Age-Related Payments Bill

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Clause 10

Extent

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Mr. Webb: There can only be one question about clause 10: what about Northern Ireland? Presumably, the argument is that there is no council tax there, and so the payments do not apply, or will the Northern Ireland Office, through an Order in Council, make a corresponding provision for domestic rates there? Presumably, that would be quite a burden on the over-70s. I hope that the Minister will clarify that.

When I draft amendments, I like to get things right, so could the Minister explain why the clause is drafted so as to say

    ''(a) England and Wales, and (b) Scotland'',

rather than ''England, Wales and Scotland''?

Malcolm Wicks: I am not sure of the answer to the last question. In terms of law and constitutional arrangements, notwithstanding the Welsh Assembly—and I do not want to get into trouble with anyone—England and Wales are often grouped together. The Scottish system is rather different; the answer could simply be that. I do not think that the issue affects the payment of the money, so I do not want the hon. Gentleman to worry too much about it.

The hon. Gentleman was right to suggest that an Order in Council will be introduced as soon as possible to provide for payments to be made to eligible pensioners in Northern Ireland at the same time as payments are made to pensioners in Great Britain. I should add—as we currently do on such occasions—that, in the event of a return to devolved Government

Column Number: 48

in Northern Ireland before the Order in Council is made, the issue would of course become a matter for the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 10 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 11

Citation

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

3.15 pm

Mr. Waterson: It would not be right to let the Bill's relatively short passage through Committee not be marked by a return to the central criticism that many of us made on Second Reading and earlier today. It is misleading to call this legislation the Age-Related Payments Act; it should be the election-related payments Act.

Although it might have failed miserably in its intent, the Bill is clearly designed to buy off trouble over council tax increases, which are in large measure a result of Government action or policy, and to try to get them out of a hole on 10 June. I do not think that it will win them a single extra vote; it will just cost £500 million. We do not begrudge £100 to the over-70s, whether they need it or not. I hope that those who get it make good use of it. It is only a pity that they will not get it until eight months after they need it. On that basis, I have serious reservations about whether it is in order for this to be called the Age-Related Payments Act rather than the election-related payments Act.

The Chairman: I remind the Committee that the debate is narrow, but the Minister can respond to that point.

Malcolm Wicks: I will not be provoked, Mr. Pike.

Just occasionally—every two minutes, in fact—the hon. Gentleman wanders off into the long grass, much of it political. I think that the people of the United Kingdom who are in eligible households will be pleased to receive £100. Given the concern about council tax, that is important.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 11 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Bill to be reported, without amendment.

        Committee rose at seventeen minutes past Three o'clock.

Column Number: 49

The following Members attended the Committee:
Pike, Mr. Peter (Chairman)
Begg, Miss
Henderson, Mr. Ivan
Moran, Margaret
Roy, Mr.
Tredinnick, Mr.
Turner, Mr. Neil
Waterson, Mr.
Webb, Mr.
Wicks, Malcolm

 
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