HL Deb 13 June 2002 vol 636 cc455-80

Consideration of amendments on Report resumed on Clause 24.

[Amendments Nos. 89 and 90 not moved.]

Clause 25 [Payments of working tax credit by employers]:

[Amendments Nos. 91 to 98 not moved.]

Clause 28 [Overpayments]:

[Amendments. Nos. 99 to 107 not moved.]

Clause 30 [Underpayments]:

[Amendment No 108 not moved.]

Clause 31 [Incorrect statements etc.]:

[Amendment No. 109 not moved.]

Lord Higgins

moved Amendment No. 110: Page 22, line 29. at end insert— ( ) No person shall be liable for negligence under this section unless the Board is satisfied that it is just and reasonable in all the circumstances of the case to hold such person personally liable. ( ) Amongst the circumstances the Board shall consider in coming to a determination as to whether the Board is so satisfied as set out in the preceding subsection shall be—

  1. (a) the extent and degree of the neglect,
  2. (b) whether the neglect is so gross as to constitute a deliberate act,
  3. (c) the degree of personal gain,
  4. (d) any impairment of the health or other reason whereby the neglect may have been occasioned, and
  5. (e) the resources available to the person concerned to be able to comply properly and duly."
The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 110 is concerned with the question of negligence by individuals who are administering the tax credit arrangements and suggests that no person shall be liable for negligence under the clause unless the board is satisfied that it is just and reasonable in all the circumstances of the case that it should hold such a person liable.

The amendment specifies a number of circumstances the board should consider in coming to a determination on whether it is so satisfied; namely, the extent and degree of neglect; whether the neglect is so gross as to constitute a deliberate act; the degree of personal gain, if any; impairment of health and so forth, and the resources available to the person concerned to be able to comply properly and duly.

Although it is true that in administering the tax credits the employer faces a considerable burden, obviously he is also preoccupied with running his business. None the less, it is right that if he is negligent, appropriate steps should be taken, and the Bill makes provision for that. Having said that, it seems to us that there is some argument for ensuring flexibility in particular circumstances. I refer, for example, to the proprietor of a small enterprise who suffers from ill health and would not otherwise be able to cope not only with his business which would perhaps fall into disrepair, but also with the administration of the tax credit system as far as his employees are concerned.

The amendment is self-explanatory. It seems to us that there is an argument for giving a degree of flexibility to the board as to whether or not the individual concerned should be subject to the provisions of the Bill, particularly as regards penalties and so forth. I beg to move.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

My Lords, I welcome the fact that the amendment is before us. It enables us to clarify a matter which we thought we had clarified in Committee. Having read the briefing from the Child Poverty Action Group today, it is clear that that organisation would welcome clarification.

Clause 31 provides for a penalty to be imposed where a person has, fraudulently or negligently, provided false or incorrect information or evidence. The amendment seeks to place limits on the imposition of penalties for negligently providing false information. The "negligence" test for penalties is a matter that has been given careful consideration both here and in another place.

Neglect means that there has been a failure to take reasonable care. When people are applying for significant amounts of public money, it is only proper that they should take reasonable care. The alternative would be to say that people can deal with their tax credits affairs in a totally cavalier fashion. I am sure that noble Lords would not want that to be the case.

If we are serious about ensuring that claimants receive what they are entitled to, about tackling fraud and about targeting resources where they are most needed, the Revenue must have the power to require additional information to be provided. For those powers to be meaningful there must also be fair but effective sanctions to prevent fraudulent claims or the negligent provision of information. To allow claimants to supply incorrect information with impunity would be a fraudster's dream.

I understand the concerns about imposing penalties on those who have made an innocent mistake. However, that is not what the test of fraud or negligence is intended to allow. The test of negligence is applied to those who fail to take care in making their claim or in providing information that any reasonable person would take, and which any reasonable person would expect them to take. In making a claim it is only right to expect people to act responsibly.

There will also be cases where it is difficult to show categorically that someone has acted fraudulently. However, in such cases it may be possible to show that someone's behaviour amounted to negligence. In practice, many of the matters set out in the amendment will be matters which the Revenue or any appeal body will take into account when considering whether there has been negligence. I do not believe that it is necessary or appropriate to set out those matters on the face of the Bill.

The test of fraud or neglect is long established in law. It is not an innovation or something we are introducing on a whim. Tinkering with that test, which would be the effect of the amendment, would generate uncertainty. We do not think that uncertainty is in the best interests of claimants or employers. They would be faced with two different tests of negligence: one for tax and national insurance affairs and another for their tax credit affairs. Again, we do not believe that that would be advisable or helpful.

The test of negligence has been used in the tax system for many years. It also applies to the working families' tax credit and the DPTC system. I have not heard anything from noble Lords opposite to suggest that they think that the Revenue is using that existing power in relation to tax credits in a heavy-handed way; one could argue the reverse. In any case, the test of negligence does not allow the Revenue to penalise people who make innocent mistakes, even if it wanted to. The necessary flexibility for which the noble Lord argues is there in the way in which this test can be operated. I hope that the noble Lord will not press his amendment further.

Earl Russell

My Lords, am I right in recollecting that this clause is aimed at what is known as a phoenix company, because if that is correct, that would materially assist me?

Lord Bassam of Brighton

My Lords, I have always had a great desire to materially assist the noble Lord, but I am afraid that on this occasion, much as it might help my own case, I am unable to do so.

Lord Higgins

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I understand the arguments he is putting forward. However, some of the comparisons he draws are not relevant. It is true that the test as regards negligence might well apply to tax affairs. However, the situation here is rather different. It may be that a small businessman, responsible for running his business and so forth, has problems of a short-term nature. It may well be that he is not able, within a matter of two or three weeks, to keep wholly up to date but he might be thought to be negligent if he does not do so.

We suggest that consideration should be given to the various factors which might be the reason for his appearing to be neglectful and for the board taking the view that he was neglectful. It does not compare with the tax situation which, on the whole, is run over a rather longer time period where matters such as illness and so forth would probably not be relevant.

We have also put forward some other suggestions. I do not find the Minister's reply wholly convincing. Unless he can satisfy me further, particularly on the illness point, I am inclined to return to the matter at Third Reading.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

My Lords, I respect the noble Lord's point. I should clarify that negligence already applies to tax credit affairs. It includes employees in the working families' tax credit. So we have some experience of the way the test is applied.

