New Clause 9

Welfare Reform Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:45 pm on 3rd March 2009.

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Grandparents national insurance credit

‘(1) The Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992 (c. 4) is amended as follows.

(2) In section 23A(3)(c) (Contributions credits for relevant parents and carers), after first “in”, insert “unpaid care for 20 hours in that week or more of a grandchild under the age of 12 or of an ill, frail or disabled family member, friend or partner, or (d) otherwise in”.’.—(John Robertson.)

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of John Robertson John Robertson Labour, Glasgow North West

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

This debate might be a two-parter, because I know that the Minister for Employment and Welfare Reform will delight in giving me an answer. The aim of the new clause is to ensure that a person of working age does not face a pensions penalty in retirement because of taking on a significant caring role for a grandchild or somebody else in need. Grandparents Plus, which champions the vital role of grandparents and the wider family in children’s lives, has been working on the new clause. It provides a welcome voice to this debate because it represents a section of the population that is not always heard.

An early-day motion in favour of such a change has received cross-party support and has been signed by more than 80 Members. As a grandparent, I suppose that I should declare a prospective interest in new clause 9—[Interruption.]

Photo of Jimmy Hood Jimmy Hood Labour, Lanark and Hamilton East

Order. Hon. Members might be a little demob happy because we are coming towards the end of the sitting, but we must have order.

Photo of John Robertson John Robertson Labour, Glasgow North West

Perhaps the noise was being made by Committee members discussing their grandchildren—I am being a little disingenuous.

The new clause is important. Although I am not in the early throes of my working life, I, like many grandparents, am far from retirement age. I hope to  have plenty of years in which to work and contribute to society. However, my family comes first, and many grandparents sacrifice their working lives for their grandchildren. The new clause would amend the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992 to create a credit for those of working age who provide 20 hours or more per week of unpaid care for a grandchild under the age of 12 or for an

“ill, frail or disabled family member, friend or partner”.

In the Pensions Act 2007, the Government introduced a weekly credit for parents, foster parents and carers to be specified by regulation that would go towards their pension to make up for the contributions that they would be making through national insurance. That measure did not include grandparents. When that issue was debated in the other place, Ministers promised to look into it further. I understand that the relevant regulations will be laid before Parliament in the coming weeks. I urge Ministers to use the new clause or the regulations to ensure that someone caring for a grandchild or a person in need to whom they are close will be entitled to the weekly credit.

I am sure that all hon. Members agree that anybody of working age who cares for a young grandchild, family member, friend or partner who is ill, frail or disabled for more than 20 hours a week is sacrificing time in which they could be working or engaging by  doing something that is as socially beneficial as being in employment and making national insurance contributions. That is surely recognised by the 2007 Act through the introduction of the credit for parents, foster parents and other carers.

There is an obvious question of fairness and equality. When a person—whether they are a parent or a grandparent—is caring for a child in the family instead of working, why should there be discrimination on their state pension? How can we say that someone caring for a family member, partner or friend is less deserving of a full state pension than someone who has spent time caring for their child?

The new clause is emphatically not about paying someone for care. There is no gain for somebody who is receiving a full state pension. It would give parity for state pension contributions. I wish to consider the specific case of grandparents who are close to retirement age, for whom the issue is more pressing. The current situation means that if a mother stays at home to care for her child, she gets a weekly credit towards her pension.

The Chairman adjourned the Committee without Question put (Standing Order No. 88).

Adjourned till this day at Four o’clock.