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Mr. Keith Bradley: Look at the Opposition Benches.

Mr. Letwin: I assure the Minister that I would be amazed if I found a great army behind me.

I have laboured mightily over the amendments, but I believe, difficult as Ministers may find it to credit, that it matters how legislation is worded. It matters whether the general power given to the Secretary of State by legislation has been appropriately constrained. It matters whether the clauses overlap. It matters whether individuals, when they apply for benefits, are clobbered by provisions that they have never heard of because a clause they have never heard of gives the Secretary of State a power that no rational human being would want included in a Bill, which got through the House of Commons because nobody mentioned it.

I hope that this listening, pragmatic Government will now see fit to make minor adjustments, to bring the Bill back into line with common sense.

Mr. Denham: There are several reasons why I hope that the hon. Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin) never becomes a Social Security Minister, one of which is the danger that he would face of having so many of his speeches on this matter read back to him.

Amendment No. 41 has been drafted to be consistent with the wording and construction of the legislation introduced by the Conservative Government in 1986 and

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consolidated in 1992. I accept that the hon. Gentleman has sincere reservations about the way in which regulations are drafted, but the form and wording of the amendments are consistent with previous practice, which was followed by Conservative Governments.

Mr. Letwin: I thank the Minister for his characteristic patience in giving way. First, I do not take responsibility for previous practice, which is long running and dates back to earlier Governments than the previous one. Secondly, I hope that the Minister will not advance the argument that this matter is like public expenditure: the Government can do anything wrong as long as the practice is consistent with that of a previous Government.

Mr. Denham: I shall cover the other substantive points--

Mr. Burns: Answer this point first.

Mr. Denham: It is fair to say that the drafting of legislation should--unless we can find reason to change it--reflect existing legislation on the issue. When considering the Bill, we found no reason to change the form of wording used in the Act.

In his second set of questions, the hon. Member for West Dorset asked me to explain the purpose of the group of amendments. We are dealing with reviews that are necessary because there has been misrepresentation or failure to disclose a material fact. The current position in law is that if a discretionary social fund overpayment results from misrepresentation or failure to disclose a material fact, the amount cannot be recovered unless the customer voluntarily agrees to repay it or civil actionis taken against him. Discretionary social fund overpayments are often relatively small sums, and civil action is not always cost-effective. That means that overpayments are being written off, which allows people to profit from fraud. The intention of clause 73 is to close the loophole in the primary legislation.

We want to amend clause 73 because, although it introduces the express provision to allow the Secretary of State to recover such overpayments when a determination has been made, it does not provide the power to determine that an overpayment has occurred or to quantify it. The intention is to amend clause 38 to make it explicit that appropriate officers will determine that an overpayment has occurred and decide the amount to be recovered.

If I understood the hon. Gentleman correctly, he seeks clarification on why the amendments are necessary. They are necessary to enable the Bill's purpose--which we discussed in Committee--to be carried out.

Lords amendment agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 39 to 44 agreed to.

Clause 42

Child support: appeals to appeal tribunals

Lords amendment: No. 45, in page 27, line 5, at end insert ("against the refusal")

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Mr. Keith Bradley: I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: With this, it will be convenient to discuss Lords amendments Nos. 46 to 51, 102, 120, 122, 124, 129, 130, 133, 134, 136, 137, 142, 144 and 175.

Mr. Bradley: Amendments Nos. 45 to 51 and 120 make minor changes to the provisions for child support appeals in clause 42 and schedule 6.

Amendments Nos. 102, 122, 129, 130, 133, 134, 136, 137, 142 and 144 clarify the appeals process for decisions on child support that are not directly part of the formula assessment. Amendments Nos. 124 and 175 allow for regulations to provide further appeal rights if they prove necessary.

When a tribunal considers a departure application, the discretionary nature of the decision means that a slightly different procedure is followed from the one for other appeals. Amendments Nos. 133 and 136 insert a provision that ensures that the same procedures are followed for departure appeals as at present.

In addition, amendments Nos. 133, 136 and 102 clarify the rules for appeals against reduced benefit directions. The Bill gives two rights of appeal against the benefit penalty imposed when a lone mother refuses to co-operate with the Child Support Agency without good cause. The amendments remove that dual provision, but ensure that parents with care can still appeal against the decision to impose a reduced benefit direction, based on the application of child support law to their case.

Amendments Nos. 122, 129, 130, 134, 137, 142 and 144 deal with appeals against the contribution to maintenance paid by some non-resident fathers who claim benefit. The Bill contains no right to appeal against such decisions, and the amendments correct that omission.

I commend the amendments to the House.

Lords amendment agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 46 to 58 agreed to.

Clause 45

Vaccine damage payments: decisions superseding earlier decisions

Lords amendment: No. 59, in page 32, line 25, at end insert--
("( ) Such notice as may be prescribed by regulations shall be given of a decision under this section.")

Mr. Keith Bradley: I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: With this, it will be convenient to discuss Lords amendment No. 60.

Mr. Bradley: These technical amendments relate to the vaccine damage payments scheme. I hope that hon. Members will allow me to present them as a set rather than individually.

Amendment No. 59 is a minor amendment to clause 45. Clause 45 inserts a new section 3A into the Vaccine Damage Payments Act 1979. In effect, it replaces section 5, which deals with reconsideration of

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the Secretary of State's decision on a claim for a vaccine damage payment, and ensures that there continues to be provision for claimants to be notified of decisions.

Amendment No. 60 is an amendment to clause 46. It allows the Secretary of State to make regulations on the procedures to be followed by appeal tribunals that hear appeals against vaccine damage payment decisions. I commend the amendments to the House.

Lords amendment agreed to.

Lords amendment No. 60 agreed to.

Clause 50

Payments treated as remuneration and earnings

Lords amendment: No. 61, in page 34, line 19, at end insert--
("(1A) After subsection (5) of that section there shall be inserted the following subsection--
"(6) For the purposes of section 3 above regulations may make provision for treating as remuneration derived from an earner's employment any amount on which the earner is, by virtue of any provision of sections 140A to 140H of the 1988 Act, chargeable to income tax under Schedule E in respect of an acquisition of shares or an interest in shares."")

6.30 pm

Mr. Denham: I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: With this, it will be convenient to discuss Lords amendments Nos. 62, 63, 93 and 94. I should inform the House that Lords amendment No. 61 involves privilege.

Mr. Denham: The amendments enable us to mirror, in national insurance, changes to the income tax treatment of shares carrying a risk of forfeiture and of convertible shares, as announced by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budget.

The amendments provide for regulations to treat as earnings any amount on which the earner is chargeable to income tax under the provisions of sections 140A to 140H of the Income and Corporation Taxes Act 1988. That would allow for regulations to treat as earnings, for national insurance, gains derived from share ownership taxable under provisions to be introduced in the Finance Bill. The Finance Bill changes give business legislative certainty about the tax position. Similar changes are needed for national insurance purposes.

Part of our aim of modernising national insurance is that, where it is sensible to do so, national insurance rules should be aligned with income tax rules. It is important that national insurance rules keep in step with changes to income tax so that business is not faced with the burden of administering two sets of rules for the same type of remuneration. The amendments provide the most practical way in which to mirror in national insurance legislation the income tax changes in the Finance Bill, and I commend them to the House.

Lords amendment agreed to [Special Entry].

Lords amendments Nos. 62 and 63 agreed to.

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