The point that the noble Lord makes about innocent mistakes—that is effectively what he is talking about—is covered. There is a degree of innocence if someone is inadvertently indisposed and cannot put his affairs straight in the limited period of time suggested by the noble Lord. I take his point, but if there is an inadvertent error, as suggested by the noble Lord, those matters can properly be taken account of in the way that the test will always be applied. At some point in the dispute those matters can quite properly be tested in a tribunal forum. That is another opportunity to set matters right and have the record put straight.

The flexibility is there. There is capacity and scope for dealing with innocent mistakes and with inadvertent errors caused by people being unable to keep their affairs perhaps correctly recorded. Therefore, what the noble Lord seeks to achieve with his amendment does not take us any further. We think that the necessary flexibility is already there. Going along the route suggested by the noble Lord would only confuse and make matters more difficult.

Lord Higgins

My Lords, I shall consider carefully what the noble Lord said. We are not concerned with errors or with mistakes. They have nothing to do with negligence. We are concerned with whether inadvertently, and for reasons beyond the individual's control, he might be thought to be negligent when there is a good reason why he is unable to fulfil his responsibilities. I shall read and consider what the noble Lord said. I thought he gave an inadequate answer. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 32 [Failure to comply with requirements]:

[Amendments Nos. 111 and 112 not moved.]

Schedule 2 [Penalties: supplementary]:

[Amendments Nos. 113 to 119 not moved.]

Clause 37 [Interest]:

[Amendments Nos. 120 and 121 not moved.]

Clause 38 [Appeals]:

[Amendments Nos. 122 to 128 not moved.]

Clause 39 [Exercise of right of appeal]:

[Amendment No. 129 not moved.]

Clause 40 [Annual review]:

[Amendments Nos. 130 and 131 not moved.]

Clause 41 [Persons subject to immigration control]:

[Amendment No. 132 not moved.]

Clause 42 [Polygamous marriages]:

Lord Higgins

moved Amendment No. 133: Page 26,1ine 34, at end insert "which are the same as those made under the State Pension Credit Act 2002 The noble Lord said: My Lords, the noble Baroness, the noble Earl and I spent many hours debating various aspects of the State Pensions Credit Act. The purpose of Amendment No. 133 is to ensure that the provisions mentioned in that Act are the same as those in the Bill. The amendment seeks merely to ensure conformity between the two pieces of legislation. That seems eminently sensible. We hope that the noble Baroness feels able to accept the amendment.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham

My Lords, I am deeply disappointed. I was hoping to be able to discuss again the differences between polygamy and polyandry and the principal forms of polyandry and the people from the Malabar coast of India. Instead, I have been denied the opportunity of exhibiting the research done by a young man from our department.

I shall do as I have asked other people to do, which is to stay with the words of the amendment. It seeks to align the rules of the new tax credits with the rules for pension credits. I do not think that we can do that. It would not work. The regulations regarding polygamy made under each Bill need to reflect the character of the respective credit introduced by those Bills. If the regulations made under Clause 42 of the Bill were the same as those made under Section 12 of the Pension Credit Act, they would obviously be about the pension credit, which would not be much help to people trying to claim the working tax credit or the child tax credit.

Perhaps I may give an example. The working tax credit will contain an additional element for couples. Regulations made under Clause 42 will need to deal specifically with that issue. By comparison, regulations regarding polygamy made under the State Pension Credit Act need to deal with the question of the availability in such cases of the guaranteed credit or savings credit within the pension credit. Therefore, I am afraid that one cannot cross-write in the way that the noble Lord seeks, mainly because the building blocks of the two systems are very different.

The noble Lord looks baffled. Pension credit, as he will recall—

Lord Higgins

I am surprised.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham

Never baffled, merely surprised. My Lords, the pension credit, as the noble Lord will recall, is the fact that between the retirement state pension for a single person of £77 (next year) and £100, which is the current MIG figure for 2003, there is no advantage to people in having a small pension. When pension credit comes into effect next year they will be able to keep 60 per cent of the difference between those two sums according to their pensioner status.

There is no read across from that to what is happening here, which is about a building block or a family need. Pension credit is about ensuring that an occupational pension is not tapered out against an entitlement to MIG. The couple or single person element obviously comes into play. But it is not a means test in the form of tax credit or child tax credit which must build in additional elements for each member of the family. That is basically why one cannot leap from one to the other. They are different structurally. But in both cases we treat the position of a second, third or fourth spouse in supportive ways.

I should be happy to seek to enlarge on my remarks if the noble Lord wishes. But basically pension credit is saying that one can keep one's occupational pension between those two figures as opposed to working tax credit and child tax credit, which is actually building on the allowances given for the size of the family, which is a very different system.

Lord Higgins

My Lords, it is sometimes said that one should never ask a question unless one knows the answer. Generally speaking on a Bill one can anticipate a number of replies which the Government are likely to make—most of them unfavourable. Having said that, I am surprised by this. It seemed to me that there was an argument for some consistency. I understand the points made by the noble Baroness. I shall read carefully what she has said and read again the previous debates on the Bill. Subject to that, beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 43 [Crown employment]:

Lord Higgins

moved Amendment No. 134: Leave out Clause 43. The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 134 seeks to leave out Clause 43. It is an extremely short clause about Crown employment. It states: This Part applies in relation to persons employed by or under the Crown (as in relation to other employees)". As the noble Baroness will understand, this is a probing amendment. I am not clear why those in Crown employment should require that provision to be included in the Bill. I should have thought that Crown employees are employed, so far as concerns the Bill, in exactly the same way as anyone else employs someone or is employed by someone. The wording is rather odd in the parentheses, where it says: as in relation to other employees". I do not understand why a person employed by or under the Crown has any relationship to other employees, but no doubt the noble Baroness can elucidate that and explain why Crown employees require a specific mention in the clause. I beg to move.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham

My Lords, we are here dealing with those employed directly by the Crown; in other words, members of Her Majesty's private staff and those who work for the Royal Household, as opposed to the more general application of the term, "Crown servant", which could mean any civil servant or person employed in the public sector. Without such a power, it would not be possible for the employees of Her Majesty to be eligible for tax credit. The Queen has graciously consented that her employees may have their wages topped up by tax credits. Therefore, there is a clause in the Bill to that effect.

