HC Deb 29 April 1998 vol 311 cc406-28

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Dawn Primarolo

I shall not speak to the clause for too long, in case the number of Liberal Democrat Members participating in the debates and votes, which has decreased progressively over the evening, falls any lower.

The clause makes changes to the married couple's allowance to help to fund the child benefit increase of £2.50 a week from next April that was announced by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor. It reduces the rate of relief for married couple's allowance from 1999–2000, from 15 per cent. to 10 per cent. The same restriction applies to the allowances and reliefs that are linked to the married couple's allowance: the additional personal allowance, widow's bereavement allowance and the relief for maintenance payments.

The clause will increase the allowances for married couple's where one partner is 65 or older, or 75 or older. For 1999–2000, it will apply indexation to them as though their 1998–99 amounts had been increased to £4,965 and £5,025 respectively. That will leave couples who are eligible for the age-related married couple's allowance in at least as good a position, all other things being equal, as before the change in the rate of relief.

The Government's priority is to support families through supporting children, and my right hon. Friend the Chancellor spelled out that objective in his Budget speech. Restricting the value of married couple's allowance and allowances linked to it to 10 per cent. will allow us to target support to families with children, including the poorest, who do not pay tax, by raising child benefit by –130 a year. That is the right approach, and I commend the clause to the Committee.

Mrs. Caroline Spelman (Meriden)

I feel strongly about the clause, because the Government's one-third reduction in the married couple's tax allowance is a clear betrayal of their pre-election pledge not to increase taxes. It is a hidden tax on married couples. The Library confirms that mortgage payment increases and tax increases under the new Government mean that typical families are –1,000 worse off, and the reduction in the married couple's tax allowance effectively amounts to a contribution of –80 to the general deterioration in their position.

The reduction is not justified economically. The Government inherited a good economic position—public finances were in good shape when they were elected—and it has further improved as a function of the legacy that they inherited. The Chancellor's forecast was that the public sector borrowing requirement for 1997–98 would be £11.9 billion, and it was projected at £6 billion for 1998–99. It has since gone down, and the figures for 1997–98 and 1998–99 are £5 billion and £3.9 billion respectively. The projection is an improving economic position as a result of that legacy, so the Government did not need to introduce this measure.

What I am about to say is fractionally easier for a new Conservative Member, and may pre-empt comments from Labour Members; it is that our Administration once reduced the married couple's allowance. However, the overall trend under the Conservatives was to increase it. It increased in worth from £546—the figure that we inherited from the previous Labour Government—to £700. Only during the period of severe economic recession was there a change of heart in dealing with it.

8.45 pm

I firmly believe—and am free to do so as a new Member—that the Government's proposal is not a desirable way in which to proceed. It is not justified logically in the way that the new Government have presented it. The Minister repeated the position that the Chancellor set out in his spring Budget, saying that the rationale for cutting the married couple's allowance was to fund the increase in child benefit—taking with one hand and giving with the other. However, married couples and those who have children and receive child benefit are not completely interchangeable groups. There is cross-subsidisation affecting couples who do not have children and those who have them but are no longer in receipt of child benefit.

The change hits married couples with one earner, who already bear a disproportionately large share of the tax burden, particularly hard. It also affects married couples aged 40 or 50 whose children have grown up and who do not receive child benefit but whose children are studying at university. Such couples already face the increased burden of tuition fees and the abolition of student grants. It is wrong to think of married couples without children, or with children who have grown up, as rolling in it and having larger disposable incomes. That does not always follow, and the group is being treated unfairly by the changes; it is a patently unfair tax for them. Nor do I believe that the Government's proposals are the right way to deal with child care. The two issues of taxation of married couples and a proper allowance for child care should be kept separate.

The sums do not add up. The revenue from the reduction in the married couple's allowance falls short of what is required to pay out the additional £2.50 a week in child benefit. More money will have to be found.

Mr. Collins

My hon. Friend is making a powerful speech. Will she reflect on the fact that, before the general election, the Prime Minister signed posters that were displayed up and down the land in which he pledged not to increase income tax? Does she agree that this change is clearly an increase in income tax and therefore a breach of that pledge?

Mrs. Spelman

I am grateful to be reminded of that fact, which brings to mind another statement of the Prime Minister on family policy and taxation that leaves me perplexed because it conflicts with the rationale behind the Chancellor's decision to link the reduction of tax allowances with child benefit. I was present when he made his Budget statement, and I read it carefully. At the outset, he said: Families are the bedrock of a stable and healthy society".—[Official Report, 17 March 1998; Vol. 308, c. 1106.] The Minister repeated that the primary aim of reducing married couple's allowance to assist child benefit was to support families by supporting children. I draw her attention to something that the Prime Minister said in a speech in Aylesbury: For many young women early pregnancy and the absence of a reliable father result in a life of permanent poverty". My concern about the lack of logic in linking the two things is that it tends to reward having children but to denigrate the significance and importance of having them within the institution of marriage.

Dawn Primarolo

Is the hon. Lady suggesting that couples need the incentive of tax relief to make a commitment to each other in marriage, and that that is their only incentive to make that commitment?

Mrs. Spelman

I am not saying that the tax system is the only means by which the institution of marriage can be supported and reassured—of course it is not. There are other means at the Government's disposal and other institutions within our society to support and encourage marriage. However, there is no question that a cut in the allowance given to married couples acts as a signal to society.

After reading of the slightly differing perspectives of the Chancellor and the Prime Minister, my confusion about the statements on marriage and taxation by senior members of the Labour party is completed by the Lord Chancellor, who said: Couples who choose marriage in order to give their children a stable upbringing deserve our strong support. I am left slightly perplexed by those three statements, each taking a slightly different stand.

The reduction in the married couple's tax allowance sends completely the wrong signal at the wrong time, as, over the past 30 years, there has been a steep rise in the divorce rate. I am sure hon. Members are familiar with the statistics, but I shall state them again to throw the problem into relief: two in five new marriages now end in divorce, and more than one third of births occur outside marriage.

If the Government's motivation is to increase security for children, perhaps we should look at how children are affected by divorce: 70 per cent. of dependent children live with their married natural parents, but that figure is falling; 20 per cent. live with a lone parent, but that figure is rising; 9 per cent. live with a step parent, which is a function of the rising divorce rate. What signal does the tax change send? It will not help to support marriage as the goal or the ideal environment in which children should be raised and which gives children that very security that the Prime Minister says is so important for the stability of our society. I am not saying that the fiscal regime alone will help to reduce the divorce rate, but the signals we give are important.

