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Baroness Seear: My Lords, I apologise that I was not in my seat when the noble Baroness began to speak to the amendment to which I too have attached my name. There is little to add; the case is self evident.

14 Mar 1995 : Column 762

Surely, it cannot have been anyone's intention that the pension should disappear when a spouse goes into a residential home. After all, one allows one's closest partners and relations to go into a residential home only when the situation has become grim. That could never have been the Government's intention and this is an opportunity to correct a situation that badly needs correcting. The case has been powerfully made out by the noble Baroness, and we strongly support it.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, we discussed the matter at length in Committee. As I said then, I believe that the underlying issue relates to the provision of the national assistance charging regulations and the way in which local authorities use their discretion under those regulations when one member of a couple has an occupational pension and moves into residential accommodation. As I promised, I passed on the anxieties raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, and other noble Lords to my right honourable friend, Mrs. Bottomley, the Secretary of State for Health. I assure your Lordships that the issue is being considered most carefully.

As I explained in Committee, at present it is left to the local authorities, using Department of Health guidance, to decide whether it will be beneficial to a particular resident spouse—and each individual case may be judged on its merit—as to how much they take from a pension. We expect local authorities to take into account the individual circumstances of each case; for instance, the previous living standards or particularly high outgoings. Anyone who is not satisfied with the way in which a local authority has exercised its discretion has recourse to the local authority complaints procedure, which all local authorities must operate in relation to their social services.

Since the previous debate, I have written to the noble Baroness apologising for the misunderstanding that occurred regarding evidence that local authorities were refusing to exercise their discretion in cases where a resident's entire occupational pension is taken into account towards the charge for his accommodation. From what I said a moment ago about the Department of Health circular, your Lordships will realise that that is certainly not our intention. We have now seen the briefing material from Age Concern. I must say that while of course the cases quoted and those quoted today by the noble Baroness are tragic, they do not actually show that local authorities have refused to exercise their discretion to allow residents to make a proportion of their occupational pensions available to their wives. Indeed, I invited Members of the Committee to produce hard evidence of examples where authorities had not exercised their discretion reasonably. Apart from the briefing note from Age Concern, I have not received any further material. If I receive any such material, I shall pass that evidence on to my right honourable friend.

I note that the noble Baroness said that local authorities are not exercising their discretion in that area. But the fact is that they have the discretion and before believing that we can proceed, I should like evidence that there is a widespread failure to use the

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discretion in a sensible and sympathetic way. Certainly, we expect local authorities to do that, as does the Department of Health in its circular.

The second amendment seeks to extend the scope of what are known as the "substitution provisions" in the state pension scheme to married couples where one member is in residential accommodation. As I explained in Committee, the substitution provisions allow people whose marriages have ended by death, divorce or annulment and who do not remarry before reaching pension age to improve their basic pension entitlement by substituting their former spouse's contribution record for their own for the period up to the termination of the marriage. Separated couples do not come within the scope of the substitution provisions because where a couple are not residing together the woman is still able to claim a married woman's pension. The married woman's pension is paid at a lower rate than the standard basic pension and I can understand the noble Baroness's reasons for wanting to improve the position of people in the circumstances that she has described.

However, amending the legislation in the way proposed by these amendments would not necessarily benefit everyone concerned, in particular in cases where the remaining spouse receives an income-related benefit—commonly income support. All income-related benefits must take pensions fully into account. In these cases, the spouse at home would benefit only if the amount of pension that she received was substantial enough to lift her entirely above the level of income-related benefit that she received.

On the other hand, the spouse at home may have very substantial resources. It could not be considered to be an appropriate use of the limited public funds available if people in those situations were allowed to retain a share of the occupational pension while the spouse in care was having to be supported by the local authority or through the benefit system.

However, as I hope I made clear in Committee, I have a great deal of sympathy for what is being said, but I believe that the issue goes a good deal further than the question of rights in pension schemes. As I said earlier, I have referred the matter of residential charges to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health and I can only reiterate that she is considering the issue very carefully indeed. Once again, I shall pass on the points made in this afternoon's debate to my right honourable friend so that she can take them into consideration.

In the light of the assurance that we are not unmindful of the problem and that it is being looked into, I hope that the noble Baroness will withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that conciliatory and sympathetic reply. But the problem is that we are no further forward. The Government have one basic argument; namely, that local authorities have the power to exercise discretion. The Minister is not aware whether or not that discretion is being exercised, and until he has evidence of that he is not willing to move. I do not believe that that is a travesty of what he said.

