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5.15 pm

The other way to reduce means-testing, of course, is to take money off poor people. The Tories seem to be saying that they do not want to increase the basic state pension, but they want to reduce the level of means-testing. The only way they could do that is by taking money off poor people, and I do not think that that is what they are planning to do. I am happy to let the hon. Member for Eastbourne intervene on me if he wants to. If that really is the Tories’ policy we are happy to debate it with them; otherwise, the House will have to conclude that they want to make a noise about means-testing in general, without having any proposal to change what the Government are doing. We are happy to have that debate. We think that our proposals strike the right balance between enabling people to save for themselves and providing a safety net for them to fall back on—a safety net that has lifted 2 million people out of pensioner poverty since 1997.

Amendment No. 7 would require the delivery authority to publish analysis of the interaction of means-testing with personal accounts as well as plans for the delivery of generic financial information. That would place an unnecessary extra pressure on the delivery authority in its initial stages by requiring it to carry out extensive and complex analysis in a short time and to duplicate some work already being undertaken in other areas. The Department for Work and Pensions and other experts will be providing much of the information that the hon. Members for Yeovil and for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey are after. Indeed, we plan to invite them to a further series of seminars to discuss the information base over the next few decades.

Mr. Laws: How many are there?

James Purnell: My officials have suggested a series of five seminars to which we could invite Front Benchers. I am happy to strike a bargain with the hon. Gentleman: if he wants to tell us how he is going to take money off disabled people and carers, we will invite him to all five seminars; otherwise, I propose to invite him to just two.

We do not believe that it would be right to place that burden on the authority. We believe that it is right to have a proper information strategy and to look at what we can do to improve people’s financial capability. We are working with Otto Thoreson and the Treasury on a study to research and design a national approach to generic financial advice, and rather than a false debate about means-testing, in which the House knows that
18 Apr 2007 : Column 387
what we are talking about is where that balance should be struck, we should have a real debate about how to make that generic information and advice work so that people can make informed decisions about their future.

The debate has shown that personal accounts and automatic enrolment are of great interest to Members. Much of our debate has focused on the substance of personal accounts, and there will be opportunities to discuss that following our response to the White Paper, which will be published soon, and, subject to the will of Parliament, in legislation in the next Session. Rather than pre-empt that, I urge Members on both Front Benches not press their amendments and new clauses and instead to comfort themselves with the thought of the seminars that we will be holding between now and then so that they can table amendments in the next Session.

Mr. Waterson: If the Minister thinks that he can threaten me by upping the rate of seminars to which he is going to invite me, he is absolutely right. I am seminared out, and the prospect of no fewer than five on one small subset of the issues is more than flesh and blood can bear.

I have already made it clear that new clause 29 is a probing new clause and it has served its purpose, up to a point. Amendment No. 3 is not sufficiently important to press to a Division. However, I feel strongly about new clause 7. The Minister ought to feel equally strongly about it because it is largely looted from the wording in his own White Paper, so I do not understand why there is a problem putting that in the Bill. We have concerns, and it is not just us; the industry shares those concerns, as I said in my speech. On that basis, I would like to press new clause 7 to a vote.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 217, Noes 293.
Division No. 092]
[5.20 pm


Afriyie, Adam
Ainsworth, Mr. Peter
Alexander, Danny
Amess, Mr. David
Atkinson, Mr. Peter
Bacon, Mr. Richard
Barker, Gregory
Baron, Mr. John
Barrett, John
Beith, rh Mr. Alan
Bellingham, Mr. Henry
Benyon, Mr. Richard
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Binley, Mr. Brian
Bone, Mr. Peter
Bottomley, Peter
Brady, Mr. Graham
Brake, Tom
Brazier, Mr. Julian
Breed, Mr. Colin
Brokenshire, James
Brooke, Annette
Browne, Mr. Jeremy
Browning, Angela
Burns, Mr. Simon
Burrowes, Mr. David
Burstow, Mr. Paul
Burt, Alistair
Burt, Lorely
Campbell, Mr. Gregory
Campbell, rh Sir Menzies
Carmichael, Mr. Alistair
Carswell, Mr. Douglas
Cash, Mr. William
Clark, Greg
Clegg, Mr. Nick
Clifton-Brown, Mr. Geoffrey
Conway, Derek
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Cox, Mr. Geoffrey
Crabb, Mr. Stephen
Curry, rh Mr. David
Davey, Mr. Edward
Davies, David T.C. (Monmouth)

