Social Security Reform

Oral Answers to Questions — Social Services – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 12th July 1988.

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Photo of Mr Martin Flannery Mr Martin Flannery , Sheffield, Hillsborough 12:00 am, 12th July 1988

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will meet the Disability Alliance to discuss the effects on people with disabilities of the social security changes which took effect on 11 April 1988.

Photo of Mr Martin Flannery Mr Martin Flannery , Sheffield, Hillsborough

I wonder whether Conservative Members are treating these questions seriously. The hon. Gentleman, amidst noise from the Government Benches, has given me a virtually monosyllabic answer. I have asked the Minister whether he really understands the misery and poverty that these changes in housing benefit and income support are causing. I want to ask him again and get a better answer. Does he not realise that there are severely disabled people in the community who at this moment are deeply worried about these changes? Will he tell the House exactly what he will do to satisfy these poor disabled people that these changes are not going to push them mercilessly into the sort of position into which the old and the sick are being pushed?

Photo of Mr Nicholas Scott Mr Nicholas Scott , Chelsea

The hon. Gentleman could not have heard my answer. Let me give it to him again. We have already met the Disability Alliance. That was the question that the hon. Gentleman put to me.

Photo of Mr Nicholas Scott Mr Nicholas Scott , Chelsea

I will tell the hon. Gentleman about the money. In the period of this Government, £3 billion has gone to disabled people. There has been an increase of 80 per cent. in real terms. Then, as part of the reforms that we introduced at the beginning of April, an extra £60 million is going into the disability premium, another £8 million into the severe disability premium and another £5 million into the Independent Living Fund. We have fulfilled our commitments to disabled people.

Photo of Mr Alf Morris Mr Alf Morris , Manchester Wythenshawe

How is the Minister replying to the Alliance's letter of 28 June, which shows that over 1 million disabled people were made worse off and expresses deep concern that these benefit changes came before the report on disability that the House is awaiting from the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys? Will he categorically confirm, or deny, The Independent's report of 23 June that the OPCS findings are already with the Government and that, by delaying its publication, the Government are deliberately trying to avoid parliamentary scrutiny and criticism and, by implication, acting in a way that is grossly contemptuous of this House?

Photo of Mr Nicholas Scott Mr Nicholas Scott , Chelsea

Disabled people enjoy transitional protection at the point of change. The first report from the OPCS survey is likely to be published in September. There will be at least another three, and possibly another four, reports, the last of which I would expect to be published about 12 months from now. Until we have all those reports it would be premature to make any judgment about the extent and the nature of disability or the best way of meeting that need.