Lord Higgins

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Baroness for that reply, which again I had not anticipated. I thought that lots of people were employed by the Crown in the sense of the Government. I had not realised that the provision referred to the Royal Household. I am not sure what would be the drafting if one wanted to refer to civil servants, rather than members of the Royal Household. But the noble Baronesses has explained that point.

However, I am still not clear why the expression is, as in relation to other employees".

Baroness Hollis of Heigham

My Lords, it means in a like manner as to other employees of other employers—in other words, the same income in the same circumstances generates the same tax credit.

Lord Higgins

Yes, my Lords, fine. We shall consider that carefully, but the noble Baroness has at least explained what the clause is intended to cover, for which we are grateful. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Higgins

moved Amendment No. 135: Leave out Clause 45. The noble Lord said: This amendment concerns notices issued by the board under Clause 45. Again, it is simply a probing amendment. The clause states: The board may give any notice which they are required or permitted to give under this Part in the manner and form which the Board considers appropriate in the circumstances". I do not understand why the clause is necessary. I should have thought that it was apparent that the board could give notices that it is required to give in whatever form it considered appropriate. It is given total discretion to give notices in whatever form it likes. I do not think that anyone has suggested the contrary and I do not understand why we need the terms of Clause 45. I beg to move.

Earl Russell

My Lords, the noble Baroness is familiar with my concern for the rights of the illiterate. Perhaps I need to start to develop an equivalent concern for the rights of the computer illiterate. Notices can be addressed by e-mail to those who are not equipped for such a thing, as frequently happens to several of us now. I hope that, with the case of Pepper v Hart in mind, the Minister can assure us that that would not be regarded as an appropriate method of communication, because it does not reach its destination.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham

My Lords, as does the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, I regard the clause as a belt-and-braces provision. It gives the Inland Revenue the flexibility that it needs to issue notices in the most appropriate form and manner. I am self-conscious about using the word "appropriate" after our earlier debate. None the less, every argument that I shall advance will insist that what we are doing is appropriate.

To take the substance of the question of the noble Earl, Lord Russell, for the most part, notices will be given in writing. That is the most common way of contacting claimants, especially at the end of the year when issuing notices under Clause 17. However, when a claimant wants to be contacted electronically—in the same way as some people now fill in their tax returns and submit them electronically—it is only right that the Bill should provide the flexibility to do so. Obviously, there is no intention to force claimants to deal with the Inland Revenue electronically, but it is right to have the flexibility to encourage electronic communication with those who wish to utilise it.

The clause also relates to notices that may be given to employers under Clause 25. Again, it is important to have the flexibility to send notices in a manner that suits the employer—electronically, by facsimile or by post.

I can only assume that we need the provision in the Bill because there has been some previous challenge as to whether a notice that was sent had due legitimacy given its mode of communication. I am certainly aware of cases in which a fax has been used but has not been held to be a valid form of communication. I am assured that the clause is a belt-and-braces provision that makes clear that notices can be sent in whatever form is convenient to the claimant or the employer, but the presumption will for the most part be that that is in writing. I hope that the noble Lord will be content with that explanation.

Lord Higgins

Yes, my Lords, the clause seems to be a belt-and-braces provision and, I should have thought, otiose, but I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Higgins

moved Amendment No. 136: After Clause 45, insert the following new clause— Annual report by Board After section 13 of the Inland Revenue Regulation Act 1890 (c. 21) (commissioners to keep accounts) insert— "13A COMMISSIONERS TO REPORT ANNUALLY (1) The duties of the Board are to include a duty to set forth in an annual report a full analysis of tax credits, by reference to racial groups as defined by section 3(1) of the Race Relations Act 1976 (c. 74), distinguishing in each case between awards of the child tax credit and shall include—

  1. (a) the number of claims received;
  2. (b) eligibility for the respective claimants of tax credits;
  3. (c) the number of rejected forms;
  4. (d) the number of appeals;
  5. (e) the number of successful appeals; and
  6. (f) a summary of the main reasons for the failure of appeals.
(2) The report referred to in subsection (1) shall be published no later than 31st July following the end of each tax year." The noble Lord said: After a series of probing amendments and points of rather nitty-gritty detail—which it is of course right that the House should consider, as we have now done—we come to what is an important amendment of substance. It proposes after Clause 45 to insert a new clause entitled, Annual report by Board". We have already discussed annual reports by the board—indeed, provisions have now been made for such a report regarding certain matters as a result of the Division that took place yesterday. But the annual report with which we are here concerned is of a rather different nature.

We have received representations from several bodies. The originators of the amendment have a good pedigree —we understand that it is proposed not only by the Law Society but by the Disability Alliance, the Low Pay Unit, the Child Poverty Action Group and the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux. Many of those will be at the forefront of the Bill's operation. All of them have expressed concern that there should be a mechanism for monitoring the ethnic origin of tax credit applicants to maximise take-up and ensure that every section of the community benefits from it where available.

In discussion of earlier amendments, we have been concerned with the whole issue of take-up. For example, I understand that some offices of the Department for Work and Pensions have to deal with a considerable number of individuals in a wide variety of languages. Given some of the complexities of the Bill, that may make it especially difficult for individuals to succeed in claiming what, with our support, it is the Government's intention that they should receive.

But if the monitoring is to be done effectively, it is appropriate that records of it should be kept and that the House should be made aware of them. That is why we suggest that the board should make an annual report.

I can recall that previously—perhaps 20 or 30 years ago, especially with regard to the form in which a census form should be made out—the sensitivity was that there was something wrong with saying, "What particular ethnic group does this or that individual come from?" That was—and, to some extent, perhaps still is—a sensitive matter.

It is probably true to say—I express a purely personal view—that that sensitivity has tended to be replaced by the view that one ought to make sure that no particular group is being discriminated against. Attitudes change over time. Given the pedigree of the amendment, quite clearly a number of those who are very much concerned with these issues have come to the view that it would be helpful to race relations, and to the administration of the Bill when it becomes an Act, if such a record were kept.

The specific provisions in the amendment are concerned with the number of claims received, the eligibility of the respective claimants, the number of rejected forms, the number of appeals, the number of successful appeals and a summary of the main reasons for the failure of appeals. The report should distinguish between child credit and working tax credit so far as concerns the ethnic origin of the various claimants and the success that they have in order to discover whether any group is not receiving the benefits that this House, another place and the Government have decided are appropriate for them.

