HL Deb 30 July 1982 vol 434 cc492-503

2.7 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health and Social Security (Lord Trefgarne) rose to move, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 8th July be approved.

The noble Lord, said: My Lords, with your Lordships, permission, I propose to speak to the other two Motions standing in my name on the Order Paper within this group—that is, the Housing Benefits (Permitted Totals for Local Schemes) Regulations 1982 and the Housing Benefits Regulations 1982—at the same time, and will move those two formally when we get to them A price of passing Acts containing regulation-making powers, as we have done recently in this context, is that regulations follow on inevitably shortly afterwards. We have before us today sets of regulations providing for the details of the implementation of the housing benefit scheme and the necessary amendments in the supplementary benefits scheme on matters concerning help with housing costs. We are bringing together two current schemes for help with housing costs. The interaction of the two schemes has confused claimant and adviser alike and we believe that the new arrangements—essentially to concentrate help with rent and rates in one place—are a considerable improvement upon the existing system.

Fortunately, in devising the new scheme, we have not started with a clean sheet. We have been able to draw upon the experience derived from the current schemes. We have also benefited from close working relationships with local authority representatives who have been able to advise us on the basis of their experience of administering the present scheme. I should like to place on the record our appreciation of the help that they, and the voluntary organisations we have consulted on the draft regulations, have been able to give us in drawing up the new arrangements.

The regulations do two main things. First, they provide for the way in which most supplementary benefit claimants will in future get help with their housing costs from their local authorities. Second, we have taken the opportunity to make a number of changes in the existing rebate and allowance schemes for people not on supplementary benefit. In bringing together the two schemes, and harmonising where possible the basic rules for help, we have had the advantage of two traditions from which we can draw, adapting what we believe to be the best features of each. May I mention at the outset that the changes have had to be introduced on an overall nil cost basis. We have had to pay for the improvements we have been able to make in a number of areas with savings elsewhere. But we have taken pains to achieve a financial balance.

I will not detain your Lordships with a detailed explanation of each of the regulations, but perhaps I could pick out a number of the more important aspects. Turning first to the housing benefit regulations, Regulation 3 provides for the commencement of the scheme in two stages. First, this November most supplementary benefit claimants who will be eligible for full help with their rent and rates will receive that assistance in the form of a rebate from their local authorities. Second, next April, the transfer of responsibility for the remaining supplementary benefit cases and the replacement of the existing scheme for other people will take place. The phased introduction is being achieved with a wide measure of agreement among the bodies representing authorities.

Regulations 6 and 7 deal with basic eligibility for help with rent and rates. I am pleased to say that we have been able to extend eligibility for help to a number of groups at present excluded. They include service and business tenants; caravan owners who pay site rents; houseboat dwellers; tenants of certain university accommodation and "shared" owners who rent part of a dwelling.

Regulation 10 deals essentially with the problem of short-stay hostel dwellers. There has been concern about the position of this group and some confusion about what we have achieved, so it may be helpful to put the matter on record. Hostel dwellers who are on supplementary benefit will continue to get their hostel charge, including an element for board, in their payments of supplementary benefit on the same basis as now. This regulation deals with another category of hostel dwellers; that is, those who are not receiving supplementary benefit. Normally they will be in work. Under the existing rebate scheme there has been some doubt about how quickly it is proper to treat such people as living in the hostel "as their home"—a basic condition of benefit. In summary, what we are now providing is that, once such a person has been in the hostel for 14 days, he is eligible for benefit. In that case, the eligibility is backdated to the date of the original claim so that no benefit is lost. This improves markedly on existing arrangements.

Regulation 13 sets out the needs allowances which formed the basis of calculation of benefit. These follow the arrangements of the existing standard scheme, but with one new improvement. From April, 75p a week will be added to the needs allowance of pensioners, thus increasing their benefit. Regulation 14 deals with income disregards.

Regulation 17, with Schedule 3, makes two particular improvements on the way help is given with rent. First, furniture charges will be eligible for help for the first time. Second, it is made clear that most service charges are to be eligible for help. I am sure that these improvements will be particularly welcomed.

