looking after a severely disabled child, and the impact of known inherited diseases on such children, and giving the care and support that a normal child under two requires. The conclusion that I draw from that is that they are mostly men, who have little experience of looking after children and little understanding of the constant demands placed on parents. Therefore, they can say in complete astonishment that they have never thought of the continuous help and care that a disabled child under the age of two would require. Indeed, they have never really thought about how much care a normal child under two needs.

The new clause forces the debate by asking, "Why do we need an age bar at two, which excludes families from claiming attendance allowance despite the social, economic and personal strains that caring for such a child puts on them?". Why do we need the age bar when we can assess the illness and when we can assess whether or not an attendance allowance is necessary under the legislation already? It is already difficult to qualify for such an allowance. As there is already a method of assessing diseases, and medical opinion that can forecast their progress, why do the Government persist in keeping the two-year age bar? The answer must be meanness, lack of understanding of the care of children and especially of the care that needs to be given to children who are physically or mentally disabled—who have inherited diseases, who are born with spina bifida, who suffer a stroke at birth or who have cleft palates and who need additional care, over and above the care needed by any other two-year-old.

I have attempted to clarify the purpose of the new clause. I sincerely hope that Conservative Members will now say that there is no logical or moral reason why the two-year bar should remain. I hope that they will join us in saying that, while it is regrettable that previous Administrations, of whatever political colour, have failed to address that point, we shall put it right tonight and ensure that the parents receive at least some support, albeit not enough, in recognition of the difficulties that they face in trying to keep their families together and care for their children.

Photo of James Arbuthnot James Arbuthnot , Wanstead and Woodford

I speak from a position of great luck because I am the father of a 20-month-old child who is healthy and normal. Frankly, the demands of my son are incessant. He needs constant watching, worrying over and caring for, because a 20-month-old son is an extraordinary phenomenon. As his father, I have had to think of 40 different ways in which a lunatic might commit suicide and then prevent him from doing so.

The Government have decided, I believe rightly, that the constant demands made on parents of any child under the age of two are never-ending. They have also admitted — as I admit — that in practice the parents of handicapped children sometimes have greater needs than the parents of normal children, and that those needs are unmet. However, it becomes much easier to assess those needs when the child is about two—as well as the extra time taken by the parents and the extra costs that they incur in meeting the needs. Inevitably, the younger the child the harder it is to assess its needs. The matter cannot be looked at in terms of black and white. It must he a question of balance, as must everything that is discussed in this Chamber.

The hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley) was right: it is no argument to say that a previous Labour Government decided that the age limit of two years should be in place, and that therefore this Government must be right. As I have said, the issue is not black and white. However, there is an argument for saying that the previous Labour Government had to weigh up the various different and competing claims on resources and the various different and competing ways of targeting those resources, and that they came to the same conclusion as this Government.

9 pm

Photo of Margaret Beckett Margaret Beckett Shadow Minister (Social Security)

I know that the hon. Gentleman was a member of the Committee and that he listened to some of the debates, but I remind him of a point made by the Minister— that once the age limit had been introduced at an early stage during the introduction of attendance allowance, the issue of the age limit was hardly raised and has not been considered from that time to this. It is not the case, as the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Mr. Boswell) have said, that the matter had been considered and rejected by a Labour Government. The initial age limit has not been seriously questioned until now. It is regrettable and terrible that it has not been questioned, but that is not an argument for not questioning it now.

Photo of James Arbuthnot James Arbuthnot , Wanstead and Woodford

Although I am grateful for that intervention, the hon. Member does not appreciate that the imposition of an age limit requires a positive step. In my view, the positive step to impose that age limit was correct because of the incessant demands that are made on the parents of any two-year-old child.

It is inevitable that resources are limited and, therefore, that those resources must be targeted in one way or another. The way in which those resources are targeted must be a matter of judgment and balance. It is not always possible for a Government to satisfy every unmet need, and it would not necessarily be right for a Government to do so.

My hon. Friend the Member for Daventry referred to the fact that the Government are examining the whole system of attendance allowances that are paid to disabled people. It is better to examine those attendance allowances as a whole and for that to be clone in the light of the survey of disabled people which is being carried out by the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys, and which is expected later this year. It is also better that the matter be considered in the light of the study of community care that is being performed by Sir Roy Griffiths. When attendance allowances are dealt with, it is necessary that the final conclusion reached by the House is the right conclusion.

Nobody could deny the effectiveness of the speech by the hon. Member for Bristol, South (Ms. Primarolo). However, because of the review that is coming this year, the decision must be the right one. It is also necessary that attendance allowances are not looked at—

Photo of Dawn Primarolo Dawn Primarolo , Bristol South

What review is the hon. Gentleman talking about?

Photo of James Arbuthnot James Arbuthnot , Wanstead and Woodford

I refer to the review that is being carried out by the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys. Its survey of disabled people is expected later this year.

Photo of Dawn Primarolo Dawn Primarolo , Bristol South

That is a general study of disability arid does not address specifically the question that we have raised in the new clause—the position of under-two-year olds and babies—for exactly the same reasons that the age bar exists in the first place.

Photo of James Arbuthnot James Arbuthnot , Wanstead and Woodford

That is precisely the point that I am making. It is a general study. Because the position of disabled people is a matter which must be considered as a whole, that is the more sensible way of dealing with this issue, rather than by the new clause

Photo of James Arbuthnot James Arbuthnot , Wanstead and Woodford

I have given way five or six times in my speech already. I would rather wind up my speech by reminding hon. Members that it is not only the attendance allowances which are available to disabled people—

Photo of James Arbuthnot James Arbuthnot , Wanstead and Woodford

No, I shall not give way. I have done so six times already.

It is not only attendance allowances which are available to disabled people, because the allowances are only one of a whole range of services that are also available—

Photo of Mr Dave Nellist Mr Dave Nellist , Coventry South East

Will the hon. Gentleman give way? lie said nowt for two months in Committee, so will he give way now?

Photo of James Arbuthnot James Arbuthnot , Wanstead and Woodford

There is a specific responsibility on local authorities and on health authorities to help those families which have disabled children. That help can take the form of the provision of equipment, home helps arid nursing facilities for other children in the family, among other things.