That being so, I am hopeful that I may receive a somewhat sympathetic response from the noble Baroness, or at least an indication of what is the Government's thinking on this issue. The noble Earl, Lord Russell, did not move his amendment to Clause 41 but it may be that some of these issues arise also on that clause. We may return to it at Third Reading.

I thought it appropriate at Report stage that I should ask what are the Government's feelings about these issues, which clearly are of considerable concern to the various people who have made representations. I understand that the Cabinet Office Performance and Innovation Unit published a report in 2001 entitled Ethnic Minorities in the Labour Market which highlighted the difficulties with existing survey data. It would seem that there is an argument that. rather than carry out surveys which statistically are always open to a variety of views, reference to actual cases rather than sample cases might be a more effective way of dealing with the matter.

There are varying views on this issue. I merely bring it forward because some outside bodies have taken the view that this would be helpful to ethnic minorities rather than otherwise. I shall listen with interest to what the Minister has to say. I beg to move.

9 p.m.

Lord Northbrook

My Lords, I support the amendment of my noble friend Lord Higgins for the following reasons. First, it would be useful statistically; secondly, it would give a good indication of whether any racial group has difficulty tilling in the forms; and, thirdly, it would be helpful for refining the forms to make them easier to understand and to increase the take-up rate. I approve of subsection (2) which states that the report should be published by 31st July following the end of the tax year.

Earl Russell

My Lords, I entirely agree with the analysis of the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, that there has been a historical change on the question of ethnic monitoring. On the whole, I agree with his reasons for why it has changed and I believe that it is a good thing that it has. It is assumed now that the motive for desiring the information is benevolent.

While the noble Lord was speaking, I remembered a conversation that I had back in the 1960s with my noble friend Lady Williams of Crosby, whose then husband was one of my colleagues. She said then that it was often quite useful to be able to say that one did not have the information. She was assuming that the information was being solicited for the purposes of causing trouble. Now we much more often assume that the information is solicited for the purposes of being helpful. That is a change entirely for the better. I hope that it is permanent.

As always with these changes, there are always some people left behind. When ethnic origin information is requested there are always some people who either express a conscientious objection to filling in the required information, or think it is wanted for malevolent purposes, or occasionally object for the perfectly good reason that the only honest answer they can give is the good old answer "mongrel".

If the amendment is accepted, I hope that there will not be a penalty for refusing to fill in one's ethnic origin. That should also be counted as a right. If we do not count it as a right, we shall create only martyrs where we do not want to create them.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham

My Lords, like all government departments, the Inland Revenue is fully committed to monitoring the take-up of the new tax credits among ethnic communities. It is important to get that on the record. Inland Revenue officials are continuing to discuss with the relevant community and interest groups the best way to achieve this. When those discussions have been completed, it may be of interest and help to your Lordships if I write and give details of the conclusions of those discussions.

As your Lordships are aware, there is a legislative obligation on the Inland Revenue and other departments to assess their policies and functions and to publish assessments, consultations and monitoring with a view on how these impact on race equality. That obligation arises out of the provisions of the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000. Under that Act, the Inland Revenue must publish and implement a race equality scheme, the aim of which is to eliminate unlawful discrimination and promote equality of opportunity and good relations between different racial groups. That scheme was published on 31st May of this year and can be found on the Inland Revenue website.

Behind all this is the wider question of outreach and so on as opposed to monitoring. The Inland Revenue is fully committed to ensuring that the take-up of tax credits is increased among ethnic communities. Indeed, the department is already undertaking a number of initiatives to ensure that that happens. The development of the publicity campaign for new tax credits has included work to improve the targeting of messages to ethnic groups. The department has identified and carried out research which supports plans to target those most likely to contain the highest concentration of potential tax credit recipients but with the lowest penetration of messages from mainstream sources. Publicity directed at these groups will be specifically tailored both in terms of language and for a cultural fit.

Alongside this, the mainstream campaign will seek to be as inclusive as possible by representing the diversity of the UK population in its imagery and will include the use of ethnic media where appropriate. The department will also be supporting the role of intermediaries, such as community advice workers and local authorities, through the provision of support materials and background information. Where appropriate, material will be available in foreign languages.

So I hope I can assure noble Lords regarding the efforts being made by the Inland Revenue and by other government departments. In my own department I have been involved in looking at diversity policies and so on. Therefore, I am very aware of the concentrated and consistent efforts now being made by government.

The noble Lord is right. There has been a shift in attitude as to the propriety of this approach. Certainly, in my own field I often find that the one area that I do not know about is X and its implication for ethnic minority families—whether they are large families, whether it is a question of payment of child support moneys, or whatever. We have simply not collected that information, perhaps through the wrong approach in terms of sensitivities. As a result, we are now handicapped in our ability to develop policies which specifically respond to their needs.

To give an assurance to the noble Lord, the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 requires us to do exactly that for which the noble Lord is calling. This aspect of the annual report would be published in accordance with the Inland Revenue's obligations under the Race Equality Scheme. I believe that it will provide the noble Lord with the detailed information that he seeks. I am happy to write to him on the details of the Inland Revenue's ethnic minority monitoring plans and to provide him with a copy of the Race Equality Scheme. With that additional information, I hope that he will feel able to withdraw his amendment. It is a very useful one. I am glad to have the opportunity to put these points on the record.

Lord Higgins

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness. So far as concerns the lack of statistics, her reply suggests that the Inland Revenue—and other departments too—will seek to remedy that deficiency.

What I am not quite clear about is whether a report in the form suggested by the amendment—or, indeed, a report at all, other than in the normal Inland Revenue report—will be available. When we discussed reports earlier, the noble Baroness described what was asked for as a "scissors and paste job". I am not clear whether she is saying that a report of the kind that we seek in the amendment already exists, whether it is possible for people to put it together, or whether one could simply accept the amendment. While I fully accept, as I believe the noble Earl will, that the Minister's reply is forthcoming and welcome, I am still not absolutely sure whether she is saying that she is prepared to accept the amendment or whether she thinks that existing information is in a form that makes it readily available.

