HC Deb 17 May 1999 vol 331 cc643-63

`.—(1) In section 35 of the Contributions and Benefits Act (state maternity allowance), for subsections (1) and (1A) there shall be substituted—

"(1) A woman shall be entitled to a maternity allowance, at the appropriate weekly rate determined under section 35A below, if—

  1. (a) she has become pregnant and has reached, or been confined before reaching, the commencement of the 11th week before the expected week of confinement; and
  2. (b) she has been engaged in employment as an employed or selfemployed earner for any part of the week in the case of at least 26 of the 66 weeks immediately preceding the expected week of confinement; and
  3. (c) (within the meaning of section 35A) her average weekly earnings are not less than the maternity allowance threshold; and
  4. (d) she is not entitled to statutory maternity pay for the same week in respect of the same pregnancy."

(2) In subsection (3) of that section—

  1. (a) for "Schedule 3, Part I, paragraph 3" there shall be substituted "section 35A below"; and
  2. (b) for "and (c) above" there shall be substituted "above or in section 35A(2) or (3) below".

(3) After that section there shall be inserted—

"Appropriate weekly rate of maternity allowance

35A.—(1) For the purposes of section 35(1) above the appropriate weekly rate is that specified in whichever of subsection (2) or (3) below applies.

(2) Where the woman's average weekly earnings are not less than the lower earnings limit for the relevant tax year, the appropriate weekly rate is a weekly rate equal to the lower rate of statutory maternity pay for the time being prescribed under section 166(3) below.

(3) Where the woman's average weekly earnings—

  1. (a) are less than the lower earnings limit for the relevant tax year, but
  2. (b) are not less than the maternity allowance threshold for that tax year,
the appropriate weekly rate is a weekly rate equivalent to 90 per cent. of her average weekly earnings or (if lower) the rate specified in subsection (2) above.

(4) For the purposes of this section a woman's "average weekly earnings" shall be taken to be the average weekly amount (as determined in accordance with regulations) of specified payments which—

  1. (a) were made to her or for her benefit as an employed earner, or
  2. (b) are (in accordance with regulations) to be treated as made to her or for her benefit as a self-employed earner, during the specified period.

(5) Regulations may, for the purposes of subsection (4) above, provide—

  1. (a) for the amount of any payments falling within paragraph (a) or (b) of that subsection to be calculated or estimated in such manner and on such basis as may be prescribed;
  2. (b) for a payment made outside the specified period to be treated as made during that period where it was referable to that period or any part of it;
  3. (c) for a woman engaged in employment as a self-employed earner to be treated as having received a payment in respect of a week—
    1. (i) equal to the lower earnings limit in force on the last day of the week, if she paid a Class 2 contribution in respect of the week, or
    2. (ii) equal to the maternity allowance threshold in force on that day, if she was excepted (under section 11(4) above) from liability for such a contribution in respect of the week;
  4. (d) for aggregating payments made or treated as made to or for the benefit of a woman where, either in the same week or in different weeks, she was engaged in two or more employments (whether, in each case, as an employed earner or a self-employed earner).

(6) In this section—

  1. (a) "the maternity allowance threshold", in relation to a tax year, means (subject to subsection (7) below) £30;
  2. (b) "the relevant tax year" means the tax year in which the beginning of the period of 66 weeks mentioned in section 35(1)(b) above falls; and
  3. (c) "specified" (except in subsections (7) and (8) below) means prescribed by or determined in accordance with regulations.

(7) The Secretary of State may, in relation to any tax year after 1999–2000, by order increase the amount for the time being specified in subsection (6)(a) above to such amount as is specified in the order.

(8) When deciding whether, and (if so) by how much, to increase the amount so specified the Secretary of State shall have regard to the movement, over such period as he thinks fit, in the general level of prices obtaining in Great Britain (estimated in such manner as he thinks fit); and Secretary of State shall in each tax year carry out such a review of the amount so specified as he thinks fit."

(4) This section applies in relation to the payment of maternity allowance in cases where a woman's expected week of confinement (within the meaning of section 35 of the Contributions and Benefits Act) begins on or after 20th August 2000.'.—[Mr. Bayley.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Social Security (Mr. Hugh Bayley)

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

Madam Speaker

With this, it will be convenient to discuss Government amendments Nos. 9 to 11.

Mr. Bayley

When we debated the Bill on Second Reading, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Security explained that it is an essential step in our modernisation of the welfare state, and that it takes forward our reforms in four key areas.

First, the Bill contains a package of measures to keep people in touch with the labour market, including new employment zones and the single gateway. Secondly, it brings disability benefits up to date, to give new opportunities to disabled people who want to work and to provide extra help for those in greatest need. Thirdly, it modernises the system of bereavement benefits to bring fairness and equality to the system. Finally, the Bill is a starting point for our pension reform. It introduces pension sharing on divorce and paves the way for future pensioners to have a more secure retirement.

Since Second Reading, the Bill has been thoroughly discussed in Committee. In fact, I believe that it has been scrutinised at greater length than any social security Bill in recent history. I pay tribute to my hon. Friends who served on the Committee—indeed, to all hon. Members who were involved with the Committee—for their hard work. Thanks to that, I am confident that the Bill that I am presenting to the House today is an even better piece of legislation.

In particular, we have improved the Bill by including new reforms to the structure of national insurance, to ensure that work pays and that people keep more of what they earn. We have made a new provision to prevent disabled people from being treated unfairly by the way in which overpaid benefits are recovered.

We are not stopping there, as we are proposing more improvements today. The first is a reform of maternity benefits that further develops our principle of work for those who can and security for those who cannot. New clause 5 will extend entitlement to maternity allowance to pregnant women on low earnings and increase the basic rate of maternity allowance for self-employed women.

