Social Security (Disability Living Allowance) (Amendment) Regulations 2002

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Mr. Webb: I concur with the Minister in saying that the debate has been worth while. The Minister's remarks have in several respects clarified what the Government want to achieve, and she has made it clearer who will be affected by the regulations, which it is helpful to have on the record. We agree that she has addressed many of the specific points that we raised.

One or two loose ends remain, however. The Minister's response was skimpiest in relation to the cost and the numbers affected. She said that 200 was about the right number now, but the SSAC report quoting the Government, at paragraph 32, states:

    ''The Government believes that these figures . . . are likely to increase substantially as the effects of R(D)4/2001 become more widely known and become embedded in the body of caselaw relating to DLA.''

So there is no secret about the fact in the future the regulations will exclude more than just 200 people. The Government say that the number will increase substantially—the figure of £35 million is consistent with tens of thousands of potential claimants.

I am not trying to be alarmist. One way of looking at the matter is to say that the commissioners have laid down a judgment that the Government say is ambiguous. Another way of looking at it is to say that the Government have found a loophole. They have realised that, although only a few hundred people are coming through it at the moment, if they do not close it thousands of people will come through it. Whether the loophole was actually intended to be part of the original legislation is debatable, and we can differ on that.

The Minister explained that the people who will not receive benefit because of the regulations are those who are disabled whose fear and anxiety are the reasons why they cannot go out and walk. They are not severely mentally disabled, but physically disabled. That condition gives rise to fear and anxiety and is the principal reason why they cannot get out and about. I do not understand why we, as policy makers, would want to exclude from support people whose physical condition causes them fear and anxiety and is the principal reason for their being unable to go out and walk, when we want to include those for whom such fear and anxiety are caused by severe mental disability. I cannot see why one would want to make that distinction.

I understand the Minister's point that, under the regulations, if people are severely disabled and another factor means that they cannot walk, they will still get the cash. Proving whether the case is genuine and establishing the causality behind the inability to walk outside open up a different can of worms. However, the case has still not been made for identifying this particular group and excluding them.

I should acknowledge the important contribution made by all hon. Members from their different perspectives. Like the hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford, I want to know why we should single this

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group out and exclude them. Is this the thin end of the wedge? The Government are on the record as having said that the numbers of claimants will grow. There might be 200 now, but there will be thousands later, especially if the cost estimates are right. For that reason, we should keep these people in the system rather than out and we should not support the regulations.

Question put:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 10, Noes 6.

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Division No. 1]

AYES
Blizzard, Mr. Bob
Bryant, Mr. Chris
Burnham, Andy
Eagle, Maria
Joyce, Mr. Eric
McDonagh, Siobhain
Purnell, James
Smith, Angela
Tami, Mark
Watson, Mr. Tom

NOES
Boswell, Mr. Tim
Brazier, Mr. Julian
Holmes, Paul
Prisk, Mr. Mark
Selous, Andrew
Webb, Steve

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved,

    That the Committee has considered the Social Security (Disability Living Allowance) (Amendment) Regulations (S.I. 2002, No. 648).

        Committee rose at twelve minutes to Six o'clock.

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The following Members attended the Committee:
Begg, Miss Anne (Chairman)
Blizzard, Mr.
Boswell, Mr.
Brazier, Mr.
Bryant, Mr.
Burnham, Andy
Eagle, Maria
Holmes, Paul
Joyce, Mr.

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McDonagh, Siobhain
Prisk, Mr.
Purnell, James
Selous, Andrew
Smith, Angela
Tami, Mark
Watson, Mr.
Webb, Mr.

 
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