Income Support for Young People

Orders or the Day – in the House of Commons at 9:30 pm on 12th January 1988.

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`At end of Section 21 (1) ( b ) of the Social Security Act 1986 there shall be inserted the words "and ( c ) if he is over the age of 18 and below pensionable age he shall not be paid a lower rate of benefit due to his age.".'.—[Mr. Fearn.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Mr Ronnie Fearn Mr Ronnie Fearn , Southport

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

The new clause deals with income support for young people. The intention is to remove the distinction between claimants for income support who are over and under the age of 25. From April 1988, single childless people between the ages of 18 and 24 who are entitled to claim for income support will receive £2605, while those aged 25 and over will receive £6 more. We are completely opposed to this distinction, as it is completely arbitrary. Why, for example, should a person aged 241 have fewer expenses and financial needs than someone six months older?

The Government perhaps believe that a person aged under rather than over 25 may be able to depend on parents. Forcing young people to depend on their parents is a recent trend in legislation and is a feature of clause 4 of the Social Security Bill. We should be encouraging young people to take full responsibility for their own lives.

The Liberal party is running an excellent campaign called "Youth Chance" which is designed to help young people take full advantage of their rights so that they can be more independent. In my constituency of Southport, young people certainly fight for their rights themselves, and I hope that they will continue to do so. The Government, by contrast, are helping to create an atmosphere of dependence around young people from which they will find it difficult to escape. That is totally against the Government's avowed aim to encourage independence among all people, and I am perplexed by this contradiction between the Government's aims and their actions.

The age limit of 25 used for income support is not a widely recognised age limit in the sense that 16, 18 and 21 years are commonly recognised ages that mark changes in a person's status. We now assume that once young people reach the age of 18 they are responsible adults and are expected to behave as such. This new age limit attacks that principle.

Similarly, the age limit of 25 years is not widely employed elsewhere in British legislation, so it is difficult to understand why it has been introduced for income support; unless, of course, it is merely a means by which the Government can save themselves a small amount of money. The amounts that will be saved are not great and the hardship and bitterness that this arbitrary age limit will cause cannot justify such a saving. I urge the Government to reflect on this very unfair distinction and to accept my amendment, which will prevent this injustice. I intend to take the matter to a Division.

Photo of Robin Cook Robin Cook , Livingston

I remind the House that on many previous occasions the official Opposition have supported the principle advanced on this occasion by the hon. Member for Southport (Mr. Fearn). If he divides the House we shall be happy to divide with him. I do not think that at this late hour there is an argument of sufficient originality and novelty for the principle, which I could advance to the House, to change the minds of those who have already made up their minds. But I believe that the Government, in creating a quite new distinction between a full adult rate and a less than adult rate for those younger than 25, have introduced a new distinction into our social security system that is insupportable and cannot survive indefinitely.

Photo of Mr Michael Portillo Mr Michael Portillo , Enfield, Southgate 10:30 pm, 12th January 1988

There are three things that we are not discussing tonight. One is the position of 16 and 17-year-olds. There has always been a lower rate of benefit for them under supplementary benefit, and the lower rate continues under income support. I do not think that is in dispute between us.

The second thing that we are not discussing is the position of couples because there will be no distinction in income support between what couples receive, whether above or below the age of 25. The third thing that we are not discussing is the position of parents because single parents will be paid the lone parent rate of income support, which is £33.40. On top of that they will receive the family premium, plus the single parent premium, plus the addition for the child.

The point that is at issue between us is the position of the single unemployed under the age of 25. Our movement away from the distinction of householder to a distinction on age grounds is dictated because we think this is a welcome simplification. All that is needed now to establish the entitlement of a claimant is one piece of information, the date of birth of the claimant. It avoids all the difficult points of definition that arise on householders and non-householders, let alone all the difficulties that arise if we try to divide benefits between people who are living together, sharing a house or a flat. As I have mentioned, there is a precedent for a division on age grounds in supplementary benefit, although I agree with the hon. Member for Southport (Mr. Fearn) that that division was not at age 25. There may not be a precedent for that age, but I will tell him in a moment why we think 25 is the right age for the division.