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First, both Age Concern and the Alzheimer's Disease Society have carried out a trawl of a number of local authorities and have reached two conclusions. First, there is wide variation in practice; but, secondly, even within a region or within a county with metropolitan authorities responsible for social services, very few local authorities exceed by more than £5 or £10 per week the £13 which they are required to recycle back to the home.

I am surprised that the Minister has not received the material that I have received from Age Concern and the Alzheimer's Disease Society. One of its county officers told Age Concern that although at one time the local authority had regularly used the discretion, it rarely did so now because of its financial situation. We know that from our own experience. All local authorities are having to cut back on every discretionary service in order to provide the statutory services to which they quite rightly give precedence, particularly when the Department of the Environment not only actively expects local authorities to charge but penalises them through the standard spending assessment if they do not. Those are the facts.

It is because of that that I wish to pursue the amendment. The amendment provides that, if some authorities are following that course but a few are not, we shall bring bad practice up to good. If most authorities are not exercising their discretion, which appears to me to be the case, there is an even bigger problem of acute emotional and financial distress which we need to address. This amendment will ensure that, wherever you live, the response of local authorities when someone is taken into residential care will be broadly the same. It is the equivalent of national guidelines. We need this provision now and I am going to ask the House to support the amendment.

5.33 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 184) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 159; Not-Contents, 183.

Division No. 2

CONTENTS

Ackner, L.
Acton, L.
Addington, L.
Airedale, L.
Alanbrooke, V.
Allenby of Megiddo, V.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Attenborough, L.
Avebury, L.
Balfour of Burleigh, L.
Bancroft, L.
Barnett, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L.
Birkett, L.
Blackstone, B.
Bottomley, L.
Broadbridge, L.
Brookes, L.
Bruce of Donington, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.
Castle of Blackburn, B.
Chapple, L.
Chorley, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Combermere, V.
Congleton, L.
Cornwallis, L.
Craigavon, V.
Croham, L.
Dahrendorf, L.
Davies, L.
Dean of Beswick, L.
Desai, L.
Diamond, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.
Dubs, L.
Eatwell, L.
Elis-Thomas, L.
Ennals, L.
Ezra, L.
Falkender, B.
Falkland, V.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Fisher of Rednal, B.
Fitt, L.
Foot, L.
Freyberg, L.
Gallacher, L.
Geraint, L.
Gibson, L.
Gladwin of Clee, L.
Gladwyn, L.
Gould of Potternewton, B. [Teller.]
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Gregson, L.
Grey, E.
Halsbury, E.
Hamwee, B.
Harris of Greenwich, L.
Haskel, L. [Teller.]
Hayter, L.
Healey, L.
Henniker, L.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hollick, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Holme of Cheltenham, L.
Hooson, L.
Houghton of Sowerby, L.
Howie of Troon, L.
Hughes, L.
Hylton-Foster, B.
Iddesleigh, E.
Inchyra, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L.
Jay of Paddington, B.
Jeger, B.
Jenkins of Hillhead, L.
Jenkins of Putney, L.
Judd, L.
Kilbracken, L.
Kirkhill, L.
Lawrence, L.
Listowel, E.
Longford, E.
Lovell-Davis, L.
Macaulay of Bragar, L.
Mackie of Benshie, L.
Mar and Kellie, E.
Mason of Barnsley, L.
Mayhew, L.
McCarthy, L.
McConnell, L.
McGregor of Durris, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L.
McNair, L.
Merlyn-Rees, L.
Meston, L.
Milne, L.
Milner of Leeds, L.
Mishcon, L.
Monkswell, L.
Moore of Wolvercote, L.
Morris of Castle Morris, L.
Morris of Kenwood, L.
Mulley, L.
Nelson, E.
Nicol, B.
Ogmore, L.
Oxford, Bp.
Park of Monmouth, B.
Perry of Walton, L.
Peston, L.
Phillips of Ellesmere, L.
Plant of Highfield, L.
Portland, E.
Prys-Davies, L.
Rea, L.
Redesdale, L.
Richard, L.
Ripon, Bp.
Ritchie of Dundee, L.
Robson of Kiddington, B.
Rochester, L.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Roskill, L.
Runciman of Doxford, V.
Russell, E.
Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Seear, B.
Sefton of Garston, L.
Serota, B.
Shaughnessy, L.
Smith, L.
Stallard, L.
Stedman, B.
Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Strabolgi, L.
Strafford, E.
Swinfen, L.
Taylor of Gryfe, L.
Temple of Stowe, E.
Tenby, V.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Tope, L.
Tordoff, L.
Turner of Camden, B.
Varley, L.
Wallace of Coslany, L.
Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Westmorland, E.
Whaddon, L.
Wharton, B.
White, B.
Williams of Elvel, L.
Williams of Mostyn, L.
Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.

