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When we had this debate several years ago, the House was packed and the debate was incredibly controversial. At that time, the Government used a number of arguments. Their first was that these were temporary measures and that the full architecture of the prevention of terrorism legislation had not yet been put in place. We have had five years since then, with an annual criminal justice Bill of some sort and a whole range of other measures brought forward to tackle the prevention of terrorism. There is no longer an argument left that these are temporary measures. The other argument that Ministers always advance when they have difficulty in justifying a case is based on saying, "We know more than you do because of the information that's been given to us by the intelligence services." That is the argument that took us into the Iraq war and cost 500,000 lives. I do not have the confidence in the intelligence services that other Members have displayed, certainly not after the cover-ups that we have experienced on the torture of prisoners and the collusion in the torture of people to gain information.
As we have heard, we are talking about people who have been put under control orders because they are possibly the most dangerous people in the country. The situation then degenerates into farce when they abscond and we have a Minister making statements to the House and elsewhere to reassure the general public that no one is at risk as a result of their absconding.
I want to place on the record-this might be the last opportunity to do so before the general election-my tribute to the work that my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) has done through his Committee in exposing the absolute ineffectiveness and injustice of control orders. I also want to place on record my respect and admiration for Gareth Peirce and the work that she has done in defending several of these people valiantly while at times being attacked in the media and elsewhere. Through her evidence-we have used it time and again in recent years-she has been able to demonstrate the
brutality of these orders, particularly the new, lighter order of internal exile, and their effects on individuals and their families.
I give the Government a warning: this policy is having ramifications across communities. We said that it would be a recruiting sergeant for terrorism, and I believe that it is a recruiting sergeant for those who are anxious about what is happening to their communities as a result of this illiberal legislation. It is completely counter-productive, and regrettably, we are rehearsing the same arguments five years on. Again tonight, hon. Members who are not even present for the debate will vote the order through, and it will have a direct, detrimental impact on all our communities.
Mr. Hanson: I am grateful for the comments of my right hon. and hon. Friends, and those of the hon. Member for Reigate (Mr. Blunt), about the work of my right hon. Friend the Member for Airdrie and Shotts (John Reid) and others. I can only say-
That the draft Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 (Continuance in Force of Sections 1 to 9) Order 2010, which was laid before this House on 1 February, be approved.
That the draft Social Security Benefits Up-rating Order 2010, which was laid before this House on 27 January, be approved.
The Social Security Benefits Up-rating Order 2010 supports the action the Government have taken to help people through the unprecedented economic challenges that we are facing. It increases support for people on pensions and benefits by more than £2 billion, at a time when it is important that we protect the most vulnerable.
The latest official data show that the UK economy returned to growth in the last quarter of 2009. While cautious, the Government remain confident about the future prospects for the economy. We shall therefore continue to support long-term sustainable growth and provide targeted economic support, as to withdraw this now could put the recovery at risk before it is properly established. By responding positively and proactively during the downturn, the Government have helped more people to keep their jobs than many commentators expected and helped others to return to work quickly. Unemployment is 450,000 lower than forecast at the last Budget, which shows that active Government support works.
Prospects for the UK and global economy are better than 12 months ago, as Governments across the world have stepped in to support their economies. As forecast in the pre-Budget report, UK GDP growth returned at the end of 2009 and, supported by measures to stabilise the financial system, growth is expected to pick up through 2010 and 2011.
The latest Office for National Statistics employment figures show that falls in employment continue to slow and that unemployment looks to be levelling out. While it was disappointing to see the claimant count rise last month, after having fallen in the previous two months, the number of new claims for jobseeker's allowance has fallen again, and more than 50 per cent. of people move off claims in less than three months.
This order provides real help for people entering or returning to the job market, and will help to support the recovery. People of working age who claim income-related benefits will have their benefits uprated in line with the Rossi index-the retail prices index less housing costs. So those who receive benefits such as jobseeker's allowance, employment and support allowance, and incapacity benefit will see the support that they receive increase by 1.8 per cent. from April 2010. It is usual to increase state pension and some other social security benefits in line with the September inflation figures.
As a consequence of the credit crunch, which began in the US sub-prime mortgage market, we have been experiencing extraordinary global conditions. The retail prices index moved into negative territory for the first time in around 50 years, and in September 2009 it stood at minus 1.4 per cent. That means that those who rely on benefits being uprated by the retail prices index could have expected their benefits to be frozen in cash terms, with no increase at all from April. However, as the Government remain committed to helping the most vulnerable in society, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor used his pre-Budget report last year to announce an
increase for key carers and disability benefits by 1.5 per cent. this April to help people now, when they need it the most. As a result, we shall be uprating benefits for disabled people and carers, along with statutory payments for parents and others who receive national insurance-linked benefits, by 1.5 per cent. from April. We shall uprate attendance allowance, carer's allowance, disability living allowance and maternity allowance, to ensure that they do not fall behind.