That is not an isolated reform. We made a manifesto commitment to help families balance work and family life. Since coming to power, we have put in place a range of policies across Government to support families and children. We are providing better financial support for families, including the biggest ever increase in child benefits, a working families tax credit that will guarantee a minimum income for working families earning the national minimum wage of £200 a week and a child care tax credit to help make child care more affordable. From 2001, children's tax credit will be worth £416 a year.

Today, my hon. Friend the Paymaster General has further improved the working families tax credit and our disabled person's tax credit proposals. She has offered new help to enable disabled people, whose health is deteriorating while they remain at work, to retain their jobs and the provision of increased support for parents of disabled children who seek to work and to benefit from the working families tax credit. Our new Employment Relations Bill sets out a basic framework of family friendly employee rights. We are investing £450 million in our sure start project in England over the next three years to improve the life chances of children in disadvantaged areas. We are delivering our commitment to a national child care strategy that provides families with genuine choices so that they can balance the combination of paid work, education or training and parenting. All that is in stark contrast to the policies of the Conservative Government before the 1997 general election.

Our reforms to maternity allowance are yet another step forward. At the moment, maternity benefits are focused on pregnant working women who pay national insurance contributions or who earn enough to do so. Statutory maternity pay is paid by employers for up to 18 weeks to women who have worked for them for six months or more, and who earn at least £66 a week—the lower limit for paying national insurance contributions. Maternity allowance is paid by the Benefits Agency for up to 18 weeks to women who cannot get statutory maternity pay. It also supports self-employed women who have worked and paid contributions.

All working pregnant women are entitled to 14 weeks maternity leave. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry is taking forward measures in his Employment Relations Bill to increase this period to 18 weeks to bring it in line with maternity benefits. That has been widely welcomed, both by employers and other interest groups. However, we believe that the current maternity leave and pay arrangements have a number of serious flaws. To start with, low-paid pregnant working women—those who earn less than £66 a week—have the right to take time off work to have their baby, but receive no financial help to do so. Secondly, around 20 per cent. of working women are potentially excluded from maternity benefits because they do not earn enough to qualify. Thirdly, women whose earnings are more than £66 a week but who do not pay national insurance contributions because they earn small amounts from more than one employer are also excluded. Finally, self-employed women currently receive less maternity allowance than employed women—£51.70 instead of £59.55. That is also unfair.

The reforms in new clause 5 address all those issues. Under the revised arrangements, women will still need to satisfy an employment test and an earnings test to qualify for maternity allowance.

We are not changing the employment test, but the earnings test for employed earners will now be based on actual earnings rather than payment of national insurance contributions. In future, all mothers-to-be who earn at least £30 a week on average will be entitled to help from maternity allowance. Earnings from all sources, including self-employment, will count towards average weekly earnings.

Fourteen thousand low-paid women will gain from that improvement. Women whose average weekly earnings are at least equal to the lower earnings limit will receive the standard weekly flat rate of maternity allowance—£59.55 a week. Women who earn between £30 and the lower earnings limit will receive a weekly maternity allowance of 90 per cent. of those earnings.

3.45 pm
Mrs. Angela Browning (Tiverton and Honiton)

Before the Minister continues, will he clarify what will be the basis of the calculation of earnings for self-employed women in the year that they claim the benefit? I ask that question because when self-employed people file their accounts with the Inland Revenue, the last set of accounts may be for the previous financial year. Will the accounts for the previous financial year be taken to establish earnings, or will, for example, the previous three years be averaged out, which is not unprecedented for self-employed people in our tax system? What about the woman who becomes pregnant in her first year of self-employment? On what basis will her earnings be calculated?

Mr. Bayley

The hon. Lady raises an important point. I regret to say that I cannot respond immediately, but I will do so before the debate concludes as it is important for the House to be absolutely clear about how the earnings are to be calculated. Of course, we will retain the existing rules for calculating the earnings of self-employed people. The change is that in the past the self-employed have been unfairly treated because they have received a lower rate of maternity allowance. As a result of our change, self-employed women will now receive the full rate of benefit—£59.55 instead of £51.70, which is an increase of £7.85 a week.

Also, we are helping self-employed women with low earnings. If they hold a certificate to exempt them from national insurance contributions, they will be treated as having notional earnings of £30 a week and will receive maternity allowance of £27 a week—90 per cent. of £30.

To summarise, as a result of the changes, low-paid women who earn below the lower earnings limit for national insurance contributions and at least £30 a week will receive maternity allowance of 90 per cent. of their average earnings. Women with more than one low-paying job will be able to add together their earnings to reach the level needed to qualify for maternity allowance.

Mr. Steve Webb (Northavon)

The Minister mentioned the category of women whose wages are between £30 and the lower earnings limit and we support the extension of the allowance to them. Clearly, that group do not pay income tax or national insurance and, therefore, are largely unknown to the authorities. What will be the Government's take-up strategy to ensure that people claim that new entitlement?

Mr. Bayley

We will be using similar means to those that we use to ensure take-up at the moment to inform the self-employed of their rights.

Mr. Webb

What about employers?

Mr. Bayley

I thought that the hon. Gentleman was talking about the self-employed. Clearly, employers will have a responsibility to pass on information to employees, as they do with existing employees.

Mr. Duncan Smith

I was intrigued by the Minister's answer. He seemed rather hesitant. Is there some mechanism whereby employers will know clearly that they will have to pass on that information and has he costed the changes that that would entail?

Mr. Bayley

The basic mechanism for establishing entitlement to maternity allowance is to show a wage slip. Every employer, however large or small, has a legal obligation to provide a wage slip for employees. It will be the passport to maternity allowance for those on low wages, as it has been for those on higher wages.

To summarise, low-paid women who earn below the lower earnings limit, provided that they earn at least £30 a week, will receive maternity allowance worth 90 per cent. of their average earnings. Women with more than one low-paid job will be able to add together their earnings to reach the level necessary to qualify for maternity allowance. Self-employed women will receive the same basic rate of maternity allowance as employees. Low-earning, self-employed women who are exempted from paying national insurance contributions will qualify for maternity allowance of £27 a week.

