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Mr. Brazier: I am a little surprised by the hon. Lady's claim, given that I made it clear that my wife, who has small children, works for a small business. The Opposition's proposal would offer women the option either to stay at home or to go to work, and either way to enjoy the same tax allowance.

Mrs. Roche: The hon. Gentleman's intervention enables me to make a number of remarks. We have known each other for a number of years, and for more years than I care to mention we were students together. I know that he has an honest and consistent approach, which he showed this evening. He has attacked his own Government in the past and he attacks us now. He said, "This Bill is an attack on marriage. It undermines families." The biggest issue that undermines families is poverty, which is what the Bill seeks to address.

Mr. Paterson: The Minister mentions poverty. How many families earning more than £25,000 will benefit from the extra £1.5 billion, which is a crass breach of the Prime Minister's promise not to increase social security spending?

Mrs. Roche: I say to the hon. Gentleman--

Mr. Paterson: How many?

Mrs. Roche: If the hon. Gentleman will do me the courtesy of allowing me to answer his question, I am keen to help him. Hon. Members will know how keen I always am to help them. The answer to the question is that it will depend on the individual circumstances of each family.

The Opposition are fundamentally confused. They have put up a shadow benefits Minister, but the measure is not about benefits. It is about work and tax credits, but they have completely failed to understand that point. The Bill will deliver more help where it is most needed. Every working family will, for the first time, have a guaranteed minimum income of at least £10,000 a year. I shall be interested if, in the run-up to the next election, the Opposition campaign on the basis of abolishing that entitlement.

As a tax credit, rather than a benefit, the WFTC will be entirely different from family credit. The stigma attached to claiming benefit can be harmful to many people, and it contrasts starkly with a tax credit that can be paid directly into a bank account. There is a big psychological difference between receiving a giro and seeing a tax credit on a wage slip. That brings us back to a fundamental Labour principle: that the dignity of work is essential to everybody's self respect.

Mr. Bercow: I hope that the Financial Secretary accepts that the dignity derived from the retention of one's

26 Jan 1999 : Column 237

privacy is also important. In the light of concerns on that score that have been sincerely expressed by the Federation of Small Businesses and others, what specific steps is the hon. Lady taking to address that matter and to remove or minimise the threat to privacy that the new policy poses?

Mrs. Roche: I understand the hon. Gentleman's point, but let me reassure him and the House that there is no threat to confidentiality. The information is given to the Revenue, which then tells the employer the amount of the tax credit. Is the hon. Gentleman seriously saying that there is a problem or some sort of breach of privacy in connection with the Revenue? If so, my hon. Friend the Paymaster General will want to know all about it.

Mr. Gibb: Given that the tax credit is to be separately identified on the payslip, how can the hon. Gentleman claim that there will be no breach of confidentiality when the owner, the finance director and the payroll clerk will know which of the employees of the business is receiving a benefit from the state?

Mrs. Roche: Of course they will not know the individual circumstances of that family. Judges often ask, "Is that your best point?" I say exactly the same to the hon. Gentleman.

The Bill will lead to a radically different way of life for many people. That was well set out by my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesham (Mr. Pond) and my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford and Urmston(Ms Hughes). A key feature is that couples will have a free choice about payment: whether one or both partners work, if they decide that, in their personal circumstances, it would be best for the partner not in work to receive the tax credit, the Inland Revenue will pay the tax credit directly to that partner. In that respect, I am grateful for the helpful comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Regent's Park and Kensington, North(Ms Buck), who succinctly and successfully pointed out to the hon. Member for Bromsgrove (Miss Kirkbride) the error of her ways.

Mr. Webb: Library estimates were that up to£900 million would be transferred from women to men. If the Financial Secretary believes that to be an overestimate, what figure would she put on the transfer?

Mrs. Roche: I listened carefully to the hon. Gentleman's speech. The calculation that produced that figure is based on an assumption that the Government certainly do not accept.

Several hon. Members rightly raised the problem of fraud. My right hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) went into that matter in a characteristically thoughtful speech. In designing the legislation, we have put in place new measures that will help to keep fraud at as low a level as possible, building on the experience of studies into fraud in the existing system. In addition, the Inland Revenue is developing systems for detecting fraud.

The Bill gives the Inland Revenue the necessary powers to carry out inquiries into cases of suspected fraud which will be backed up with sanctions. We shall tackle fraud in tax credits with the same resolve with which we are tackling fraud in other areas of government activity.

26 Jan 1999 : Column 238

Many Conservative Members spoke about the Bill's effects on employers. The Bill takes positive steps for employers. A committed, motivated work force is a great asset to any firm. By ensuring that they get their side of the measures right, employers will go a long way to retain employees and gain their respect for and loyalty to the company. This is win-win legislation for employers and employees.