I am not suggesting that all members of ethnic minorities will read this legislation when it is eventually passed, but there might be some argument for having such a provision on the face of the Bill, simply to make clear the good intentions of those on all sides of the House.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham

My Lords, the point I was making was not that I disagree with the amendment, but that, as is occasionally the case, the amendment is redundant. The Inland Revenue is already required to do what the noble Lord has called for under the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000; namely, departments are required to produce their race equality scheme, which includes information about take-up, monitoring and so forth. We published the scheme on the website on 31st May 2002. It may be that, between now and Third Reading, the noble Lord—who I am sure is more of a computer expert than I and, I gather, the noble Earl, Lord Russell—will be able to see whether this meets his concerns. Developing that further—that is, ensuring that we get the fullest publicity, outreach and take-up by ethnic minorities—is not just about publishing the information; it is about working with groups and with the media to have that effect.

As I said, I hope that I have allayed the noble Lord's concerns. This matter is of great importance. The amendment as it stands is redundant, because departments are already required under the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 to do that for which he is calling. Over and beyond that, there is the equally important task of ensuring that tax credits are brought to the attention of ethnic communities in our society. I believe that the Inland Revenue has well-founded schemes in place.

My own department too has great experience of this and we are used to seeking to build up this information. The pity is that we did not have this information five years ago.

Lord Higgins

My Lords, again, I am grateful to the noble Baroness. I shall take up her suggestion that I should consult the website. I am not sure that I am any more computer literate than either the noble Baroness or the noble Earl.

I am inclined to ask: will the information appear in the variety of languages for which those concerned with this issue might wish? But I am rather deterred by that. A few nights ago, I was surfing the Web—I believe that is the expression—and the information came up in French. I was rather worried by this, but then it came up with a nice option saying that it was available in other languages. I selected English, and it said: "This is an English translation which has been done automatically from the French. Lord Higgins is a member of the Preserving Party"$ It is absolutely true. So it can be surprising what people say about one on websites. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 3 [Tax credits; consequential amendments]:

Lord Higgins

moved Amendment No. 137: Page 46, line 5, leave out paragraphs 4 to 7. The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Minister will be glad to know that this is the last of a series of amendments which effectively seek to delete from the Bill amendments which the Government wished to insert in Grand Committee. We have debated various issues of this sort. In Grand Committee, we agreed that for convenience we should describe the numerous government amendments under various categories. These ones come under category 5—which I for one am glad to say is the last category we were discussing.

These amendments reflect two points. First, as we well know, the government amendments were tabled very late. Secondly, some of them referred to Part 2 of the Bill, which was not discussed at all in another place. That was a matter of considerable concern and I delivered a rather long and passionate speech about it in Committee. The House will be glad to know that I do not plan to repeat that speech. However, it would be helpful for the Minister and for the other place when it comes to consider these amendments of which it has hitherto been unaware—if the noble Baroness would very rapidly summarise what these various amendments do. I beg to move.

9.15 p.m.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham

My Lords, these amendments reverse a number of minor and technical amendments agreed to in Grand Committee. The amendments fall broadly into two categories. As the noble Lord said, Amendments Nos. 137, 153, 170 and 172 reverse consequential amendments relating to various Northern Ireland legislation. As he also said, in Committee I described those as the fifth category of government amendments. The remaining amendments reverse changes that are consequential on two matters, the abolition of WFTC and DPTC and the replacement of SERPS with the state second pension. I should like to deal with those amendments first.

On SERPS, Section 45A of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992 and its Northern Ireland counterpart provide that WFTC and DPTC may be taken into account when calculating the earnings factor relating to SERPS entitlement. As we are both abolishing WFTC and reforming SERPS, consequential amendments are clearly necessary. I shall be happy to describe those in more detail if the noble Lord so wishes. In summary, however, both WFTC and DPTC are going, as is SERPS. We therefore need to re-label the amendments. Is that sufficient explanation for the noble Lord on that aspect of the amendments?

Lord Higgins

My Lords, that is sufficient.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham

My Lords, I am grateful. The second matter is the need to reverse consequential amendments to Northern Ireland provision, which is category 5. In the main, these consequential amendments sought simply to remove redundant references to WFTC and DPTC in existing Northern Ireland legislation. Amendment No. 137 reverses consequential amendments to the Legal Aid, Advice and Assistance (Northern Ireland) Order which simply removed references to "Family Credit" in that order. In 1999, "Family Credit" was taken out and replaced with "WFTC". We now need to replace that with the new titles.

Amendments Nos. 153 and 170 reverse consequential changes to Article 18C(7)(b) of the Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995. This article allows those who have certain services paid for by a local authority on their behalf—primarily day care services for children in particular need—to receive the services for free as long as they are in receipt of the specified benefits or elements of tax credits set out in the article. We now have to change the title of the specified benefits or tax credits as set out in the article.

Amendment No. 172 reverses the repeal of Article 12(3) of the Criminal Injuries Compensation (Northern Ireland) Order 2002. Again, there is a reference to WFTC which requires re-labelling.

So that is what is going on. There is an array of Northern Ireland legislation in which some eligibility depends on references to WFTC and DPTC. Those references now need to be replaced with the labels of the new benefits and tax credits.

Lord Higgins

My Lords, I am most grateful for that clarification which I think will be helpful not only to us on this occasion but to another place when it comes to consider the large number of government amendments. One's fear is that the system of programming in another place not only has curtailed debate on these issues until now, but may well curtail further debate on the amendments which your Lordships have made—a very large number of amendments indeed. However, we have to wait and see how that works out and, if need be, comment on it when the matter returns to this House, if the other place is so misguided as not to accept the amendments we have made. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 138 to 153 not moved.]

Clause 47 [Interpretation]:

[Amendments Nos. 154 to 156 not moved.]

Clause 48 [Functions transferred to Treasury]:

Lord Higgins

moved Amendment No. 157: Page 28, line 11, leave out from "State" to end of line 32. The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 157 knocks out a large chunk of Clause 48. Amendment No. 158 would leave out "Treasury" and insert "Chancellor of the Exchequer". There has been a clear trend since 1997 for the functions of various departments to be taken over by the Treasury. The Bill is a massive indication of the extent to which the Treasury's tentacles are extending further into other parts of Whitehall. In Clause 48 a large number of functions are transferred to the Treasury. Although not directly related to the Tax Credits Bill, I give as an example the guardian's allowance, child benefit and so on.

It is an interesting but not necessarily desirable development. In another place, the Bill was dealt with by the Treasury. We have been fortunate in this House that the Department for Work and Pensions has clawed back—I think that that is the right expression—responsibility for the Bill. We have had the expertise of the noble Baroness in dealing with this legislation. We thought that it was worth commenting upon.

