HC Deb 17 July 1995 vol 263 cc1346-8

Lords amendment: No. 8, in page 22, line 40, leave out ("paragraph 1") and insert

("paragraphs 1, 15A, 15B and 15C")

Mr. Andrew Mitchell

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this, it will be convenient to discuss Lords amendments Nos. 12 and 14.

Mr. Mitchell

Northern Ireland has its own child support scheme, under separate Northern Ireland legislation, paralleling the Great Britain scheme. Therefore, few provisions of the 1991 Act or of the Bill—which will become the Child Support Act 1995—apply to Northern Ireland. Those that do apply need to be listed in what will become subsection (6)(c) of section 30 of the 1995 Act.

Amendment No. 8 is a technical amendment that will enable the provisions in paragraphs 15A, 15B and 15C—inserted by Lords amendment Nos. 12, 13 and 14—to extend to Northern Ireland.

Amendment No. 12 inserts paragraph 15A in schedule 3, which introduces a provision for help with travelling and other expenses for people who are required to attend child support commissioners' oral hearings. Such a provision already exists in social security legislation, but due to oversight, no similar arrangements were made in the Child Support Act 1991. The proposed new paragraph to be added to schedule 4 to the 1991 Act by means of the amendment to schedule 3 to the Bill, will achieve a consistent approach.

Our colleagues in Northern Ireland propose to introduce legislation along those lines for their own purposes in due course. Therefore, the amendment proposes an amendment to paragraph 8 of schedule 4 to the 1991 Act, to prevent provision for travel and other expenses from applying to Northern Ireland. I am sure that hon. Members will agree that this is a worthwhile amendment, which rectifies an omission in the 1991 Act. When dealing with amendment No. 13, I explained the effect of the minor drafting amendment in paragraph 15B, which also needs to extend to Northern Ireland.

Amendment No. 14 inserts paragraph 15C in schedule 3, which enables issues arising from the child maintenance bonus scheme to be considered by the Social Security Advisory Committee. It was never our intention to exclude the child maintenance bonus scheme from the scrutiny of the committee. The amendment makes sure that issues arising from that scheme, which is set up under clause 10 of the Child Support Bill, can be dealt with by the Social Security Advisory Committee. That is achieved by amending the definition of enactments in section 170(5) of the Social Security Administration Act 1992 in relation to which the Social Security Advisory Committee can give advice and assistance, to include section 10 of the 1995 Act. A similar change is made to the definition of the Northern Ireland enactments on which the Social Security Advisory Committee can give advice and assistance, including on any enactment corresponding to section 10 of the 1995 Act.

I commend the amendments to the House.

Mr. Bradley

We welcome the amendments and the fact that travelling expenses will be paid for attendance at oral hearings. That brings such hearings into line with similar hearings under social security legislation. We also welcome the fact that the child maintenance bonus can be referred to the Social Security Advisory Committee for its deliberations and comments. I hope that the valued advice that that committee gives to the Minister about the Child Support Agency is accepted more readily than many of the committee's current recommendations on other social security matters.

I refer especially to the withdrawal of income support for mortgage interest payments. The committee was clear that the Government should not proceed with that, but despite that advice and a wealth of other information, the Government pig-headedly went ahead. I hope that in this case, they will listen carefully to the committee's advice. With that caveat, we welcome the amendments.

Lords amendment agreed to.

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