Clause 51 — Period of entitlement to contributory allowance

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

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Photo of Anne Begg Anne Begg Chair, Work and Pensions Committee 1:45 pm, 1st February 2012

At present, those on incapacity benefit—the existing benefit, which the Government are to replace—who have made the necessary national insurance contributions will keep that benefit until they return to work. Is the hon. Gentleman saying the costing should be done on any other basis? Obviously, the reason the Government are introducing the time limit is to save money: there can be no other reason, as the hon. Gentleman has effectively admitted. This is the result of a money-saving decision by the Government. It is not about being fair; it is about saving money to deal with the debt and the deficit, which were not caused by the people—and their partners, wives and husbands—who have tried throughout their lives to do the right thing.

I am conscious of the time, but I now want to say something about the youth rate. When I intervened on the Minister, I was genuinely trying to obtain some clarification, but I have ended up even more confused than before about how the youth rate will work and which groups of young people will no longer receive an independent—that word is important—income replacement benefit. They may receive non-means-tested benefits and, for instance, disability living allowance or the new personal independence payment, but they will not have any income.

Let me give an example of someone I think will be caught by that, someone who came to my constituency office a number of years ago. He was a young lad of 20 who had been in work for six months when he was diagnosed with a virulent condition. I cannot remember what it was, but it meant that he would be unlikely to work again, and indeed his condition was going to deteriorate. This young man lived with his girlfriend, who earned about £15,000 or £16,000 a year, just over the income support level. Under the measures proposed by the Government, he would not qualify for any income at all. He would be wholly dependent on his girlfriend, and the household income would consist only of her income. That does not strike me as right, and it does not strike me as fair. I should be grateful if, before we vote on the amendment, the Minister would tell us exactly which group of people will lose out as a result of the abolition of the contributory youth rate.