HC Deb 21 January 1999 vol 323 cc1049-60 'It shall be the duty of any person liable to pay a charge to the Secretary of State under section 1 to submit by 30th June in each year following the passing of this Act a report to each House of Parliament, stating in respect of the preceding calendar year—
  1. (a) the total of any such payments made to the Secretary of State, and
  2. (b) the effect, if any, of making those payments on the cost to that person's customers of purchasing motor insurance.'—[Mr. Harris.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Dr. Harris

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

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this, it will be convenient to discuss new clause 3—Secretary of State's report on payments made under the Act— '—The Secretary of State shall submit a report to each House of Parliament by 30th June in each year following the passing of this Act stating in respect of the preceding financial year the total of any payments made to him under the provisions of this Act.'.

Dr. Harris

The new clause would open up the legislation to the wider public so that its effects as a whole are explicit. The Minister and the House may know from the Second Reading debate that we are opposed to the Bill in principle because we believe that it surreptitiously introduces indirect charging of patients for NHS services. It is clear that, if the Bill became an Act, car insurance premiums would increase to cover the money that insurers would have to pay to the NHS for trauma treatment of third parties injured in road traffic accidents. We oppose that, and on Second Reading we made clear the reasons for our opposition.

New clause 2 sets out to bring to the attention of the House and to the public at large the effect of indirect charging of patients through their insurance. It creates a duty on insurance companies liable for the charge to present to each House of Parliament by 30 June each year a report stating in respect of the preceding calendar year, first, the total of any payments made to the Secretary of State and, secondly any effect of making those payments on the costs to their customers of purchasing motor insurance.

There has been a great deal of debate about how much car insurance premiums will rise as a result of the Bill. It must be noted that the debate has been about not whether premiums will rise but how much they will rise. We have had various estimates. The Department of Health is quoted in a House of Commons Library research paper as saying that every insurance premium would increase by £6 to £9. The Association of British Insurers says on page 1 of its newsletter No. 28 from December 1998 that the Bill will "lead to premium increases." The Automobile Association is quoted on page 17 of the Library research paper as saying that the Bill would have the effect of adding around £10 to the cost of the average £260 annual motor policy. The Independent said in December 1997 that the NHS bill may put £20 on car premiums". It is not disputed that the Bill will lead to an increase. The figures are all within the same ball park.

The Minister may argue that the Bill should not lead to an increase in car insurance premiums because hospitals already have the power to charge the insurers of third parties injured in road traffic accidents, but they do not do so because of the bureaucratic difficulties involved. That is by the by. Premiums were not loaded to cover reimbursement of the NHS to the extent that is now envisaged. Indeed, the Government expect that the Bill will generate income for the health service over and above that which is generated at the moment. That is predicated on an increase in payments to the NHS.

If we are to have a sensible debate about paying for the NHS, it is vital that people are aware of how they are paying for it. People know that they pay income tax. The polls show that people would gladly pay more to improve the services provided by the NHS. We are unable to have that debate with more than one party as other parties have decided that they will not use that approach to raising income. It is important that the general public know, and are allowed to find out, how much they are paying through the back door, because the amount that they pay through general taxation has been politically limited by political parties, and newspaper proprietors who beseech political parties not to pursue certain policies.

2.15 pm
Mr. Hammond

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm for the record whether he seeks to start a debate on a genuinely new approach to NHS funding? Or is the Liberal Democrats' only proposal to increase income tax to fund the NHS yet further out of general taxation?

Dr. Harris

Not at all. The hon. Gentleman will know that his party—somewhat later than mine—has called for a debate on NHS funding. We have made it clear that we are not minded to believe that the private sector is an effective source of income to help take the strain of NHS provision. We do not believe that it is possible to save the NHS by urging people not to use it, but we accept that that argument and others could be put in such a debate. If the Government intend to increase direct charges for prescriptions and other items, or to increase indirect charges through some form of insurance, they could be explicit and honest in such a debate. We would welcome that debate. We have our own ideas to put forward, but we are certain that, until we have an explicit, honest and rational debate, it is premature to increase surreptitiously the amount that individual users of the NHS pay through regressive, indirect means such as charges on motor insurers.