Davies, Philip
Davies, Mr. Quentin
Dodds, Mr. Nigel
Donaldson, Mr. Jeffrey M.
Dorrell, rh Mr. Stephen
Dorries, Mrs. Nadine
Duddridge, James
Dunne, Mr. Philip
Ellwood, Mr. Tobias
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Mr. Michael
Farron, Tim
Featherstone, Lynne
Field, Mr. Mark
Foster, Mr. Don
Fox, Dr. Liam
Francois, Mr. Mark
Fraser, Mr. Christopher
Garnier, Mr. Edward
Gauke, Mr. David
George, Andrew
Gibb, Mr. Nick
Gidley, Sandra
Goldsworthy, Julia
Goodman, Mr. Paul
Goodwill, Mr. Robert
Gove, Michael
Grayling, Chris
Green, Damian
Gummer, rh Mr. John
Hague, rh Mr. William
Hammond, Stephen
Hands, Mr. Greg
Harper, Mr. Mark
Hayes, Mr. John
Heath, Mr. David
Heathcoat-Amory, rh Mr. David
Hemming, John
Hendry, Charles
Herbert, Nick
Hoban, Mr. Mark
Hogg, rh Mr. Douglas
Hollobone, Mr. Philip
Holmes, Paul
Horam, Mr. John
Horwood, Martin
Howard, rh Mr. Michael
Howarth, David
Howarth, Mr. Gerald
Hughes, Simon
Huhne, Chris
Hunt, Mr. Jeremy
Hunter, Mark
Hurd, Mr. Nick
Jack, rh Mr. Michael
Jackson, Mr. Stewart
Jones, Mr. David
Kawczynski, Daniel
Keetch, Mr. Paul
Kennedy, rh Mr. Charles
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Knight, rh Mr. Greg
Kramer, Susan
Lait, Mrs. Jacqui
Lamb, Norman
Lansley, Mr. Andrew
Laws, Mr. David
Leech, Mr. John
Leigh, Mr. Edward
Letwin, rh Mr. Oliver
Liddell-Grainger, Mr. Ian
Lidington, Mr. David
Lilley, rh Mr. Peter
Llwyd, Mr. Elfyn
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
Mackay, rh Mr. Andrew
Maclean, rh David
Main, Anne
Maude, rh Mr. Francis
May, rh Mrs. Theresa
McCrea, Dr. William
McIntosh, Miss Anne
McLoughlin, rh Mr. Patrick
Mercer, Patrick
Miller, Mrs. Maria
Mitchell, Mr. Andrew
Moss, Mr. Malcolm
Mulholland, Greg
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Neill, Robert
Newmark, Mr. Brooks
O'Brien, Mr. Stephen
Oaten, Mr. Mark
Öpik, Lembit
Osborne, Mr. George
Ottaway, Richard
Paterson, Mr. Owen
Pelling, Mr. Andrew
Penning, Mike
Penrose, John
Pickles, Mr. Eric
Prisk, Mr. Mark
Pritchard, Mark
Pugh, Dr. John
Randall, Mr. John
Redwood, rh Mr. John
Reid, Mr. Alan
Rifkind, rh Sir Malcolm
Robathan, Mr. Andrew
Robertson, Hugh
Robertson, Mr. Laurence
Rogerson, Mr. Dan
Rosindell, Andrew
Rowen, Paul
Ruffley, Mr. David
Russell, Bob
Sanders, Mr. Adrian
Scott, Mr. Lee
Selous, Andrew
Shapps, Grant
Shepherd, Mr. Richard
Simmonds, Mark
Simpson, David
Simpson, Mr. Keith
Smith, Sir Robert
Spelman, Mrs. Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spink, Bob
Spring, Mr. Richard
Stanley, rh Sir John
Steen, Mr. Anthony
Streeter, Mr. Gary
Stuart, Mr. Graham
Swayne, Mr. Desmond
Swinson, Jo
Swire, Mr. Hugo
Syms, Mr. Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Mr. Ian
Taylor, Matthew
Taylor, Dr. Richard
Teather, Sarah