Regulation 18 deals with a difficult area concerning non-dependant deductions. Both current schemes provide for reductions in the help from public funds where there are non-dependants in the household, but the existing rules differ appreciably between the two schemes. Clearly there has in future to be one set of rules. The Government prefer the structure of the existing local authority schemes. As a result, in future no deduction will be made for people under 18; and different rates of deduction will be made for people aged 18 to 20; those aged 21 to pensionable age; and those over pensionable age altogether.

At the same time, we are making a consequential change in supplementary benefit for people under 18 living in someone else's—normally their parents'—household. At the present they get a housing addition —£3.10 a week from November—to enable them to contribute to the household's overall housing costs. In the new scheme, however, no deduction from the parents' benefit will be made for such people. The specific addition in supplementary benefit for non-householders under 18 is therefore no longer logical and it will be eneded. We will, however, make transitional arrangements so that 16 or 17-year-olds receiving the addition next April when the scheme starts will keep the addition while they stay on supplementary benefit.

Regulation 19 sets out the way in which benefit is calculated. These incorporate changes in the tapers which are used to calculate entitlement when a claimant's income is above or below his needs allowance. Great emphasis has been placed in certain quarters on the losses for certain claimants so it is right for me to put the changes into context. What we have done is to reduce the help that will be given to claimants with income above the needs allowance in order to make improvements for the poorest category of claimants below the needs allowance.

Parliament has spent a great deal of time discussing the question of losers. As I have made clear, this reform must be on a nil-cost neutral basis and, once the tapers are adjusted in favour of the poorest pensioners, then the money has to be found elsewhere. It is a matter of priorities. We believe we have struck a reasonable balance.

Part V of the regulations cover the procedures for claims. I will mention one aspect, in Regulation 28. This provides for a duty on authorities to determine a claim within 14 days of receiving the necessary information or, if not practicable, as quickly as possible afterwards. This reflects certain concern which has been expressed about problems for claimants where there are delays in handling the claim, and improves on the existing position.

Before leaving the Housing Benefits Regulations, I should mention one final key area; review of housing benefits decisions. Regulations 44–50 spell out the claimant's rights in this respect. First, claimants must be notified and given certain basic information on determination of their claim. Secondly, they have a right to request a more detailed statement of how their benefit has been calculated. This is new. Thirdly, claimants may request an official review of the decision. Fourthly, if a claimant remains dissatisfied, he has a right to make representations to a review board, formally appointed by the authority. This also is new. The review board will be composed of elected representatives, acting independently of the authority. The claimant has a right to make representations in writing, to be heard in person and to call people to give evidence. Where, in the light of the hearing, a review board concludes that the original determination should be altered, the board's decision is binding on the authority.

I will now mention a separate but, altogether more modest, set of regulations—those dealing with the Permitted Totals for Local Schemes. These carry on the existing practice of setting a limit on the extra amounts authorities may spend by way of local schemes in standard cases. This is basically 10 per cent.

Finally, we also have before us consequential supplementary benefit amending regulations. Inevitably, a change of this importance has considerable knock-on effects. I will not go into the details of these amending regulations unless your Lordships wish me to do so, but it is a fact of life that amending regulations are by definition not always very easy to follow since they are altering existing provisions. But, briefly, the amendments to the Requirements and Resources regulations do two things. First, they provide for the removal of provision for help with rent and rates of supplementary benefit claimants who will be covered within housing benefit. And secondly, they provide for housing benefit supplement—the formal legal phrase for what has commonly been known as "topping-up". This will provide that an amount will be paid if a claimant has net housing costs to meet which are greater than the amount by which his resources exceed his requirements for supplementary benefit purposes. In conclusion, my Lords, I recognise that the regulations are extensive in their scope, but I hope that my short account has served to throw a little light on the most signficant aspects. I beg to move the first Motion standing in my name.

Moved, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 8th July be approved.—(Lord Trefgarne.)

2.18 p.m.

Lord Wallace of Coslany

My Lords, I would like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, for his somewhat brief summary of these extremely complex orders, which hit hard at the worst-off sections of the community. The noble Lord, as usual, was extremely competent in dealing with a difficult and complex situation. The noble Lord really is becoming quite expert in defending the indefensible.