Mr. Simon Hughes

I wish to make a point supplementary to the point made by the Conservative spokesman, the hon. Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Mr. Hammond). The debate goes much wider than the question whether income tax should rise. We should put on the agenda what charges should remain—including prescription charges. The debate is also about funding residential care and nursing care for the elderly, which could be a subject for a royal commission, and where the social security system fits in. I hope that my hon. Friend will make it clear to his colleagues in today's debate that we are willing to participate with all other parties in what we would call a commission on the future of the health service. We should have the debate outside Parliament, in the open, with patients, the professionals and the pharmaceutical industry.

Dr. Harris

That is the critical point. If people do not know by how much car insurance premiums have risen, they will not know the effect that the Government's legislation is having on their pockets. Far too little attention is given to indirect charges in other public services. That is why we seek to make that information available by means of new clause 3, which has been tabled by Conservative Members and which we support, and of new clause 2.

I do not accept the ABI's rather mild representations that the information will be commercially sensitive. It has said that premiums will increase, and I do not believe that it will be impossible for insurance companies to work out how much they are paying to the NHS and by how much premiums have had to rise to take on the onus of funding the health service as well as insuring people. Car insurance is a highly competitive market, and of course some information will be commercially sensitive, but the information called for in new clause 2 cannot be refused by the Minister on the basis of the ABI's objections.

The Government claim that they support open government and wish to be honest with the people. We hear such rhetoric. Indirect charging is a litmus test of whether the Government will be explicit about costs. I urge the Minister to accept new clause 2 in the name of openness. It will certainly improve the Bill.

Mr. Hammond

I listened with interest to the hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Dr. Harris). I was a little surprised to hear him say that he supported new clause 3, tabled by my hon. Friends and me, because it was tabled as an alternative to new clause 2, tabled by the Liberal Democrats.

Parliament will want to monitor the Bill carefully, as it introduces a major new charge in the NHS. Hon. Members will want to look at the legislation's effect on both NHS revenues and insurance premiums paid by the motoring public for two reasons: first, because it is important to see the impact of the measure; and, secondly, because the measure is innovatory, so people will be anxious to establish its overall effect. One issue that it will be important to consider is whether its impact is equitable.

The hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon spoke about the increases in insurance premiums that will undoubtedly flow from the introduction of the measure, but it is not clear whether insurance premiums will increase uniformly across the board. Different insurance companies have different client profiles and claims experiences, and the measure's impact on insurance premiums is likely to differ radically between different groups of motorists.

An issue that deeply concerns us is the anti-rural bias, which this side swipe at the motorist by the Labour Government undoubtedly has. We shall bear that in mind when we monitor closely how the measure impacts not just on motorists in the aggregate, but on sub-groups of motorists.

It is undeniable that careful parliamentary scrutiny of what flows from the legislation will be needed. When considering new clauses 2 and 3 as alternatives to each other, the question is what is practicable and workable, and how much commercially sensitive information it is reasonable to expect private sector companies to provide. In Committee, the Minister referred to the opportunities that will arise for parliamentary scrutiny when the Government change the charges levied under the Bill, as they propose to do periodically. To ensure that the scrutiny debates that take place on those occasions are properly informed, information about the measure's overall impact must be available.

Mr. Hutton

It may help the hon. Gentleman if I make it clear now, as I did in Committee, that we want hon. Members to have access to the fullest possible range of information to allow them to review the operation of the scheme. I made that clear in Committee; if it will help the hon. Gentleman now, I am happy to repeat it on the Floor of the House.

Mr. Hammond

I am grateful to the Minister for repeating that. If he can answer in the affirmative the specific question that I am about to ask, it will go a long way towards reassuring Opposition Members. New clause 3 proposes that the Secretary of State submit a report to each House of Parliament annually, giving details of the total amount raised through charges under this legislation. That differs somewhat from new clause 2, proposed in the name of the Liberal Democrats, which places a duty on insurers—those who will pay the charges—to report to Parliament, giving detailed information on the impact that those charges have had on the calculation of their premiums and on their specific businesses.

The Association of British Insurers agrees with us that companies that operate in a commercially sensitive area should not be asked for too much information about how they run their businesses and calculate their premiums, and about the profile of their customers. Those experienced in these matters, of whom I am not one, could deduce valuable commercial information from the type of information that new clause 2 proposes should be supplied to Parliament.