Mr. Oliver Letwin (West Dorset)

Does my hon. Friend agree that, if the logic that the Financial Secretary was half advancing were true, it would also be the case that a £100,000 tax on marriage would make no difference to people's activities? It must the case that there is some incentive effect in addition to the signal effect of which my hon. Friend so rightly speaks.

Mrs. Spelman

I agree. The Government claim that the primary motivation for the change is that it is a means of supporting families through children alone, but that does not fit with academic research on the subject. The national child development study, which was a longitudinal study of 17,000 children born in 1958—by coincidence, my own cohort—shows indisputably that the married two-parent family provides the optimum environment for the nurturing of children. The children of a committed married father do best on the social indices of health, education and employment. Marriage thereby relieves the state of a potential burden, which is the strongest rationale for assisting marriage through the tax system.

I am sure that hon. Members do not want there to be a reduced commitment to marriage, because that would carry significant costs to the state. Before the election, the organisation CARE carried out research into the costs of family breakdown. A significant proportion of the £100 billion spent on social security can be directly attributed to marriage breakdown and the consequences thereof. Support for lone parents costs £10 billion; the cost to the Treasury of relationship breakdown is £4 billion; and, in a more distantly related but nevertheless recognisable feature of marriage breakdown, youth crime costs the Treasury £1 billion. The Government's welfare-to-work initiative appears to be just one narrow perspective from which to tackle welfare dependency. The underpinning of marriage, as the "bedrock of … society"—the Chancellor's words—might be a better way to tackle it.

The logic behind the proposed change is flawed: it sends a confused signal to society; and it leaves the typical family worse off.

Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury)

In strenuously opposing the measure, I join my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman) in observing that, in the past few months, the Government and the Prime Minister have said a great deal about the family and about values. Indeed, as the Government said in their manifesto, Taxation is not neutral in the way it raises revenue. How and what is taxed sends clear signals about the … values Governments wish to entrench in society"— the point that my hon. Friend has just made.

There are two clear reasons why marriage is important to society; my hon. Friend has mentioned both, so I shall be brief. First, marriage is in the interests of the children. The first major study ever published in that subject area is worth quoting, because it came from a socialist sociology professor—not an obviously prejudiced source—Norman Dennis.

Mr. Andrew Love (Edmonton)

I do not think that we can allow the hon. Gentleman, as a member of the previous Administration, to make his contribution without commenting on the fact that that Administration not only froze the allowance but reduced it twice. Perhaps he will explain why we now have this about-turn.

Mr. Brazier

I do not defend the cut in the married couple's allowance under the previous Administration. I had, in fact, resigned from that Administration to fight on another issue, and I am delighted that the Conservative party has since changed its policy. Indeed, it did so before the general election, and the manifesto on which I fought was committed to another policy, which I shall say something about later.

The Norman Dennis academic study—in my opinion, one of the best that has ever been carried out on the family—showed that, within individual socio-economic groups, comparing like with like and income with income, children born of and raised by married couples, whether or not they were adopted or the natural children of those couples, did consistently better across every major index. They were less likely to fall into crime. [Interruption.] I see nothing amusing about that. Perhaps the hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Love) would like to intervene again. Children born and raised in married couple households were less likely to become involved in drug taking, more likely to perform well at school and more likely to obtain the type of worthwhile employment that hon. Members from all political parties seek for our young people.

It is in the interests of children, therefore, that marriage be encouraged. It is also in the interests of the taxpayer. I shall not repeat the statistics that my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden cited, showing how much the taxpayer loses as a result of family breakdown, but I should like to give a further statistic which, to my mind, encapsulates the whole picture, for children's interests—because, as far as I know, no one denies that stable relationships are better than unstable ones for children—and for the taxpayer, given that most broken relationships end up being supported by the taxpayer.

The Library dug up that statistic for me two or three months ago, from the standard sources of social statistics. A child born 10 years ago to a married couple has an 81 per cent. chance that its parents are still married. If a child was born 10 years ago to an unmarried couple in an allegedly stable relationship, in 85 per cent. of cases that couple, if they did not later marry—of course, in some cases, they did, which is welcome—have now separated. It is the difference between an 81 per cent. chance of continuing stability with marriage and a 15 per cent. chance in its absence.

Mr. Letwin

Does my hon. Friend agree that that interesting evidence is paralleled in almost every major country of western Europe?

Mr. Brazier

Indeed—and in America, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

The hon. Member for Edmonton made the fair point that my party cut the married couple's allowance. I did not support that, and I thought at the time that it was a mistake. I maintain, however, that there is no hypocrisy in our voting against this measure, because we fought on a manifesto that included the most imaginative tax proposal to emerge from the Conservative party in the past decade: the transferable tax allowance. It would recognise the work of the non-working spouse—usually but not always the mother—who chooses to stay at home to look after children or a dependent relative. That idea was recently endorsed by our new leader. It would recognise the importance of marriage and the vital role of those who stay at home to care for children or relatives.

I find it extraordinary that the Government should simultaneously introduce measures providing public money to encourage the care of children by everyone except their parents or relatives, and strike out against marriage in this extraordinary fashion.

9 pm

Mr. Howard Flight (Arundel and South Downs)

There are two aspects to the subject under debate: the general level of taxation on the average family, and the married couple's allowance. As a new Member of Parliament I was self-evidently not involved in the events before the election. I disagreed strongly with the direction in which both parties were heading, which was to make the tax system for marriage at best neutral and at worst a disincentive.

Taxation on the average family has been increasing far faster than the growth in national income. The new Administration have continued that trend; after one year, the average family is paying about £1,000 more in tax.

Mr. Dale Campbell-Savours (Workington)

Is it not a rather nauseating spectacle to watch Conservative Members queueing up to dissociate themselves from the brutal decisions taken by the former Administration, supported largely by people sitting on the Opposition Benches this evening who never rebelled and who always voted for those monstrous measures?

Mr. Flight

As an enlightened member of the Labour party, you will not, I hope, do the same thing this evening. If you care about these matters I am sure that you will vote against—

The Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Mr. Michael Lord)

Order. I am not responsible for any of these matters.

Mr. Flight

I apologise, Mr. Lord. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will heed his own comments. If he believes in supporting the married family unit, I am sure that he will not want to vote for measures that discourage that unit.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Let me make my position clear: I support precisely what the Government are doing. We are standing by our election manifesto, and I for one will not dissociate myself from it in five years' time.

Mr. Flight

The Labour election manifesto did not mention increasing taxation, yet you have increased taxation substantially. Your Prime Minister—

The Second Deputy Chairman

Order. Hon. Members, when they get carried away, sometimes fail to use the correct parliamentary language. I would ask the hon. Gentleman to try to do so from here on.