Thurso, John
Tredinnick, David
Turner, Mr. Andrew
Tyrie, Mr. Andrew
Vaizey, Mr. Edward
Viggers, Peter
Villiers, Mrs. Theresa
Walker, Mr. Charles
Wallace, Mr. Ben
Waterson, Mr. Nigel
Watkinson, Angela
Webb, Steve
Weir, Mr. Mike
Whittingdale, Mr. John
Widdecombe, rh Miss Ann
Wiggin, Bill
Willetts, Mr. David
Williams, Mark
Williams, Mr. Roger
Williams, Stephen
Willis, Mr. Phil
Willott, Jenny
Wilson, Sammy
Winterton, Ann
Winterton, Sir Nicholas
Wishart, Pete
Wright, Jeremy
Yeo, Mr. Tim
Young, rh Sir George
Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. David Evennett and
Mr. Mark Lancaster

Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, rh Mr. Bob
Allen, Mr. Graham
Anderson, Mr. David
Anderson, Janet
Armstrong, rh Hilary
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, Mr. Ian
Bailey, Mr. Adrian
Baird, Vera
Balls, Ed
Banks, Gordon
Barlow, Ms Celia
Barron, rh Mr. Kevin
Battle, rh John
Bayley, Hugh
Begg, Miss Anne
Bell, Sir Stuart
Benn, rh Hilary
Benton, Mr. Joe
Betts, Mr. Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blackman-Woods, Dr. Roberta
Blears, rh Hazel
Blizzard, Mr. Bob
Blunkett, rh Mr. David
Bradshaw, Mr. Ben
Brennan, Kevin
Brown, Lyn
Brown, rh Mr. Nicholas
Brown, Mr. Russell
Browne, rh Des
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burgon, Colin
Burnham, Andy
Butler, Ms Dawn
Byers, rh Mr. Stephen
Cairns, David
Campbell, Mr. Alan
Campbell, Mr. Ronnie
Caton, Mr. Martin
Cawsey, Mr. Ian
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Ben
Chaytor, Mr. David
Clapham, Mr. Michael
Clark, Ms Katy
Clarke, rh Mr. Charles
Clarke, rh Mr. Tom
Clelland, Mr. David
Clwyd, rh Ann
Coaker, Mr. Vernon
Coffey, Ann
Cohen, Harry
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank
Cooper, Rosie
Cooper, Yvette
Corbyn, Jeremy
Creagh, Mary
Cruddas, Jon
Cryer, Mrs. Ann
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Mr. Jim
Cunningham, Tony
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs. Claire
Darling, rh Mr. Alistair
David, Mr. Wayne
Davidson, Mr. Ian
Davies, Mr. Dai
Dean, Mrs. Janet
Denham, rh Mr. John
Devine, Mr. Jim
Dismore, Mr. Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Dobson, rh Frank
Donohoe, Mr. Brian H.
Doran, Mr. Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drew, Mr. David
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela
Eagle, Maria
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs. Louise
Engel, Natascha
Ennis, Jeff
Farrelly, Paul
Field, rh Mr. Frank
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flello, Mr. Robert
Flint, Caroline
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Mr. Michael (Worcester)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings and Rye)
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
Gerrard, Mr. Neil
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Gilroy, Linda