I am relatively new in this place, but I find it curious that an outside body such as a commercial company should have to report directly to Parliament. It seems more appropriate that the Secretary of State should gather whatever information is needed and report to Parliament; he could then be answerable for his report in this place.

New clause 3 achieves, without the disadvantages of new clause 2, much of what the Liberal Democrats seek to achieve. Information about premiums may be difficult for a commercial company to define in a meaningful way for the lay reader, and I would question the value of some of the information that the Liberal Democrats seek to have provided to the House. Indeed, in a briefing note that it has issued to all hon. Members, the ABI says: Insurers are already required to produce company accounts and should not be bound to reveal additional commercial information to Parliament. Information on total receipts should be available from the NHS itself". That is the essential point. The information that would have to be presented to Parliament under new clause 3 could be derived by the Secretary of State entirely from the compensation recovery unit, from his own records and from Government agencies, without imposing additional burdens on companies operating in the commercial sector. It could be derived without imposing additional burdens on the machinery of government and its agencies because, in a properly run organisation, which I am sure the compensation recovery unit is, that information will be readily available.

Thus new clause 3 seeks to use aggregate information that is readily available. Because it is presented in an aggregate form, it avoids the pitfalls that the ABI has identified in terms of the revelation of confidential information, while still providing the House with the critical overall figures that will tell us how successful the measure has been in terms of funding the NHS. That information would be directly available under new clause 3. It would also inform an intelligent analysis of the impact, in aggregate, on motor insurance premiums.

I suspect that trying to use central data to determine the impact on individual groups of motorists or individual motorists would be a fruitless exercise. On the sound basis of some aggregate data which the Secretary of State could provide, hon. Members, in pursuing the scrutiny process, may rely on anecdotal information collected from constituents on the differing impact on premium rates across the spectrum.

2.30 pm
Mr. Tim Collins (Westmorland and Lonsdale)

Is there not another difficulty with new clause 2 in addition to those that my hon. Friend has brilliantly analysed? New clause 2 requires insurers to provide information according to the preceding calendar year, yet many insurers operate on entirely different financial years, so the new clause is even more onerous than it seems.

Mr. Hammond

I thank my hon. Friend for that contribution. He is absolutely right. The problem is compounded by the fact that settlements of claims are often not made for two, three or four years. It may be difficult to gain an informed view from information that relates to the preceding year.

The hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon referred to what the Opposition health team calls the "information not collected centrally" syndrome. In Committee, the Minister, with some humility, recognised that syndrome. We have seen it on innumerable occasions when seeking information from the Department through parliamentary questions. The Department hides behind the decentralised structure of the health service as it was: it is becoming an increasingly recentralised structure, as the Government implement various measures. The decentralised structure of the health service enables the Secretary of State to say that information is not collected centrally. It is perfectly clear that a well-run health service requires information to be collected centrally. We have no doubt that it is available to NHS regional executives, and could be collected by the Secretary of State if he chose to do so.

Mr. Simon Hughes

I agree with the hon. Gentleman. Now that it has been accepted across government that the collection of statistics should be more independent and that there should be an independent statistical department, there is no excuse for the Government not to do what is necessary. In the health service in England, statistics could be collected regionally—no one would object if it were done region by region, because we could add up the figures for each region ourselves —or centrally by the Department in Richmond house. The information can be gathered without the Government saying, "No, we don't like it."

Mr. Hammond

I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman. The NHS is a vast organisation spending billions of pounds and employing hundreds of thousands of people. The collation of information is essential for the proper management of an organisation of that scale. I hope that the Minister will reflect on that. Indeed, the Secretary of State has shown his willingness to make more information available. He famously told the BBC "Today" programme back in September that he would ensure that, as soon as possible, data on total waiting lists—those awaiting a first consultation with a specialist and those awaiting in-patient surgical treatment—would be available.

The Secretary of State seems not to be keen on an independent audit or examination of the figures. On the same broadcast, he referred to a reputable firm of chartered accountants that specialises in collating data on the NHS as a "tinpot firm". That appropriately sums up the Secretary of State's attitude to the independent scrutiny of these matters.