As Members in all parts of the House will no doubt be aware, since September inflation has increased. The retail prices index for the year to January 2010 stood at 3.7 per cent. The main drivers behind that increase are the return from 15 to 17.5 per cent. for value added tax, the continued increase in oil prices and an increase in housing costs. Although inflation is now positive again, it is important to keep in mind the cyclical nature of the uprating process and the fact that inflation between October last year and March this year will be taken into account when benefits are uprated next year. In particular, when it comes to uprating in 2011, annual inflation to September 2010 will include the return to positive RPI inflation from November last year.
Steve Webb (Northavon) (LD): But is it not the case that that is not quite accurate? The order that we are debating this evening includes an increase in child benefit, which will not be included in the figure that will subsequently be uprated by the following year's inflation. Although that is being added on a once-only basis now, next year's inflation rate will be applied to the underlying figure, not the figure in the order before us.
Angela Eagle: The uprating process applies in most cases to most benefits. However, the hon. Gentleman is well versed in the intricacies of the benefits system, and he can always find an example to show that what I have said is not exactly true. It is a bit like talking about what one ought to do in chess: it is almost always the case that one should protect one's king, except in the end game, when one's king can be the most aggressive piece on the board. The hon. Gentleman is well versed in finding out the kinks in the basic approach, which I have just set out, and as usual I congratulate him on that.
Traditionally, the basic state pension is uprated in line with the retail prices index. However, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor also used his pre-Budget report to reconfirm that the basic state pension will be uprated by 2.5 per cent. from April 2010, which amounts to an above-earnings increase. That means that from April the basic state pension for a single person will increase by £2.40, to £97.65 a week. It also means that the standard rate based on a spouse or civil partner's contribution will increase to £58.50, giving a pensioner couple a total of £156.15.
The Government believe that the most effective way of helping pensioners is to increase the basic state pension. That increase, which is delivered as a result of a commitment first given by this Government in 2001, will ensure that more than 11 million pensioners receive
an increase in the value of their basic state pension, over and above the level of earnings. That will mean that pensioners will have benefited from a long-term real increase to their basic state pension of 12 per cent. since 1997 worth more than £10 a week. Increasing the basic state pension means that help is provided to more pensioners, with a more even distribution of that help.
When it comes to additional pensions, the uprating of which has always been linked to prices, we faced a number of challenges this year. The retail prices index was negative for the first time in around 50 years. Also, one cannot look at additional pensions in isolation, as any increase in additional pensions feeds directly through to public sector pensions. Nevertheless, we looked at whether it would be possible to uprate additional pensions by the 2.5 per cent. underpin used for the basic state pension, but that would have cost the taxpayer an additional £1.2 billion this year. We also considered whether it would be possible to uprate additional pensions by the 1.5 per cent. used this year to uprate key disability and carer's benefits, but, as I have said, the uprating of additional pensions feeds directly through to public service pensions and to some aspects of occupational pension schemes. As a result, we are unable to uprate such benefits without creating unintended consequences for occupational pension schemes, and significant extra cost.
Mr. Nigel Waterson (Eastbourne) (Con): Does the Minister accept that the intended consequence of these measures is that hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of pensioners will be worse off as a result of the freezing of the additional payments attached to many pensioners' state pensions? Will she tell us how many people she estimates will lose out? Does she also accept that the measures will save the Treasury-or rather, cost the pensioners-more than £500 million?
Angela Eagle: I do not believe the figures that the hon. Gentleman has come up with. The retail prices index for September, which is the index that we have used to uprate by prices, was minus 1.4 per cent., so zero is still an increase-although it does not feel like it-in terms of buying power. It is also important to remember that the 2.5 per cent. increase in the basic state pension goes to all pensioners. In the circumstances, we decided, because of the complications surrounding public sector pensions and the extra amount of money that uprating would have cost-some £1.2 billion-that it was right to hold additional pensions at a zero increase this year. However, the 2.5 per cent. increase in the basic state pension will mean that, on average, recipients in Great Britain will see an overall increase of 2 per cent. in their state pension, taking into account additional and basic state pension, which is 3.4 per cent. above the prices indicated in the RPI.
Mr. David Drew (Stroud) (Lab/Co-op): The problem with the additional pension is that people always feel that the Government manipulate it to their advantage. Psychologically, this does immense damage to those people who stuck with the state earnings-related pension scheme and have seen the supposed benefit erode over time. That is why some of us, and some of our constituents, are very unhappy about this. They think that these measures will always be manipulated by the Government.
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