Therefore, the balance is difficult to strike—

Photo of James Arbuthnot James Arbuthnot , Wanstead and Woodford

The balance is difficult to strike, but in this case I believe that the Government's conclusion, which coincides with the last—

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. I heard the hon. Gentleman say that he was not giving way.

Photo of James Arbuthnot James Arbuthnot , Wanstead and Woodford

It is a difficult balance to strike, but I believe that the Government's conclusion, which is the same as that arrived at by the last Labour Government, is the correct one.

Photo of Ms Audrey Wise Ms Audrey Wise , Preston

While sitting through the debates on the Social Security Bill in Committee, I used to wish that Conservative Members would speak out. I believed that, once they had heard speeches such as those made by my hon. Friends the Members for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Nellist) and for Bristol, South (Ms. Primarolo), they would have to think the same thoughts as I was thinking. Any human being would have done so. I heartily believed that, if they would only throw off the discipline of the Whip and speak, all would be revealed.

Now, I am so shocked at the revelation of the depths of their total lack of comprehension of the problems facing so many people that I regret that they have spoken. I regret having had my illusions shattered. I would rather believe that Conservative Members were bound and gagged by the Whips than that their sensibility and understanding was so limited.

The hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Arbuthnot) talked about his child of 20 months needing constant attention. I have a grandchild of 16 months, who of course needs constant attention and supervision. He climbs and is apt to fall over. But there is all the difference in the world between adventureness which requires supervision, with all the joy and laughter that accompany that period of life, and the complete helplessness and sadness occasioned by severe sickness and disability described by my hon. Friends. Possibly, if there were more women Members, even Conservative Members would show more understanding, although I cannot guarantee that, given the shattering of my illusions tonight.

I am sorry that we do not have the same level of attendance in this debate as we had for the child benefit debate earlier. Many more hon. Members were willing to come and talk about the needs of normal families. I welcomed them and took part in that debate, but it is a great pity that those who do not .have such force of numbers behind them and do not wield so many votes cannot count on such a turnout. I deeply regret that.

All the arguments that have been used against the new clause tonight could be used equally well against any attendance allowance. We have heard that it is difficult reliably to assess the need. That is at least as— if not more—true of adults. Medical opinions differ about the needs of adults. Some doctors say that an attendance allowance should be given, some that it should not. We do not use that genuine difficulty as a reason for not having an attendance allowance. But when it is a matter of babies, for some reason every judgment must be perfect and the balance must be so delicately attuned that we must never take the risk of tipping it in favour of children or their parents.

I would rather some attendance allowances were given and later withdrawn because the children improved. Unfortunately, in most of these cases, death will be the only relief for the children and their parents. For this House to refuse to give any help that we can to parents of such children is diabolical and monstrous. The House of Commons should be ashamed of itself tonight if it votes against this amendment.

I can see that I shall have to follow the advice given by another hon. Member in Committee and study body language. Normally I do not interpret body language but listen to what people say. However, from the shuffles and wriggles of Conservative Members it is clear that they find some of my arguments uncomfortable. At this very minute I can see those arguments being shrugged off by those Members.

When we debated child benefit, we were told of the huge expense that would be involved in upgrading it. We were told that it would cost a lot and that it was a blunt instrument. Indeed, one Conservative Member said that that benefit was sprayed all over. However, we are now talking about something that would be finely targeted—a delicate instrument. The allowance would go to about 10,000 of those families in this country who have suffered the misfortune of all misfortunes. Now we are told that the matter is too complex and that judgments might be made that were not absolutely correct.

In Committee, the Minister — we are told he responded sensitively to the problem—said that the help given should be the right type of help. I do not think that giving an extra £31 or £32 to a family so that they can buy a bit of extra help or a bit of extra rest could possibly be the wrong help. I accept that there might be a whole list of things that should be done — some of those things may be dealt with at the moment, but inadequately—and it is right that they should be considered and voted upon. What we are being called upon to vote for tonight cannot possibly be regarded as the wrong type of help for any parent in such a position.

I have heard about the OPCS survey regarding the extent of disability and the needs of the disabled. However, the hon. Members who have mentioned that survey have no knowledge—they certainly have not shared it with us — of any specific attempts to study the problems of disabled and severely sick babies. Such babies will be lumped in with other people.

I believe that those children need extra, urgent attention. I happen to believe that, in this amendment, we are, if anything, being over modest. There will still be an age limit to qualify for the allowance. Those babies that die before the age of 12 weeks will not be covered by our amendment. Our amendment still means that those children would have to suffer for six months before they qualified. Therefore, the earliest age for benefit would be six months and it may well be that weeks would pass before it was understood that a claim could or should be made. As a result of that claim, an assessment would have to be carried out and therefore it would probably mean that few children under the age of one would get any benefit.

Even though the amendment represents a small measure, it is still infinitely worth while. I do not know how hon. Members will sleep tonight if they deprive people of this benefit for the children. I hope that when the hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford goes home tonight and looks at his 20-month-old child, he will think about the mother struggling with twins who are unable to stand up unaided and who have to have an oxygen cylinder ready. That mother has to look out for those twins ceasing to breathe. She does not have to watch to see if they fall over and graze a knee, but to check that they have not ceased to breathe. The hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford should look at his 20-month-old son and be thankful that he is not a candidate for the attendance allowance for which we are appealing tonight.

We hear a great deal about sympathy. It has been said that the Minister responded sensitively in Committee and that sympathy poured from him. I am prepared to believe that he genuinely feels that sympathy, but it does not help parents for one minute. They face a burden that goes on minute by minute, hour by hour, 24 hours of the day; and mothers, in particular, face that burden. We could not take it from them. They have been plagued by nature with this dreadful catastrophe. We can only try to alleviate it a little at the edges. The Minister tells us that we may not be able reliably to assess every case, so one person may receive the allowance and another person may not, when they should both receive it.

Words do not often fail me, as my hon. Friends know. I cannot understand how hon. Members, having had these matters brought to their attention, can then throw the argument back. I reiterate what my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett) said. The Labour Government did not reject any such proposal. The matter was never considered during the 1970s.

Photo of Simon Burns Simon Burns , Chelmsford 9:15 pm, 12th January 1988

Before you get carried away with self-righteous indignation, what did you do

Photo of Simon Burns Simon Burns , Chelmsford

I was wondering what the last Labour Government did from 1975 to 1979 to consider this matter and what the Labour party has done while out of office, if it feels so strongly about the matter.