We want an assurance that the Government will not hide essential information about the impact of the Bill behind a smokescreen by saying that the money is distributed to individual hospital trusts and that the information is available only at that level. In Standing Committee, reference was made to the fact that information was available in the published accounts of hospital trusts. It is not practical for parliamentarians who want properly to scrutinise these matters to plough through the annual accounts of thousands of hospital trusts up and down the country and aggregate the information. In a well-run Department of Health, the information should be available in an aggregate form.

Can the Minister satisfy the Conservative Opposition that the data referred to in new clause 3 will be regularly made available to Parliament? We would be satisfied if he could assure us that information on the amount of money collected by the compensation recovery unit and distributed to NHS trusts will be included in the quarterly data series. Alternatively, if the Secretary of State is unable to do that, the presentation to Parliament of that information in an annual report, as the new clause suggests, would achieve the same end, although somewhat more tardily.

The intentions of the new clause would be better served by an assurance from the Government that the data required will be included in the quarterly data series. If the new clause were carried and the data were provided annually, the information could be out of date when any proposed changes to the amounts to be charged were scrutinised.

We seek an assurance that the aggregate figure, which is readily available to the Secretary of State, will be regularly made available to Parliament. I can see no basis on which the Government could object to that. It would enable Parliament to perform its work of properly scrutinising the outcome of the legislation. That is important in itself, but also because these are the first new charges of any substance that the Government have introduced in the NHS. We and the Government will want to assess carefully the effectiveness of these measures and their impact on the overall funding of the NHS. I hope that the Minister can give us some reassurance about his willingness to make the data available.

Mr. Robert Syms (Poole)

I support my hon. Friend on new clause 3. It is less prescriptive than new clause 2. Having listened to what the Minister said, I do not think that the Government and the official Opposition are too far apart. We are looking for reassurance that statistical information will be available by which we can measure the effectiveness of the operation of the legislation.

The Association of British Insurers supports the concept of parliamentary scrutiny, as we all do. It is important that the collection system be seen to be fair and efficient. Earlier, the Government took credit for raising between £120 million and £140 million through this proposal, and said that it would not cost anyone anything. However, as we have heard, insurance costs will be incurred. How the data can be collected efficiently will be an important matter for hon. Members to consider.

The impact on insurance premiums may be different for different categories. The young may pay disproportionately higher premiums, so may be hit much harder. If the Minister could move a little more in our direction, we could be reassured that there will be enough information to have a sensible, reasonable debate about the effectiveness of the legislation, how it is operating and what impact it has on the national health service, insurance payers and our constituents; and, having sat on the Committee considering the Bill, I for one would be satisfied.

Mr. Hutton

The arguments in support of both these new clauses rest on a number of assumptions that I do not accept. The first assumption is that the Government have been less than open about the impact of the legislation, especially on motorists and on NHS funding. That is not so. The new clauses would lay down new obligations to disclose information, but that is unnecessary for reasons that I shall outline.

The Opposition assume that the Government are trying to withhold information, but we are not. Throughout the passage of the Bill, we have tried to help Members to appreciate the fundamental issues underpinning the legislation. We want to make the maximum amount of information available to allow proper scrutiny by the House of the proposed measures. For a general reason, I feel that there is no substance in the underlying arguments in favour of either new clause. Both would impose additional obligations on the Government to disclose information to the House.

The arguments for the new clauses are based on a second false assumption —that we are imposing a new charge on people who use the national health service. We are not doing that. The Bill will simply streamline and improve arrangements for collection of existing charges, which are recoverable under legislation dating back to the 1930s. It is concerned with ensuring that the NHS can recover the costs of treating road accident victims, not from motorists or patients but from insurance companies, when a successful claim for compensation has been made following a road traffic accident.

Mr. Hammond

I do not accept the Minister's assertion that this is not a new NHS charge. The Government are giving teeth to a mechanism that has enabled the collection of a piffling £15 million or £16 million a year in charges, to ensure that £150 million a year is collected. The man in the street, however, sees little difference between the introduction of a wholly new charge and the ratcheting up tenfold of an existing charge, converting a relatively meaningless exercise into the raising of a significant amount.

Mr. Hutton

With respect, I think that most members of the public can distinguish between the more effective collection of an existing charge and the laying down of a new charge for the use of the national health service. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman's argument is very coherent, and I am not sure that he will consider it to be so after he has had a chance to reflect on it.