Mr. Flight

I apologise again, Mr. Lord. I care a great deal about these issues, it is true. The Prime Minister of the new Government is pledged to support the family unit, which is why I am surprised that the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) should be so complacent about the increases in taxation being imposed and about this attack on married families.

As we have heard, at the last election we Conservatives saw the error of our ways. The transferable allowance was an important step and a major change. The Conservative party in the new Parliament is unanimously committed to tax measures to support the family.

Some hon. Members may have read an interesting article in The Economist on the impact of the Government's family credit measures. It suggests that a married father will need to earn somewhat more than £400 a week for him to be worth having as a spouse, and he will also need to have fairly frugal habits, or the wife and mother is better off without him as a husband. Does that encourage the married family unit? It reveals the fundamental weakness of the Government's family credit proposals.

The Committee does not need convincing that children grow up better with two parents. That is shown when the crime figures are considered and when the children's educational attainment and subsequent careers are reviewed. It is established across the board that the prospects of children are enormously improved if they grow up with two parents looking after them.

Mr. Love

I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way. The married couple's tax allowance is paid to unmarried couples. In some circumstances it is paid to a single family member. Will the hon. Gentleman comment on the chaotic way in which family supplement is currently guaranteed? My right hon. Friend the Chancellor stated:

"The only way to make sense of a chaotic system is to make our primary aim that of supporting families through supporting children."
Mr. Flight

There may be anomalies in the present married couple's allowance and there may be ways of tidying it up. All of us want to help children, but the hon. Gentleman misses the point. The crucial question is what signal we are sending to our society. Are we sending a fiscal signal which says that marriage is a good system in which to bring up children, or a fiscal signal which says that we care not at all and want to discourage marriage?

I speak to my friends in India, who say that we are mad as a country to lose the stable base of our society.

Mr. Love


Mr. Flight

I have given way sufficiently. The hon. Gentleman will no doubt have a chance to make his own speech.

It was argued that the reduction in the married couple's allowance was needed to help finance the increase in child benefit, which it does not finance in its entirety. Furthermore, we have heard that the rules need tidying up. The question of who qualifies for the allowance, especially in cases of divorce, is complex and anomalous. I do not deny that, but it is no excuse for reducing the allowance still further.

We have problems with housing. We are destroying our countryside. The problems are caused not by a massive growth in population, but by a massive growth in the number of single owner-occupiers. We are endeavouring to feed that trend by provision to meet the alleged demand for such housing. As a society, through our housing policy and our tax policy, we send the signal that we are not interested in supporting the married unit in which to bring up children.

There is great hypocrisy in what the Prime Minister says and the example that he looks to set to society as a married Christian gentleman with a happy family, while the Administration, possibly with the best intentions for children from difficult backgrounds, does not provide the fiscal support that the Conservative Government failed to provide for the married family unit. We will destroy ourselves as a people if most of our children, from all walks of life, do not grow up with that security. I pledge myself, and whatever time I may have in politics, to ensuring that we reverse that trend and return to a decent society where children are brought up in families where the parents are married.

Mr. Letwin

Much that my hon. Friends have said is so eloquent and covers so much ground that there is little for me to say about the various aspects of the matter. However, there are some points to add. The first arises from the debate. The Financial Secretary made an intervention and, the more one reflects upon it, the more extraordinary it becomes. The Financial Secretary is a member of a Government who, throughout the Budget debate and other debates, have asserted that tax policy can have a huge effect on behaviour.

I was privileged to listen to a bravura reading by the Financial Secretary of large amounts of text provided by her officials, which explained why long-termism in investment would be encouraged by a taper in place of indexation. She may be right: it may incentivise long-termism in disinvestment—but let us leave that aside for a moment. There is no doubt that the measure will affect behaviour.

We are told repeatedly that the Government have reformed and now understand capitalism and the laws of supply and demand—and, in other words, understand that prices and taxes have an effect on behaviour. If those propositions are true, it must also be true that the taxation of marriage or the lack thereof or positive incentives to marriage will gradually—I do not claim that people will marry in order to secure a particular gain—affect behaviour over time. If the Financial Secretary seriously challenges that view, she undermines the basis of her Government's actions throughout the Budget and most of their future progress.

My second point has to do with the combination of the Chancellor and the Minister for Welfare Reform. I suppose that, following the intervention by the Deputy Prime Minister in the environmental sphere, we should think of them as a sort of "Brown-Field". That "Brown-Field" is facing a serious problem. The "Field" aspect of the "Brown-Field" believes that there is a huge problem with single-parent families. Over many years, the Minister for Welfare Reform has eloquently written books that some of us absorbed virtually in our childhood, about the need to tackle the problem of the one-parent family. Many of us have come to believe that he is absolutely right.

The right hon. Gentleman has spoken not just about that, but about the urgent need to ensure that the welfare system—which he, the Government and Ministers present in the Chamber believe is so intimately tied to the tax system—does not provide incentives to vice. I think that I have quoted the Minister more or less ipsissima verba. By vice, he meant something very old-fashioned: raising children outside a stable relationship. That is what the "Field" part of the "Brown-Field" wants to achieve.

The "Brown" bit of the "Brown-Field" has put before us a set of quite different measures, which provide an incentive not to begin the business of raising children—the Financial Secretary cannot argue that it is otherwise—according to what my hon. Friends have amply demonstrated is history's best method of keeping parents together for the sake of the children. There is a clear contradiction between two parts of a policy—both of which, ironically, have been announced and brought to the House in the same year. It is perhaps the most extraordinary example of the laws of unintended consequences and attempts at social engineering utterly defeating each other. [Interruption.] I do not defend, any more than do some of my hon. Friends, the actions of the previous Government towards the end of their tenure. [Interruption.]

The Chairman of Ways and Means (Sir Alan Haselhurst)

Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman. I must inform the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) that I do not want to hear a sedentary chorus.

Mr. Letwin

Thank you, Sir Alan. I was rather enjoying that sedentary chorus, but I am grateful to you for silencing it.

I do not defend the actions of the previous Government—in fact, I think that they were wrong and shameful. They were not ill intentioned—just as the acts of this Government are not ill intentioned—but they had bad effects and were likely, over time, to have bad effects. It was a great symptom of the ability of the previous Government to think about the consequences of their actions and to remedy mistakes that in the closing days of that Administration they brought forward the only policy that so far has been put before the country or the House of Commons that might have reversed the position that we are discussing. The transferable tax allowance could have resulted in the financial advantages of marriage, which is in part an economic unit, being greater than in 1979. I have not been able to ascertain the exact position, but I think that the advantages would have been greater than at any other time in recent British history.