I have a specific point. Oddly, it seems to us, the clause begins by stating that the functions of the Secretary of State, under the range of provisions stated, are to be transferred to the Treasury. Amendment No. 158 would leave out "Treasury" and insert "Chancellor of the Exchequer". The Secretary of State is an individual or at least an office. The Treasury is not an individual and not in the same sense of the word an office. We were not clear why the functions of the Secretary of State were transferred to the Treasury rather than the Minister—in this case, since the Inland Revenue is one of the Chancellor's departments, the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I beg to move.

The Deputy Speaker (Lord Elton)

My Lords, I have to tell your Lordships that if this amendment is agreed to, I shall be unable to call Amendment No. 158.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham

My Lords, I had thought that the amendment was a tease. As drafted, the noble Lord's proposals would not only transfer social security functions to the Chancellor of the Exchequer but also those relating to health, education, national defence and even overseas development. As drafted, the amendment covers any function carried out by any Secretary of State in any of the departments for which they are responsible. I thought that it was not just a tease but marginally over the top as teases went.

If the noble Lord wants, I shall be happy to engage in a more serious discussion about the need to transfer, as dealt with in Part 2 of the Bill. Child benefit and guardian's allowance will be dealt with by the Treasury. That, was considered by the Social Security Select Committee, a cross-party committee, as early as July 2000. It has been discussed with various pressure and interest groups. In all the discussions to which I have been party or about which I have read reports, there has been widespread agreement that it makes sense for responsibilities for all financial support for families with children to reside in a single department, as this Bill prescribes. Therefore, it covers both the transfer of responsibilities to the Inland Revenue and Treasury and allows changes to child benefit to bring them into line with proposals for the child tax credit. That will allow the Government to produce a more streamlined system of financial support for families with children. It means that only one department will deal with financial support for children, which I believe will be to the benefit of transparent administration and ease of simplicity for those receiving the benefit.

I can go into a longer philosophical argument about the nature of child benefit in relation to child tax credit, or the Chancellor's and the Treasury's relationship to the Department for Work and Pensions, but this amendment will not do. As far as I can see there are only two departments of government, a big one called the Treasury and a little one called the Cabinet Office. I am not sure that that is what the noble Lord intended.

The substantive point goes to the core of the Bill, which is to integrate the different financial flows of support for children so that they are no longer separated between out-of-work benefits, which are the function of the DWP, and in-work benefits, which are the function of the Treasury—tunnel benefits. Instead to have an integrated benefit for children, the child tax credit that goes from out-of-work to into-work is an encouragement into work as well as giving security against poverty for the children who will receive it. That is possible only with an integrated administration and it will make sense to claimants only if they know that they are dealing with one department. That is at the core of the Bill and I cannot believe that at this time the noble Lord seeks seriously to undermine the whole philosophy of the child tax credit.

Lord Higgins

My Lords, I am still not clear why it is not the Chancellor of the Exchequer rather than the Treasury.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham

My Lords, perhaps I can get hack to the noble Lord on that.

Lord Higgins

My Lords, it ceases to be a tease and becomes extremely worrying. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has been taken over by the Treasury rather than the other way around$

Baroness Hollis of Heigham

My Lords, the reference to the Treasury is merely a drafting convention and refers to the Ministers of the Treasury of which the Chancellor is one. Noble Lords will be aware that the constitutional arrangements for the Treasury mean that the First Lord of the Treasury, the equivalent of the Secretary of State, is the Prime Minister. So this wording makes it clear that it is a Treasury Minister, for example, the Chancellor, who is to have such powers.

Lord Higgins

My Lords, I am grateful for that reply. At this time of night the Minister has replied in a jocular manner, but the reality is that this Bill transfers to the Treasury functions that it has never previously exercised. In particular, one suddenly finds the Inland Revenue paying out money rather than collecting it, which is a fairly radical change. Subject to that, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her comments. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 158 not moved.]

Clause 49 [Functions transferred to Board]:

Lord Higgins

moved Amendment No. 159: Page 29, line 2, after "State" insert "for Northern Ireland The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment is even more pedantic and I shall deal with it quickly. As the Minister knows, the convention is that the expression "the Secretary of State" is used indiscriminately. One is supposed to understand to which Secretary of State reference is made. Generally, it is apparent and does not give any cause for problems. But this amendment suggests that on this occasion we should identify the Secretary of State as the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland because various Secretaries of State are involved at this stage of the Bill and there could be confusion. I beg to move.

9.30 p.m.

Baroness I kills of Heigham

My Lords, the effect of the noble Lord's amendment is to prevent the Inland Revenue from administering child benefit and guardian's allowance within Great Britain. That may relate to his question about which Secretary of State the Bill refers to. The Secretary for State for Northern Ireland has no responsibility under the provisions set out in subsection (2) in Great Britain or even Northern Ireland, as that sits wholly within the remit of the Northern Ireland department as defined in the Bill, the Department for Social Development.

So the noble Lord's amendment would limit transfer of operational responsibility to the Inland Revenue to Northern Ireland, even if policy responsibility for those benefits sat with the Treasury. Given our earlier arguments, that would be nonsensical. The technical point is that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, my right honourable friend Dr John Reid, is not the same as the Northern Ireland department—as defined in the Bill—responsible for these measures, the Department for Social Development. The general point is that we are trying to ensure the same consistency and integration of responsibility in Northern Ireland as in England, Scotland and Wales.

Lord Higgins

My Lords, before the Minister sits down, is the amendment wrong—that is to say, the Secretary of State referred to in Clause 49 is not the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland? Is it some other Secretary of State? The amendment sought to clarify the situation by referring to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, but in the light of the Minister's remarks the clause appears to refer not to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland but to some other Secretary of State, in which case the case for specifying which Secretary of State is overwhelming. I am not clear where we go from here.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham

My Lords, the advice I am given is that "Secretary of State" is not limited, but that the limits are to the Secretary of State's powers under the defined legislation clause. I am not sure that it matters which Secretary of State it is.

Lord Higgins

My Lords, which Secretary of State is meant?

Baroness Hollis of Heigham

My Lords, surely it will be the relevant Secretary of State? I shall write to the noble Lord on the matter.

Lord Higgins

My Lords, I understand that the Minister is unclear as to the answer. I am happy for her to write to me. However, it cannot be any Secretary of State, as the clause refers to "the Secretary of State". I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 52 [General functions of Board]:

[Amendment No. 160 not moved.]

