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Madam Speaker: Order. Time is up.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Tam Dalyell, Mr. Tony Benn, Mr. Harry Cohen, Mr. Jeremy Corbyn, Mr. George Galloway, Mr. Neil Gerrard, Dr. Ian Gibson, Mr. John McAllion, Mrs. Alice Mahon, Mr. Robert Marshall-Andrews, Mr. Dennis Skinner and Audrey Wise.

Military Action Against Iraq (Parliamentary Approval)

Mr. Tam Dalyell accordingly presented a Bill to require the prior approval, by a simple majority of the House of Commons, of military action by United Kingdom forces against Iraq: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 16 April, and to be printed [Bill 35].

26 Jan 1999 : Column 148

Point of Order

Mr. Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford and Woodford Green): On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I seek your guidance on today's debate on the working families tax credit and the Tax Credits Bill. The debate should be adjourned almost immediately for the following reasons. First, notwithstanding Government assurances, there is no reference in the Bill to the child care tax credit which forms a critical and crucial part of the measure. What is most intriguing is that at the time of the 1998 Budget, the Chancellor said:

The Paymaster General, who will advance the course of the Bill, said on the "Today" programme this morning:

    "The really important element for women is the presence of the child care tax credits."

However, there is no reference to child care tax credits in the Bill. The public are, therefore, being misled. Unless child care tax credits are included in the Bill, the cornerstone of the measure cannot stand and there is no purpose in debating it until it is included. The Government have made no attempt to explain why the child care credits have not been included.

Secondly, the Government also promised an impact assessment. Page 18 of the explanatory notes states:

No such statement has been published and that makes the debate of the Bill a pointless exercise. A statement about the huge costs that businesses are likely to incur has not been published so that businesses can take a view on the matter.

The third reason is a supporting point. The Bill has been framed with massive Henry VIII clauses, of which clause 10 is a classic example. Little in the Bill is provided in the detail necessary for the public, through Members of Parliament, to scrutinise the measure and decide whether it is a serious proposal, or merely a Government exercise in dogma.

Madam Speaker: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving me some notice of his point of order. The circumstances of a Bill's introduction and its contents are exactly what a Second Reading debate is all about. The hon. Gentleman should seek answers to his questions in the debate that will follow. In fact, he must argue his case for the Bill's rejection through debate.

Furthermore, it might assist him if I tell the hon. Gentleman and the House that I have selected the reasoned amendment in the name of the Leader of the Opposition. In doing that, the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues will be able to vote for that amendment and against the Government's Bill, to try to reject it. He must raise his points through debate with the Ministers who will be handling the Bill.

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Orders of the Day

Tax Credits Bill

Order for Second Reading read.

Madam Speaker: I inform the House that I have selected the amendment in the name of the Leader of the Opposition.

3.53 pm

The Paymaster General (Dawn Primarolo): I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

I am delighted to be opening the debate on the Second Reading of the Tax Credits Bill. Families are the bedrock of a stable and healthy society, and in a fast-changing economy--with its uncertainties and vulnerabilities--families, now more than ever, need security of support when bringing up children.

The Government are determined to support families by making sure that work pays and by helping people to move from welfare into work. The working families tax credit and the disabled persons tax credit are central elements of our strategy. It is shameful and a condemnation of the major opposition parties that they are not prepared to be on the side of working families, and that their amendments would prevent the assistance that the Bill will provide. Despite all that they say about supporting families, they really want to maintain a system that could be improved only by the introduction of the working families tax credit, which would especially help those who are in work, but on low incomes.

The working families tax credit will provide £4.5 billion a year and support 1.3 million working families. That is a contribution of £17 a week more in the system and it will help families. The hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr. Duncan Smith) should explain why the previous Conservative Government agreed with support for child care and for families. They apparently agreed with ensuring that the poverty trap was eased and that people should be helped into work. It is just that the mechanisms that the previous Government put in place did not deal with that problem. When the hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green rises to the Dispatch Box, perhaps he could answer that question.

Mr. Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford and Woodford Green): Will the hon. Lady, who has to give the explanations, please explain to the House and to the public why, this morning, she indicated that the child care tax credit section was in the Bill, when it is not? Why is it not in the Bill as it is such a cornerstone of the whole policy.

Dawn Primarolo: The Bill provides for the transfer to the Inland Revenue of the family credit unit and, as the hon. Gentleman has rightly pointed out, for the development and explanation of those measures through regulations. As he knows full well--because, presumably, he has read, for example, the House of Commons briefing on the matter--both the assessment of the impact on

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business, which is to be available for the Committee, and the details of the Bill, which are to be available for the Committee, will enable the detailed discussion that he claims that he requires.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham): Will the hon. Lady give way?

Dawn Primarolo: Hang on a minute.

In opening the debate, I am laying out the major points that will be covered in the Bill, which the Committee will be able to scrutinise. If the hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green wanted to pursue that, he could have chosen to speak first from the Dispatch Box today, but he chose not to. I would certainly welcome him on the Committee that considers the Bill in order to pursue those matters.

Mr. Duncan Smith: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Dawn Primarolo: No, I want to make some progress. I have answered the hon. Gentleman's points. He just does not like the answer and the fact that there are responses to the details that he seeks. He is trying to conceal the fact that his party has said that it wants to repeal--if it were fortunate enough to be elected again--the working families tax credit and to take away from working families all the benefits that the Bill provides for. I am not surprised that he is embarrassed, and that he wants to take the debate in another direction and shout at me from a sedentary position.

Mr. Duncan Smith: Will the Minister simply answer the question that she was asked? Nothing in the Bill refers to the child care tax credit. Why is that the case? Why have the Government left it out and how will they bring it in?

Dawn Primarolo: The child care tax credit has not been left out. The Bill gives us powers to introduce it. We are discussing the powers that are being transferred to the Inland Revenue to deliver the tax credit; the regulations provide for that. It has been made clear that the details will be available for the House, including the impact assessment, which has been conducted very thoroughly with business, with which we have co-operated over the past year.

The reason why the Opposition want to pursue that line of argument is because they do not want me to lay out the details. I will make some progress in the hope that I make it clear to Opposition Members exactly what is being proposed in the Bill.

The Bill is targeted at families with children, on low to moderate earnings, for whom the unemployment and poverty traps are particularly severe. It will help to encourage people to move from welfare into work by improving incentives. It will give families with children a guaranteed minimum income of £10,000 a year--£190 a week. That is the message that Opposition Members want to prevent being delivered in the House.

The Bill will remove the obstacle of the lack of affordable child care that affects so many families. As the hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green said, in transferring the family credit unit to the Inland Revenue, what is important is that the Revenue is given the powers

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to remove that obstacle, which is what the Bill provides for. It will also enable those who are disabled to make the transition from welfare into work more easily, and provide a guaranteed minimum income for those who do so.

The working families tax credit is complemented by other key Government policies that will make work pay and help people move from welfare into work. The national minimum wage--

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