Most young people expect to receive less when they are young than do others who are longer in the tooth, or than they themselves will receive later in life. That would be their general position if they were in work. I do not think it is such a far-reaching idea that people who are young should be expected to live off a lesser amount of money than people who are a little older. We have not taken that principle to its logical conclusion because we are protecting families of whatever age by treating couples, whether below or above the age of 18, equally by giving the special rate to single parents.

We chose the age of 25 because there is fairly good evidence for that being an important age in the life style of young people. In fact, 90 per cent. of claimants over the age of 25 are householders. On the other hand, only one in five single claimants under the age of 25 is a householder. As a result of the reforms, given those figures, of the 810,000 single claimants between the ages of 16 and 24, 450,000 will gain and 200,000 will experience no change.

Young single claimants will receive rates compensation of £1 in income support even though, as will be clear to the House, the majority of them will not be liable to pay rates. The amount that we will pay in income support of £26·05 compares with the non-householder rate of supplementary benefit of £24·35.

The most important extra cost that a person might face if he was a householder is the housing cost. That is met by a different benefit, housing benefit. Under the reformed system, the starting point for the payment of rent under the income support scheme is 100 per cent. of that rent payment. We believe strongly that housing benefit is the correct way to address the extra housing cost that a householder might have to face.

I think this is a welcome simplification. It represents a considerable improvement in the system. I believe, despite what the hon. Gentleman has said, that there is every logic to support the age of 25. I commend that approach to the House. I have to advise the House to reject the new clause.

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

The House divided: Ayes 176, Noes 297.

