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L. Barnett, L. Burlison, L. Craig of Radley, L. Hunt of Wirral, L. Lloyd of Berwick, L. Renfrew of Kaimsthorn, L. Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L. Strathclyde, B. Williams of Crosby, L. Williams of Mostyn (L. Privy Seal);
L. Avebury, L. Bhatia, L. Clarke of Hampstead, V. Colville of Culross (Chairman), L. Grabiner, L. Griffiths of Fforestfach, E. Mar and Kellie, B. Massey of Darwen, B. Perry of Southwark, Bp. Portsmouth, B. Richardson of Calow, B. Wilcox;
B. Finlay of Llandaff, L. Lewis of Newnham, L. McColl of Dulwich, L. Methuen, L. Mitchell, L. Oxburgh (Chairman), L. Patel, L. Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L. Turnberg, L. Wade of Chorlton, B. Walmsley,
Moved, pursuant to Standing Order 74 and the resolution of the House of 16th December 1997, That, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following Lords be appointed to join with a committee of the Commons as the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments:
V. Allenby of Megiddo, L. Ampthill, L. Boston of Faversham, L. Brougham and Vaux, L. Burnham, L. Carter, L. Cope of Berkeley, B. Cox, L. Dean of Harptree, L. Elton, B. Fookes, L. Geddes, B. Gould of Potternewton, L. Grocott, L. Haskel, L. Hogg of Cumbernauld, B. Hooper, B. Lockwood, L. Lyell, C. Mar, L. Murton of Lindisfarne, V. Oxfuird,
"Most Gracious SovereignWe, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): My Lords, in 1997, the welfare system paid too many people a fortnightly giro cheque but did little to help them back to work. Social security has always been a big spender. In 1979, it took one penny in five of government spending. In 1997, it had become one penny in three. If benefit moneys could have solved the problem of poverty, poverty should have been significantly reduced in 1997. Instead, one in five households were out of work. We spent a lot of money keeping people poora system disliked as much by those who depend on it as by those paying for it.
We want a fairer, more inclusive society. For that, we must tackle both poverty of income and poverty of life chances. Therefore, we seek first to tackle the poverty of those of working age, who are poor primarily because they are out of work, and, if they are lone parents and in fractured families, the child poverty that follows. Secondly, we want to tackle pensioner poverty, today and for the future. Many pensioners are poor, especially older widows, with little independent provision. A second problem is those who are in work but who are relatively poor, who are not building up pension provision and therefore comport their poverty into their old age.
We are making progress. The number of people in work is now at record levels. Employment has risen by more than 1.5 million since 1997 to more than 27.7 million. Unemployment has fallen by more than half a million and is at its lowest level for 25 years. With the help of the New Deal programme, long-term youth unemployment has been virtually eradicated and long-term claimant unemployment has fallen by around three-quarters to its lowest level for over 25 years. By
Disadvantaged and marginalised groups have started to share this success. The lone parent employment rate has increased from 45.6 per cent to 53.6 per cent. However, we want to see further improvements, particularly among people from ethnic minority backgrounds and disabled people; in other words, people who are economically inactive as opposed to unemployed. So we will continue to tackle discrimination in all its forms, ensuring that every citizen enjoys their civil rights. We are also making good progress towards our target to reduce by a quarter, by 2004, the number of children in low-income households. We are a third of the way there after a third of the time. New tax credits and reform of the Child Support Agency will ensure that more substantially moremoney will go to our poorest children. As a result of our measures, including pension credit, the average pensioner household will be over £20 per week, or £1,150 a year, better off in real terms compared with 1997.
Raising incomes through increasing opportunities to work and tax and benefit reform is a central component of any anti-poverty strategy. But it is not the whole solution. Poverty is about life chances as well as low income. The quality of key public services has a vital effect on the well-being of many people. Health along with education defines those life chances. I shall give just two examples. First, a quarter of lone parents do not work. The reason they give us is that they have a limiting health condition. They need welfare to health as much as they need welfare to work.
The second example is that of older people, mainly men and mainly manual workers, who are on long-term disability benefits in the decade before retirement. They are willing to work, failing to work and becoming progressively poorer and as a result in progressively poorer health. We know that people who are suffering poverty or social exclusion are more likely to suffer poor health and to encounter poor services. So we now have national targets for reducing inequality in healthto reduce infant mortality, to close the gap in life expectancy and to reduce teenage pregnancythe health inequalities that exist between people and between communities, about which I am sure my noble friend will speak much more when he makes his winding-up speech tonight.
In 1997 the Government set out on a programme of modernisation of health and social care services designed to redesign services around the user of those services, and to free up front-line staff to provide such services in line with local needs. We have committed ourselves to a wide ranging set of national standards, as set out in the NHS Plan and in national service frameworks, to ensure that all patients know what service they are entitled to receive and all front-line staff know what standards they are expected to meet. We established the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) to ensure uniformly high standards right across the country.