One agrees with the concept of unified benefit which these orders and the Act from which they spring are claimed by the Government to achieve. But the method which the Government have chosen means that nearly 2 million people will be worse off when this scheme comes into operation. Once again, as with other social security measures introduced by this Government, it is designed to achieve financial savings at the expense of the worst-off—probably in the region of £16 million net. Local authorities face a tremendous task in operating these orders. Staff will obviously have to be increased just at a time when the Government's aim is to reduce local authority manpower. Mind you, my Lords, it is only fair to add that the Government are financially to compensate local authorities, at a time when they are introducing strict financial curbs on local authority spending in other directions.

The orders, particularly the Housing Benefits Regulations 1982, which contain some 51 regulations, are complex in the extreme, baffling, I might say, and a mass of gobbledegook. How local authority officers will cope, heaven alone knows! Certainly the beneficiaries, victims of extreme bureaucracy, will find it difficult to ascertain their rights, as will Citizens' Advice Bureaux and others helping people in difficulties and trying to translate into simple language complicated legislation for the benefit of those who are in difficulties.

As a former member of the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, I am well aware that the committee have no power to comment on or examine the merits on policy grounds of statutory instruments, but concern themselves only as to whether a Minister has exceeded his powers. Dealing with the draft Housing Benefit Regulations 1982, the committee have expressed concern over Regulation 42, and, for the benefit of the House, I will quote: That the Committee draw the special attention of both Houses to an unusual feature in Regulation 42 of the draft. Under this regulation a local authority is empowered to recover overpayment of housing benefit even when the authority itself had made the overpayment by its own mistake—even when the mistake is not one of fact but consists of a misinterpretation of the regulations. In oral evidence to the Committee, officials of the Department of Health and Social Security have stated that such a power is not unprecedented: a similar power can be found in paragraph 9 of Schedule 4 to the Housing (Finance) Act 1972. The Committee note, however, that this is not altogether a parallel case because the power given in that Act is confined to recovery by way of deduction from future payments. The Committee note with concern that this wide-ranging power could operate unfairly on sections of the community least able to protect themselves. The Committee learnt in evidence that a circular will be issued to authorities giving guidance on how they should exercise this power with care, for example by establishing whether a claimant could reasonably know that he was being overpaid. This circular is not mentioned in the Explanatory Note on the instrument and the Committee consider that in respect of a provision of this nature the widest publicity should be given to such guidance. The suggested circular by the Department of Health and Social Security may possibly assist officials and local authorities, but it does not go far enough. What about the individual citizen? What plain language guide will be available to those sections of the community least able to protect themselves and, furthermore, to those worthy voluntary bodies who do their best to help people to obtain their rights. This House has a right to know the Government's intentions and to examine and discuss the Government's effort to translate this horrible mass of complicated gobbledegook into plain English.

I fully appreciate that a person's rights are set out in Regulations 44 to 50. So far so good. But the difficulty arises in formulating objections and appeals against decisions. To achieve this, detailed study of these regulations is involved, and that is where a simple, plain, straightforward explanation of the regulations is needed.

This leads me to the question of appeals. During all stages of the Bill in this House I continually raised, by amendments, the need for an independent appeals tribunal. The Government resisted these attempts every time. At least the Government have, at the last moment, come forward with something approaching an appeal body. The Government's proposals for an appeal body consisting of councillors—members of the local authority making decisions—is simply not good enough. How can local councillors who are members of a local authority make decisions and then sit independently. It is true that they will be dealing with appeals against decisions by their officials, but although proceedings will be private, councillors will also be dealing with private and confidential affairs of local citizens, some of whom they may know. I am not reflecting on the integrity of the average councillor, but let us face it, such an appeal body is not completely independent, but of course it is a cheap way out and typical of the Government's approach.

There is also the problem of course—as I know from former local authority experience—of getting councillors to find the time to sit on such bodies. It is sometimes very difficult to get an adequate number. Another very important point is that not all people are able to put their own case. Is it possible, (is it allowed?) that some person may represent an individual and speak for him? Unless that is done there cannot be proper justice carried out.

It is because of all this that I welcome the decision to monitor the effect of appeals and possibly to reconsider. I assume that the results will be given by the Minister in a report to Parliament. The final decision on the effect of monitoring and the success or otherwise of the appeal system should be taken by Parliament and not left to a Minister and his officials.