9.15 pm

That is the measure which those of us who have been speaking against the clause have been using as a basis for our arguments. It is the reason why we would have been in favour of the amendment tabled to it, had it been selected. We believe, I think unanimously on the Opposition Benches, that the transferable allowance is an answer that could have been adopted by the Government, and would have been adopted by them if they were serious about the position of marriage.

I move on to two possible attacks. First, it might be argued that the position that my hon. Friends and I have been advancing is somehow illiberal: that marriage, somehow, may be a life style choice—one among many—and that it is authoritarian, or evidence of an attempt to use the state, to teach people how to lead their moral lives, or an attempt to argue that the tax system should consciously favour rather than disfavour marriage.

If we were saying that marriage itself should be favoured as a way of life, regardless of children, it could be argued that we were adopting an illiberal position. I believe that marriage as between a man and a woman living together may in any event be preferable, but that is a matter entirely for those individuals, involving their conscience, their moral outlook and their religion. It is not a matter for the state.

The reasoning that has been repeatedly advanced by my hon. Friends is not illiberal. We are not advancing an uncaring or authoritarian reason, but one that is based on the interests of children, in trying to give children the best chance of a stable upbringing. I do not think that anyone could argue that that case should be dismissed on the ground of illiberalism.

Nor can it be argued that there is any substitute for this incentive, in producing changes in taxation or welfare that benefit children. It has been argued implicitly already by the Financial Secretary that the clause is to be welcomed because it is to be seen as a natural substitution for what was previously a tax subsidy for the married couple. Now, hey presto, there is a further tax subsidy for children themselves. How kind. How caring. How much a measure to look after our children is it, that we are moving from merely giving a tax advantage to giving increased child benefit, a move that will have a direct effect on children?

The interesting feature of that approach is that it contradicts the logic that the Financial Secretary was advancing, and goes beyond that to suggest that the hon. Lady and her colleagues are engaging in the view of children that Marx described as commodity fetishism. The Minister is arguing effectively that what looks after children best is a little more money for them. That is not a case that the Opposition would accept for a moment. It is our contention—this should appeal to those who believe that in the end, as all good socialists should, money is not the be all and end all—

Mr. Brazier

Does my hon. Friend agree that the Government have endorsed the view that he has outlined, with statements from the Lord Chancellor about the importance of marriage and of providing Government funding for marriage counselling?

Mr. Letwin

My hon. Friend is right. We are saying that it matters far more to children that there should be a stable relationship between the parents than that there should be a bit more money, whether it be for child care or in child benefit. That is not to say that some more money may not help children, but the brunt of our argument is that it is vastly more important that the money be used over time to engender a structure of society in which children can expect throughout their childhood to have a stable family background than it is to improve their mere economic lot.

If we inspect the proposals as a whole, we see that they are not merely incoherent but will tend to have the opposite result, for the very reasons that some of my hon. Friends have begun to expose. The child care package within the working families tax credit arrangements is remarkable, and it relates in a remarkable way to the clause. It gives couples, whether married or not, an incentive to farm out their children to some other person to look after them.

Mrs. Ann Winterton (Congleton)

I am enjoying the speech of my hon. Friend, who speaks for most Conservative Members. Will he reflect on the position in which I found myself some years ago, when I chose to stay at home to raise my children rather than go out to work? I hoped to give my children a sense of identity and security, which nothing but the presence of their mother could give them, by being there when they came home from school. Will my hon. Friend comment on the fact that people who choose to do that rather than to enhance the family's earning power are treated almost as second-class citizens? Do they not do the most valuable job that can be done—nurturing the next generation and giving them a sense of security and identity, which is vital for their eventual well-being?

Mr. Letwin

I thoroughly agree with my hon. Friend, as I often do. However, the picture is even worse than she paints. Under the "Brown-Field" proposals, she would have had a double choice. She could have engaged in an elaborate fraud and pretended that, in looking after her own children, she was looking after her neighbour's children, and her neighbour could have done likewise. She would thereby have obtained the better part of £100 a week in subsidy from the state. Alternatively, she could have abandoned genuinely looking after her own children and looked after her neighbour's children. All my hon. Friends agree that that would be to the great disadvantage of both sets of children. She would have thereby legitimately benefited from £100 or more a week.

The logic of the package of proposals is clear. It runs roughly like this: first, we ensure that there is the least possible incentive to get married. I suppose that we shall merely continue the ratchet until we have removed the married couple's allowance and perhaps even taxed marriage. That minimises the chance of a stable family background for children. We then ensure that, as far as possible, mothers or fathers do not stay at home to look after the children, but go out either to work or to look after other people's children—or both. Finally, we ensure that, if the mother or father chooses to stay at home, he or she must either be engaged in an elaborate fraud or must sacrifice the £100, and may not benefit from the transferable tax allowance, which the Conservatives would have offered.

Mr. Brazier

Before my hon. Friend leaves the subject of child care and the problems that it throws up in terms of injustice and scope for fraud, will he say whether he has looked closely at the Swedish model of the 1970s and 1980s? It is perceived that public spending generally in Sweden broke the back of the Swedish economy and eventually led to the kind of cuts with which we have been familiar for the past few years. In reality, a single item of public spending—the cost of child care—caused that to happen, as the economy went into a vicious cycle. It was exactly the cycle that my hon. Friend has described, but with one extra feature, which is just beginning to rear its head here: an increasing demand for nationally—

The Chairman

Order. The hon. Gentleman is beginning to lose sight of the distinction between an intervention and a speech. That still applies in Committee. I call Mr. Letwin.

Mr. Letwin

I feel sad not to have heard the end of my hon. Friend's remarks. Although I admit that I am not in the habit of inspecting Swedish models, I have inspected at length the arrangements in Sweden to which he refers. He is absolutely right: there is no doubt whatever that, if not the sole cause, at least a major cause of the catastrophic implosion of the Swedish welfare state was the child care proposals. If we are to believe the Institute for Fiscal Studies, we shall probably have a similar explosion of expenditure in this country. The IFS estimates that the child care package will require about £4 billion a year of expenditure.

That £4 billion is the final factor in the sequence of logic that I was describing. Even when, contrary to the signals and incentives provided by the state under this so-called enlightened Government, the couple have married and are sticking together, the mother—or sometimes the father—may go out to work and look after someone else's children. We shall have a nation of people who have been brought up outside the married unit by persons other than their parents.

Mr. Gibb

Will my hon. Friend help me to understand the discrepancy between the Government's estimate of the cost of the child care tax credit, at £250 million a year, and the IFS's estimate of £4 billion a year? Can my hon. Friend illuminate the discrepancy?

