Clause 2 - Extent, commencement and short title

Social Security (Special Rules for End of Life) Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 4:00 pm on 8th September 2022.

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Government amendment made: 1, page 2, line 1, leave out subsection (6).

Clause 2, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

The Deputy Speaker resumed the Chair.

Bill, as amended, reported.

Bill, as amended in the Committee, considered.

Third Reading

Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions 4:08 pm, 8th September 2022

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

It is a great pleasure to be speaking on Third Reading. As we have heard this afternoon, the Bill will ensure that more people in their final year of life can access the benefits they need in a fast and simple way. It will result in a consistent end-of-life definition being used across health and welfare services in England and Wales. I thank all those who have prioritised the passage of the Bill through the House. I would also like to thank the House authorities, and the Bill team, which has had to cope with an extremely new Minister—in post this morning—and brief her thoroughly about the Bill. I also wish to thank previous Ministers in my role who have done all they can to take the Bill forward. Above all, I think the whole House would like to thank the charities and campaigners, including Marie Curie, Macmillan, the Motor Neurone Disease Association and others who have worked so hard for this moment.

Photo of Matt Rodda Matt Rodda Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions) (Pensions) 4:10 pm, 8th September 2022

I thank the Minister for her remarks as well as all the hon. Members who have taken part today, including my hon. Friend Jessica Morden; the former Minister Justin Tomlinson; Patrick Grady; the Chair of the Select Committee and others. I, too, pay tribute to the charities, organisations, trade unions and individuals who have campaigned tirelessly to ensure that these changes are introduced.

As we have already heard, congratulations in particular go to Marie Curie and the MND Association for their Scrap 6 Months campaign. I also pay tribute to all the individuals impacted by this, their families and carers.

This is a short Bill, but it will have a huge impact on many people’s lives at an incredibly stressful time. It is a privilege to play a part in the process of making people’s final months somewhat easier than they might otherwise have been. We chose not to table any amendments to the Bill even though I would have welcomed the opportunity to explore further some of the issues highlighted on Second Reading. It is imperative that we get the Bill on to the statute book as soon as possible so that people can start to benefit from the amended definition of end of life. As things stand, fast-track access to universal credit and ESA is available for those with 12 months to live, while PIP, DLA and attendance allowance are only available for those deemed to have six months to live. That is understandably causing confusion, and everything must be brought into line as quickly as possible.

I shall end by reiterating two very important points. First, will the Minister consider following the Scottish Government in taking a more open-ended approach, rather than insisting that awards made under the special rules can last for only three years? Will she commit to evaluating the relative effectiveness of the two different approaches in the coming months?

Secondly, I return to my point about seeking reassurances about how the Department will ensure that it has the capacity to maintain a truly fast turnaround time for applications made under the special rules. Will it monitor how many people receive their claims before they die? Will it also evaluate how well information is being filtered down to clinicians and others who need it so that they find the process easy to navigate.

Once again, I thank the Minister and colleagues for their thoughtful contributions. The Bill has our full support.

Photo of Drew Hendry Drew Hendry Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Trade) 4:12 pm, 8th September 2022

I am also keen for the Bill to make progress as quickly as possible. Our thanks should go to the people who have been campaigning for this change, including the fabulous organisations such as Marie Curie, Macmillan and Citizens Advice; MND and MND Scotland, which have done so much work; and individual campaigners who have told their stories time and again, some at great personal cost.

I praise the probing amendment tabled by my hon. Friend Patrick Grady, because it is important that such matters are considered. I hope, from the Minister’s tone today, that she will take away some of the comments that have been made so that lessons can be learned from what has happened to people. Terminally ill people will face increased pressures in the coming months and years, and it is vital that services can be streamlined for them. Ministerial churn should not slow the process in the future and work should be done to ensure that protection.

It has been suggested that the Scottish Government need to do further work. I am certain that the Minister, Ben Macpherson, will be delighted to consider how things can be streamlined further in the interests of fairness and dignity for those people at the heart of the system. I am sure that the Minister will find an open door there.

As I said right at the beginning, this is a welcome step that will help people. It is a victory for the campaigners, so well done to them. They will not stop, and they should not stop, until they get the things they need for the people affected and their families.

Photo of Justin Tomlinson Justin Tomlinson Conservative, North Swindon 4:14 pm, 8th September 2022

To seek to take advantage of the consensus, as part of the review I appeal to the Minister that, as set out in the Green Paper, the next stage is to extend and review the severe conditions criteria, so that those who sadly have terminal degenerative conditions, but would not necessarily be at that 12-month point, find a much simpler and swifter process to enter in to the various elements of support. That would both be good for the claimant and relieve pressure on a system that has a huge amount of demand on it, which would then speed up the process for others so that it could be faster than the current 16 weeks.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.