Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80-99)|
LEWIS MP, MR
30 NOVEMBER 2005
Q80 Jim Cousins: You look at unlocking
Mr Lewis: We do it where children
are terminally ill, which is entirely appropriate.
Q81 Mr Mudie: Minister, I was just
asking what happened to tokens?
Mr Lewis: Sorry.
Q82 Mr Mudie: In the original documentation
there was a suggestion raised by the Inland Revenue that they
would have tokens or additional payments. Grandmothers could buy
a token rather than a book token so it would go straight in to
the account and there would be no chance of the parents getting
their fingers on the brass. Have you dropped the idea?
Mr Lewis: As far as I know it
is not happening.
Q83 Mr Mudie: A note from the back.
Mr Lewis: It is not happening.
Q84 Mr Mudie: Which says?
Mr Lewis: It says it is a matter
for providers but it is not happening at the moment.
Q85 Mr Mudie: But you were looking
at it. The Inland Revenue were looking at it.
Mr Lewis: It has not happened.
Would you like us to look at it?
Q86 Mr Mudie: Have you considered
instead of spending this money on the advertising industry spending
some of it with PCTs briefing district nurses, because I find
district nurses are individuals who are guaranteed to meet parents
after the newborn baby and if they were really in the picturebecause
they are very caring individuals, they are very worried about
their parents, et cetera. Have you thought of that? The
onus seems to be on education rather than getting the person who
will actually speak to the parent in the weeks following the birth.
Mr Lewis: Absolutely right. The
Department of Health are one of our partner organisations for
that very reason, as are our public services, as is Sure Start.
Q87 Mr Mudie: That is an answer to
the question. The question is have you done it? Are you briefing
PCTs, are you seeking to brief district nurses for when they go
into homes. If I speak to my district nurses they will be well
briefed on it?
Mr Lewis: They certainly are one
of our partner organisations. I agree entirely with you that they
should be and what I need to look at really is whether that is
happening on a mainstream basis because I think you are right,
but I suspect the answer is that it is patchy and in some areas
it will be happening and in others it will not.
Q88 Mr Mudie: It would be good to
spend some of this £3.5 million briefing PCTs and district
Mr Lewis: Yes.
Q89 Kerry McCarthy: Going back to
what you said about early release of funds for terminally ill
children, I am intrigued, does that need a parent to question,
I guess it is very early days yet, but what would be the mechanism
for a parent being aware of their right to request early release
of funds or will it be something done through health visitors
and PCTs, as George [Mudie] mentioned?
Mr Lewis: You would hope that
the professionals working with the children in those circumstances
would be aware that we are willing to make special arrangements
in these cases. Again, if you are asking me in the real world
will every professional working with a family who has a terminally
ill child be aware of this, I suspect the answer is no.
Q90 Kerry McCarthy: Or at least be
aware that the child is terminally ill.
Mr Lewis: It is on the web site
but the parents of a terminally ill child are not likely to be
looking through the web site.
Chairman: We are going to have to suspend
for ten minutes and resume at 15.42.
The Committee suspended from 3.32 pm to 3.38
pm for a division in the House.
Chairman: Let us resume. George Mudie?
Q91 Mr Mudie: In April you will be
allocating the accounts that have not been taken up and you are
doing this on a rotational basis. One of the pieces of evidence
we have had presented to us suggests that there are only 11 providers
going to take something like 60,000 each. Has this method of distribution
been thought out and do you stand by it?
Mr Lewis: Yes.
Q92 Mr Mudie: On what basis?
Mr Lewis: I suppose the assessment
has been done on deliverability. We have invited providers to
join us specificallyand in terms of people who will end
up in that category of course that remains to be seen because
we are still a long way from the finishing linebut having
done that we assess that the capacity is there to be able to do
the job that we require them to do.
Mr Wells: Can I add on that, we
have regular discussions with each of the providers who will be
taking those allocated accounts.
Q93 Mr Mudie: You do agree there
are only 11?
Mr Wells: There are 11 at the
present time but the number changes because there is scope for
others to join. We have also had a dry-run with the allocated
accounts for those children who are in care so we have had the
opportunity this month to have a dry-run for this process, admittedly
with smaller numbers, but we are talking to all providers again
in light of that to make sure that we have all learnt from that
Q94 Mr Mudie: Just answer me this:
these will be going into stakeholder accounts and stakeholder
accounts are dealing in equities, for example, so they must all
have different performances. Is there no due regard given to performance?
If you simply do it on a rotational basis are you not opening
yourself up to some person saying, "You have not taken care
with this investment"? Certainly children in care might reasonably
do this: "You have not taken care of my investment. You have
just allocated it with no due regard to performance." After
18 years of you putting it with a bad provider rather than a good
provider it could be a considerable amount of money. Have you
given any consideration to that?
Mr Lewis: Yes.
Q95 Mr Mudie: Mr Wells looks puzzled.
You have decided that that does not matter, Minister?
Mr Lewis: I did not say that.
Q96 Mr Mudie: Well, go on then.
Mr Lewis: I think that before
we are willing to enter into a relationship with the 11 that are
there now there has to be a certain acceptance and understanding
that they are up to the job otherwise we would not be entering
into a relationship with them.
Q97 Mr Mudie: You could put them
with a tracker. Most fund managers are out-performed by a tracker.
With 11 managers there will be a difference of performance. You
are not bothering about performance; you are just doing it on
a mathematical basis. "Here are 60,000 accounts to you and
60,000 accounts to you." What if I am put in with a bad manager
whose performance is poor?
Mr Lewis: If it reaches the stage
where the default account has been established and then you decided
you want to move the investment, then you can move it.
Q98 Mr Mudie: No I cannot because
I am a five year old or a six year old.
Mr Lewis: The parent can.
Q99 Mr Mudie: But you have taken
the decision for me, you have put them with the provider.
Mr Lewis: What is the alternative?