Many Conservative Members referred to burdens on business. I thank the hon. Member for Vale of York (Miss McIntosh) for her kind comments and I shall miss our rather detailed discussions on structural funds and her helpful contributions, but I take issue with her about burdens on business. My hon. Friend the Paymaster General has done a great deal of work with small firms organisations.

Mr. Ruffley: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Mrs. Roche: No, I want to make progress.

Those organisations made an invaluable contribution to the design of the scheme and provided practical advice on the implementation of payment through the wage packet.

We shall take no lessons from Opposition Members about burdens on business. I remember only too wellthe previous Government's record. [Interruption.] Conservative Members are shouting because they do not want to hear this. They do not like to be reminded of the facts. What was the previous Government's record? They removed 3,000 regulations on business but introduced 10,000 new ones. [Interruption.] They may keep shouting, but we will keep reminding them--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I am sorry to interrupt the Minister but hon. Members may not keep on shouting. I must have silence while the Minister replies.

Mrs. Roche: I am sorry that Conservative Members do not want to hear what I have to say, but they will hear much more. They will constantly be reminded.

We have been working to reduce the burden of red tape on business. We have reduced the burden of employees' national insurance contributions and we are transferring the Contributions Agency to the Inland Revenue to enable businesses to deal with one organisation for tax and national insurance purposes.

On 9 March 1998, I had the great pleasure of making the closing speech for the Government on the Third Reading of the National Minimum Wage Bill, which will affect the working lives of people in this country. Today, with this Bill, we put into place another vital piece of legislation to help working families. I commend the Bill to the House. >Question put, That the amendment be made:--

The House divided: Ayes 126, Noes 365.

Division No. 47
[9.59 pm


Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)
Amess, David
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Blunt, Crispin
Boswell, Tim
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia
Brady, Graham
Brazier, Julian
Browning, Mrs Angela
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)
Burns, Simon
Butterfill, John
Cash, William
Chope, Christopher
Clappison, James
Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Kensington)
Clark, Dr Michael (Rayleigh)
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Collins, Tim
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Cran, James
Curry, Rt Hon David
Davies, Quentin (Grantham)
Day, Stephen
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen
Duncan, Alan
Duncan Smith, Iain
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Evans, Nigel
Faber, David
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Michael
Flight, Howard
Forth, Rt Hon Eric
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Fox, Dr Liam
Fraser, Christopher
Gale, Roger
Garnier, Edward
Gibb, Nick
Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Gray, James
Greenway, John
Gummer, Rt Hon John
Hague, Rt Hon William
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Hammond, Philip
Hawkins, Nick
Hayes, John
Heald, Oliver
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Hunter, Andrew
Jack, Rt Hon Michael
Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Jenkin, Bernard
Key, Robert
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Lansley, Andrew
Leigh, Edward
Letwin, Oliver
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Lidington, David
Luff, Peter
McIntosh, Miss Anne
MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew
McLoughlin, Patrick
Major, Rt Hon John
Malins, Humfrey
Maples, John
Mates, Michael
Maude, Rt Hon Francis
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian
May, Mrs Theresa
Moss, Malcolm
Nicholls, Patrick
Norman, Archie
Ottaway, Richard
Page, Richard
Paice, James
Paterson, Owen
Pickles, Eric
Prior, David
Randall, John
Redwood, Rt Hon John
Robathan, Andrew
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Rowe, Andrew (Faversham)
Ruffley, David
St Aubyn, Nick
Sayeed, Jonathan
Shepherd, Richard
Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Soames, Nicholas
Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spring, Richard
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Steen, Anthony
Streeter, Gary
Swayne, Desmond
Syms, Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Taylor, Sir Teddy
Tredinnick, David
Trend, Michael
Tyrie, Andrew
Viggers, Peter
Walter, Robert
Wardle, Charles
Wells, Bowen
Whittingdale, John
Wilkinson, John
Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Woodward, Shaun
Young, Rt Hon Sir George

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Nigel Waterson and
Sir David Madel.