There is no logic, or foundation in fact, for hon. Members' justification of the new clauses. It is underscored by the assumption that the Government are trying to withhold information from the House and from individual Members, which has led to the demand in new clause 2 for an unprecedented obligation on insurance companies to give the House information directly in the form of annual reports, and the demand in new clause 3 for the Secretary of State to make that information available annually.

The hysteria among Liberal Democrats seems to have subsided. I assume that they now have the hustings for the leadership vacancy that has arisen under better control. Perhaps, in the current spirit of harmony between the two sides of the House, we can begin to examine the real issues created by the Bill, rather than the fantasy and hyperbole that featured in much of what the Liberal Democrats said in Committee.

We are discussing a simple mechanism that will facilitate the recovery of NHS charges. We want the NHS to benefit from significant additional resources. We have some sympathy with what the hon. Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Mr. Hammond) said, but we want to be sensitive to issues of commercial confidentiality. We are aware of the burdens on business, and we do not intend to impose unnecessary and unreasonable burdens on insurance companies, which is one of the reasons why we do not support new clause 2.

I should make it clear that the Department has never refused to offer MPs information about amounts collected by the NHS under existing road traffic legislation—

Dr. Harris

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Hutton

No, I will not.

As I said, the Department has never refused to offer information, and we have no intention of withholding it in the future.

The hon. Member for Runnymede and Weybridge helpfully stated that, according to information received, just over £16 million was recovered last year under the existing scheme. The Department of Health already collects such information: we aggregate trust accounts relating to road traffic income. The information is readily available now, and will continue to be available to hon. Members in future.

Mr. Hammond

I suspect that the information to which the Minister refers will be extracted from trust accounts, and that there will therefore be a delay. The new regime for which the Bill provides will give the Minister an opportunity to obtain the information directly from the compensation recovery unit, a Government agency. Assuming that the unit is computerised, I would expect the information to be available on a quarterly basis, and very soon after the event.

2.45 pm
Mr. Hutton

The hon. Gentleman has done the House a favour by drawing attention to one of the benefits of the changes that we are introducing. The compensation recovery unit will have the advantage of up-to-date information technology, including new software, that will enable the information to be available to the House more quickly. I am not sure that we shall be able to provide it on a quarterly basis, but as a result of access to more efficient information technology, we shall generally be able to provide it sooner.

I assure the hon. Gentleman, and others who are worried, that we have no intention of withholding such information from the House. It is important information; it will inform debates on any regulations laid before the House; and we want scrutiny of the legislation to be as well informed as possible.

One of the difficulties that we have encountered with the Bill so far is caused by the desire on the part of Liberal Democrats in particular to misrepresent what we are doing. I understand that—it is a purely opportunistic political exercise—but we do not intend to withhold crucial information from the House. We want the House to be well informed, and we will ensure that it is.

For the reasons that I have given, I do not believe that there is any substantive argument for either new clause.

Dr. Harris

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Hutton


We do not accept the arguments of the hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Dr. Harris) for his new clause, which we consider to be unreasonable and unfair. We do not intend to legislate along those lines.

I hope that the hon. Member for Runnymede and Weybridge and his colleagues will accept my assurance that we intend to make it absolutely clear that the information will be made readily available. We are committed to reviewing the scheme after six months, and to publishing the results of our review. I hope that, on that basis, the hon. Gentleman will not press new clause 3, and the hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon will not press new clause 2.

Dr. Harris

It is interesting that the Minister should ask me not to press new clause 2, but—with uncharacteristic churlishness—should refuse twice to allow me to intervene to ask him a specific question that might have enabled me to decide whether to press it.

We do not doubt that information, particularly that requested in new clause 3, can be made available, and that the Government will do their best to make it available. That is why the Liberal Democrats did not table a similar new clause. We are reassured. Although we support—as we did in Committee—measures to enable the Government to provide the information, I believe that it will be available by means of parliamentary questions, the six-monthly review and other channels. As I said in Committee, I feel that it would be more readily available if payments were made to health authorities — which I think should be done for other reasons—but I think that it can be obtained from trusts and, probably, from the compensation recovery unit.

We tabled new clause 2 because we feel that the crucial information that is required relates not to the global sum raised, but to the effects on individuals' car insurance. That will, of course, be a matter for debate. I was trying to help the House to decide whether this is a valuable way of raising money for the NHS by urging the Government to consider incorporating measures that will force insurance companies to make their own calculations on the effects, to help Members and the general public to educate themselves as to how much NHS revenue will result from the higher premiums.