Photo of Ms Audrey Wise Ms Audrey Wise , Preston

The Labour Government were doing a few useful things, such as introducing mobility allowance and non-contributory invalidity benefit. Many of us were helping them with that.

We did not know that there are 10,000 families in this position. They did not bring the problem to us. Presumably no Conservative Members knew about the problem when they were on the Opposition Benches, because they did not raise the matter. Nobody raised the matter. None of my constituents brought it to my attention. As the problem affects such a small minority of children, it is not surprising. Like the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Burns), I thought that all babies needed a lot of care, and that therefore the problem did not arise. However, we are aware of the problem now because we have been told about it by the people who suffer, so none of us has any excuse.

Photo of Mrs Alice Mahon Mrs Alice Mahon , Halifax

I raised this point in Committee on 17 November. I have worked for the Health Service for many years and have nursed such children. A change occurred in the care of these children. I asked the Minister how many beds had gone out of the National Health Service during those years. He gave me an answer which ran into thousands, so there are different trends. The Labour Government did not recognise the problem, but, although there is no excuse for that, there was a different method of caring for children. We cared for children with severe handicaps in hospital. That trend has changed and that is a good argument for bringing forward this amendment.

Photo of Ms Audrey Wise Ms Audrey Wise , Preston

My hon. Friend is quite right. I take the expression "righteous indignation", which tripped off the lips of the hon. Member for Chelmsford, not as a term of abuse, but as a compliment. Anybody who does not feel righteous indignation at the thought that this amendment might be rejected is deficient in humanity, and as a politician and human being. If the hon. Gentleman's constituents were aware of the facts, they would feel that too. I call on all hon. Members with a grain of humanity and a grain of common sense to acknowledge that there is no financial or moral justification for rejecting this amendment.

Photo of Mr Dave Nellist Mr Dave Nellist , Coventry South East

My hon. Friend the Member for Preston (Mrs. Wise) has listened carefully to the debate here and in Committee. It is interesting to note that the interventions from one or two Conservative Members, who sat silently in Committee, should be so derogatory. The only Conservative Member to speak in the debate tonight who has met one of these families—the Storer family — is the hon. Member for Nuneaton (M r. Stevens). He has been the only Tory Member to say that, unless the Minister gives an assurance that there will be some progress, he may support the Opposition. None of the Tory Members who have spoken this evening have gone to the 30 or 40 families in their constituency and asked the parents how they are coping. They are all speaking out of the back of their heads.

Photo of Ms Audrey Wise Ms Audrey Wise , Preston

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the intervention. I join the call for all hon. Members to vote for the amendment. There is little enough we can do. It would be shameful to refuse to do what little we can.

Photo of Mr Jacques Arnold Mr Jacques Arnold , Gravesham

1 should like to pay tribute to the members of the Standing Committee that considered the Bill, because the House has seen the kind of emotional tirade from the hon. Member for Preston (Mrs. Wise) that they have had to put up with day in and day out. We have had an emotional tirade time after time, when I would have thought the purpose of the Committee and the House was to consider dispassionately, but with heartfelt attention, the cases of fellow citizens such as those we have heard about tonight.

Let us remember the background to the introduction of the attendance allowance that we are extending to the parents of children under the age of two. That allowance was introduced by a Conservative Government, who paid heed to the needs which were evident in those days, before the magnificent advances in medical science of recent years, when it was extremely difficult to distinguish between those youngsters who had a serious disability that would qualify for the attendance allowance and normal children. That was the reason the Conservative Government introduced the two-year limit, and presumably that was the reason why the succeeding Labour Government—of whom the hon. Member for Preston, the then Member for Coventry, South-West, was a part —did not raise the two-year limit, let alone change it. It is being considered now.

In those days the number of cases of such youngsters was minimal, but thanks to advances in technology and medical science, more children are surviving the weird and terrible conditions that afflict them, and they are the serious cases which hon. Members have quite rightly raised. The hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Stevens) and other hon. Members have referred to cases which prove beyond a shadow of doubt that we should turn our attention to the thousands of children in this condition, because they are worthy of our support.

Photo of Mr Peter Thurnham Mr Peter Thurnham , Bolton North East

I ask my hon. Friend to consider the case of handicapped children in care who require fostering or adoption, because it is generally easier to find parents to adopt or foster younger children than older children. This bears out the argument that the need for care of young children is not as great as it is for older children. When funds are short, surely it is more important to provide funds to look after older children, about whom there is more concern and who cause more worry to parents, than to provide funds for younger children who do not require as much care.

Photo of Mr Jacques Arnold Mr Jacques Arnold , Gravesham

My hon. Friend's point speaks for itself. It is all very well for Labour Members to bring in an amendment and make heart-rending speeches in an attempt to overcome in a superficial way what is a very real problem. I would rather that the Minister gave an undertaking that he will consider the problem and will bring together county council social services departments and local district health authorities to consider the problem of providing adequate support and relief for parents of disabled children under the age of two.

Photo of Mr Nicholas Scott Mr Nicholas Scott , Chelsea

It is not surprising, in discussing a subject that has so many emotional overtones, that strong feelings have been displayed this evening. We spent 10¼ hours in Committee in three long debates on attendance allowance. I know that all members of the Committee treated it with great seriousness and concern.

Tonight, we return to the matter. Before I get into the main argument that I wish to put, I should like to say to the hon. Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Nellist) that he had a question answered today about the statistics and costs of the matter. I hoped that he would receive it before this debate, and I am sorry if he has not yet done so. I shall give the substance of the answer now, and it will be of some interest to the House.

The hon. Gentleman will recall that in an answer given to him on 30 November 1987, we said that the advice we had was that an estimated 3,900 children currently become eligible at the age of two. Of those, 2,300 were at the higher rate and 1,600 were at the lower rate. Assuming that all those would start at the age of six months, no attempt was made to allow for awards running for only part of the financial year. The resulting estimate of a £17 million extra annual cost included £7·5 million for invalid care allowance and £0·5 million for income support child disablement premium. I emphasise that both of the estimates I am giving to the House now assume the continued application of the six-month qualifying period, that is to say, that no award would start before six months, and that is the basis of the assumption.