In many ways the regulations are undemocratic and unfair. In some cases they can divide families, particularly on the question of non-householders— the 16-and 17-year olds with one on low pay and the other unemployed. The Act and these orders have all been designed with one objective: to save money at the expense of the worst off sections of the community. This is not new; it follows the 5 per cent. reduction in unemployment benefit and the whole series of social security legislation and orders which continue to pour from this Government whose period of life is becoming all too slowly shorter. If one wants further evidence one has only to study the report of the Social Services Select Committee of another place to realise the extent and the effect of three years' erosion of the social services.

A democratically elected Chamber has passed these orders by a majority. Because of that it is not the practice of this House to oppose them, although recently, and a few moments ago, we have had examples showing that it does sometimes happen. However, it is a regrettable fact and we have no option. However, at least we have some consolation. All of us on this side of the House—and I include all Benches—have done our best and our share to improve the Act to some minor extent. To that extent, I am content, but I am not content with these orders which are complex and grossly unfair.

2.29 p.m.

Lord Banks

My Lords, I should like once again to join in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, for his lucid explanation of a complicated matter. I made clear when we discussed the Social Security and Housing Benefits Bill that we on these Benches wanted a unified housing benefit, but that we had misgivings about the actual proposals which the Government had put forward. In particular, we regretted the fact that the Government had decided to proceed on a no-cost basis, in spite of the fact that the Supplementary Benefit Commission had suggested that a scheme of this kind was not likely to be satisfactory unless there were some additional resources made available to it. We doubted the wisdom of giving the bulk of the administration to local authorities, first, because of the burden on the local authorities themselves and, secondly, because of the number of offices to which people would have to go. Those entitled to housing benefit supplement, for example, may have to deal both with the local authority and with the DHSS, instead of just with the DHSS, as is the case now.

I am afraid that our fears on these various points have not been mitigated by reading the 51 regulations. Indeed, too much has been left to the regulations. There was too little in the Bill, so that inadequate parliamentary discussion would be given to the details of the Bill in its final form. As the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, said, the whole matter is tremendously complicated. Indeed, we were saying this about the supplementary benefit regulations when they were introduced in 1980. It seems that our social security system and our legislative system together are incapable of simplicity. Indeed, the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security said at column 789 in another place on 26th of this month: … there is no set of regulations in the whole of social security which would be widely understood by most of the claimants seeking benefit. I wonder whether the Government are confident that potential claimants will know what their entitlement is or, indeed, have any idea of what it might be. In view of the complication, I also wonder whether the Government think that they are allowing sufficient time for the detail to be absorbed and for the people who will have to handle the matter to be trained. After all, as the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, pointed out, for some of the people involved the scheme will begin this autumn.

On the question of gains and losses, to which the noble Lord referred, some 2 million people will lose out, although maximum losses are limited to 75p per week, but that limit is only to be observed for one year. Even then, 75p per week is quite a lot for those on low incomes, and nearly 500,000 will pay more after the first year has elapsed. I should like to ask the noble Lord this question: Is it correct that to ensure no losers at all would cost only about £30 million or 1 per cent. of expenditure on housing benefits in 1981–82? If that is so, would it not have been better to spend that 1 per cent. in order to ensure that the scheme got off to a better start?

Is it not true also that the proposed new system of deduction from housing benefits for non-dependants' contributions can leave a tenant with up to £2.15 per week less? This would be £1.40 resulting from the change in the system of deductions and 75p from the change in the tapers. Am I right in thinking that in these cases the 75p limit does not apply overall? How do the Government propose to make sure that those who are entitled to housing benefit supplement actually get it? There is no statutory requirement for local authorities to assess entitlement to housing benefit supplement. Should there not be such a requirement?

So far as the processing of applications is concerned—and this is a point to which the noble Lord himself referred—is not the regulation requiring that applications be processed by local authorities within 14 days rendered ineffective by its own wording? It reads: An authority shall determine a claim within 14 days of being furnished with such information and evidence as it reasonably requires for the purpose of determining that claim, or if that is not reasonably practicable, as soon as possible thereafter. Does not that phrase— if that is not reasonably practicable, as soon as possible thereafter"— provide potential justification for widespread and lengthy delays? These regulations have been produced, if not in a hurry, at least quickly, and I suppose it is inevitable that mistakes will be made, as they were in the case of the Supplementary Benefit Regulations in 1980. Can the Minister give us an assurance that immediate steps will be taken to amend the regulations if anomalies are discovered?

