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 Sheila Gilmore Sheila Gilmore Labour, Edinburgh East 2:15 pm, 1st February 2012

What we have heard today is that there is a big divide between the parties on our views of what the welfare state is for. The Minister opened the debate by saying that the welfare state is a safety net, by which he meant a safety net only on financial grounds; those who are very poor get help, but those who are not do not. That is not how I see it. The welfare state was set up to help us through the times when we are in difficulties, including illness and poor health. It is the social security that gives us the confidence that we will be provided for when we need it. This distinction clearly illustrates the divide between the parties.

It was very odd to hear Jenny Willott argue that this matter was somehow not as important as the Opposition think it is because people will end up in the support group. That goes against everything that many disability organisations are saying, which is that people who have an illness or a disability do want to get back to work. Perhaps they are not quite ready to go back to work within a year, but they do want to work. Parking people in the support group is a very odd solution indeed, because we will end up going back to the situation that the Government have so heavily criticised. Where people have saved, they should have that opportunity. If someone falls ill at that age, they will already have incurred considerable financial losses and no doubt bitten into their savings. We are talking not about welfare, but about people who will start to lose benefits when they have savings of over £6,000 a year.