Division No. 131][10.34 pm
Adams, Allen (Paisley N)Flynn, Paul
Allen, GrahamForsythe, Clifford (Antrim S)
Alton, DavidFoster, Derek
Anderson, DonaldFraser, John
Armstrong, Ms HilaryFyfe, Mrs Maria
Ashdown, PaddyGalbraith, Samuel
Ashley, Rt Hon JackGarrett, John (Norwich South)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)Godman, Dr Norman A.
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)Golding, Mrs Llin
Barron, KevinGordon, Ms Mildred
Battle, JohnGrant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Beckett, MargaretGriffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Beggs, RoyGriffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Bell, StuartGrocott, Bruce
Benn, Rt Hon TonyHarman, Ms Harriet
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)Haynes, Frank
Bermingham, GeraldHealey, Rt Hon Denis
Blair, TonyHinchliffe, David
Blunkett, DavidHogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Boateng, PaulHome Robertson, John
Boyes, RolandHood, James
Bradley, KeithHowarth, George (Knowsley N)
Bray, Dr JeremyHoyle, Doug
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Buchan, NormanIllsley, Eric
Buckley, GeorgeIngram, Adam
Caborn, RichardJanner, Greville
Callaghan, JimJones, leuan (Ynys Môn)
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
Campbell-Savours, D. N.Kirkwood, Archy
Canavan, DennisLamond, James
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)Leadbitter, Ted
Clay, BobLeighton, Ron
Clelland, DavidLestor, Miss Joan (Eccles)
Clwyd, Mrs AnnLewis, Terry
Cohen, HarryLivingstone, Ken
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Cook, Robin (Livingston)McAllion, John
Corbyn, JeremyMcAvoy, Tom
Cousins, JimMcCartney, Ian
Cox, TomMacdonald, Calum
Crowther, StanMcKay, Allen (Penistone)
Cryer, BobMcLeish, Henry
Cunliffe, LawrenceMcNamara, Kevin
Cunningham, Dr JohnMcWilliam, John
Dalyell, TarnMadden, Max
Darling, AlastairMarek, Dr John
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Dewar, DonaldMartin, Michael (Springburn)
Dixon, DonMartlew, Eric
Doran, FrankMaxton, John
Douglas, DickMeacher, Michael
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs GwynethMeale, Alan
Eadie, AlexanderMichael, Alun
Eastham, KenMichie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Evans, John (St Helens N)Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)
Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E)Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)Moonie, Dr Lewis
Fatchett, DerekMorgan, Rhodri
Faulds, AndrewMorley, Elliott
Field, Frank (Birkenhead)Mowlam Marjorie
Fisher, MarkMullin, Chris
Murphy, PaulSpearing, Nigel
Nellist, DaveSteinberg, Gerald
Oakes, Rt Hon GordonStrang, Gavin
O'Brien, WilliamStraw, Jack
O'Neill, MartinTaylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Patchett, TerryTaylor, Rt Hon J. D. (S'ford)
Pendry, TomThomas, Dafydd Elis
Pike, PeterTurner, Dennis
Powell, Ray (Ogmore)Vaz, Keith
Prescott, JohnWallace, James
Primarolo, Ms DawnWalley, Ms Joan
Quin, Ms JoyceWardell, Gareth (Gower)
Robertson, GeorgeWareing, Robert N.
Robinson, GeoffreyWilliams, Rt Hon A. J.
Rogers, AllanWilliams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Rowlands, TedWilson, Brian
Salmond, AlexWinnick, David
Sedgemore, BrianWise, Mrs Audrey
Sheerman, BarryWorthington, Anthony
Shore, Rt Hon PeterWray, James
Skinner, DennisYoung, David (Bolton SE)
Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)Tellers for the Ayes:
Snape, PeterMr. Dafydd Wigley and
Soley, Cliveand Mr. Ronnie Fearn.
Alexander, RichardChope, Christopher
Alison, Rt Hon MichaelChurchill, Mr
Amess, DavidClark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n)
Amos, AlanClark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Arbuthnot, JamesClarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)Conway, Derek
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)
Ashby, DavidCoombs, Simon (Swindon)
Atkinson, DavidCope, John
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)Couchman, James
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)Cran, James
Baldry, TonyCurrie, Mrs Edwina
Banks, Robert (Harrogate)Curry, David
Batiste, SpencerDavies, Q. (Stamfd & Spald'g)
Beaumont-Dark, AnthonyDavis, David (Boothferry)
Bellingham, HenryDay, Stephen
Bendall, VivianDickens, Geoffrey
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)Dicks, Terry
Bevan, David GilroyDorrell, Stephen
Biffen, Rt Hon JohnDouglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Blackburn, Dr John G.Dover, Den
Body, Sir RichardDunn, Bob
Bonsor, Sir NicholasDurant, Tony
Boswell, TimDykes, Hugh
Bottom ley, PeterEggar, Tim
Bottomley, Mrs VirginiaEvans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)Evennett, David
Bowis, JohnFallon, Michael
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir RhodesFenner, Dame Peggy
Braine, Rt Hon Sir BernardField, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Brandon-Bravo, MartinFookes, Miss Janet
Brazier, JulianForman, Nigel
Brittan, Rt Hon LeonForsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Brooke, Rt Hon PeterForth, Eric
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)Fowler, Rt Hon Norman
Browne, John (Winchester)Franks, Cecil
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)Freeman, Roger