The Labour party has long campaigned for these reforms. Now that we are putting them into practice, they have been warmly welcomed by many voluntary bodies including the Maternity Alliance and the Low Pay Unit. These important changes will enable more women to strike a balance between paid work and parenting. They are fully in line with our strategy on family friendly employment. They will give low-paid mothers-to-be the financial help that they need to take their full entitlement of maternity leave. They will be good for the health and welfare of low-paid mothers and their children. I commend them to the House.

Mrs. Jacqui Lait (Beckenham)

It is a pleasure to join the debate, but I am sorry to have to speak to new clause 5 because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr. Duncan Smith) said, it adds to an already extensive Bill. The Minister listed the Bill's contents, which were sufficient to keep the Standing Committee going for 25 sittings. This is only the first of at least three more significant additions.

New clause 5 is an unnecessarily hurried addition to our debate. We have complained that the Bill is already far too long but, now, new clause 5 has been tabled at the last moment. My hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Mrs. Browning) pointed out the difficulties that self-employed women will have. The hon. Member for Carshalton and Surbiton—

Mr. Webb


Mrs. Lait

My apologies; there are so many experts on the subject in the Liberal party. The hon. Member for Northavon (Mr. Webb) made a point to which answer came there none. We all know that the consultation has not finished, so why the rush to discuss new clause 5? We are happy to debate it, but cannot help wondering why we must do it today. We had no hint of it in Committee and, my goodness, it was a long Committee. We even sat on Budget day without any such hint. The Chancellor mentioned the proposal, en passant, in the Budget debate, as did the Secretary of State for Social Security, who also mentioned this Bill in that debate, but without putting the two together. No connection between them was made.

I am not naturally of a conspiratorial turn of mind. I prefer the more random view of life, but I wonder why new clause 5 has suddenly emerged. It is 15 months before its provisions come into effect.

Mr. Duncan Smith

It is a sop.

Mrs. Lait

Looking around the Government Benches, I can only agree, that it may be a sop. One or two may just fall for it. I am more inclined to believe that, while it has something to do with the later amendments, it is more likely that the Government desperately hope that any vote on the later amendments takes place at the dead of night.

The new clause was tabled last thing on Thursday because the Government took one look at the list of amendments that had already been tabled, noticed that the Opposition had not tabled their amendments and panicked. The Secretary of State sent out his messengers like Lars Porsena of Clusium. They went out north and south, east and west. The Chancellor of the Exchequer obliged and decided to let the Secretary of State for Social Services have the honour of proposing the amendment set out in the Budget. The Government are trying desperately to hold off a debate and vote on benefit cuts. However, the debate is taking place before any consultation has finished. I am surprised that the Government should do such a thing. There is much in the Bill to discuss, and we shall make sure that it is discussed.

Last week, we had a debate, introduced by the Liberal Democrats, on the abuse of Parliament. Those who were present will remember that they were not even effective enough to be able to vote on the motion. However, during the debate, my right hon. Friend the Member for South-West Surrey (Mrs. Bottomley) made an excellent point about the abuses that the House is facing.

Mr. Dale Campbell-Savours (Workington)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam Speaker

Does the point of order concern relevance?

Mr. Campbell-Savours

It does.

Madam Speaker

I think that the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mrs. Lait) is coming to her point.

Mrs. Lait

I am indeed, Madam Speaker. However, one of the factors in this debate is the speed with which the new clause was tabled and the lack of consultation.

We have before us another example of the abuse that the House is suffering. We could easily have discussed the new clause in Committee. It could easily have been laid before the Committee. Once the split among those on the Government Benches became clear, we had to discuss the new clause.

Part of the abuse of the House is the volume of legislation that is being brought forward by regulation, and the new clause introduces further regulations on maternity allowance. The Minister has denied that the clause would have much impact on business, notwithstanding the fact that all the women involved will need their wage slips. My hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton has already pointed out how difficult it will be for self-employed women to produce the information that the Benefits Agency will need to enable it to pay the maternity allowance.

No Opposition Member suggests that employers should not produce wage slips, but we are wary of the Government's tendency to introduce creeping regulations. It is easy to say that the Benefits Agency will pay out on the basis of wage slips only. However, when there is the slightest opportunity for anybody to query a wage slip, there will be a call to the employer. Suddenly, a case will be built up for the employer to justify. He will be called upon to fill in forms, to verify and to check. There has not been any reaction from employers so far because of the speed with which the new clause was tabled.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham)

I am grateful to my hon. Friend because she highlights an important consideration, which is the exponential rise in regulation that this country has had to contend with since 1 May 1997. Has she made any assessment of the likely increase in the net number of regulations that we face as a result of the new clause? Does she think that that is important, given that the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry has already said that the Government have not got it right on regulations?

4 pm

Mrs. Lait

I assure my hon. Friend that we would be happy to work that out, but, because of the speed with which the new clause was tabled, it has been impossible to do so yet.

I am sure that employers' organisations will rapidly make their views clear. No regulatory impact assessment has yet been produced. I hope that the Government will give us an assurance that they intend to produce one, because otherwise we shall oppose the Bill on the basis of the costs to business.

Many hon. Members have been lobbied by the Pre-School Learning Alliance, which held a reception in our Dining Room last week. I have visited many playgroups in my constituency. Every single one of them has pointed out to me the difficulties that it is experiencing with Government regulations. Playgroups are paying the minimum wage, but their objection is that the people who run them are turning from good-hearted volunteers who want to help children into unpaid form-filling slaves. They must deal with the working time directive, they will potentially have to deal with the stakeholder pension, as laid out in the Bill, and now they are likely to have to deal with the maternity allowance forms.