Godsiff, Mr. Roger
Goggins, Paul
Goodman, Helen
Griffith, Nia
Griffiths, Nigel
Grogan, Mr. John
Gwynne, Andrew
Hain, rh Mr. Peter
Hall, Mr. Mike
Hall, Patrick
Hamilton, Mr. Fabian
Hanson, rh Mr. David
Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Harris, Mr. Tom
Healey, John
Hendrick, Mr. Mark
Hepburn, Mr. Stephen
Heppell, Mr. John
Hesford, Stephen
Hewitt, rh Ms Patricia
Hill, rh Keith
Hillier, Meg
Hodge, rh Margaret
Hodgson, Mrs. Sharon
Hoey, Kate
Hood, Mr. Jimmy
Hoon, rh Mr. Geoffrey
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, rh Mr. George
Howells, Dr. Kim
Hoyle, Mr. Lindsay
Humble, Mrs. Joan
Hutton, rh Mr. John
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Jackson, Glenda
James, Mrs. Siân C.
Jenkins, Mr. Brian
Johnson, rh Alan
Johnson, Ms Diana R.
Jones, Helen
Jones, Lynne
Jowell, rh Tessa
Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keeley, Barbara
Keen, Alan
Keen, Ann
Kelly, rh Ruth
Kemp, Mr. Fraser
Kennedy, rh Jane
Khan, Mr. Sadiq
Kidney, Mr. David
Kilfoyle, Mr. Peter
Knight, Jim
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lammy, Mr. David
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lepper, David
Lewis, Mr. Ivan
Linton, Martin
Love, Mr. Andrew
Lucas, Ian
Mackinlay, Andrew
Mactaggart, Fiona
Mahmood, Mr. Khalid
Malik, Mr. Shahid
Mallaber, Judy
Mann, John
Marris, Rob
Marsden, Mr. Gordon
Martlew, Mr. Eric
McAvoy, rh Mr. Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCarthy, Kerry
McCarthy-Fry, Sarah
McCartney, rh Mr. Ian
McDonagh, Siobhain
McDonnell, Dr. Alasdair
McDonnell, John
McFadden, Mr. Pat
McFall, rh John
McGovern, Mr. Jim
McGuire, Mrs. Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McKenna, Rosemary
McNulty, Mr. Tony
Meacher, rh Mr. Michael
Merron, Gillian
Michael, rh Alun
Milburn, rh Mr. Alan
Miliband, rh David
Miliband, Edward
Mitchell, Mr. Austin
Moffat, Anne
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moon, Mrs. Madeleine
Morden, Jessica
Morgan, Julie
Morley, rh Mr. Elliot
Mountford, Kali
Mudie, Mr. George
Munn, Meg
Murphy, Mr. Denis
Murphy, Mr. Jim
Murphy, rh Mr. Paul
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Mr. Mike
Olner, Mr. Bill
Osborne, Sandra
Owen, Albert
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Pearson, Ian
Plaskitt, Mr. James
Pope, Mr. Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Mr. Gordon
Primarolo, rh Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Mr. Ken
Purnell, James
Raynsford, rh Mr. Nick
Reed, Mr. Andy
Reid, rh John
Robertson, John
Robinson, Mr. Geoffrey
Rooney, Mr. Terry
Roy, Mr. Frank
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Salter, Martin
Seabeck, Alison
Sheerman, Mr. Barry
Sheridan, Jim
Simon, Mr. Siôn
Simpson, Alan
Singh, Mr. Marsha
Skinner, Mr. Dennis
Slaughter, Mr. Andy
Smith, rh Mr. Andrew

Smith, Ms Angela C. (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
Smith, Angela E. (Basildon)
Smith, rh Jacqui
Snelgrove, Anne
Soulsby, Sir Peter
Southworth, Helen
Spellar, rh Mr. John
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Stewart, Ian
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Tami, Mark
Taylor, Ms Dari
Thomas, Mr. Gareth
Thornberry, Emily
Timms, rh Mr. Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mr. Mark
Touhig, rh Mr. Don
Trickett, Jon
Turner, Dr. Desmond
Turner, Mr. Neil
Twigg, Derek
Ussher, Kitty
Walley, Joan
Waltho, Lynda
Ward, Claire
Wareing, Mr. Robert N.
Watson, Mr. Tom
Watts, Mr. Dave
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, rh Mr. Alan
Wills, Mr. Michael
Winnick, Mr. David
Winterton, rh Ms Rosie
Wood, Mike
Woodward, Mr. Shaun
Woolas, Mr. Phil
Wright, Mr. Anthony
Wright, David
Wright, Mr. Iain
Wright, Dr. Tony
Wyatt, Derek
Tellers for the Noes:

Jonathan Shaw and
Huw Irranca-Davies
Question accordingly negatived.
18 Apr 2007 : Column 388

18 Apr 2007 : Column 389

18 Apr 2007 : Column 390

18 Apr 2007 : Column 391

Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): Order. I understand that a number of Members were unable to register their vote on this occasion due to a malfunctioning door. I am having that investigated so that it should not cause problems for any future Divisions.

Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire) (Con): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I appreciate your launching that investigation. Will you ensure that the results are relayed to the House, because there is no doubt that a lot of Members who wanted to take part in that Division were unable to do so, and we must ensure that such an occurrence does not happen again?

Madam Deputy Speaker: I fully understand the hon. Gentleman’s point. We do not want such an event to happen again, and I have no problem whatsoever in informing the House of the results of the inquiry.