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon AlickFrench, Douglas
Buck, Sir AntonyGale, Roger
Budgen, NicholasGardiner, George
Burns, SimonGill, Christopher
Burt, AlistairGilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Butcher, JohnGlyn, Dr Alan
Butler, ChrisGoodhart, Sir Philip
Butterfill, JohnGoodlad, Alastair
Carlisle, John, (Luton N)Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Carrington, MatthewGow, Ian
Carttiss, MichaelGower, Sir Raymond
Cash, WilliamGrant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)
Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs LyndaGreenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Channon, Rt Hon PaulGreenway, John (Rydale)
Chapman, SydneyGregory, Conal
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Grist, IanLord, Michael
Ground, PatrickLuce, Rt Hon Richard
Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)McCrindle, Robert
Hampson, Dr KeithMacfarlane, Sir Neil
Hanley, JeremyMacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)
Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')Maclean, David
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)McLoughlin, Patrick
Harris, DavidMcNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)
Hawkins, ChristopherMcNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)
Hayes, JerryMadel, David
Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir BarneyMajor, Rt Hon John
Heathcoat-Amory, DavidMalins, Humfrey
Heddle, JohnMaples, John
Heseltine, Rt Hon MichaelMarland, Paul
Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)Marlow, Tony
Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Holt, RichardMates, Michael
Hordern, Sir PeterMaude, Hon Francis
Howard, MichaelMaxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)Mellor, David
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)Meyer, Sir Anthony
Hunt, David (Wirral W)Miller, Hal
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)Mills, lain
Hurd, Rt Hon DouglasMitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Irvine, MichaelMitchell, David (Hants NW)
Jack, MichaelMoate, Roger
Jackson, RobertMonro, Sir Hector
Janman, TimothyMontgomery, Sir Fergus
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)Morrison, Sir Charles (Devizes)
Jones, Robert B (Herts W)Morrison, Hon P (Chester)
Kellett-Bowman, Mrs ElaineMoss, Malcolm
Key, RobertMoynihan, Hon C.
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)Mudd, David
Kirkhope, TimothyNeale, Gerrard
Knapman, RogerNelson, Anthony
Knight, Greg (Derby North)Neubert, Michael
Knowles, MichaelNewton, Rt Hon Tony
Knox, DavidNicholls, Patrick
Lamont, Rt Hon NormanNicholson, David (Taunton)
Lang, IanNicholson, Miss E. (Devon W)
Latham, MichaelOnslow, Rt Hon Cranley
Lawrence, IvanOppenheim, Phillip
Lee, John (Pendle)Page, Richard
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)Paice, James
Lennox-Boyd, Hon MarkParkinson, Rt Hon Cecil
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)Patnick, Irvine
Lightbown, DavidPatten, Chris (Bath)
Lilley, PeterPatten, John (Oxford W)
Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Pawsey, JamesTaylor, Ian (Esher)
Peacock, Mrs ElizabethTaylor, John M (Solihull)
Porter, David (Waveney)Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Portillo, MichaelThatcher, Rt Hon Margaret
Powell, William (Corby)Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Raffan, KeithThompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Raison, Rt Hon TimothyThorne, Neil
Redwood, JohnThornton, Malcolm
Renton, TimThurnham, Peter
Rhodes James, RobertTownsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Rhys Williams, Sir BrandonTracey, Richard
Riddick, GrahamTredinnick, David
Ridley, Rt Hon NicholasTrippier, David
Rifkind, Rt Hon MalcolmTrotter, Neville
Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)Twinn, Dr Ian
Roe, Mrs MarionVaughan, Sir Gerard
Rowe, AndrewWaddington, Rt Hon David
Rumbold, Mrs AngelaWakeham, Rt Hon John
Ryder, RichardWaldegrave, Hon William
Sackville, Hon TomWalker, Bill (T'side North)
Sainsbury, Hon TimWaller, Gary
Sayeed, JonathanWalters, Dennis
Scott, NicholasWard, John
Shaw, David (Dover)Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')Warren, Kenneth
Shelton, William (Streatham)Watts, John
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)Wells, Bowen
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)Wheeler, John
Sims, RogerWhitney, Ray
Skeet, Sir TrevorWiddecombe, Miss Ann
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)Wiggin, Jerry
Soames, Hon NicholasWilkinson, John
Speller, TonyWilshire, David
Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)Winterton, Mrs Ann
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)Winterton, Nicholas
Squire, RobinWolfson, Mark
Stanbrook, IvorWood, Timothy
Steen, AnthonyWoodcock, Mike
Stern, MichaelYeo, Tim
Stevens, LewisYoung, Sir George (Acton)
Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)Tellers for the Noes:
Sumberg, DavidMr. Tristan Garel-Jones and
Summerson, HugoMr. Robert Boscawen.
Tapsell, Sir Peter

Question accordingly negatived.

Further consideration of the adjourned.—[Mr. Dorrell.]

Bill, as amended (in the Standing further considered tomorrow.