The maternity allowance will affect primarily women who have been out of work, who are desperate to get back into work and who can work only part-time, either because they are not qualified or because they have children. Those are the very women who are likely to find employers less willing to employ them. As the Minister said, about 14,000 women are excluded—14,000 women who could potentially get further jobs, but whom employers are likely to find it difficult to employ. We are speaking of a relatively small sum in the overall total of social security spending.

Kali Mountford (Colne Valley)

I am trying desperately to follow the argument, now that we have finally got on to the clause. Is the hon. Lady telling the House that the Conservative party is opposed to extending maternity allowance on the basis of filling in forms?

Mrs. Lait

If the hon. Lady listened to my earlier points, she would realise that the crucial point is that there is no time for us to consider the proposal, and there has been no consultation. Our concern is that, with the best will in the world, employers will be unable to employ precisely the sort of women whom the hon. Lady is trying to help. The inability to balance the two interests is the focus of our discussion and, probably, our opposition.

Some 14,000 women are excluded because they have been earning too little. The sum involved is relatively small compared to the overall total of social security spending, but weekend figures from the Library show that the Government's social security control total is spinning out of control. They promised to reduce social security spending, but it is increasing at a rate of 3.2 per cent. a year, which is more than inflation. Hence, the relatively small sum will add to social security control problems.

I asked the Library to find out why it would take 16 months to introduce the changes. The answer was illuminating. Let us count back from 20 August 2000. Women are eligible for the allowance from the 11th week before the baby is due. It is also payable if the baby is born prematurely. That can be as early as 19 weeks before the expected week of birth. That takes the date back to April 2000. However, if the rules were to come into force in April 2000 to cover women who give birth to premature babies, women could claim from November this year.

The interesting comment was that November this year is too early for the necessary legislative and administrative arrangements to be put in place. It cannot be too difficult or time consuming for the Benefits Agency to extend a known benefit. Do I detect a concern that the Bill will be delayed either here or in the other place? With the Government's majority, I can hardly believe that, but perhaps that it what they fear.

As the Minister said, changes to maternity leave are going through the House, so it is not clear what the final pattern will be, but we must look at the interaction of this extended benefit with maternity leave. I should like the vulnerable women who would need to get back into the workplace to be encouraged to do so. We need to ensure that low-paid, self-employed women have the opportunity to have children, if that is what they want.

The effect of the national minimum wage is that women who work for between eight and three-quarter and 18 and a third hours a week will receive this allowance, which is the point of the figure of £30 to £66 a week.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Can the hon. Lady make the position absolutely clear? Is she for or against the extension of the maternity allowance?

Mrs. Lait

As I have said time and again, the Bill is the wrong place in which to put that allowance without full consultation.

We want the single mums who need to get back into the workplace, or those who have few qualifications, to be working, and they are the ones who will be working part-time. Even if, as the Government have said, the initial regulation is minimal—because the Benefits Agency carries out the work on the basis of wage slips—and if maternity leave is extended, it will, over time and taking those two together, be much less attractive for employers and charities to employ women who could bear children. [Interruption.]

The Minister may disagree—he looks at though he does—but small employers have to ask themselves whether they need this hassle. There will be no clear decision, but it will gently emerge that employers will choose to employ mature women or young men, who also need jobs. That could be damaging to the sort of women who everyone in the House would like to get back into the workplace.

The Government say that they want a flexible, modern work force. The measure will make it much harder for women to get back into that flexible, modern work force. We cannot see the need for the new clause to be rushed through the House. There has not been proper time to consider it and to get the views of interested bodies. Tabling it at the very last moment was not the best way to help women; it is a shoddy attempt to cover up the splits between Labour Members, which shows their contempt for the House. We will oppose the new clause.

Mrs. Browning

The Minister was kind enough to take an intervention from me specifically on the tax position and the claims of self-employed women. I should like to expand a little on my intervention.

The Minister will be aware of the position under self-assessment for self-employed people—men and women. For example, a self-employed woman who needed to make a claim for the new benefit during this year would have to rely on her income from her filed accounts for the 1997-98 tax year. People will be looking to file their returns for the present tax year with the Inland Revenue at the end of September, if they want it to calculate the tax liability, or by 31 January next year, if they are doing that themselves. There will also be a period in which the Inland Revenue will examine and agree those returns.

For self-employed women, we are therefore looking at a time scale in which income would not be immediately available, even to themselves, because it would have to be confirmed by the Inland Revenue. One factor differentiates self-employed women from self-employed men when they first set up a business: the income from the new business is often the second income in the household. Thus, many women start up a business in a modest way, perhaps working from home, so the income that they draw from the business in the first year or two is minimal because they want the business to grow before deriving a bigger income from it. The Minister's colleagues in the Department of Trade and Industry will confirm that pattern.

Earlier, I asked the Minister about how such women would make a claim under this new provision. I am also concerned that, in the first or second year of a new business, it might be extremely difficult for some women to qualify for the benefit because of the way in which self-employed accounts are prepared. I do not imply that there is any irregularity in their preparation, but the owner of the business will have forgone earnings. To compare the earnings of such a person with those of someone under the PAYE system would be complex.

When the Minister replies, as he promised that he would, to my specific questions about the tax point and the data that would be taken into account in determining those women's earnings, I hope that he will look carefully at the new way in which tax, particularly under self-assessment, is worked out for new businesses and people setting up as self-employed. He will be aware, that under his party's new deal, many people are being encouraged to become self-employed, and they will be particularly vulnerable to how their first and second-year accounts are treated in terms of their qualifying for the benefit.

It is a matter of great disappointment that the Government have brought this proposal to the Floor of the House without even thinking through how it will be put into practice for self-employed women. The Labour party is good at launching new measures, but not very good at thinking them through.