[Amendment No. 161 not moved.]

Clause 54 [Continuing entitlement after death of child]:

Lord Higgins

moved Amendment No. 162: Page 32, line 20, leave out "before the end of the week in" and insert "within seven days of the day on". The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving the amendment I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 163 and 164.

Clause 54 seems intended to be very restrictive. It is concerned with an individual's entitlement to child benefit on the death of a child. One would have thought that in circumstances where a family has lost a child the provisions would be reasonably sympathetic and relaxed. On the contrary, subsection (3) states: If a child dies before the end of the week in which he is born, subsections (1) and (2) apply". The purpose of the amendment is to seek to ensure that the amount of the benefit which the parents of the dead child receive does not depend on the day of the week on which the child happened to die. That seems to be the effect of the clause as drafted. It seems that the amount of child credit which the family will receive when the child dies is, first, strictly confined to a matter of days; and, secondly, appears to depend on which day of the week the child dies. That seems to be harsh, to say the least. It is strange that the benefit should depend on the day of the week. I beg to move.

Earl Russell

My Lords, is there in law a day on which the week begins?

Baroness Hollis of Heigham

My Lords, for benefit purposes, benefit weeks begin on different days according to different benefits. That is in order to reduce pressure on payments at the post office. I need some help from the noble Lord because I understood his concern to be related to the entitlement to the extension—the roll-on period after a child has died—of eight weeks of continued benefit. However, the noble Lord did not speak to that; he spoke only about whether a week could be less or more than seven days.

Perhaps I may give an answer based on our understanding of his concern because I may be able to allay his fears. Not only does his amendment do the reverse of what he wants it to do but it would stop the department's generosity, which is decent and of which I am proud. The amendment seeks to provide that where a child is born but does not survive a week, the claimant should still be entitled to the extension of child benefit. That is the eight-week roll-over period which comes into effect once a child has died. That is substantial money—it is not the first week of benefit but the continued payment for eight weeks. However, the amendment as drafted does the complete opposite and instead defeats that precise purpose.

Perhaps I may set the matter in context. A person can be entitled to child benefit for any week only when he or she is the person responsible for a child. Section 147(1) of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act defines a week as a period of seven days beginning with a Monday. Subsection (2) of the section goes on to state that we should treat a person as responsible for a week only if he or she were responsible for the child at the start of that week. It seems rather convoluted, but it makes sense when one looks at child benefit. It is a weekly benefit where the claimant needs to be responsible for a child each week of the claim, so it makes sense to have a relatively simple test to identify when a person becomes responsible or loses responsibility for a child.

That matters because often there is shared care, or part shared care, and some determination is necessary as regards who is the claimant of child benefit, particularly as it cannot be split. In providing an extension of support for families where a child they have been responsible for dies, we would want to provide that support to any family responsible for a child regardless of the length of time the child was with them. That aligns child benefit with the proposals in the child tax credit which has been so warmly welcomed by interest groups. That is what adding the proposed new Clause 145A to the existing legislation would achieve.

However, because of the rule within Section 147 that I have already described, if a person became responsible for a child but that child died before the first Monday after the date he or she had joined the family, that person could not claim child benefit or the extension. He or she would not have cared for the child for the full week. That is not the aim of the extension, which is to recognise the needs of families at the time. The loss of a child is difficult whether the child dies soon after birth or many years into the child's life.

For that reason, Clause 54(3) specifically provides that where a child had been born in one "week"—that is, a seven-day period starting on the Monday—but had not survived to the following Monday, for the purposes of this extension of support we could treat that child as having existed at the start of that week so that the family could become eligible for support for that limited period to help them through the difficult time. So it is essential, unless one redefines what is a "week" for the rest of the child benefit legislation, to use the word "week"; otherwise we cannot achieve the aim that we all seek.

I apologise for such an elaborate explanation, but if we do not legislate in this way, parents who lose a child within the first week of that child's life will not be entitled to or be eligible for the eight-week extension, which I am sure we would regret. I apologise for giving such a complicated and technical answer, but that is the reason for the wording.

Lord Higgins

My Lords, it is best if we read very carefully what the noble Baroness has said. This is far from simple. I fully accept the Government's good intentions. We shall have to study the matter very carefully indeed because the drafting appears to be rather strange. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 163 and 164 not moved.]

Clause 55 [Presence in United Kingdom]:

Lord Higgins

moved Amendment No. 165: Page 32, line 39, leave out subsection (1). The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment is concerned with presence in the United Kingdom. Clause 55(1) states: No child benefit shall be payable in respect of a child for a week unless he is in Great Britain in that week". On the face of it, that seems to be a rather strange provision since it may well be that, given we are all members of the European Union and so forth, a particular family may have gone abroad for a fortnight's holiday, whereupon it seems to lose child benefit for the period of their absence. That seems to be a rather strange provision. However, it may be that that is helped by subsection (3) which states that: Circumstances may be prescribed in which a child or other person is to be treated for the purposes of this section as being, or as not being, in Great Britain". I presume that that means one can have a situation where the circumstances prescribed say that if they have gone on a holiday for a fortnight the family still receives child benefit. This is a very strange way of proceeding. In any case, as the noble Baroness will know, we on this side of the House have taken the view that matters should be on the face of the Bill rather than in regulations if they are not going to require a series of subsequent adjustments. If there are circumstances in which the child can be absent for more than a week without losing benefit, it would be more sensible to put that on the face of the Bill rather than in regulations. Perhaps the noble Baroness can explain exactly what the Government have in mind. I beg to move.

Earl Russell

My Lords, I believe that here we have something which requires some thought. The Department for Work and Pensions, and the Department of Social Security before it, have really had a very national-based outlook on the question of entitlement. They always tend to think in terms of "Out of sight, out of mind".

But that is not up to date with the nature of the world economy as it is developing. As we keep saying, but never remembering, we are going constantly more global. I believe that soon it will begin to worry employers that they may find it difficult to recruit people for jobs which involve constantly moving from country to country if the people concerned lose benefit when they do it.

This purely national-based thinking about the economy is almost as out of date as confining poor relief to the parish. At some time there has to be rethinking. Whether this amendment is the vehicle for that, I am not certain, but the point is worth putting on the record.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham

My Lords, we are here seeking to streamline the tests for eligibility for child support in its various forms. Under the current systems of support, a family trying to claim support for a child has to satisfy different tests in each benefit or tax credit to prove to the relevant department that they are actually a valid resident of the United Kingdom or have been present in the UK long enough to qualify for support.