Abbott, Ms Diane
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Alexander, Douglas
Allan, Richard
Allen, Graham
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)
Armstrong, Ms Hilary
Ashton, Joe
Atherton, Ms Candy
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, John
Ballard, Jackie
Banks, Tony
Barnes, Harry
Barron, Kevin
Battle, John
Bayley, Hugh
Beard, Nigel
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Bell, Martin (Tatton)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony
Benton, Joe
Bermingham, Gerald
Berry, Roger
Best, Harold
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Boateng, Paul
Borrow, David
Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brown, Rt Hon Gordon
(Dunfermline E)
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Browne, Desmond
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Burstow, Paul
Butler, Mrs Christine
Byers, Rt Hon Stephen
Caborn, Richard
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Menzies (NE Fife)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Campbell-Savours, Dale
Canavan, Dennis
Cann, Jamie
Caplin, Ivor
Casale, Roger
Caton, Martin
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chaytor, David
Chidgey, David
Chisholm, Malcolm
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Clark, Dr Lynda
(Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clelland, David
Clwyd, Ann
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Cohen, Harry
Coleman, Iain
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Cooper, Yvette
Corbett, Robin
Corbyn, Jeremy
Corston, Ms Jean
Cousins, Jim
Cranston, Ross
Crausby, David
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr Jack
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Dalyell, Tam
Darling, Rt Hon Alistair
Darvill, Keith
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Davidson, Ian
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Rt Hon Ron (Caerphilly)
Dean, Mrs Janet
Denham, John
Dewar, Rt Hon Donald
Dismore, Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Donohoe, Brian H
Doran, Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drew, David
Drown, Ms Julia
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff
Fearn, Ronnie
Field, Rt Hon Frank
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Fitzsimons, Lorna
Flint, Caroline
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Foster, Don (Bath)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Foulkes, George
Galbraith, Sam
Galloway, George
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
George, Bruce (Walsall S)
Gibson, Dr Ian
Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Godman, Dr Norman A
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Gorrie, Donald
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grocott, Bruce
Grogan, John
Gunnell, John
Hain, Peter
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet
Harris, Dr Evan
Harvey, Nick
Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Healey, John
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hesford, Stephen
Hewitt, Ms Patricia
Hill, Keith
Hinchliffe, David
Hodge, Ms Margaret
Home Robertson, John
Hoon, Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Howells, Dr Kim
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hurst, Alan
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Johnson, Miss Melanie
(Welwyn Hatfield)
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Ieuan Wyn (Ynys Mon)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Keetch, Paul
Kemp, Fraser
Kennedy, Charles (Ross Skye)
Khabra, Piara S
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)
Kingham, Ms Tess
Kirkwood, Archy
Kumar, Dr Ashok
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Lawrence, Ms Jackie
Laxton, Bob
Lepper, David
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Linton, Martin
Livingstone, Ken
Livsey, Richard
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Llwyd, Elfyn
Lock, David
Love, Andrew
McAllion, John
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCartney, Ian (Makerfield)
Macdonald, Calum
McDonnell, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKenna, Mrs Rosemary
Maclennan, Rt Hon Robert
McNulty, Tony
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mallaber, Judy
Marek, Dr John
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Martlew, Eric
Maxton, John
Meale, Alan
Michael, Alun
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Austin
Moffatt, Laura
Moonie, Dr Lewis
Morgan, Alasdair (Galloway)
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Morgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W)
Morley, Elliot
Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Mountford, Kali
Mudie, George
Mullin, Chris
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Murphy, Paul (Torfaen)
Norris, Dan
Oaten, Mark
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
Olner, Bill
Öpik, Lembit
Organ, Mrs Diana
Osborne, Ms Sandra
Palmer, Dr Nick
Pearson, Ian
Pendry, Tom
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter L
Plaskitt, James
Pollard, Kerry
Pond, Chris
Pope, Greg
Pound, Stephen
Powell, Sir Raymond
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Prescott, Rt Hon John
Primarolo, Dawn
Purchase, Ken
Quin, Ms Joyce
Quinn, Lawrie
Rammell, Bill
Rapson, Syd
Raynsford, Nick
Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)
Rendel, David
Robertson, Rt Hon George
(Hamilton S)
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Rogers, Allan
Rooker, Jeff
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Rowlands, Ted
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Ms Joan
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Ryan, Ms Joan
Salmond, Alex
Salter, Martin
Sanders, Adrian
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Shipley, Ms Debra
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Singh, Marsha
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Snape, Peter
Soley, Clive
Southworth, Ms Helen
Spellar, John
Squire, Ms Rachel
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Stevenson, George
Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stoate, Dr Howard
Stott, Roger
Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Stunell, Andrew
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Swinney, John
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Temple-Morris, Peter
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Timms, Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark
Touhig, Don
Trickett, Jon
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Tyler, Paul
Vaz, Keith
Ward, Ms Claire
Wareing, Robert N
Watts, David
Webb, Steve
Welsh, Andrew
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, Rt Hon Alan
(Swansea W)
Willis, Phil
Wills, Michael
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Wise, Audrey
Wood, Mike
Woolas, Phil
Worthington, Tony
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Wyatt, Derek

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. David Hanson and
Jane Kennedy.

Question accordingly negatived.

26 Jan 1999 : Column 242

Main Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 62 (Amendment on Second or Third Reading):--

The House divided: Ayes 320, Noes 160.

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