Mr. David Rendel (Newbury)

May I make just a few points on behalf of the Liberal Democrats? We accept the Conservatives' point that the proposal is being rushed through with minimum consultation. As my hon. Friend the Member for Northavon (Mr. Webb) succeeded in pointing out in an intervention, little thought seems to have been given to how the measure will be put into practice. The Minister might do well to think again about his response to my hon. Friend and come up with some clearer plans on how he will ensure that those concerned realise that they may be eligible for new benefits. Simply telling them to look at their pay slips—if they have a pay slip at all—is not good enough.

None the less, we welcome the new clause. We have been pressing for some time for better and wider maternity benefits, and this is an attempt to provide them. The Government continually tell us that the Bill's aim is to provide more benefits to those who need them most, and we seem to be proceeding a little way down that path. However, as is so often the case with this Bill, it is not the very poorest who will be helped because they earn below the limits covered by the new clause—or perhaps earn nothing at all. A number of mothers will therefore not be affected by the provision, which will give a little more to those who are not quite the very poorest, but who are poorer than those who have been receiving the benefit until now. That is at least a step in the right direction.

One of the most important things that any child can have is a good start in life, and we can help babies in that respect by reducing the stress on their mothers. Reducing financial stress, both before and immediately after birth, must therefore be of benefit not just to mother, baby and the bonding process, but to the whole of society. The Liberal Democrats welcome the new clause in so far as the Government are at least making a move towards providing those advantages by the extension of this benefit.

4.15 pm
Mr. Bayley

I shall begin by responding to the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Mrs. Browning). I welcomed her intervention because she made an important point. Having listened to her speech, I am now clear that she misunderstands the basis on which maternity allowance is currently paid to self-employed people. The benefit is based not on income, but on national insurance contributions. The national insurance contribution records will permit or deny access to maternity allowance.

The contributory conditions for self-employed women are unchanged by the new clause. A woman will have had to have paid 26 contributions in the 66 weeks leading up to the birth. What is new is that maternity allowance at the reduced rate will now, for the first time, be available to self-employed women on low earnings who have small earnings exemptions from national insurance contributions for at least 26 weeks before the birth, so they will not have to file accounts to prove earnings. The hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton is suffering from a misapprehension.

Mrs. Browning

I am familiar with the contributions aspect, but my understanding is that there will in addition be an earnings threshold at which the benefit would apply. If there is to be an earnings threshold, there will clearly have to be some proof of earnings.

Mr. Bayley

Hitherto, a self-employed woman has been able to obtain the maternity allowance on the basis of having paid 26 national insurance contributions in the 66 weeks before the birth. Some self-employed women, such as those who are setting up a business for the first time—precisely the women to whom the hon. Lady referred—will not have paid national insurance contributions because their earnings from their business will be too low to require them to pay contributions. If they have applied and qualified for the small earnings exemption for at least 26 weeks in the period leading up to the birth, they will qualify for the £27 rate of maternity allowance that we propose, which is 90 per cent. of the £30 bottom earnings limit that we are introducing for employed people.

Mrs. Browning

In addition to their national insurance contributions exemption, a mechanism will have to be agreed in advance to establish the exact tax point in the earnings of those women at which the threshold will make them eligible. As I said, often their drawings from their business accounts may be minimal in order to enable their business to grow, and the accounts may show that they plough more back into the business. Will that be taken into account?

Mr. Bayley

The hon. Lady has raised an important point, but she is making the matter more complicated that it needs to be. We do not need new regulations. People who run their own businesses do not need to submit accounts to qualify for maternity allowance. It will depend on their national insurance record. If people apply for the small earnings exemption from national insurance contributions for 26 weeks before the birth, that would passport them on to a maternity allowance. We do not need a new test of earnings: women who have established their entitlement through the existing national insurance system will now, for the first time, receive maternity allowance.

The hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. Rendel) asked how we will get the word out. Self-employed people, particularly those who have started up businesses through the new deal, will get support from their mentor. Under the new deal, someone setting up a new business gets a mentor for two years. If the new entrepreneur is a woman who becomes pregnant during those two years, it will be the responsibility of the mentor to explain her rights.

As for other women who are employed, at present a woman who is earning £66 a week knows how to claim. Now a woman earning £65 a week, who has hitherto been unable to claim, will submit her claim in exactly the same way. The only difference is that now, when women earning £65, £45 or £30 a week claim maternity allowance, they will be told that they qualify rather than that they do not, and will receive benefit.

Let me tell the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mrs. Lait) that if the Conservatives oppose the new clause, they will perpetuate a two-tier system—indeed, two-tier systems. They will be saying that it is right for the law to provide maternity allowance for women on higher incomes, but wrong for it to provide the allowance for those on lower incomes. That is an absurd attitude. Moreover, the hon. Lady will be saying that it is right for a woman who is employed to receive maternity allowance at a rate of nearly £60 a week, but that those who are self-employed should be paid a lower rate.

We are correcting those two wrongs. We are enabling all women earning £30 a week or more to receive maternity allowance, which must be a good thing. It is extraordinary that the hon. Lady should suggest that members of her party will vote against the new clause.

The question that the hon. Lady must answer is the question that some of my hon. Friends posed to her during her speech: is her party in favour of extending maternity allowance to low-paid women or not? Low-paid women already have a right to maternity leave, but those who are so low paid that they are below the lower earnings limit do not receive maternity allowance, and therefore cannot afford to take the leave. Women on higher incomes receive maternity leave, and the allowance enabling them to afford to take it. That is good for their health and the health of the child; but women below the lower earnings limit are denied the same opportunity.

If Conservative Members shoot through the Lobby to vote against the new clause, they will be condemning women on lower earnings to a denial of their right to maternity allowance. I should find it extraordinary were that to happen.

The hon. Lady complained that the Government had tabled the new clause only on Thursday of last week. I can only assume that she has been asleep, not just over the weekend but since 6 May, when the new clause was actually tabled. Moreover, although 11 days' notice may not have been enough for her, the issue was flagged up for her two months ago in the Chancellor's Budget speech. The proposal has not been sprung on the House without warning or prior consideration. In the case of every Bill, new measures are presented as the Bill proceeds; and that is exactly what is happening now.