Mr. Letwin

I think that I can easily illuminate the discrepancy, although I am sure that my hon. Friend knows the explanation. The discrepancy is straightforward. The estimate made by optimists in the Treasury—whether Ministers or officials we shall never know—assumed that there would be a slight take-up of the child care provisions, whereas the IFS, whose view I entirely share, made its estimate on the assumption that, faced with the choices that my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton (Mrs. Winterton) mentioned, most mothers would either go out to work and look after someone else's children, or engage in the legitimate fraud that I described, of swapping children to look after.

Mrs. Louise Ellman (Liverpool, Riverside)

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that his comments distort the Government's proposals, which extend choice and react to a known need? If the Conservative party is concerned about families and children, why did it take the election of a Labour Government to produce the largest ever increase in child benefit?

The Chairman

Order. Hon. Members are beginning to lose sight of the distinction between the child care proposals and the married couple's allowance. I hope that the hon. Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin) will recognise that distinction.

Mr. Letwin

I shall try to follow your admonition, Sir Alan, although I must say that, if the hon. Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Mrs. EIIman) had been present a little earlier, she would have heard Conservative Members contend that incentives to marriage, which creates stable relationships, cannot be replaced by financial advantages related to children. Children benefit more from relationships than from money.

Mr. Love

The hon. Gentleman referred to signals and incentives. I mentioned the inherent confusion in the system between married couples, unmarried couples and single mothers. How are we getting clear signals and incentives?

Mr. Letwin

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman raised that canard, because I had intended to deal with it earlier. The Chancellor brought to our attention a particular phenomenon. Under the married couple's allowance as it is currently administered, if couples divorce in a year, they continue to receive the allowance. Indeed, I do not think that the Inland Revenue would know how to deprive them of it. If the Chancellor believes that that should be used as an excuse for wrecking an entire system of incentives, he is unaware of the dictum that difficult cases make bad law.

By and large, the married couple's allowance is exactly that: an allowance for married couples. Married couples the length and breadth of the country know that perfectly well. The transferable tax allowance, had it been introduced—we hope that it will be in due course—would have had exactly the same effect. People who enter into such relationships are not stupid, and they know, roughly speaking, what is going on. The fact that there are some anomalies we can happily leave to one side.

Mrs. Ann Winterton

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way, because he has been generous in allowing interventions. The hon. Member for Riverside said that the new Labour Government had extended choice.

The Chairman

Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Lady, but I am sure that she above all knows that she should not speak with her back to the Chair.

Mrs. Winterton

You are quite right, Sir Alan, and I apologise humbly. It was extremely rude of me to turn around. During the years when I was a member of the Chairman's Panel, I called many hon. Members to order on that score, but this is the first time that it has happened to me. It just shows how easily we forget, and I apologise again.

Let me return to the subject of the married couple's allowance. Is it not a fact that, had they so wished, the new Labour Government could have extended choice in whatever way they wanted without affecting the allowance? Is it not also true that the action that they have taken, and the strong signals emanating from the Labour Benches tonight, suggest that the Government do not rate marriage—which is to the detriment of children?

9.30 pm
Mr. Letwin

My hon. Friend is entirely right. She also reminds me that I should have answered the point made by the hon. Member for Riverside about choice. I think that what underlay that comment was the idea that this was purely a question of a neutral life style choice. That is a pernicious idea. It applies to adults in relationships, but it does not apply to children. Children do not enter this world by choice, and they do not have a choice about how they are brought up. It is therefore of the greatest importance for adults to be guided into a choice that enables children in later life—because they have grown up in a certain way—to make choices on an informed and mature basis.

At the end of all the logic, there is a proposition that I do not think Labour Members can possibly deny. The sum total of their proposals—the "Brown-Field" proposals—is that people should as far as possible be given at least a minimal incentive to marry, and the maximum incentive not to look after their children. I cannot believe that Labour Members really want that to happen. I find it extraordinary.

If the Government were arguing that that was the way in which they wanted British society to be structured, among other things they would not be where they are in the opinion polls today; but at least the position would be straightforward, and policy would flow. [Interruption.] I think that the effects of such a proposition would be profound and dramatic. Millions of people—including nearly all my constituents, divided as they are on many other matters—would find it a thoroughly repugnant notion. That is why the Government never say that they want anything to be done.

In fact, I do the Government an injustice. I do not believe that Ministers, or any of the "Brown-Field" mafia, want to bring about such an effect; I think that they have simply designed a set of proposals each of which is intended to have some other effect. The reduction in the married couple's allowance in particular is meant to fund variously described benefits—the child benefit increases, or perhaps the child care package. The child care package, in turn, is intended somehow to overcome the problems of single mothers, for instance, who are trying to return to work.

Each of the proposals has its own logic. It is a logic that we can understand and with which, in many ways, we can sympathise, but unfortunately the whole package has been produced without any thought being devoted to the long-term social consequences. That is a catastrophe. The Government probably did not want to engender that catastrophe, and, if they have any sense, they may reverse it—I hope not after 18 or even five years. I hope that they will do that, just as after five years of doing the wrong thing—I freely admit that it was the wrong thing—we reversed what we were doing. We learned, and we should not be ashamed of having learned. Indeed, we should be proud of it. What the present Government must now do is realise the effect that they are having, and learn the same lessons.

Mr. Gibb

I, too, oppose clause 27, which we should not forget is a tax-raising clause. I am reminded of what happened during the general election campaign. The right hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair), now Prime Minister, said on 21 September 1996—[Interruption.] Would the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) like to intervene? If not, I shall continue.

On 21 September 1996, the right hon. Member for Sedgefield said in Birmingham—as reported by the Financial Times:

We have no plans to increase tax at all. On 8 April 1997, during the general election campaign, the Chancellor told GMTV:

There's no black hole for the Labour party because we've got no public spending commitments that require extra taxes. However, within two months of coming to power, Labour introduced 17 tax rises, including the £5 billion a year hit on Britain's pension funds. Labour won the election on a clear pledge that it would not raise taxes but, after two months and a Budget in which the Government raised taxes, the general election pledge was reinterpreted. It was no longer to be regarded as a pledge not to raise taxes, but as one not to raise income tax. The Government were free to raise taxes in other areas.