We have been able to revise our estimates in the light of expert medical advice about children with severe disabilities from birth, who require attention substantially in excess of normal. We also take into account disabilities that come to light subsequently, particularly during the second year of life. We estimate that there may be up to 3,000 under-twos who would qualify. They would probably divide fairly equally between the higher and lower rate allowance. Taking account of dispersal throughout the year of children coming into benefit on reaching the age of two, when they cease to be an extra cost, we estimate an extra annual cost of about £7 million. That takes account of £3·1 million for invalid care allowance and income support disablement premium of £200,000.

Photo of Mr Dafydd Wigley Mr Dafydd Wigley , Caernarfon

The Minister used a telling phrase in his explanation, which I am sure will be most helpful to the House. He spoke of children with needs that were "substantially in excess of normal". Is that not what the debate in Committee has been about, the inability to say whether such a group exists? If it does exist and it is possible to quantify it at 3,000, surely that is abundant evidence that the point behind the amendment should be accepted by the Government.

Photo of Mr Nicholas Scott Mr Nicholas Scott , Chelsea

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to continue. I wanted to clear up that point for the House, and particularly for the hon. Member for Coventry, South-East, who I anticipate will have had the answer in advance of this debate.

Another point that the hon. Gentleman raised in his speech concerned entitlement to an orange badge, flowing from the attendance allowance. Technically speaking, it flows from mobility allowance, although I know that some local authorities operate the scheme on the basis that once a child reaches the age of two it is entitled to allowance and then the parents or other carers are entitled to an orange badge.

Photo of Mr Dave Nellist Mr Dave Nellist , Coventry South East

If we are unsuccessful this evening in convincing sufficient Conservative Members to support us on new clause 2, and in arranging for all under-twos to have attendance allowance, what can the Minister offer us now from the Dispatch Box on this small point about the passport to an orange badge? Will discretion be allowed so that local authorities can issue badges to the parents of under-twos, where need is identified, even where a child is not two years old and cannot qualify for attendance allowance, or is not five years old and cannot qualify for mobility allowance? Will the Minister offer at least that concession before we come to the meat of the new clause?

Photo of Mr Nicholas Scott Mr Nicholas Scott , Chelsea 9:30 pm, 12th January 1988

I shall leave that to the end of my reply. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to intervene on any other matters, I shall be happy to give way, but we have had the debate in Committee. As I say, it was a long and serious debate and obviously a great deal of emotion underlay many of the contributions. As I promised in Committee, I have thought long and hard about the proposal that attendance allowance should be available for children under the age of two. I knew that this would be raised again on Report. I also believe that there was intrinsic importance about the discussion.

Many points made in Committee caused my hon. Friend and myself to think seriously about the matter. So I went back to the Department because of the challenges put to me and asked for additional expert medical advice on the medical issues. As a result, I have a clearer idea of some aspects of the argument that perhaps I did not have in Committee. A lot of this depends on medical advice.

Lest I am arousing expectations that I shall not be able to fulfil when I conclude, I still believe for the moment that it would he wrong to include the proposal in the Bill at this time, but I hope to say something more constructive before I finish.

The contribution of the hon. Member for Preston reached perhaps hysterical points but I understand the strength of her feeling. At one time she seemed to be talking as though attendance allowance was the only help available for parents with disabled children. Of course, a range of help is provided by the social services departments, health authorities and voluntary organisations for such families.

Photo of Ms Audrey Wise Ms Audrey Wise , Preston

Does not that also apply to adults who receive attendance allowance? Do they not also qualify for other allowances?

Photo of Mr Nicholas Scott Mr Nicholas Scott , Chelsea

They may indeed. But listening to the hon. Lady one could have been persuaded that families who had the appalling misfortune to have a severely disabled child, with all the emotional and physical stress that that obviously puts on parents and other members of the family, were left helpless because they were not entitled to attendance allowance. The point I am making is that that is not true. Whatever the arguments may be for or against giving attendance allowance to disabled youngsters, the fact is that there is a range of help available to those families. It is right that we should remind ourselves of that.

Photo of Mr Bill Michie Mr Bill Michie , Sheffield, Heeley

The Minister has mentioned the range of help available through local authorities and social services. But many local authorities, such as Sheffield, are rate-capped and the pressure put on social services is far too great. Rate-capping makes the position worse, so the Minister cannot say that someone else should take care of the problem.

Photo of Mr Nicholas Scott Mr Nicholas Scott , Chelsea

On the other hand, the allocation for personal social services which has been agreed for the coming year, although not what local authorities might have wished but nevertheless generous, is certainly of a sufficient size for them to be able to agree to implement sections 5 and 6 of the Disabled Persons (Services, Consultation and Representation) Act 1986 whose author, as it were, is sitting on the Opposition Front Bench. Extra resources have been provided to social services and local authorities. It is not possible for Government to dictate to local authorities how they should spend the allocation. But certainly this range of services is provided by the vast majority of local authorities in this country.

Photo of Tom Clarke Tom Clarke Shadow Minister (Disability)

I am very grateful to the Minister for giving way. Despite earlier temptations, I had not intended to intervene because I think that this is a crucial discussion and I did not want to take away from the main focus of what seems to me to be a vital debate. But I am sure that the Minister did not wish to give the impression to the House that the whole of the 1986 Act had been implemented or that any one of the local authority associations is satisfied with progress so far. Can he clarify that point?

Photo of Mr Nicholas Scott Mr Nicholas Scott , Chelsea

If the hon. Gentleman had listened carefully he would have realised that I referred to sections 5 and 6 and said that we had enabled them to be implemented with the resources that we have made available for the coming year. We have said that the implementation of the rest of the Act will depend on the resources we are able to make available in future. It is the clear intention that, as resources become available, we shall ensure that the whole of the Act is implemented.

The main point that I am trying to make at the moment is that families which have this appalling experience are not left helpless. Local authorities have a responsibility to assess the needs of all families with children and to ensure that those needs are met. Health authorities have a responsibility to provide health services for all children, including those with special needs, and voluntary organisations provide health services which add to the volume of statutory services and widen the range and variety of response to people's needs.

I know very well, and I recognised this in Committee, how the parents of handicapped babies find their practical burdens increased by the emotional strain of coming to terms with the handicap. I believe that it is vitally important that parents receive the right support and counselling to help them with this emotional strain. Many parents who find themselves in this situation speak very highly of the help which they are given by health authorities, hospitals, local authorities and voluntary organisations, many of which work on a self-help basis, and this helps families which find themselves in this situation to cope with both the practical burdens and the emotional strains involved.