The new provision will not impose a burden on business. Under existing provisions, the Benefits Agency checks a percentage of claims with employers to confirm employment, and to confirm that the appropriate national insurance contributions have been paid. We believe that the new scheme will reduce the need for the agency to check claims, because wage slips will constitute an additional verification of employment. The extra burdens on business will therefore be negligible.

Mr. Bercow

The Minister said, to a fanfare of trumpets, that the new clause would not be burdensome on business. Does he seek to distinguish it from, for example, another measure to which he referred in his opening remarks£the working families tax credit, whose implementation has already been denounced by employers' representatives as distinctly burdensome?

Mr. Bayley

The hon. Gentleman should listen to what I am saying. Under the new clause, there is no requirement for businesses to file additional returns or answer additional questions. In fact, we believe that the use of wage slips as passports to maternity allowance will somewhat reduce the need for the Benefits Agency to carry out checks. The hon. Gentleman's fears are therefore groundless.

The argument of the hon. Member for Beckenham that the new provision might deter employers from employing women of child-bearing age is a crassly stupid point. It is a point that her party made when the Equal Pay Act 1970 was introduced—that equal pay should not be introduced for women because employers would not employ women if it were. We know what has happened since the Act has come in. Even though pay may not quite have equalised, the relative earnings of women have increased dramatically, and the number of women in the labour market has continued to grow. The hon. Lady's fear is absolutely groundless.

The hon. Member for Beckenham said that the provision would affect just 14,000 people. She may have misunderstood something that I said earlier. There are 14,000 employed women on wages that have hitherto been judged to be too low to qualify for maternity allowance. In future, they will qualify; they will get the allowance. That is at the core of what the new clause is about. In addition, however, there are the 13,000 self-employed people who either have never qualified because their earnings were too low, or who have qualified for some allowance; in future, they will qualify to a greater extent because of our decision to pay the self-employed woman who has a baby the same rate of maternity allowance as the employed woman.

The hon. Member for Beckenham complains on two fronts. She complains that we will not put the measure into effect until 2000 and that we are dragging our feet, yet at the same time, she says that we are abusing our role by introducing the measure so quickly. She cannot have it both ways.

The Conservative party does not have long to make up its mind. It will have to decide one way or the other how to vote on the measure. It has to decide whether women on low earnings should get the same right to paid time off when they have a baby as women who are on higher earnings. If it believes that they should, it will vote with the Government. If it believes that one should discriminate against women on low pay and against the self-employed, it will vote against. That is the simple question that it has to consider. I hope that it will support the Government's proposal.

Mr. Duncan Smith

I will not detain the House long because the Government have already done that. I want to make just a few points to the Minister about some of his assertions and allegations.

Two or three interesting things arise from the debate. First, the Government have presented the proposal not at the start of proceedings on the Bill, but on Report, which means that there is no possibility of understanding from business, or from anyone else who is involved in the matter, what the balance of cost is.

The Government have produced no cost assessment. We are meant to take the Minister's word for it. It is yet again a great Government trick. It may work with their Back Benchers, who seem to take their word for everything, but the fact is that we cannot possibly accept their word when they say, "Don't worry. We know that the measure will cost no money."

The question was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Mrs. Lait), who said that we do not know what effect the measure will have on people employing the very women whom the measure is aimed at, given that the Government have produced no assessment of the extra cost or burden that may come through on the back of it. We have no idea, so the first point is that the Government want everyone simply to take their word for it.

This is the same Government who have produced a raft of extra costs on business: the national minimum wage, the working time directive, the European works councils and parental leave. When each of those initially came through, the Government said, "Don't worry. There is no extra cost. There will be no problems." On each one, business said, "Rubbish."

The Government said that there would be no cost at all in relation to the working families tax credit. They even voted down amendments that were tabled by the Conservative party and by the Liberal Democrats. Now we find that those in the other place are up in arms because they realise how much it will.

The second point was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Mrs. Browning); it is a powerful one, although I do not think that the Minister finally answered it. She was talking about the profits level of £3,770 a year. The point that she was making was that there is a grey area about exactly where the earnings threshold£the earnings assessment£would be. Because money may have been ploughed back into the business, profits may not be high enough to break through, so there is a grey area.

The Minister did not deal with that point. Certainly I do not feel that the point was clarified in his reply, and certainly the people about whom my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton spoke would not have understood what he meant in trying to deal with it. Although the Minister may be right in his answers to our questions, at this point, it is simply too early to know the right answers. The Government want to rush through the provision even though they have 15 months before it is implemented.

4.30 pm
Mrs. Browning

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for again raising the issue with the Minister. The Minister seemed to be under the impression that, once self-employed people opt—based on expectations of their business's profitability—to make national insurance contributions as self-employed people at a certain level, that level will be set in tablets of stone. As we know, once a financial year has ended and a self-employed person's accounts have been approved by the Inland Revenue, and if there has been an NI contribution underpayment, the Inland Revenue will come back to that self-employed person for any shortfall.

Mr. Duncan Smith

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who makes the point very well—I hope that my hon. Friends have understood it. She was making the point that we are not questioning whether the Minister was right or wrong in his reply, but saying that, ultimately, he does not yet know the answer to our questions.

It is incredible that, on Report, a very important provision is being included in the Bill, but Ministers cannot answer our questions. As I said, although Labour Members may accept anything that the Minister says—such as "This is night, not day", or "Tomorrow will be not tomorrow, but the day after"—the Opposition's job is to ask questions. I ask: on balance, will the new clause make it more or less likely that those whom the Government intend to benefit will so benefit? Unless our questions are answered, there is no way in which we can possibly support the new clause.