For child benefit the rules are based on the claimant and the child being required to be physically present in the country for a particular length of time. Obviously, that is when they are coming into the country. For income support and the jobseeker's allowance, as the noble Earl, Lord Russell, will know, they need to be habitually resident. Under the working families' tax credit, the claimant needs to be present and ordinarily resident in the United Kingdom. It is a confusing array of tests and as a result we have found cases in which claimants have been entitled to certain types of support but not to others on the basis of the same facts. This is difficult to explain to a family who have newly arrived into the country, especially those who are, and have always seen themselves as, UK citizens.

If we are to streamline the systems of support for families with children, we need to ensure that the same test applies across those systems. In essence, this does not result in any real change for the vast majority of families who claim child benefit. But for those UK citizens who have recently come back into this country after a long period abroad, or those who are no longer subject to immigration control, having a single test should mean that what is required of them, and the effect of those requirements, should be much clearer and therefore more easily understood.

Clause 55 provides that continuity by allowing us to define in regulations what "in GB and Northern Ireland" means for child benefit purposes. This will enable us to follow the same test as that provided for new tax credits. So where a family with children satisfies a single test, they can become en titled to both systems of support.

Without such a test of presence, some people working in this country were remitting child benefit to children who were never present in this country but lived in, for example, India, Pakistan or South Africa. The measure is designed to ensure that child benefit is paid to those who currently have the care of children in this country.

The noble Lord asked about periods of absence. The existing child benefit has always contained specific provision to permit short periods of absence—an eight-week standard period when the child or adults are abroad for temporary reasons such as holidays and longer periods if the child is absent for education or health reasons. I believe that the House has previously discussed children who go back to the Asian subcontinent for long periods over the summer holidays. That does not in any sense disqualify their families from receiving child benefit.

9.45 p.m.

Earl Russell

My Lords, before the Minister sits down, is it not becoming a characteristic of the global economy that we are all remitting money to children in other countries? We are not merely taking in each others' washing; we are taking in each others' parents. We shall have to get used to thinking of that as normal.

Lord Higgins

My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, or rather before she stands up again, I should say that the first part of her reply had very little to do with the points I sought to raise which were essentially ones of temporary absence. The Bill is clear. The proposed new Section 146 states: No child benefit shall be payable in respect of a child for a week unless he is in Great Britain in that week". It does not say that that is all right if they are on a fortnight's holiday or a month's holiday or whatever.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham

My Lords, new Section 146 continues: Circumstances may be prescribed in which a child or other person is to be treated for the purposes of this section as being, or as not being, in Great Britain". Lord Higgins: My Lords, I understand that. That brings me to the point that I made earlier; namely, that one would have thought that those circumstances could be put on the face of the Bill. They are not something which needs to vary over time. We ought not to put in regulations something which is likely to be permanent rather than temporary. If a month's absence is to be permitted, there is a strong case for stating that on the face of the Bill.

The other issue which arises in the light of the noble Earl's intervention is whether these provisions are in conformity with European law. I do not know whether the noble Baroness has a view on that.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham

My Lords, I am assured that they are in conformity with European law. As regards whether the provisions the noble Lord mentioned should be on the face of the Bill, I do not believe that they should. Fairly recently we clarified what had been developed through custom and practice; namely, that although eight weeks might be a standard period of absence—that is more or less the summer holidays for children—that could be extended if, for example, children were being returned to India or Pakistan. I keep mentioning those countries but it is in relation to them that cases have arisen. I do not intend my remarks to be discriminatory. As I say, we have only recently clarified that that eight-week period may be extended in those particular circumstances. We can make such changes through regulations. One cannot do that when one has a rigid time period on the face of the Bill.

I can conceive a situation in which, instead of having one long school summer holiday, we have more terms and shorter holidays in between. One would therefore need a linking rule. I can imagine all kinds of complexities that may arise as a result of changes in the school year with regard to whether children are, or are not, regarded as being present in this country. It seems to me that regulations are exactly the measures that are required for that degree of description and prescription.

Lord Higgins

My Lords, I hear what the Minister says, and I shall consider it. However, I am still not clear as to why one has to start from the basis that someone is not entitled to the benefit if he is absent for a week; indeed, that is a very specific provision. I shall bear in mind what the noble Baroness has said, and give it due consideration before Third Reading. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 166 not moved.]

Clause 56 [Abolition of exclusion of tax exempt persons]:

[Amendment No. 167 not moved.]

Clause 58 [Use and disclosure of information]:

[Amendment No. 168 not moved.]

Schedule 5 [Use and disclosure of information]:

[Amendment No. 169 not moved]

Schedule 6 [Repeals and revocations]:

[Amendment No. 170 not moved]

Baroness Hollis of Heigham

moved Amendment No. 171: Page 66, line 23, column 2, at beginning insert— In Schedules 3, 4 and 5, the entries relating to Schedule 3 to the Tax Credits Act 1999. The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this amendment deals with minor, technical repeals to the Employment Bill, which is currently in its final parliamentary stages. I am sorry that it was not possible to bring such an amendment forward earlier. The changes to the Employment Bill, which made these repeals necessary, were made at such a late stage that this amendment could not be tabled in Grand Committee.

The amendment repeals references in the Employment Bill to Schedule 3 of the Tax Credits Act 1999 which will become redundant once the working families' tax credit and the disabled person's tax credit are abolished in April 2003. No equivalent references are needed to this Bill because Schedule 1 directly amends the Employment Rights Act 1996 to provide better protection to employees along the same lines as achieved by the provisions being repealed. In fact, as we discussed in Grand Committee, this Bill provides better protection for employees. I hope that noble Lords will accept these minor, consequential amendments.

Lord Higgins

My Lords, we are grateful to the Minister for her explanation of this government amendment. This part of the Bill, together with the whole of Part 2, has not been considered in another place. However, I believe it could reasonably be said that we have given it a degree of scrutiny. No doubt we shall continue to do so at Third Reading.

Even at this stage—and, indeed, ahead of the Third Reading stage—I should like to congratulate the noble Baroness, as always, on her stamina and lucidity. It is always so much better when she spells it out in her own words rather than reading it. We all look forward to an interesting Third Reading.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 172 and 173 not moved.]

House adjourned at seven minutes before ten o'clock.