NOT-CONTENTS

Aberdare, L.
Abinger, L.
Addison, V.
Ailsa, M.
Aldenham, L.
Aldington, L.
Alexander of Tunis, E.
Alexander of Weedon, L.
Annaly, L.
Ashbourne, L.
Astor of Hever, L.
Astor, V.
Barber, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L.
Belstead, L.
Bethell, L.
Biddulph, L.
Birdwood, L.
Blake, L.
Blaker, L.
Blatch, B.
Bledisloe, V.
Blyth, L.
Boardman, L.
Borthwick, L.
Boyd-Carpenter, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L.
Braine of Wheatley, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L.
Bruntisfield, L.
Buchan, E.
Buckinghamshire, E.
Butterfield, L.
Butterworth, L.
Cadman, L.
Caithness, E.
Campbell of Alloway, L.
Carlisle of Bucklow, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B.
Carnock, L.
Carr of Hadley, L.
Chalker of Wallasey, B.
Charteris of Amisfield, L.
Chelmsford, V.
Chesham, L.
Chilver, L.
Clanwilliam, E.
Clark of Kempston, L.
Coleraine, L.
Coleridge, L.
Courtown, E.
Cranborne, V. [Lord Privy Seal.]
Cumberlege, B.
Davidson, V.
Dean of Harptree, L.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Dormer, L.
Dundee, E.
Dundonald, E.
Eccles of Moulton, B.
Eccles, V.
Eden of Winton, L.
Elliott of Morpeth, L.
Elton, L.
Falmouth, V.
Ferrers, E.
Fraser of Carmyllie, L.
Gage, V.
Gisborough, L.
Glenarthur, L.
Goschen, V.
Gowrie, E.
Gray of Contin, L.
Haddington, E.
Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.
Hambro, L.
Hardinge of Penshurst, L.
Harmar-Nicholls, L.
Harmsworth, L.
Harrowby, E.
Hayhoe, L.
Henley, L.
Hives, L.
Hogg, B.
Holderness, L.
HolmPatrick, L.
Hood, V.
Hooper, B.
Hothfield, L.
Howe, E.
Inglewood, L. [Teller.]
Jellicoe, E.
Jenkin of Roding, L.
Johnston of Rockport, L.
Killearn, L.
Kimball, L.
Kingsland, L.
Kinnoull, E.
Kitchener, E.
Laing of Dunphail, L.
Lane of Horsell, L.
Lauderdale, E.
Leigh, L.
Lindsay, E.
Lindsey and Abingdon, E.
Long, V.
Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Lucas, L.
Lyell, L.
Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.
Mackay of Clashfern, L. [Lord Chancellor.]
Macleod of Borve, B.
Marlesford, L.
McColl of Dulwich, L.
Merrivale, L.
Mersey, V.
Miller of Hendon, B.
Mills, V.
Milverton, L.
Monckton of Brenchley, V.
Monteagle of Brandon, L.
Montgomery of Alamein, V.
Morris, L.
Mottistone, L.
Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Munster, E.
Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Noel-Buxton, L.
Norrie, L.
Northbrook, L.
Northesk, E.
O'Cathain, B.
Onslow, E.
Oppenheim-Barnes, B.
Orkney, E.
Orr-Ewing, L.
Oxfuird, V.
Parkinson, L.
Peyton of Yeovil, L.
Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.
Prentice, L.
Pym, L.
Quinton, L.
Rankeillour, L.
Rawlings, B.
Reay, L.
Rees, L.
Renfrew of Kaimsthorn, L.
Renton, L.
Renwick, L.
Rodger of Earlsferry, L.
Romney, E.
Salisbury, M.
Savile, L.
Seccombe, B.
Selborne, E.
Shannon, E.
Shaw of Northstead, L.
Simon of Glaisdale, L.
Skelmersdale, L.
Skidelsky, L.
Slim, V.
St. John of Fawsley, L.
Stevens of Ludgate, L.
Stewartby, L.
Stodart of Leaston, L.
Strange, B.
Strathclyde, L. [Teller.]
Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.
Sudeley, L.
Swansea, L.
Teviot, L.
Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Trefgarne, L.
Trumpington, B.
Ullswater, V.
Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Whitelaw, V.
Willoughby de Broke, L.
Wise, L.
Wolfson, L.
Wynford, L.
Young, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

14 Mar 1995 : Column 767

5.45 p.m.

Lord Freyberg moved Amendment No. 185:


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