Welfare Reform and Pensions Bill — 23 Feb 1999

Mr John Gummer MP, Suffolk Coastal voted in the minority (Aye).

Order for Second Reading read.

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

The Bill marks another step in our modernisation of the welfare state to ensure that it can meet the needs of the next 50 years. Across Government, we are taking action to tackle the causes of social and economic failure. We are investing £40 billion extra in health and education, reforming the tax and benefit system to make work pay and tackling the scandal of poverty pay with the first ever national minimum wage. We are also helping 6.5 million families with the biggest ever rise in child benefit. In short, we are taking action today to deal with immediate problems, but our central objective is to confront the causes of social and economic failure in the future.

In this last year of the 20th century--50 years after the start of the welfare state--it is a scandal that a child can still be born poor, live poor and then die poor. We are tackling the poverty of expectation that leaves a generation of children expecting nothing better for themselves than a lifetime on benefit. We know too well the effect that years of unemployment can have on individuals. It demoralises them, and it is debilitating. That is why we need a radical change in culture, both for individuals and for Government. We are tackling the poverty of opportunity that allows people to be written off, or, sometimes, to write themselves off.

The Bill is an essential part of our strategy. Benefits alone cannot tackle this failure. It is easy for the Government to send out a giro, but a giro will not get anyone a job, or improve their skills. Benefits can, of course, treat the symptoms of poverty, but they cannot tackle its causes. Complacency--an acceptance of social and economic failure as part of the natural order of things--would be a betrayal of the generations that follow us. We are determined to act, to make a difference and to be judged on our actions.

Today, we take reform a step further in four key areas. It may be helpful to the House if I set out how I intend to deal with the Bill.

First, we are introducing a radical package of measures to keep people in touch with the labour market, including the single gateway and the new employment zones. Secondly, we are modernising disability benefits so that they will provide more help for disabled people in greatest need, as well as providing opportunities for disabled people who want to work.

23 Feb 1999 : Column 215

I beg to move, To leave out from "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:

"this House declines to give the Bill a Second Reading because the complex and unrelated nature of some of the issues covered, which themselves should be subject to separate legislation, will have the effect of complicating pension provision, increasing the disincentive to save, fostering dependency particularly for the self-employed, widows and disabled people, and although, through the work-focused gateway, the Government seeks to make benefit conditional, the necessary conditions for success are missing since the Bill does nothing to increase job creation; and regrets the missed opportunity for lasting reform of social security and pensions."

That is the real indictment of the system that we have inherited: it has not bothered. By building on the new deals already in place, the Bill will at last start to put things right. A modern and decent Britain needs modern and decent welfare that is active, people centred, efficient and robust on fraud and that exploits new technology to the full in delivery. That is the kind of welfare system that we want.

Question put, That the amendment be made:--

The House divided: Ayes 172, Noes 336.

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Party Summary

Votes by party, red entries are votes against the majority for that party.

What is Tell? '+1 tell' means that in addition one member of that party was a teller for that division lobby.

What are Boths? An MP can vote both aye and no in the same division. The boths page explains this.

What is Turnout? This is measured against the total membership of the party at the time of the vote.

PartyMajority (No)Minority (Aye)BothTurnout
Con0 135 (+2 tell)084.6%
Ind1 00100.0%
Lab325 (+2 tell) 0078.4%
LDem0 37080.4%
PC3 0075.0%
SNP3 0050.0%
UUP4 0040.0%
Total:336 172079.3%

Rebel Voters - sorted by party

MPs for which their vote in this division differed from the majority vote of their party. You can see all votes in this division, or every eligible MP who could have voted in this division

Sort by: Name | Constituency | Party | Vote

NameConstituencyPartyVote
no rebellions

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