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Earl Russell: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. I have never before observed her use of a careful and defensive straight bat. Normally the Minister enjoys playing shots. This was an absolutely straightforward,
Lord Higgins: My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord for those comments. I take that point. However, from time to time views on what is beneficial may vary between the two sides of the House, or even between noble Lords on this side of the House. As regards urgency, I am puzzled about a matter. Is it not the case that if the Government had carried out the consultation previously these measures would have been incorporated in the original provisions and it would not be necessary now to treat them as a matter of urgency?
Earl Russell: My Lords, I take that point. There is something of a mystery about why the Government changed their mind when they did. My honourable friends obviously had a big part in that. I suspect also that they spotted, as I and others in my party did, that these matters were becoming quite a big issue in the London local elections. However, we shall have to wait a few hours before we return to that issue.
The important point relates to the review. I was pleased to observe the Minister nod on the point that income support is not meant to meet housing costs. That is an important principle. However, I also noted her statement that the Prime Minister said that it is not practicable to use the review to reverse the cut. I do not understand exactly how those principles sit together. If the cut is not reversed the principle that income support is not being used to meet housing costs is at least brought into question. That principle is of considerable importance in social security policy.
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