On 17 March, the Government announced the reduction in the married couple's allowance. That reduction is incorporated in clause 27, and it will raise for the Exchequer £720 million in 1999-2000 and £1.08 billion in 2000-01. On top of that, the MIRAS change and other measures raised income tax bills. As a result of clause 27, the take-home pay of people who claim the married couple's allowance will fall. After the March Budget, the Government reinterpreted again their general election pledge. It became not a pledge not to raise taxes or income tax. Lo and behold, it became a pledge not to raise the basic and higher rates of income tax. Hon. Members may say that there were posters all over Britain making it absolutely clear—

The Chairman

Order. I think that the hon. Gentleman knows that he is going much wider than is permitted in the discussion of the clause. One fleeting reference to its subject matter is not enough.

Mr. Gibb

My point is different from those of my hon. Friends. It is that clause 27 is the Bill's key income-tax-raising measure. It raises more tax than almost any other Budget measure. It will raise £1 billion next year, and it is therefore an income tax rise and completely in breach of a general election pledge. I have raised the issue in debate and in Treasury questions, and the Chief Secretary and the Chancellor have said that, during the general election campaign, they made no such pledge, that the only pledge they made was not to raise income tax rates. In my view, Labour pledged not only not to raise income tax, but not to raise taxes generally.

Mr. Philip Hammond (Runnymede and Weybridge)

I am listening carefully to my hon. Friend, and I agree with much of what he says. Does he agree that the linkage to increases in child benefit is purely bogus? Does he further agree that the Treasury routinely resists hypothecation of taxes but, when it is convenient, the Government put up a smokescreen by the bogus linking of an unpopular tax increase that is contrary to their manifesto commitments to a popular increase in another benefit?

Mr. Gibb

My hon. Friend is right, and I am grateful to him for that explanation.

My party's proposal at the general election of a personal allowance that was transferable between married partners would have achieved far more than the married couple's allowance ever could. It would have done much to remedy the unfairness to the spouse who remains at home to look after children or the house. Such spouses who work at home cannot claim any value from the personal allowance to which they would be entitled if they were working. The transferable tax allowance would enable people to benefit from the personal allowance even if they were not working. One of its key aspects is that it would have helped people off welfare and into work. It would have given people who earn a relatively low salary—£8,000 or £10,000 a year—at least £8,000 of tax-free allowance.

The clause is the Government's key tax-raising measure. It will raise £1 billion in tax, which is equivalent to 0.5p on the rate of income tax. It is a clear breach of the Labour party's general election pledge not to raise income tax. I urge the Committee to reject the clause.

Mr. Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks)

The debate has been refreshing, as it is not often that we properly discuss marriage. It has also been hopeful, as so many new Conservative Members have spoken. They have concentrated not on the details of past tax changes, but on what is likely to work in the future—we have seen a glimpse of the new Conservatism.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman), who is a former constituent of mine, on her exceptional speech, which was as eloquent as it was practical. She made the important point that the system sends out signals.

My hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier) has long championed family values. He, too, reminded us of the Conservative party's forward-looking manifesto commitment to transferable allowances, to which I shall return.

My hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs (Mr. Flight) well illustrated the weaknesses of the proposed family credit system, and emphasised his personal commitment, in the new Conservatism, to family values and the importance of marriage.

My hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin) skilfully contrasted the moral and fiscal views of marriage, and made the very important point that children, unlike adults, cannot make life style choices.

My hon. Friend the Member for Congleton (Mrs. Winterton) made an important speech, in which she spoke about her work in giving her children a sense of identity. I am bound to say that the Committee may find the idea hard to take that the children of my hon. Friend and of my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) lack a sense of identity, but her point was well made.

Finally, my hon. Friend the Member for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton (Mr. Gibb) reminded us of Labour's broken promises. Having acquired a tattered copy of Labour's somewhat battered manifesto, I shall return to that point.

The Financial Secretary devoted much of her defence of the clause not to the cut—in fact, she said only that the Government had made changes to the married couple's allowance—but to the fact that the allowance had been indexed for older couples. Last night, she generously accepted the principle behind amendment No. 14—that gaming duty in casinos should be indexed. If indexation is good enough for casinos, it should be good enough for families. I am disappointed that the clause does not provide for indexation for married couples.

Let us be clear about the clause: it cuts the married couple's allowance by a third, from 15 per cent. to 10 per cent. in April next year. It raises tax—£700 million next year and £1 billion in the following year. Most couples will be £80 a year worse off. This is a marriage tax. It is a tax on families, and we oppose it.

Contrary to the proposal that is before us, the purpose of our manifesto pledges was to strengthen the family and to build on the married couple's allowance. We put forward an imaginative proposal, to which several of my hon. Friends have referred, to ensure that personal allowances that, at the moment, cannot be transferred from the non-taxpayer to the tax-paying spouse, should be so transferred. Those non-taxpayers who, like my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton, give up work to look after their children or a dependent relative, lose out twice: on the income that they deny themselves and on the value of the allowance. Therefore, we pledged to modernise the system to allow a married carer or a married parent to transfer allowances to working spouses.

9.45 pm

Some 2 million one-taxpayer couples who had children or dependent relatives would, on average, have gained £17.50 per week—exactly the same couples who will now lose £80 a year. Under our system, there would not have been losers. Of course, double tax-paying couples would not have benefited and, overall, there would have been a cost of some £1.2 billion a year. We wanted to help families and to strengthen marriage.

This debate is apposite. On 27 April 1997, a year ago this week, the Chancellor of the Exchequer told Channel 4:

I want to see tax cuts for the ordinary family". Ordinary families do not get much recognition in this Bill. Hard-working families who spend on their children, save for their future and do not claim benefit, often feel that they are the forgotten families. They do not get the largesse, the special allowances or the giros, yet it is on those families that our country's social core and we depend to bring up the next generation in stability and with responsibility. Instead, by this clause and by this Budget, without warning, they get hammered.

Labour Members—not one has risen to defend the clause—will recall that there was no mention of this cut in Labour's manifesto. Indeed, it claimed:

We will uphold family life as the most secure means of bringing up our children. We will keep under continuous review all aspects of the tax and benefits systems to ensure that they are supportive of families and children. There was nothing in the manifesto about the cut in the married couple's allowance that is being brought forward in this Budget. Indeed, there is nothing in the manifesto about marriage itself; the word "marriage" cannot be found in it. I said "a word". It is true that, on page 26, there is a picture of a bride who is doubly happy—partly because it is obviously her wedding day and partly because she did not, of course, know then that the married couple's allowance was going to be cut just a year into her marriage.

One year on, this Government have betrayed the ordinary family. They have broken their election promise. They are cynically taxing the heart of our country. We say that this is a tax too far. The Bill is bad enough. It is long enough. I advise my hon. Friends to shorten it, to strengthen the family, to underpin marriage and to delete clause 27.

