HC Deb 23 January 1995 vol 253 c6
6. Mr. Miller

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if his Department will withdraw the Social Security (Incapacity Benefit) (Transitional) Regulations 1974 and the Social Security (Incapacity for Work) General Regulations 1974.

Mr. Hague


Mr. Miller

In the light of the criticism that the Department has received from the ombudsman in respect of the disability living allowance and the Child Support Agency, and in the light of concerns that have been expressed by several organisations representing people with disabilities, does not the Minister think that he should withdraw the regulations and reflect on them, or is the House expected to sit back and wait for a hat trick of disasters from the Department?

Mr. Hague

Great care has been taken to ensure that incapacity benefit is fairly and properly implemented. The training of Benefits Agency medical doctors is under way, departmental administrative procedures are being prepared carefully and I have every confidence that the necessary preparations are being made. The hon. Gentleman should reflect on the fact that great work went into the development of the medical test with an expert panel last year. The test was exhaustively tested on real cases by real doctors, and we are confident that it works as it was intended.

Mr. Waterson

Will my hon. Friend confirm that in the past 10 years, when the health of the nation generally has progressed steadily, the number of people in receipt of invalidity benefit has more than doubled to 1.5 million? Does not that show the absolute necessity of targeting payments on the people who really need them?

Mr. Hague

My hon. Friend is right. The number of invalidity benefit claimants has risen from 740,000 in 1983 to more than 1.6 million today. During that time, GPs have often been put in an invidious position. It is right to reform the benefit, and right to do so in the way that we have proposed.