I understand the Conservatives' views on commercial information. I am sure that it is possible to word legislation more tightly to enable information to be obtained from insurance companies and examined without the sharing of commercially confidential information. Liberal Democrats want to extract a flat figure representing the amount that insurance companies think ordinary people are contributing to the increased amount that is being collected.

I accept the Minister's opening point that the charge is not new. If hon. Members check the record, they will find that Liberal Democrats have at no point stated that we believe the charge to be new. We think that there was an opportunity to get rid of a charge, but it is clear at any rate that the Government will have increased income. That is one of their reasons for introducing the legislation.

The measure will generate additional income from an existing charge by making its recovery more compulsory, by nationalising it, in effect, and by making it more efficient. If one wants to raise revenue by that method, the Bill is a good way in which to do it. Because we do not want to do that, we oppose the measure; it is not because the Bill is badly drafted, or would achieve its aim inefficiently. However, we do want to see exactly how the extra amount is raised from individual drivers' car insurance.

Global sums of millions of pounds are difficult for people to understand in their everyday life. Indeed, the Government rely on fazing people with large figures when, uniquely and cleverly—although rather sneakily—they present extra money for the health service in three-yearly cumulative totals, not the usual year-on-year totals. I hope that any figures that come from the Government do not, if they apply to more than one year, repeat the habit of rolling up matching funding from one year with the previous year's allocation and the new allocation. That is a bad habit, which makes it difficult for people to understand.

People understand the amount of money that they pay in the pounds, shillings and pence on their car insurance. I ask the Minister to give me some assurances that there will some way to estimate, even from the Government's figures— although I am not convinced that I would necessarily accept them 100 per cent.—what the charges will be.

Mr. Hammond

I am delighted to hear a Liberal Democrat using the currency of pounds, shillings and pence. I am not sure where that leaves the hon. Gentleman in the Liberal Democrat leadership stakes.

The hon. Gentleman said that he wanted to know what the extra cost of the measure to ordinary people would be. Does he not understand that the problem is that there is no single ordinary person—there is no average motor insurance payer? The impact will range from zero on some insured people to substantial on others. The figure that has been quoted of £9 or £10 as an average—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I sometimes give leeway to those on the Front Bench, but I cannot allow the hon. Gentleman to get away with a speech during an intervention.

Dr. Harris

I think that the hon. Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Mr. Hammond) would have been helped by leaving out his preface, which I am sure hon. Members will be bored with in a few weeks. It is not my intention to digress on to those matters. You will note, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that Liberal Democrats have been careful not to rise to provocation from other hon. Members.

I understand the point that the hon. Member for Runnymede and Weybridge makes—that there is no single figure, but there will be ranges. We would like an undertaking from the Government that they will do their best to put their research capabilities to the task of giving a range, from zero to what the extra cost will be for each individual car insurance payer because of the charges. What is certain is that £160 million means nothing to people in terms of what they pay on their car insurance. The range of costs that the hon. Gentleman talks about—from zero to £20—would mean something.

I think that hon. Members on both sides of the House accept that it would be more sensible to have those figures collected in an orderly way, rather than hearing scare stories from the insurance industry, the AA or political parties of any persuasion about what those costs will be.

I return to my original proposition: it is important not only that the Government should be open about the amount of income that is raised by the measure—I accept the Minister's assurances on that—but that it be clear to individual taxpayers, drivers, voters and patients how much the Government's decision not to use this opportunity to abolish these indirect charges is costing them. I still look to the Minister for advice on that point. However, even if he is unable to give me any help, it is not our intention to divide the House on the matter.

Mr. Hammond

I am happy to take what the Minister said at face value and to accept his good intentions. However, we will look to ensure that the data is made available as quickly as the technology used by the compensation recovery unit allows.

Mr. Hutton

indicated assent.

Mr. Hammond

The Minister nods. If we can accept that there is a genuine intention by the Government to make that data available regularly as fast as possible, we will be satisfied. I thank the Minister for that assurance.

Mr. Hutton

I can give the hon. Member for Runnymede and Weybridge the assurance that he seeks.

Dr. Harris

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.

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