Interpretation

Part of Social Security Bill (Allocation of Time) – in the House of Commons at 4:48 pm on 28th March 1990.

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Photo of Mr Alf Morris Mr Alf Morris , Manchester Wythenshawe 4:48 pm, 28th March 1990

I feel that it ought to be said from this side of the House, relative to the intervention of the hon. Member for Langbaurgh (Mr. Holt) during the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot), that the reason why my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) is not here is that he is attending a funeral, that of my late hon. Friend the Member for Bootle, Allan Roberts, whose untimely passing is so widely mourned. I am sure that the hon. Member, with his customary decency, will now understand.

If the guillotining of the National Health Service and Community Care Bill was a disgrace, the Government's action today plumbs new depths of infamy. Whereas the NHS Bill was debated in Committee for weeks of late night sittings, the Social Security Bill never disturbed Ministers' schedules beyond 1pm on but two days a week. That alone makes this a preposterous motion. It is one about which I feel very strongly and, unlike the hon. Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young), I shall certainly oppose it.

There has never been any suggestion of filibustering: nor did the Order Paper suggest that the Bill's remaining stages could not be completed in due time and without this motion. The only portent of filibustering has come from the Secretary of State himself, who, by yesterday, had tabled four new clauses, one new schedule and 65 amendments.

Social security affects the lives of every family in this country and they expect their concerns to be fully debated on the Floor of this House. Our new clauses and amendments—and indeed those tabled by hon. Members on both sides of the House—reflect their concern. Yet with this motion the Government are treating not only Parliament with studied contempt but all of our constituents who will be the victims of the huge cuts in public spending under this Bill.

Are Social Security Ministers so ashamed of their record that they wish to avoid debate? Do they not want to hear how people with AIDS are being forced to beg from charities for essential food and for items which the Department used to provide before 1986? Last year, charities provided £350,000 to people with AIDS, not for luxuries but for basic subsistence. Is not that both extremely cruel and deeply scandalous?

Does the Secretary of State not want to defend in detail the laughable claims that private occupational sick pay schemes provide adequate earnings-related cover for long-term sickness? Is he afraid to have fully debated in the House how severely disabled young people have their severe disablement allowance withdrawn? Is he hiding from the vast evidence of the need for personal care and assistance revealed by the independent living fund? Does he want to avoid having to make a definitive statement about the independent living fund's current financial crisis, which, if it is not resolved soon, could lead to people with disabilities having to return to lives of dependence?

The guillotine is calculated to prevent any meaningful debate on new clauses and amendments which are of the first importance to disabled people and which now have scant, if any, likelihood of being discussed. As the Secretary of State must know, many of these suggested changes to the Bill reflect the deep concern of the all-party disablement group.

Does the Secretary of State want to avoid discussion of the comments flowing from all sides on that pitiful document "The Way Ahead"? Many of the organisations of and for disabled people say it should have been christened "The Way Backwards". Peter Large, of the Disablement Income Group—than whom no one is more qualified to comment—has described "The Way Ahead" as Nothing but a narrowing stony ledge", and he says that ministerial talk about a more coherent system of benefits is a sign of delirium.

The Secretary of State may recognise new clause 18, since it is practically identical to the clause inserted into the Social Security Act 1973. When Labour came to office in March 1974 it was abundantly clear that the outgoing Tory Administration had given no thought at all to the requirements of that part of the Act. Yet in six months the then Labour Government had published its proposals for the mobility allowance, which now goes to 615,000 people; for the invalid care allowance; and for the noncontributory invalidity pension.

I must congratulate Conservative Members on one thing. When they were in opposition there were no more enthusiastic proponents of increasing the social security budget. Indeed it became a standing joke in the Department that their next ten-minute rule Bill would seek to extend mobility allowance to pole-vaulters.

The Secretary of State is backing this motion only because he is profoundly ashamed of the record of the Government in which he serves. The House should reject the motion with the contempt that it demonstrates for the countless needful people who will lose from the provisions in the Bill.