Photo of Mr Dafydd Wigley Mr Dafydd Wigley , Caernarfon

The Minister will recall that in Committee I went into some detail about the fact that not only is there a need for these services but, over and above that, there is a real additional cost to the parents of disabled children and that cost is there from the very beginning. Will he address himself to that aspect?

Photo of Mr Nicholas Scott Mr Nicholas Scott , Chelsea

There are, of course, voluntary organisations that are able to help with that sort of thing, but I will recome to the point about attendance allowance in a moment. I just want to register the point that families in this situation have a range of help from a variety of sources —from the health services, local authorities, domiciliary services, and so on.

Photo of Mr Peter Thurnham Mr Peter Thurnham , Bolton North East

I did not have the advantage of being on the Committee at an earlier stage, but I have heard a figure this evening of 10,000 Families, and the Minister has just quoted a figure of 3,000 families. My own research in Bolton would suggest that about 10 families each year have a severely handicapped child born to them, which would suggest that for the country as a whole there might be between 2,000 and 3,000 each year. I should be grateful if my hon. Friend would clarify the numbers.

Photo of Mr Nicholas Scott Mr Nicholas Scott , Chelsea

The figure will, of course, be in the Official Report tomorrow as a result of the answer I have given to the hon.Member for Coventry, South-East. It comes out at up to 3,000 children, assessing the total cost, bearing in mind that they come on for part of the year, and so on, at some £7 million. That includes both the ICA and the child disablement premium.

I think that it is generally accepted that attendance allowance should be paid only in respect of those disabled children whose attendance needs exceed those of normal children of the same age. Giving statutory expression to that principle was one of the main purposes of the regulations which were made in 1971 at the outset of the attendance allowance scheme under the power which is now contained in the 1975 Act. The age two threshold which this clause seeks to remove has similarly been enshrined in regulations since 1971.

I am not making a party political point at all because there are people on both sides of the House who are concerned about this sort of issue.

Given that this is enshrined in regulations—it is not in primary legislation, so people who wished to raise the matter or to have a debate need not have waited for an opportunity arising from primary legislation — I am surprised, I am even surprised at myself, that none of us spotted this and that it has not been raised earlier. But there has been no concerted pressure at all to amend this particular regulation before now. That is not to say that the Committee and the House are not entitled to use the opportunity of this Bill to bring the matter to public attention. I think I may have used a phrase—whether it was a wise one or not—about exploiting the fact that we had a Bill in order to raise this particular matter, but I did not use it in any pejorative sense. I understand why the Opposition, when we have a Bill of this sort, seize on a matter, bring it forward and have it discussed on its merits—merits which have changed over the years, not least because of the improvements in medical science and medical technology which have enabled many youngsters born with severe disability to survive, babies who would not have survived in the early years of attendance allowance.

We can all understand the original rationale of the lower age limit. It was that healthy babies and infants required a lot of attention anyway and so it would be very difficult in practice to identify any substantial extra need for attention arising from disability. The age of two was chosen as the threshold because the important milestones of normal development occurring by the end of the second year meant that by that age any significant divergence from the pattern of increasing independence would have become apparent. But times change, and we must recognise that. Although this rationale remains true for many children who may grow up disabled, it has been overtaken by developments affecting other children. In particular, the continuing advances in medical and nursing care of babies with severe congenital abnormalities and birth trauma mean that more survive and are discharged into the care of their parents in the first year of life.

The advice that I have received confirms that, as hon. Members argued in Committee, these babies have attendance needs which exceed those of a normal child. That is not to say that it is as easy to assess the needs of a baby as it is to assess those of a child over the age of two; there are still substantial difficulties involved in such a judgment. But it is clear that there is a group whose disabilities and needs it is possible to assess before the age of two. Perhaps it is because the hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley) recognised that this did not require primary legislation that he asked me in Committee to undertake a specific review of it and to consider the issue in its own right at the appropriate time".—[0fficial Report, Standing Committee E, 19 November 1987; c. 82.] The recent medical advice that we have received and the conclusion from it that I have reported are obviously an important aspect but I do not think that they can be the absolute answer to the issue in this new clause before us today. With the very substantial extension of invalid care allowance that we have seen, particularly since married women became eligible, we would have to consider the interaction of attendance allowance and invalid care allowance in the context of any extension to those below the age of two. Because it is intended as income maintenance for those who forgo the opportunity of employment to look after a disabled person, we would need to examine the merits of paying it to one parent, usually the mother, of a child when that parent might very well have given up work in any case.

In essence, if we are to consider the extension of attendance allowance to youngsters under the age of two who have needs substantially in excess of those of a normal child, it is right to look at the interaction of attendance allowance and invalid care allowance, perhaps throughout childhood, and see what an appropriate pattern for that might be. We must look at those above the age of two as well as those below it to ensure that we have equitable and sensible arrangements for this sort of cash assistance to disabled children and their parents.

9.45 pm

I have a reply to the hon. Member for Coventry, South-East about local authorities and the orange badge scheme. Local authorities already have discretion to issue orange badges to disabled people who are not covered by the automatic entitlement criteria. I understand that my colleagues in the Department of Transport who are responsible for the scheme are conducting a review of it, and have sought comments and representations from responsible organisations. I am sure that they would welcome any representations by hon. Members about the operation of the scheme. Some authorities, I believe, operate the scheme, although some choose the mobility allowance and some go below the age to two. I see that I have the agreement of the hon. Member for Caernarfon.

I mention the kind of issues that I think that it would be right for us to consider if we reviewed cash support for disabled children and their parents within the fairly narrow context of the existing benefits of attendance and invalid care allowances. I do not intend to speculate about what answers we might come up with if we engaged in that exercise, but, as my hon. Friends the Members for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Arbuthnot) and for Daventry (Mr. Boswell) mentioned, such narrow questions are about to be overtaken by the wider scrutiny of attendance allowances, along with other disability benefits, that will shortly be made possible by the results of the OPCS survey of disabled people and Sir Roy Griffiths' study of community care. They may well point to significant changes in the form of cash and other support for disabled people, including children and their parents, and we shall want to examine their reports with a great deal of care. Sir Roy Griffiths' report, due very soon, and the OPCS results later this year, will provide the material for a wider and better-informed debate about all these matters.