The Government talk endlessly about benefiting a specific group of women, but for one year, Ministers will be taking away from those same women £1.6 billion in married couples allowance. Those women will receive not one penny of that money; it will go straight into the Treasury's back pocket.

Ministers ask us to believe that they are showing a bit of largesse and are really very decent, giving a hard-pressed group of women some extra money—but I do not believe a word of it. The public will not trust the Government on the issue. The Government should not be trusted on it.

Ministers have 15 months—plenty of time—before implementing the proposals. Why do they not make proper proposals and give us time to consider them? The new clause is simply a sop to their own Back Benchers, to try to buy them off. What a joke.

Mr. Bayley

With the permission of the House, I should like to answer the additional question asked by the hon. Gentleman and deal with the point, which he reiterated, made by the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton.

First, the hon. Gentleman asked what the cost of implementing the measure will be. The cost to the Government will be £15 million. The cost to employers—for reasons that we have already discussed—will be nothing.

Secondly, on the point originally made by the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton, I shall repeat my earlier reply. This time, however, I hope that the hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green might listen to it and understand it. Entitlement to maternity allowance is based not on earnings but on national insurance contributions. The NI contributions that are taken into account are those on an individual's record at the time that person applies for maternity allowance. That is how the system has operated in the past, and how it will operate in the future. The rule is simple, understandable and easy to operate.

In future, however, self-employed women on lower earnings will benefit from an allowance; previously, they have not so benefited. Self-employed women, regardless of earnings level, will benefit from the same rate of allowance as employed women. That must be a good thing. Employed women on low earnings, who have previously been denied maternity allowance, will be entitled to the allowance and will receive it, so that they are able to take and use their maternity leave. That must be good for the women concerned, for their health and for the health of the children. It is a sensible measure from a Government who want family-friendly employment policies. Labour Members will vote for it. I shall be astonished if Conservative Members vote against it, but that is in their hands.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 365, Noes 130.

