Disabled People

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Work and Pensions – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 15th October 2001.

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Photo of Alistair Darling Alistair Darling The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions 2:30 pm, 15th October 2001

I do not want to be churlish, but the last Minister for the disabled is still a Minister in this Government, albeit in a different Department.

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his reappointment, if congratulation is appropriate. Perhaps he felt that he had no choice but to soldier on, despite the difficulties that he ran into in the last Parliament.

The object of our proposals is to ensure that people on incapacity benefit have the opportunity to be advised on their benefit entitlement, as well as on work opportunities, where appropriate. The problem is that too many people go on to incapacity benefit and are simply written off. They do not get the help and advice that they want.

Medical examinations are indeed appropriate and we are not proposing to change the regime in that regard, although the administration of the examinations is being improved.

The hon. Gentleman asked about trends in incapacity benefit. The number of people in receipt of the benefit has gone up in the past year or two, mainly because there are now more women with contribution conditions. I do not understand it to be the Conservative policy—yet—to strip people of their contribution conditions.