The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, referred to the appeal system. As I made clear during our discussion of the Bill, we on these Benches share the feelings which the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, expressed about the appeals procedure which is included in the regulations. In our view it is unsatisfactory. We do not accept that the way to arrange this is through committees of councillors who may have a direct interest in the matter, and who may be advised by those who have made the original decision. We think an independent appeal machinery, operated through the Supplementary Benefit Appeal Tribunals with further appeal to the Social Security Commissioners, would be much more satisfactory. I shall not detain the House any longer. I think I have said enough to indicate why we on these Benches are not at all happy about the introduction on a no-cost basis of this cumbersome and complex system.

2.37 p.m.

Lord Kilmarnock

My Lords, from this Bench I also should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, for his rapid review of the principal regulations. We agree on balance with the concept of a unified housing benefit. As a result of the change to a direct waiver of rent and rates by local authorities people will not have to worry about getting into arrears, or retaining money for rent at the expense of food or heating. On the other hand they will not receive the rebate money, and will thus lose a certain flexibility in the use of resources. In a tight week it will no longer be possible to borrow from the rent to keep going.

As I said, it is a question of balance, and on the whole we support this scheme. However, along with my ally, the noble Lord, Lord Banks, I have certain reservations and there are one or two questions I should like to put to the Minister. First, is it true, as was suggested in another place and as was alleged by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Coslany, that a saving of £16 million will be made by the Government under the new arrangements? In another place the Minister introducing these regulations spoke of "an overall cost neutral basis". The noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, used a similar phrase. I think his phrase was "an overall nil cost basis".

Can the noble Lord assure the House that this principle of neutral costing has been strictly adhered to? As the noble Lord, Lord Banks, said there are many grounds on which it would have been desirable for an increase of resources to have been made available, but the Government's claim is that this is a cost neutral basis. I should be grateful to the noble Lord if he could give us the assurance that that is in fact the case.

Next, the implication for local authority staffing. Regulation 28, as the noble Lord, Lord Banks, pointed out, imposes an obligation on authorities to determine all claims within 14 days, or as soon as possible thereafter. They must provide a written statement explaining their decision within 14 days, if so required. Then there is the responsibility for the whole new appeal procedure. Quite apart from the merits or, demerits, of these proposals, are there not important implications here for the level of the rate support grant? Is there not a danger that heavy new responsibilities are being put on to authorities at a time when they are being told to reduce their staffs? Finally, what about the accounting procedures between the DHSS and local authorities? Will the department promptly fund the authorities for the rents and rebates that they have forgone?

2.40 p.m.

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, perhaps I should first deal with the point made by all three noble Lords who have spoken—and I am grateful to them for their contribution to this debate—about the nil cost aspect of these proposals. I can confirm that these proposals have been devised on the assumption that they should not cost any more, but equally they are not a measure of any saving. The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, suggested £16 million as being a net saving from the proposals. I assure him, as I said earlier, that we have taken great pains to achieve a nil cost to these regulations, and that means a nil saving as well, and I hope that is the assurance the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, is seeking.

Turning to the main thrust of the main points made by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, when he criticised the complexity of the regulations and emphasised the need for plain English leaflets explaining the individual rights, the complexity of subordinate legislation is often criticised and I certainly accept that social security legislation tends to be more complex than most. But as your Lordships will appreciate, we are dealing with people's entitlement to benefit in a wide range of circumstances and it is surely right that his entitlement should be given the force of law. The alternative, in this example, is to give authorities a very wide range of discretion, and the inevitable outcome of widely varying decisions throughout the country and almost certainly widespread public dissatisfaction. The aim must be to strike the right balance, and I think we have done so. Entitlement to benefit is set out in detail at the price, I confess, of some complexity of drafting, but authorities are also given the power—if your Lordships will refer to Regulation 22—to pay more benefit in exceptional circumstances.

