Clause 51 — Period of entitlement to contributory allowance

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 2:15 pm on 1st February 2012.

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Photo of Ian Lavery Ian Lavery Labour, Wansbeck 2:15 pm, 1st February 2012

As I was saying, one in three of us—[Hon. Members: “Shame!”] I will start again. One in three of us, sadly, comes into contact with cancer during our lifetime. It is a very difficult situation. I lost both my parents, and my wife lost both of hers, so I understand how sufferers and their relatives and friends are affected. It is not just the disease that has an effect—there is also the mental and physical stress and traumatisation for people who suffer from diseases such as cancer and stroke.

Some of the people who suffer from cancer might not see two years—they might not have a vision of the next two years on this earth—but the Government propose to cut benefits from those people at that time in their lives. It is absolutely dreadful that in 2012 we have a Government who are even considering such heinous acts against the most vulnerable. When the Secretary of State, who has left the Chamber, discusses these issues on television and in the media he seems to relish the fact that benefits will be cut. He seems to have a sense of contentment or self-satisfaction—almost an arrogance beyond belief—when he states clearly that benefits will be cut. To say the very least, it is gut-wrenching.

We as politicians across the board should be looking to defend people whose voices are mostly unheard. They elected us into our positions, and they depend on us. The Government must consider an extension to ESA for two years, and we must exempt those receiving cancer treatments from any time limit whatever. It is breathtaking and incomprehensible that benefits are being cut from people at that critical point in their lives, when some see the possibility that they will not live much longer.

There are regional differences as well, regarding the availability of cancer treatments, for example. The north-east fares very poorly in that. We also have the highest incidence of newly diagnosed cancers, and I am certainly not happy with the cutting of benefits in any way, shape or form to people suffering from cancers, strokes and all those debilitating diseases.

In conclusion, we need to give such people a break—give them a chance and some understanding. You can nod your head all you wish.