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 Jennifer Willott Jennifer Willott Liberal Democrat, Cardiff Central 1:45 pm, 1st February 2012

Returning to the issue of the time-limited employment and support allowance, there is real concern about an arbitrary time limit. As was kindly pointed out by Stephen Timms, at a party conference the Liberal Democrats showed their concern by passing a motion against arbitrary time limits. However, the amendment from the Lords and the Government’s original proposal both set arbitrary time limits; it is just that one is longer than the other. Neither of the options in front of us would get rid of an arbitrary time limit, as a number of Members have highlighted.

One way to make the system less arbitrary is to ensure that people are in the right category in the first place, with those in the greatest need in the support group, so that they are not affected by a time limit. My colleagues and I have looked long and hard at the issue, and the important thing is to get the assessment right in the first place and make sure that people are in the right category, as those in the support group are exempt from the time limit. We need to make sure that people who need long-term, indefinite support are in the support group and can get that. That is a more effective way to protect those who need the most help than changing one arbitrary time limit for another.