We have committed high and sustained increases in funding to support these standards, but investment has been accompanied by reform. Increases in funding have been accompanied by radical reform of the service delivery structures to ensure a focus on delivery and on the patient. From the first, we recognised the importance of giving power to front-line services by introducing a new focus for local deliverythe primary care trust. Under the NHS Reform and Health Care Professions Act 2002, primary care trusts were given more power and resources alongside new responsibilities. From April 2003, over 75 per cent of all NHS expenditure will be in the hands of primary care trusts, run by front-line doctors, nurses, and other health professionals who are better informed about patients' needs and, therefore, better placed to commission and deliver effective services. We are beginning to see results.
In 200001 the NHS delivered 25,000 coronary artery bypass graftsan increase of almost 10 per cent on 199697; 110,000 hip and knee replacementsan increase of 20 per cent on 199697; and 245,000 cataract removalsan increase of over 50 per cent on 199697.
We met our pledge to reduce waiting lists by 100,000 in our first term and waiting times are reducing. Between June 2001 and June 2002 the number of outpatients waiting 13 weeks to see a hospital specialist fell by almost one-third; that is to say, by 114,000. The number waiting over 26 weeks fell from 85,000 to just over 1,000 in the same period. Between August 2001 and August 2002 the number of inpatients waiting more than 15 months for treatment fell from 10,900 to just 32.
The NHS is working to reduce working times further so that by the end of March 2003 the maximum waiting time for an inpatient appointment will be cut to 12 months; the maximum waiting time for a first outpatient appointment will be cut to 21 weeks. In addition, maximum waiting times will continue to fall year on year so that by the end of 2005 the maximum waiting time for in-patient treatment will be cut to six months and the maximum wait for a first out-patient appointment will be cut to 13 weeks.
Therefore, by the end of 2005, traditional waiting times for all hospital admissions and appointments in all NHS trusts will be replaced with booking systems, which will allow patients to pre-book hospital appointments that are convenient for them. The Government's programme of investment and reform is, therefore, bearing fruit and delivering significant improvements in access to care for the people of this country. We know that there remains plenty to do; but we are getting there.
I turn to pensioners, who make substantial use of both the benefit and the health system. Adults who are unable to build a decent pension because they are not in work riskon could almost certainly predictpoverty in later life. On average, older people who have already retired are much better off than was the case 20 years ago. Average net income before housing costs was £119 in 1979 and £195 in 199697. However,
Our first priority was to tackle the gap between the poorest and the richest pensioners. MIG (the minimum income guarantee) uprated by earnings during this Parliament will ensure that more pensioners are able to share in rising national prosperity. Around 2 million pensioners currently benefit. From April 2002, a single pensioner is at least £15 a week better off in real terms than in 1997, as a result of MIG rises.
The basic state pension will remain the foundation of income in retirement. It currently stands at £75.50 a week for single pensioners and at £120.70 a week for couples. For the past two years we have increased the basic pension by rates greater than inflation, and it is set to increase by 2.5 per cent, or the RPI, whichever is greater, in future. So we are narrowing the gap between the rich and the poor: we are getting there. But we need to do more.
Hence the state retirement pension is supported by the state second pension, which, as noble Lords will know, reforms SERPS for those unable to afford private occupational pensions. Low earners will get at least double what they would have got from SERPS; it is heavily redistributive to the poorest. And people can now also build up a second tier pension during periods where they have lost their links with the labour market because of caring responsibilities, or have a long term disability. Therefore, as with the minimum income guarantee, so with the state second pension: the primary gainers are women.
From October 2003, the groundbreaking pension credit means that for the first time we will reward, not penalise, modest savings. As well as a guaranteed level of income below which no pensioner should fallthis should be around £100 in 2003 for single pensioners and £154 for couplesthe pension credit introduces a savings credit. Savings will no longer lead to the pound-for-pound reduction in income related benefits such as MIG. Pension credit will signal the end of the weekly means test. Around 45 per cent of all pensioner households will stand to gain. Small savings and small pensions will be worth having. When one remembers that the average pension pot is about £20,000 to £25,000 and that nearly half of them are under £10,000, one realises that because we have a decent level of MIG the small savings of too many pensioners have been wiped off in offsetting. That will no longer be the case with pension credit: they stand to gain.
Stakeholder pensions were introduced to provide a low-charge funded option for those who do not have access to an occupational scheme or good value personal pension. They now have the chance to save for a decent income in retirement. Now, some 18 months later, over 1 million stakeholder pensions have been sold. MIG, S2P, pension credit, and stakeholder pensions all target the poorest off; in other words, they
However, we need to do more: hence our forthcoming Green Paper. We need to reinvigorate the pensions partnership between government, individuals, employers, and the financial services industry. We need to ensure that people can invest with confidence, and that more employers offer pension schemes that meet their employees' needs. Individuals need decent choices and the information required to decide between them.