Pensions and welfare

It is a real pleasure to be able to speak in this debate and to follow the moving contributions of my hon. Friend
the Member for Eddisbury (Antoinette Sandbach) and many other Members.

Over the past two and a half years I have met many constituents who have been directly affected by the various changes to the state pension age. Listening to them, it is impossible not to feel every sympathy, given the circumstances in which many find themselves. If I suddenly found out that I would not be able to retire at the age I had expected, I am not sure that I could say how I felt—actually, I probably could, but I fear my language would not be parliamentary.

Mike Wood: I thank my hon. Friend for taking forward the excellent work begun by my hon. Friend Will Quince in the previous Session. He rightly says that most employers would grant leave under such terrible circumstances, were it asked for. Is not the point of the Bill that no parent should, in almost unimaginably horrible and difficult circumstances, have to make such a request and fear what the answer might be?

 

Kevin Hollinrake Conservative, Thirsk and Malton

 Mike Wood: Was my hon. Friend as startled as I was to discover that in the last quarter, nearly 5,000 people were judged to be homeless but not a priority case? Does he welcome the changes in the Bill to address those extremely vulnerable people who are not covered by the existing legislative framework?

 

Kevin Foster Conservative, Torbay

There is a clear need to get the cost of housing benefits under control, but it is also vital that the needs of the most vulnerable are met. These costs have continued to rise, even at times when the number of people receiving housing benefits has reduced. Unless the spiralling cost can be controlled, the system would soon become unviable, severely limiting our ability to support many of the people who need our help the most.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Rosindell, I think for the first time. I thank
the hon. Member for Sheffield Central (Paul Blomfield) for securing this debate on an extremely important issue. Before I begin, I declare an interest in that my brother works in the social care sector—he started a new role on Monday—although he is not directly affected by the issues we are discussing this afternoon.

Mike Wood: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, what assessment she has made of the potential contribution to energy efficiency and low carbon energy from buildings markets to (a) improving infrastructure and (b) implementing the Government's (i) long-term economic plan, (ii) obligations under the Climate Change Act 2008 and (c) commitments to relieve fuel poverty.

 

Andrea Leadsom ​(The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change): 

Mike Wood: Dudley Council is banning dogs from the parts of Himley Park that are most easily accessible to people with visual and other disabilities. May we have a debate on facilities to allow guide dog owners and puppy-walkers to exercise their dogs properly?

 

Chris Grayling Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

Mike Wood: Does my hon. Friend agree that part of the problem is that local authorities’ rush towards adoption makes it more difficult for grandparents to go through the process and demonstrate that they are properly equipped and suited to look after their grandchildren?

 

Lucy Allan (Telford)

I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention and I am delighted that he makes that point.

Mike Wood: I am father to two beautiful children: my seven-year-old daughter Rebecca, and my four-year-old son Ben. To them, there is no such thing as a boy’s job or a girl’s job; maths and science are not off the radar for either of them. I want them to grow up in a society where girls of all ages have choices and opportunities every bit as much as boys. That is why I am so pleased that the Government are committed to eliminating inequality at every stage of life. For women in work, this must mean earning an equal wage.

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