Having said that, I recognise that the regulations, while forming the essential legal foundation, must be translated into plain English, both for the benefit of those who will administer the scheme and for the recipients, potential or actual, of the benefit; so they will be supplemented by other material. First, we shall shortly be issuing a full circular on the scheme. That will provide a detailed guide to the regulations and will make clear the way in which authorities will be expected to administer the scheme. The circular will be a public document available to those who advise claimants.

In the circular—this picks up another point made by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, in connection with overpayments—we shall spell out how we expect authorities to use their recovery powers. Where the overpayment arises because of claimant error, we will expect authorities to make a serious attempt to recover the money. Where an overpayment arises because of an official error, authorities are expected to consider the circumstances of the case. If the claimant could reasonably have been expected to know he was receiving too much money, authorities are expected to seek recovery, unless that would result in hardship to the claimant. Where the overpayment arises because of an official mistake—for example, because the authority has miscalculated the claimant's entitlement—authorities will be expected either to take no recovery action or not to pursue recovery beyond an initial request for repayment. This will be particularly relevant when the amount overpaid in each week was sufficiently small and there was no reason for the claimant to have spotted the error.

Reverting to the way in which we shall publicise these arrangements—particularly the plain English arrangements, if I may refer to them in that way— there will, secondly, be a number of ways in which the scheme will be explained to claimants. Each supplementary benefit claimant will be told how the change affects him; the present leaflets on rebates and allowances will be amalgamated into one general leaflet explaining the scheme; posters will be produced for display; and a detailed explanation of the revised supplementary benefit rules for housing costs will be contained in the supplementary benefit leaflets SP8 and SP9.

As I said in my opening remarks, claimants will for the first time have the right to request a detailed explanation of how their housing benefit has been assessed. Therefore we have aimed to ensure that claimants are given a proper explanation of the changed arrangements for help with housing costs, and I can assure your Lordships that we shall do our best—it is not always easy, if we are to avoid potentially misleading advice—to ensure that the material for which we are responsible will be written in language which the claimant can understand.

I turn now to the question of appeals which was raised by the noble Lord. We believe that we have gone a long way to meet the concerns that have been expressed on this score. I realise that some people say that we have not gone far enough, but I should like to make two points. First, people inclined to cricitise should perhaps compare carefully what we are proposing with what is formally provided for in the existing regulations, and we hope that we shall be given appropriate credit for the improvements. Secondly, we have every confidence that councillors, busy people though they are, will take seriously the task of reviewing their officials' decisions in the light of claimants' representations. That seems to us a quite proper role for councillors. Some of the comments on the review provisions imply little faith in the independence of elected representatives, but that certainly was not the view of the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, this afternoon.

We believe that the review arrangements will work well as a protection of claimants' interests. However, we accept that we must keep an eye on what happens in this important area, and we shall certainly make arrangements to monitor the workings of the review procedures. In that context the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, asked me about the question of representation before the councillors. Regulation 48(5) gives the claimant the right to be accompanied or represented at the hearing by another person—which I hope is what the noble Lord had in mind.

The noble Lord, Lord Banks, asked me about the estimated cost of avoiding any loss to anybody under the arrangements—I think that that was the thrust of his question. We estimate that the cost would be £50 million to make it a zero-loss situation. The noble Lord mentioned a figure of, I think, £30 million. As I say, in our estimation it is nearer £50 million, and I am sorry to say that the funds were simply not available to achieve that objective. The noble Lord, Lord Banks, also asked about the timetable for the introduction of the arrangements. For the most part the local authority associations have accepted that the operational timetable that we have for the introduction of housing benefit is feasible.

The noble Lord asked me finally about the 14-day rule. I think that there might be a misunderstanding in this connection. The noble Lord asked me in particular why local authorities do not have a duty to assess the topping up amounts, should they be applicable. To calculate housing benefit supplement it is first necessary to assess how much money a person has in excess of his supplementary benefit requirements. That can be done only in the context of a claim for supplementary benefit. I hope that that clarifies the point that the noble Lord had in mind.

Those are, I think, the principal points that were put to me. If I have missed any, I shall hasten to write to the noble Lord in question. In the meantime, I hope that your Lordships will see fit to approve the first Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

On Question, Motion agreed to.