Dawn Primarolo

There is something particularly repugnant about Conservative Members lecturing everyone else on morality. I am reminded of their lectures to us all in their back-to-basics campaign, in which they themselves failed so appallingly to reach the heights of morality that they were prescribing for others. Today's debate should be characterised as "new conservatism, no responsibility". Conservative Members have taken no responsibility for the mess that was created over 18 years by the previous Administration.

Although each Conservative Member speaking in this debate was quick to mention the Government's betrayal, they were also quick to denounce and distance themselves from the previous Government. Many of them must have voted Labour to ensure that that wicked Government were not re-elected, so abysmal was their performance.

I should remind the Committee of the previous Government's legacy, and of the mess—the chaos, as it has been described in this debate—in which they left taxation of married couples. They left a situation in which the state provides married couples with a tax allowance, but in which the state will pay exactly the same amount at exactly the same rate to unmarried couples with children, regardless of whether those couples have ever been married. Moreover, the state pays exactly the same amount at the same rate to single parents as to married couples. Indeed, the state pays the same amount, for up to one year, to couples who separate or divorce, regardless of whether they have children.

Such was the previous Government's confusion in attempting to develop, we are told, a coherent policy on the family that the mind boggles in attempting to contemplate what they were trying to achieve. Conservative Members have shown great audacity in attempting to lecture Labour Members on the matter.

Sir Alan, I do not know whether I should declare an interest, but I am married—although only because of personal commitment to my husband and not because someone provided me with an incentive to do so.

Mr. Oliver Heald (North-East Hertfordshire)

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Dawn Primarolo

The hon. Gentleman did not participate in the debate—such is his motivation to defend the family. I can therefore think of no reason to let him intervene.

Mr. Letwin


Dawn Primarolo:

If the hon. Gentleman will allow me to finish my point, I shall give way to him, as he participated in the debate.

Such is the confusion in the current system that, if a married couple with children split up, both the man and the woman may receive for up to one year the equivalent of the full married couple's allowance. Therefore, under the previous Government's policy, a separated couple may receive up to twice the allowance received by a married couple.

The fact is that 3 million children are living in poverty. How can Conservative Members lecture us about family security and stability under the previous Government's policies? Perhaps the hon. Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin) would like to answer that question.

Mr. Letwin

I was actually planning on asking the Minister whether she is making the argument—which she has half-repeated—that financial incentives have no effect on social behaviour?

Dawn Primarolo

I am arguing, on behalf of the Government, that policy directed to supporting families should concentrate on children—as my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has stated. The Government—faced with the prospect of confusion in the tax system and with so many children living in poverty and in workless households—are trying to right the situation.

It is ridiculous for Conservative Members to claim that, in government, they were in favour of stability and security for children. They froze child benefit, and it took the election of the present Government to secure the largest rise ever.

Despite the fact that he voted with the Conservative Government when they cut the married couple's allowance, the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier), the president of the Conservative Family Campaign, now tells us that they got it all wrong. He has changed his mind and thinks that there is another way forward. I encourage him to support us in our policies to ensure that children are supported, as the best way of having stable families that can move out of the poverty trap. He should not suggest, as he did earlier, that the Swedish economy has collapsed.

Mr. Brazier

To focus on one among that bundle of points, will the Financial Secretary pick up, at some point in her speech, the idea of transferable tax allowances—first floated by the Conservative Family Campaign eight years ago—on which every Conservative candidate fought in the general election?

Dawn Primarolo

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman can account for what he fought the general election on, but I suppose that the question is why the Conservative policy was different at all previous elections. Perhaps there is a message to him in the fact that not only did his party lose that election but opinion polls show that the Government have gained increased support in the past 12 months. I am sure that many Government Members would be interested in having a recount in their constituencies today.

Conservative Members, having pursued for 18 years a policy that undermined families, and especially families with children, now say that we attack marriage because we are giving more to families with children. How can that be the case? It is unbelievable that they cannot support the principle that families with children must be our priority.

Mr. Gibb

If the Financial Secretary is so proud of the policies that she is proposing, why have no Government Back Benchers spoken in favour of the clause, or indeed of clause 25?

Dawn Primarolo

Because they do not want to waste the Committee's time by repeating the arguments that I am advancing, and with which I know that they entirely agree. The Opposition asked for this debate, but they were struggling for speakers and asked us to allow the debate to finish earlier. The hon. Gentleman made a ridiculous point in a serious debate, and I am sorry that he felt it necessary to do so.

Conservatives argue that we are attacking families by giving them more money to care for their children. If that is the new Conservatism, the sooner we have another general election that they can contest on that principle, the better.

The hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. Fallon) spoke about stability, security and responsibility: the stability that the Government are giving to families with children; the security that those families are given by the opportunities and choices provided by this Government and denied them by the Conservative Government; and the responsibility that the Government recognise to lift children and families out of poverty.

I encourage the Committee to support the clause, which supports families and children, and to reject the Opposition's proposals.

Question put, That the clause stand part of the Bill:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 275, Noes 123.

