I should like the Minister to confirm whether, as it appears to us, the amendment seeks to ensure that the Attendance Allowance Board can review an award made in the interim period before the Act comes into force because of a change of circumstances and that the Government are bringing into play the phraseology of the Social Security Act 1975 about a
change of circumstances … ignorance of a material fact … or … based on a mistake as to a material fact".
I should like the Minister to confirm, first, whether that is the purport of the amendment. Secondly, I should like him to confirm whether the introduction of such phrases into the Bill means that following the passage of the amendment — if, indeed, it is carried — people who are now able to draw attendance allowance — people like Mrs. Dorothy Moran, if not Mrs. Moran herself—will be under a continuing danger, if at any time the board decides to review an award, of losing that award. We should like it clearly on the record whether, when the amendment is incorporated into the Bill, those now receiving attendance allowance, under the new interpretation of the Act as given in the courts, will be perpetually at risk of losing the award until the board decides to remove it from them.
As we are discussing an amendment to clause 1, will the Minister take this opportunity — given that he has received the Griffiths report — to give us the date upon which the promises that were given regarding the extension of the attendance allowance to those children under the age of two will be announced by his Department?
The Griffiths report is due to be published on 16 March. When I mentioned this matter before, I made it clear that other factors in the debate related to the OPCS survey of disability and the Government's subsequent view about a coherent set of benefits. Therefore, I am unable to give a date for that particular matter.
If the Minister will not give my hon. Friend that assurance, I wonder whether he will take this opportunity to assure us about another
matter. On Report there was reference — the same point was pursued subsequently in another place — by the Front Bench to the interaction between attendance allowance and invalid care allowance. On studying Hansard I saw to my horror that the Minister's words could possibly be interpreted as suggesting that there might be some change for the worse for children over the age of two. He said:
it is right to look at the interaction of attendance allowance and invalid care allowance, perhaps throughout childhood". —[Official Report, 12 January 1988; Vol. 125, c. 238.]
Will the Minister assure me that he does not intend to remove or in any way interfere detrimentally with attendance allowance for children between the ages of two and 16?
I said that the Government wanted to take a coherent look at disability benefits across the board. One should include any options, but I have no present intention to move in the direction mentioned by the hon. Lady. However, I would not wish to rule out anything at this stage until we have had the OPCS survey and the Griffiths report. We can then see what the needs are and how they can best be met in a coherent way.
In answer to the hon. Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett), we have always made it absolutely clear that people receiving attendance allowance will not be subject to clause 1, unless and until claims have to be reconsidered on renewal or review in the normal course of events. That is not the purpose of the amendment.
The amendment is to correct technical mistakes in the drafting of clause 1(2)(c) of the Bill. First, it corrected a wrong reference. The reference to
section 106(1)(bb) below
was always intended to be a reference to section 106(1)(bb) of the Social Security Act 1975 which gives the Attendance Allowance Board power to review decisions. The amendment makes that clear.
Secondly, the board's review powers in section 106 of the 1975 Act are set out in section 106(1)(a) and (bb). Before the amendment, clause 1(2)(c) was deficient in that it referred only to section 106(1)(bb). The amendment corrected that deficiency by inserting a reference to section 106(1)(a).