If the hon. Lady is not willing to withdraw the new clause, I ask the House to reject it, but against the background of a recognition that support for the families of disabled children throughout the age range will now inescapably be part of the system.

Photo of Margaret Beckett Margaret Beckett Shadow Minister (Social Security)

The tone of the Minister's reply was such that I feel confident that many hon. Members who have not followed the progress of the debate will believe that he must have made some concession. I congratulate him on managing not to make such a concession while sounding as though he had.

I accept that the Minister has now gone as far as saying that, in the context of the Griffiths report on community care and the OPCS survey of disability in all their aspects, the Government will look seriously at the position of disabled children. I shall do the Minister the justice of acknowledging that I have little doubt that he and, probably, his hon. Friend the Under-Secretary have been seriously dismayed by the observations and cases put to them in Committee, and will take the opportunity of those reviews to do what they can. Nevertheless, we have no firm date for either of those reviews; certainly the general survey of disability has been awaited for a considerable time. With some regret, I must say that it seems to me that all the Minister is saying is that at some time in the future —perhaps this year, perhaps next year or perhaps the year after—when the general survey of the needs of the disabled is made, he will look at such cases and perhaps act.

At least we have heard from the Minister something that we did not hear from his hon. Friends whose views we did not have the benefit of hearing in Committee—although the members of the Committee who have spoken tonight were, I concede, present for most of the debate, which cannot be said for all Conservative Members. At least the Minister expressed an understanding that the debates in Committee and on the Floor of the House have been serious and thoughtful debates, dealing with serious and important issues of causing tremendous anxiety to the parents of children who are, by definition, very severely disabled, whether physically or mentally.

At least in that respect, the contribution from the Government Front Bench is distinguished from that made by the hon. Members for Daventry (Mr. Boswell) and for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Arbuthnot) and indeed the comments made by the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Burns) whom I am not sure is in the Chamber any longer, so disgusted was he by the tone of the debate. Forgive me: how could I forget the contribution made by the hon. Member for Gravesham (Mr. Arnold)? He referred to what Conservative Members had to put up with in Committee. Apparently the hon. Gentleman does not like to listen to the problems of those who have to cope with severely mentally and physically handicapped children. My sympathy for him is considerably tempered by the recollection of the much greater problems faced by those who have to cope with those difficulties.

From the comments made by those hon. Members, it appeared that they were trying to find excuses to explain why they were unable to vote with the Opposition tonight. I suspect that they were doing that because, against their will, they were much impressed by the arguments in Committee and on the Floor of the House on this issue. The hon. Member for Daventry differed from his hon. Friends in that he did not acknowledge that there had been a serious and thoughtful debate on this point. Instead, he made some silly and unjustified comments about the tone of the debate. He spoke about the other commitments which have been discussed. They were paltry and pathetic reasons for refusing to support a new clause that will extend the right to attendance allowance to children who now meet all qualifications for the award of that allowance other than the fact that they have not passed the age of two.

Comments were made from the Conservative Benches about superficial remarks and about hon. Members becoming too emotional about these matters. I do not know what we should get emotional about if it is not the sufferings and problems of children in those circumstances. It is outrageous for Conservative Members to suggest that, although of course they sympathise, owing to the tone of the debate they are unable to put that sympathy into action and vote in the Lobby in support of the new clause.

Photo of Mr Dave Nellist Mr Dave Nellist , Coventry South East

I apologise to my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett) in case I pre-empt remarks that she is about to make. However, as the Chamber is fuller now I want to explain that my hon. Friend is referring to complaints made by Tory Members about the debate in Committee. Will she allow me, through her, to explain that we had more than 10 hours of debate in Committee and we have had more than two hours of debate tonight on this matter? Tempers on both sides of the House have rightly, in my view, risen high. We have heard from the Minister tonight that what we have argued about for nearly 13 hours concerns 3,000 children at a total allowance cost of £7 million. That is less than 20 per cent. of the cost of the crystal chandeliers and other adornments in the new DHSS headquarters in Whitehall. All that debate involved 3,000 children. That might open Tory Members' eyes and they might understand why we have been pushing the Minister. We cannot get the movement to help those 3,000 kids.

Photo of Margaret Beckett Margaret Beckett Shadow Minister (Social Security)

My hon. Friend is right. I pay tribute to him, to my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South (Ms. Primarolo) and to the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Stevens) for the way in which they have brought this issue to the attention of the House by raising constituency cases.

I want to consider the remarks made by the hon. Member for Nuneaton. In a sense, he encapsulated the problem. He said that there is little doubt that in the case that has been brought to his attention in his constituency the children satisfy every criteria for the award of attendance allowance except the fact that it cannot be paid below the age of two. He spoke about the intention of the new clause being correct and he hoped that the Minister would be able to give him some words of support about the problems that prevented him from accepting the new clause or giving effect to it in other ways.

In Committee we sought to give effect to the proposals made by the hon. Member for Nuneaton. We asked the Minister to give the assurance that a review on this point would be undertaken and that, if our proposals were not exactly the right way to proceed, whether he would make other proposals. All that he has told us is that we will have to await the results of the review into the disabled, which may take several years.

The hon. Gentleman asked what reason the Government could give for not being able to agree with at least the principle of the new clause this evening. Again, I can tell the hon. Gentleman that in Committee the Minister said that it is somewhat difficult in some cases to get the test exactly right and it would create considerable difficulties for the attendance allowance board. I have considerable respect and sympathy for the attendance allowance board, which has a difficult job to do, but my sympathy and respect for the board is far outweighed by my sympathy and respect for people such as the parents who are his constituents who are having to struggle to look after severely disabled children and who are being told that they cannot have the allowance because it might be difficult for the board.

My sympathy disappears when I look again at what the Minister said in Committee. He said: it is possible in some cases to identify the need for the allowance before age two … under the age of 18 months … I do not dispute the fact that some children can be identified and assessed … The allowance must be paid at a point when attendance needs can be clearly discerned to be in excess of those required by non-disabled children."—[Official Report, Standing Committee E, 17 November 1987; c. 64–5.] But it is not so paid. It is not paid until the children reach the age of two, no matter how terrible their problems, no matter how great their difficulties and no matter how horrendous the struggles of their parents.