Division No. 264] [9.59 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Bradshaw, Ben
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N) Brake, Tom
Ainger, Nick Brinton, Mrs Helen
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)
Alexander, Douglas Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Allan, Richard Browne, Desmond
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale) Burden, Richard
Armstrong, Ms Hilary Burgon, Colin
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Byers, Stephen
Ashton, Joe Caborn, Richard
Atherton, Ms Candy Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Atkins, Charlotte Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Baker, Norman Campbell, Menzies (NE Fife)
Barnes, Harry Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Battle, John Campbell—Savours, Dale
Bayley, Hugh Canavan, Dennis
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret Cann, Jamie
Begg, Miss Anne Caton, Martin
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough) Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Chaytor, David
Bennett, Andrew F Chisholm, Malcolm
Benton, Joe Clark, Dr Lynda
Bermingham, Gerald (Edinburgh Pentlands)
Betts, Clive Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Blizzard, Bob Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)
Blunkett, Rt Hon David Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Boateng, Paul Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Borrow, David Clelland, David
Bradley, Keith (Withington) Clwyd, Ann
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin) Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Keeble, Ms Sally
Cooper, Yvette Keetch, Paul
Cotter, Brian Kennedy, Charles (Ross Skye)
Cousins, Jim Kidney, David
Cox, Tom Kilfoyle, Peter
Cranston, Ross Kingham, Ms Tess
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley) Kirkwood, Archy
Cummings, John Kumar, Dr Ashok
Cunliffe, Lawrence Lawrence, Ms Jackie
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr John Laxton, Bob
(Copeland) Lepper, David
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S) Leslie, Christopher
Dalyell, Tam Levitt, Tom
Darling, Rt Hon Alistair Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Davey, Edward (Kingston) Liddell, Mrs Helen
Davidson, Ian Livingstone, Ken
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Livsey, Richard
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C) Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Dawson, Hilton Lock, David
Dean, Mrs Janet Love, Andrew
Dobbin, Jim McAllion, John
Dobson, Rt Hon Frank McAvoy, Thomas
Dowd, Jim McCabe, Steve
Drown, Ms Julia McCafferty, Ms Chris
Edwards, Huw McDonnell, John
Ellman, Mrs Louise McFall, John
Etherington, Bill McGuire, Mrs Anne
Field, Rt Hon Frank McKenna, Mrs Rosemary
Fisher, Mark Mackinlay, Andrew
Flynn, Paul McNamara, Kevin
Foster, Rt Hon Derek McNulty, Tony
Foster, Michael J (Worcester) McWalter, Tony
Fyfe, Maria McWilliam, John
Galloway, George Mallaber, Judy
George, Bruce (Walsall S) Mandelson, Peter
Gerrard, Neil Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Gibson, Dr Ian Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Gilroy, Mrs Linda Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Godman, Dr Norman A Marshall—Andrews, Robert
Godsiff, Roger Maxton, John
Goggins, Paul Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Golding, Mrs Llin Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E) Milburn, Alan
Gunnell, John Mitchell, Austin
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale) Moffatt, Laura
Hall, Patrick (Bedford) Moonie, Dr Lewis
Hancock, Mike Moore, Michael
Hanson, David Moran, Ms Margaret
Harris, Dr Evan Morgan, Alasdair (Galloway)
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome) Morgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W)
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N) Morley, Elliot
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich) Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Hepburn, Stephen Mudie, George
Heppell, John Mullin, Chris
Hesford, Stephen Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Hinchliffe, David Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Home Robertson, John O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
Hoon, Geoffrey O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N) Olner, Bill
Humble, Mrs Joan O'Neill, Martin
Hurst, Alan Organ, Mrs Diana
Hutton, John Osborne, Ms Sandra
Iddon, Dr Brian Palmer, Dr Nick
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead) Pearson, Ian
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough) Pickthall, Colin
Jenkins, Brian Pike, Peter L
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle) Plaskitt, James
Johnson, Miss Melanie Pope, Greg
(Welwyn Hatfield) Powell, Sir Raymond
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside) Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N) Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Jones, leuan Wyn (Ynys Môn) Primarolo, Dawn
Jones, Ms Jenny Prosser, Gwyn
(Wolverh'ton SW) Purchase, Ken
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S) Quinn, Lawrie
Rammell, Bill Stinchcombe, Paul
Rapson, Syd Stott, Roger
Raynsford, Nick Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Reed, Andrew (Loughborough) Stringer, Graham
Reid, Dr John (Hamilton N) Stuart, Ms Gisela
Rendel, David Stunell, Andrew
Robertson, Rt Hon George Sutcliffe, Gerry
(Hamilton S) Swinney, John
Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW) Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
Roche, Mrs Barbara (Dewsbury)
Rogers, Allan Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W) Timms, Stephen
Rowlands, Ted Tipping, Paddy
Roy, Frank Tonge, Dr Jenny
Ruane, Chris Touhig, Don
Russell, Bob (Colchester) Trickett, Jon
Sanders, Adrian Truswell, Paul
Savidge, Malcolm Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Sawford, Phil Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Shaw, Jonathan Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Sheerman, Barry Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert Tyler, Paul
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S) Wallace, James
Singh, Marsha Watts, David
Skinner, Dennis Wicks, Malcolm
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E) Williams, Rt Hon Alan
Smith, Miss Geraldine (Swansea W)
(Morecambe & Lunesdale) Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Smith, John (Glamorgan) Willis, Phil
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent) Winnick, David
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns) wise, Audrey
Spellar, John wood Mike
Squire, Ms Rachel Wray, James
Steinberg, Gerry Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Stevenson, George Tellers for the Ayes:
Stewart, David (Inverness E) Mr. David Jamieson and
Stewart, Ian (Eccles) Jane Kennedy.
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey) Duncan, Alan
Amess, David Duncan Smith, Iain
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Arbuthnot, James Evans, Nigel
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E) Faber, David
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Fabricant, Michael
Baldry, Tony Fallon, Michael
Bercow, John Flight, Howard
Body, Sir Richard Forth, Rt Hon Eric
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W) Fox, Dr Liam
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia Fraser, Christopher
Brazier, Julian Gale, Roger
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Garnier, Edward
Browning, Mrs Angela Gibb, Nick
Burns, Simon Gill, Christopher
Cash, William Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Chapman, Sir Sydney Gorman, Mrs Teresa
(Chipping Barnet) Greenway, John
Clappison, James Grieve, Dominic
Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Kensington) Hague, Rt Hon William
Clifton—Brown, Geoffrey Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Collins, Tim Hammond, Philip
Colvin, Michael Hawkins, Nick
Cran, James Hayes, John
Curry, Rt Hon David Heald, Oliver
Davies, Quentin (Grantham) Heathcoat—Amory, Rt Hon David
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice) Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas
Day, Stephen Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen Hunter, Andrew
Jackson, Robert (Wantage) Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Jenkin, Bernard Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Johnson Smith, Ruffley, David
Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Shepherd, Richard
Key, Robert Simpson, Keith (Mid—Norfolk)
Kirkbride, Miss Julie Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Laing, Mrs Eleanor Soames, Nicholas
Lait, Mrs Jacqui Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Letwin, Oliver Spicer, Sir Michael
Lidington, David Spring, Richard
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter Stanley, Rt Hon Sir, John
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham) Steen, Anthony
Loughton, Tim Swayne, Desmond
Luff, Peter Syms, Robert
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Tapsell, Sir Peter
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Taylor, Sir Teddy
MacKay, Andrew Thompson, William
Maclean, Rt Hon David Townend, John
McLoughlin, Patrick Trend, Michael
Madel, Sir David Tyrie, Andrew
Maples, John Walter, Robert
Mates, Michael Wardle, Charles
Maude, Rt Hon Francis Waterson, Nigel
May, Mrs Theresa Whitney, Sir Raymond
Moss, Malcolm Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Nicholls, Patrick Willetts, David
Norman, Archie Wilshire, David
Ottaway, Richard Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Page, Richard Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Paice, James Woodward, Shaun
Paterson, Owen Yeo, Tim
Pickles, Eric Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Prior, David Tellers for the Noes:
Randall, John Mr. John M. Taylor and
Robathan, Andrew Mr. John Whittingdale.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Clause 27 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Bill (Clauses 1, 7, 10, 11, 25, 27, 30, 75, 119 and 147) reported, without amendment; to lie upon the Table.