Division No. 177] [4.35 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Benn, Rt Hon Tony
Ainger, Nick Bennett, Andrew F
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Benton, Joe
Alexander, Douglas Berry, Roger
Allan, Richard Best, Harold
Allen, Graham Betts, Clive
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Blears, Ms Hazel
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale) Blizzard, Bob
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary Boateng, Paul
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Borrow, David
Atherton, Ms Candy Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Atkins, Charlotte Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Austin, John Bradshaw, Ben
Ballard, Jackie Brake, Tom
Banks, Tony Breed, Colin
Barnes, Harry Brinton, Mrs Helen
Barron, Kevin Brown, Rt Hon Gordon
Battle, John (Dunfermline E)
Bayley, Hugh Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Beard, Nigel Browne, Desmond
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Begg, Miss Anne Buck, Ms Karen
Beggs, Roy Burden, Richard
Beith, Rt Hon A J Burgon, Colin
Bell, Martin (Tatton) Burnett, John
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough) Butler, Mrs Christine
Byers, Rt Hon Stephen Fyfe, Maria
Cable, Dr Vincent Gapes, Mike
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth) Gerrard, Neil
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Gibson, Dr Ian
Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies Godsiff, Roger
(NE Fife) Goggins, Paul
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Campbell-Savours, Dale Gorrie, Donald
Cann, Jamie Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Caplin, Ivor Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Casale, Roger Grocott, Bruce
Caton, Martin Grogan, John
Cawsey, Ian Gunnell, John
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S) Hain, Peter
Chaytor, David Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Clapham, Michael Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields) Hancock, Mike
Clark, Paul (Gillingham) Hanson, David
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S) Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian) Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge) Healey, John
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S) Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Clelland, David Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Clwyd, Ann Hepburn, Stephen
Coaker, Vernon Heppell, John
Coffey, Ms Ann Hewitt, Ms Patricia
Coleman, Iain Hill, Keith
Colman, Tony Hinchliffe, David
Connarty, Michael Hodge, Ms Margaret
Corbett, Robin Hoey, Kate
Corbyn, Jeremy Home Robertson, John
Cotter, Brian Hood, Jimmy
Cousins, Jim Hoon, Geoffrey
Cox, Tom Hope, Phil
Cranston, Ross Hopkins, Kelvin
Crausby, David Howarth, Alan (Newport E)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch) Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Cummings, John Howells, Dr Kim
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr Jack Hoyle, Lindsay
(Copeland) Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S) Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Curtis—Thomas, Mrs Claire Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Dafis, Cynog Humble, Mrs Joan
Dalyell, Tam Hurst, Alan
Darling, Rt Hon Alistair Hutton, John
Darvill, Keith Iddon, Dr Brian
Davey, Edward (Kingston) Illsley, Eric
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W) Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Davidson, Ian Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Jamieson, David
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C) Jenkins, Brian
Dean, Mrs Janet Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Denham, John Johnson, Miss Melanie
Dismore, Andrew (Welwyn Hatfield)
Dobbin, Jim Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Donohoe, Brian H Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark)
Doran, Frank Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Drew, David Jones, Ms Jenny
Drown, Ms Julia (Wolverh'ton SW)
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey) Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston) Jowell, Rt Hon Ms Tessa
Edwards, Huw Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Efford, Clive Keeble, Ms Sally
Ellman, Mrs Louise Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Ennis, Jeff Keetch, Paul
Ewing, Mrs Margaret Kelly, Ms Ruth
Field, Rt Hon Frank Kemp, Fraser
Fisher, Mark Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Fitzsimons, Lorna Kidney, David
Flynn, Paul Kilfoyle, Peter
Follett, Barbara King, Andy(Rugby & Kenilworth)
Forsythe, Clifford Kumar, Dr Ashok
Foster, Don (Bath) Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Foster, Michael J (Worcester) Lawrence, Ms Jackie
Foulkes, George Laxton, Bob
Lepper, David Rapson, Syd
Leslie, Christopher Raynsford, Nick
Levitt, Tom Reid, Rt Hon Dr John (Hamilton N)
Lewis, Terry (Worsley) Rendel, David
Linton, Martin Robertson, Rt Hon George
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C) (Hamilton S)
Lock, David Roche, Mrs Barbara
Love, Andrew Rooker, Jeff
McAllion, John Rooney, Terry
McAvoy, Thomas Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
McCabe, Steve Roy, Frank
McCartney, Rt Hon Ian Ruane, Chris
(Makerfield) Ruddock, Joan
McDonagh, Siobhain Russell, Bob (Colchester)
McDonnell, John Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
McGuire, Mrs Anne Ryan, Ms Joan
Mclsaac, Shona Salter, Martin
McKenna, Mrs Rosemary Sanders, Adrian
Mackinlay, Andrew Sarwar, Mohammad
Maclennan, Rt Hon Robert Savidge, Malcolm
McNamara, Kevin Sawford, Phil
McNulty, Tony Sedgemore, Brian
MacShane, Denis Shaw, Jonathan
Mactaggart, Fiona Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Mc Walter, Tony Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Mahon, Mrs Alice Skinner, Dennis
Mallaber, Judy Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Mandelson, Rt Hon Peter Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S) Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury) Smith, Miss Geraldine
Marshall, David (Shettleston) (Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Marshall—Andrews, Robert Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Martlew, Eric Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Maxton, John Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Meacher, Rt Hon Michael Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Meale, Alan Southworth, Ms Helen
Michie, Bill (Shefld Heeley) Spellar, John
Miller, Andrew Squire, Ms Rachel
Moffatt, Laura Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Moonie, Dr Lewis Steinberg, Gerry
Moran, Ms Margaret Stevenson, George
Morgan, Alasdair (Galloway) Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N) Stinchcombe, Paul
Morley, Elliot Stoate, Dr Howard
Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley) Stott, Roger
Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon) Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Mountford, Kali Straw, Rt Hon Jack
Mowlam, Rt Hon Marjorie Stringer, Graham
Mudie, George Stuart, Ms Gisela
Mullin, Chris Stunell, Andrew
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck) Sutcliffe, Gerry
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood) Swinney, John
Naysmith, Dr Doug Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
Oaten, Mark (Dewsbury)
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton) Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
O'Hara, Eddie Temple—Morris, Peter
Olner, Bill Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Organ, Mrs Diana Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Osborne, Ms Sandra Timms, Stephen
Pearson, Ian Tipping, Paddy
Pendry, Tom Todd, Mark
Pickthall, Colin Touhig, Don
Pike, Peter L Trickett, Jon
Plaskitt, James Truswell, Paul
Pollard, Kerry Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Pond, Chris Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Pound, Stephen Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Powell, Sir Raymond Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E) Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle) Vaz, Keith
Primarolo, Dawn Vis, Dr Rudi
Prosser, Gwyn Walley, Ms Joan
Purchase, Ken Ward, Ms Claire
Quinn, Lawrie Wareing, Robert N
Radice, Giles Watts, David
Rammell, Bill Webb,Steve
White, Brian Winnick, David
Whitehead, Dr Alan Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Wicks, Malcolm Wise, Audrey
Wigley, Rt Hon Dafydd Wood, Mike
Williams, Rt Hon Alan Worthington, Tony
(Swansea W) Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen) Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy) Wyatt, Derek
Willis, Phil Tellers for the Ayes:
Wills, Michael Mr. Greg Pope and
Wilson, Brian Mr. Jim Dowd.
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey) Horam, John
Amess, David Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James Hunter, Andrew
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Jenkin, Bernard
Bercow, John Johnson Smith,
Beresford, Sir Paul Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Blunt, Crispin Key, Robert
Body, Sir Richard King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Boswell, Tim Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W) Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Brady, Graham Lansley, Andrew
Brazier, Julian Leigh, Edward
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Letwin, Oliver
Browning, Mrs Angela Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Burns, Simon Lidington, David
Butterfill, John Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Chapman, Sir Sydney Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
(Chipping Barnet) Loughton, Tim
Chope, Christopher Luff, Peter
Clappison, James Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Kensington) MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Clark, Dr Michael (Rayleigh) McIntosh, Miss Anne
Clifton—Brown, Geoffrey MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew
Colvin, Michael McLoughlin, Patrick
Cormack, Sir Patrick Maples, John
Cran, James Maude, Rt Hon Francis
Curry, Rt Hon David Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian
Davies, Quentin (Grantham) May, Mrs Theresa
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice & Howden) Moss, Malcolm
Nicholls, Patrick
Day, Stephen
Duncan, Alan Ottaway, Richard
Duncan Smith, Iain Page, Richard
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter Paice, James
Evans, Nigel Paterson, Owen
Faber, David Pickles, Eric
Fabricant, Michael Randall, John
Fallon, Michael Redwood, Rt Hon John
Forth, Rt Hon Eric Robathan, Andrew
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Fraser, Christopher Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Gale, Roger Rowe, Andrew (Faversham)
Garnier, Edward Ruffley, David
Gibb, Nick St Aubyn, Nick
Gill, Christopher Sayeed, Jonathan
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Goodlad, Rt Hon Sir Alastair Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Soames, Nicholas
Gray, James Spicer, Sir Michael
Green, Damian Spring, Richard
Greenway, John Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Grieve, Dominic Swayne, Desmond
Gummer, Rt Hon John Syms, Robert
Hague, Rt Hon William Tapsell, Sir Peter
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Hammond, Philip Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Hawkins, Nick Taylor, Sir Teddy
Heald, Oliver Trend, Michael
Heathcoat—Amory, Rt Hon David Tyrie, Andrew
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas Walter, Robert
Wardle, Charles
Waterson, Nigel Wilshire, David
Wells, Bowen Yeo, Tim
Whitney, Sir Raymond Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Whittingdale, John Tellers for the Noes:
Wilkinson, John Mr. Tim Collins and
Willetts, David Sri David Madel.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

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