Some Conservative Members have spoken with amusement, sneering even, about the emotions that have been aroused on the Labour Benches by the issues raised by the new clause. I am proud of the fact that such emotions have been raised. It was unworthy of the Minister to suggest that the real anger and outrage expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Preston (Mrs. Wise) was hysterical.

It would be no wonder if someone was driven to hysteria watching the antics of some Conservative Members this evening. This is an issue of real seriousness and importance for the families involved. It is one on which the Minister has not, no matter how much he sought to convey his sympathy, been able to tell us that he will be able to move and the Opposition have no hesitation in seeking to divide the House.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 225, Noes 310.

Division No. 129][9.56 pm
AYES
Adams, Allen (Paisley N)Caborn, Richard
Allen, GrahamCallaghan, Jim
Alton, DavidCampbell, Menzies (Fife NE)
Anderson, DonaldCampbell-Savours, D. N.
Archer, Rt Hon PeterCanavan, Dennis
Armstrong, Ms HilaryCarlile, Alex (Mont'g)
Ashdown, PaddyClarke, Tom (Monklands W)
Ashley, Rt Hon JackClay, Bob
Ashton, JoeClelland, David
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)Clwyd, Mrs Ann
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)Cohen, Harry
Barron, KevinCook, Robin (Livingston)
Battle, JohnCorbett, Robin
Beckett, MargaretCorbyn, Jeremy
Beggs, RoyCousins, Jim
Bell, StuartCox, Tom
Benn, Rt Hon TonyCrowther, Stan
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)Cryer, Bob
Bermingham, GeraldCummings, J.
Bidwell, SydneyCunliffe, Lawrence
Blair, TonyCunningham, Dr John
Blunkett, DavidDalyell, Tarn
Boateng, PaulDarling, Alastair
Boyes, RolandDavies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Bradley, KeithDavies, Ron (Caerphilly)
Bray, Dr JeremyDavis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)Dewar, Donald
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)Dixon, Don
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)Dobson, Frank
Buchan, NormanDoran, Frank
Buckley, GeorgeDouglas, Dick
Dunnachie, JamesMcWilliam, John
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs GwynethMadden, Max
Eadie, AlexanderMahon, Mrs Alice
Eastham, KenMarek, Dr John
Evans, John (St Helens N)Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E)Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)Martin, Michael (Springburn)
Fatchett, DerekMartlew, Eric
Faulds, AndrewMaxton, John
Fearn, RonaldMeacher, Michael
Field, Frank (Birkenhead)Meale, Alan
Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)Michael, Alun
Fisher, MarkMichie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Flannery, MartinMichie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)
Flynn, PaulMillan, Rt Hon Bruce
Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S)Mitchell, Austin (G'f Grimsby)
Foster, DerekMoonie, Dr Lewis
Fraser, JohnMorgan, Rhodri
Fyfe, Mrs MariaMorley, Elliott
Galbraith, SamuelMorris, Rt Hon J (Aberavon)
Galloway, GeorgeMowlam, Marjorie
Garrett, John (Norwich South)Mullin, Chris
Garrett, Ted (Wallsend)Murphy, Paul
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr JohnNellist, Dave
Godman, Dr Norman A.Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Golding, Mrs LlinO'Brien, William
Gordon, Ms MildredO'Neill, Martin
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)Patchett, Terry
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)Pendry, Tom
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)Pike, Peter
Grocott, BrucePowell, Ray (Ogmore)
Harman, Ms HarrietPrescott, John
Hattersley, Rt Hon RoyPrimarolo, Ms Dawn
Haynes, FrankQuin, Ms Joyce
Healey, Rt Hon DenisRadice, Giles
Heffer, Eric S.Randall, Stuart
Hinchliffe, DavidRedmond, Martin
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn
Holland, StuartReid, John
Home Robertson, JohnRichardson, Ms Jo
Hood, JamesRobertson, George
Howarth, George (Knowsley hi)Robinson, Geoffrey
Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)Rogers, Allan
Hoyle, DougRooker, Jeff
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Hughes, Roy (Newport E)Rowlands, Ted
Hughes, Sean (Knowsley SiSalmond, Alex
Hughes, Simon (Southwark)Sedgemore, Brian
Hume, JohnSheerman, Barry
Illsley, EricSheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Ingram, AdamShore, Rt Hon Peter
Janner, GrevilleSkinner, Dennis
John, BrynmorSmith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Jones, leuan (Ynys Môn)Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)Snape, Peter
Kaufman, Rt Hon GeraldSoley, Clive
Kinnock, Rt Hon NeilSpearing, Nigel
Kirkwood, ArchySteinberg, Gerald
Lambie, DavidStott, Roger
Lamond, JamesStrang, Gavin
Leadbitter, TedStraw, Jack
Leighton, RonTaylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Lestor, Miss Joan (Eccles)Taylor, Rt Hon J. D. (S'ford)
Lewis, TerryThomas, Dafydd Elis
Litherland, RobertThompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Livingstone, KenTurner, Dennis
Lofthouse, GeoffreyVaz, Keith
Loyden, EddieWall, Pat
MacAllion, JohnWallace, James
MacAvoy, TomWalley, Ms Joan
MacCartney, IanWardell, Gareth (Gower)
MacCusker, HaroldWareing, Robert N.
Macdonald, CalumWelsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
MacFall, JohnWigley, Dafydd
MacGrady, E. K.Williams, Rt Hon A. J.
MacKelvey, WilliamWilliams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
MacLeish, HenryWilson, Brian
McNamara, KevinWinnick, David
McTaggart, BobWise, Mrs Audrey
Worthington, AnthonyTellers for the Ayes:
Wray, JamesMr. Frank Cook and
Young, David (Bolton SE)Mr. Allen McKay.
NOES
Adley, RobertDicks, Terry
Alexander, RichardDorrell, Stephen
Alison, Rt Hon MichaelDouglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Amess, DavidDover, Den
Amos, AlanDunn, Bob
Arbuthnot, JamesDurant, Tony
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)Dykes, Hugh
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)Eggar, Tim
Ashby, DavidEvans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)
Atkinson, DavidEvennett, David
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)Fallon, Michael
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)Favell, Tony
Baldry, TonyFenner, Dame Peggy
Banks, Robert (Harrogate)Field, Barry (Isle ol Wight)
Batiste, SpencerFookes, Miss Janet
Beaumont-Dark, AnthonyForman, Nigel
Bellingham, HenryForsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Bendall, VivianForth, Eric
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)Fowler, Rt Hon Norman
