Clause 51 — Period of entitlement to contributory allowance

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 12:45 pm on 1st February 2012.

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Photo of Chris Grayling Chris Grayling The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions 12:45 pm, 1st February 2012

No, I have already given way to the hon. Gentleman.

If amendment 18 were accepted, it is estimated that it would cost around £90 million cumulatively by 2016-17 based on a two-year time limit, or around £140 million cumulatively based on a one-year time limit. That would be a significant additional cost for the taxpayer, and would fly in the face of a principle that we have tried to bring to this whole process, which is that we do not bracket any condition into one absolute position. We look at each individual case to understand the impact of the condition on the ability to work.

The third area of focus this afternoon is our proposed changes to the condition relating to entitlement to ESA on grounds of limited capability during youth. These changes are part of our principled approach to reform.

We want to modernise and simplify the current welfare system, focus support, avoid duplication of provision and redefine the contract between the state and individuals, in advance of the introduction of universal credit. It cannot be right that, for example, where a claimant has qualified for contributory ESA under the youth provisions and some years later they receive a substantial inheritance, they should be able to continue to receive unlimited contributory ESA without the need to have paid any contributions and without any condition from the state.

These proposals will not affect those in receipt of income-related ESA. We expect that around 90% of those who presently receive ESA on youth grounds will be eligible for income-related ESA. It will be a simple transition from their point of view. Only some 10% will not qualify because they have other means available to them—and I emphasise that that means a partner in full-time work or capital of more than £16,000. We are merely targeting the support the Government can provide to where it is needed most. I do not think it is right that someone with independent income or capital should be able to access state support on a long-term, ongoing and unconditional basis.