New Clause 28

Certification scheme for carers

‘After section 23A of the SSCBA (inserted by section 3 of this Act) insert—

“23B Contributions credits for relevant parents and carers: supplementary provisions

The Secretary of State must, not later than 31st December 2007, make regulations providing for the certification by health and social care professionals of persons who—

(a) are engaged in caring for another person or persons for a minimum of 20 hours a week, and

(b) are not otherwise recognised by regulations under section 23A.”’.— [Mr. Laws.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Laws: I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

18 Apr 2007 : Column 392

Madam Deputy Speaker: With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment No. 15, in clause 3, page 3, line 33, at end insert—

‘(d) is in receipt of a certificate under section 23B.’.

Mr. Laws: I am delighted that despite our necessarily long debates on some of the earlier amendments, we have reached new clause 28 and amendment No. 15, which stand in my name and those of my hon. Friends.

Members who regularly attended our debates in Committee will recall that we had a debate that I suspect will be very similar to this one because it dealt with a very similar issue. The hon. Member for Northampton, North (Ms Keeble) raised issues to do with caring, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Solihull (Lorely Burt). It is recognised on both sides of the House that the Bill will benefit the position not only of many women but of many individuals who are carers because of the change that it makes to the national insurance contribution mechanism—the reduced number of years—and the other changes that the Government are implementing in relation to carers credit. We welcome those reforms, which have also been widely welcomed by groups with an interest in the subject.

Without going back over all the debate in Committee that is already on the record, it is widely appreciated that some 40,000 individuals who are caring for 20 hours or more a week will not be covered by the Government’s carers credit because they are not caring for someone who is in receipt of constant attendance allowance or the middle or highest rate of the care components of disability living allowance. The various bodies that represent carers—the Equal Opportunities Commission and others—have set out a series of helpful examples, which we discussed in Committee, of individuals whom hon. Members of all parties would want to benefit from the carers credit, but are left out of the Bill.

The hon. Member for Northampton, North also raised the matter in Committee and we tabled various amendments, which were designed to remedy the position by introducing a process of certification by health and social care professionals for individuals who are engaged in caring for another person or persons for a minimum of 20 hours a week or more. In one of the great triumphs—perhaps the great triumph—of the Committee stage for the Liberal Democrats, the Minister responded constructively to a debate that my hon. Friend the Member for Solihull initiated. He said that the Government were happy to explore certification and that they had various concerns about whether health professionals would have the expertise to quantify the hours of care, whether they would require payment, and how the new requirement on local authorities would fit into the overall Government approach to carers.

The Minister helpfully undertook to discuss the matter with the Department of Health and report back before the end of the Bill’s passage. The new clause and amendment give us an opportunity to check on the Minister’s progress and ensure that he has moved swiftly to deliver the relatively firm undertaking. It gives him an opportunity to tell us what progress has been made between the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department of Health.

18 Apr 2007 : Column 393

The carers’ organisations and the Equal Opportunities Commission, which represent a broad range of opinion, said that they support new clause 28 and that they would like the Government to press ahead on the matter. I hope that the debate will be brief and that we can get an update from the Government on their commitment. If the Minister responds positively, it will not be necessary to press the new clause.

Ms Keeble: I am pleased that it is possible to discuss the subject again and have another chance to press my hon. Friend the Minister. We want to ensure that the proposals are taken forward and that we get greater recognition for carers in the Bill.

I have pressed my hon. Friend for some time on a range of carers’ issues, but especially on proper recognition for the role of carers. The amendment deals with that. The Bill includes important proposals to improve carers’ pension rights but the number and range of people who come within its scope are disappointing. We need to ensure that the work that all carers do, when it amounts to a full job, is properly recognised so that people do not lose out simply because their sort of caring does not tick every single box on the entitlement to carers credit sheet.

There must be a process to ensure that we have a robust way in which to decide who should qualify for the credit. It will not help carers if the credit is cheapened by being provided too easily. As I have previously argued, it is important to conduct the assessment of the carer’s work during the caring assessment, which the local authority undertakes. That would properly involve social services and health care professionals and would also rely on a robust decision-making process, which is conducted by the social services authority and rests with it rather than the health authority. I would hope that discussions on these issues will take place before any regulations are put in place. I feel that to introduce those regulations by the end of the year would be too soon, although I acknowledge that they have to be brought in within a year.

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