Bevan, David GilroyFranks, Cecil
Biffen, Rt Hon JohnFreeman, Roger
Blackburn, Dr John G.French, Douglas
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir PeterFry, Peter
Body, Sir RichardGale, Roger
Bonsor, Sir NicholasGardiner, George
Boswell, TimGill, Christopher
Bottomley, PeterGilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Bottomley, Mrs VirginiaGlyn, Dr Alan
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)Goodhart, Sir Philip
Bowis, JohnGoodlad, Alastair
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir RhodesGoodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Braine, Rt Hon Sir BernardGorman, Mrs Teresa
Brandon-Bravo, MartinGow, Ian
Brazier, JulianGower, Sir Raymond
Brittan, Rt Hon LeonGrant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)
Brooke, Rt Hon PeterGreenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)Greenway, John (Rydale)
Browne, John (Winchester)Gregory, Conal
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon AlickGrist, Ian
Buck, Sir AntonyGround, Patrick
Budgen, NicholasGrylls, Michael
Burns, SimonHamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)
Burt, AlistairHampson, Dr Keith
Butler, ChrisHanley, Jeremy
Butterfill, JohnHargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')
Carlisle, John, (Luton N)Hargreaves. Ken (Hyndburn)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Harris, David
Carrington, MatthewHawkins, Christopher
Carttiss, MichaelHayes, Jerry
Cash, WilliamHayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney
Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs LyndaHeathcoat-Amory, David
Channon, Rt Hon PaulHeddle, John
Chapman, SydneyHeseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Chope, ChristopherHicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)
Churchill, MrHicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)
Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n)Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)Holt, Richard
Conway, DerekHordern, Sir Peter
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)Howard, Michael
Coombs, Simon (Swindon)Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)
Cope, JohnHowell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Cormack, PatrickHughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Couchman, JamesHunt, David (Wirral W)
Cran, JamesHunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Critchley, JulianHurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Currie, Mrs EdwinaIrvine, Michael
Curry, DavidIrving, Charles
Davies, Q, (Stamf'd & Spald'g)Jack, Michael
Davis, David (Boothferry)Jackson, Robert
Day, StephenJanman, Timothy
Devlin, TimJones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Dickens, GeoffreyJones, Robert B (Herts W)
Kellett-Bowman, Mrs ElaineRaison, Rt Hon Timothy
Key, RobertRedwood, John
King, Roger (B'ham N'thtield)Renton, Tim
Kirkhope, TimothyRhodes James, Robert
Knapman, RogerRhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Knight, Greg (Derby North)Riddick, Graham
Knowles, MichaelRidley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Knox, DavidRifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm
Lamont, Rt Hon NormanRoberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Lang, IanRoe, Mrs Marion
Latham, MichaelRost, Peter
Lawrence, IvanRowe, Andrew
Lawson, Rt Hon NigelRumbold, Mrs Angela
Lee, John (Pendle)Ryder, Richard
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)Sackville, Hon Tom
Lennox-Boyd, Hon MarkSainsbury, Hon Tim
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)Sayeed, Jonathan
Lightbown, DavidScott, Nicholas
Lilley, PeterShaw, David (Dover)
Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)Shelton, William (Streatham)
Lord, MichaelShepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Luce, Rt Hon RichardShepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
McCrindle, RobertSims, Roger
Macfarlane, Sir NeilSkeet, Sir Trevor
MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Maclean, DavidSoames, Hon Nicholas
McLoughlin, PatrickSpeller, Tony
McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Madel, DavidSquire, Robin
Major, Rt Hon JohnStanbrook, Ivor
Malins, HumfreySteen, Anthony
Maples, JohnStern, Michael
Marland, PaulStevens, Lewis
Marlow, TonyStewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Marshall, John (Hendon S)Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood,1
Marshall, Michael (Arundel)Sumberg, David
Martin, David (Portsmouth S)Summerson, Hugo
Mates, MichaelTapsell, Sir Peter
Maude, Hon FrancisTaylor, Ian (Esher)
Maxwell-Hyslop, RobinTaylor, John M (Solihull)
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir PatrickTaylor, Teddy (Send E)
Mellor, DavidTebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Meyer, Sir AnthonyThatcher, Rt Hon Margaret
Miller, HalThompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Mills, lainThompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)Thorne, Neil
Mitchell, David (Hants NW)Thornton, Malcolm
Moate, RogerThurnham, Peter
Monro, Sir HectorTownsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Montgomery, Sir FergusTracey, Richard
Moore, Rt Hon JohnTredinnick, David
Morrison, Sir Charles (Devizes)Trippier, David
Morrison, Hon P (Chester)Trotter, Neville
Moss, MalcolmTwinn, Dr Ian
Moynihan, Hon C.Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Mudd, DavidWaddington, Rt Hon David
Neale, GerrardWakeham, Rt Hon John
Nelson, AnthonyWaldegrave, Hon William
Neubert, MichaelWalker, Bill (T'side North)
Newton, Rt Hon TonyWaller, Gary
Nicholls, PatrickWalters, Dennis
Nicholson, David (Taunton)Ward, John
Nicholson, Miss E. (Devon W)Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Onslow, Rt Hon CranleyWarren, Kenneth
Oppenheim, PhillipWatts, John
Page, RichardWells, Bowen
Paice, JamesWheeler, John
Parkinson, Rt Hon CecilWhitney, Ray
Patnick, IrvineWiddecombe, Miss Ann
Patten, Chris (Bath)Wiggin, Jerry
Patten, John (Oxford W)Wilkinson, John
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir GeoffreyWilshire, David
Pawsey, JamesWinterton, Mrs Ann
Peacock, Mrs ElizabethWinterton, Nicholas
Porter, David (Waveney)Wolfson, Mark
Portillo, MichaelWood, Timothy
Powell, William (Corby)Woodcock, Mike
Raffan, KeithYeo, Tim
young, Sir George (Acton)Mr. Robert Boscawen and Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones.
Tellers for the Noes:

Question accordingly negatived

It being after Ten o'clock, further consideration of the Bill stood adjourned.