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Government amendments Nos. 2, 4 and 11 refer to regulation-making powers concerning appeals. The Government want to ensure consistency across child support legislation where there is a right of appeal to a tribunal. When we considered the appeal provisions in the Bill, it became clear that there were inconsistencies in how various regulation-making powers were expressed. That could have led to confusion about the division of responsibility between the Department for Work and Pensions and the Ministry of Justice. The logical way to
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clarify matters was to place any new provisions on appeals to appeal tribunals under those already in place in section 20 of the Child Support Act 1991. Amendment No. 2 does that. It is similar to a technical amendment to clause 23 that was agreed by the Committee on 11 October. Amendment No. 2 leads to two consequential amendments.

Government amendment No. 4 makes it clear that regulations providing for the charging of fees by the commission should be subject to the affirmative procedure, but not those concerning only the procedure and powers of an appeal tribunal considering an appeal. Government amendment No. 11 amends the Social Security Act 1998 to clarify the fact that the reference to fees in clause 6 refers specifically to the regulation-making powers in clause 6(5).

Government amendment No. 3 is the result of an amendment tabled in Committee before the summer recess by the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey (Danny Alexander), who I am sorry to see is not present. Under that amendment, a copy of any directions or guidance that the Secretary of State issued to the commission would have had to be laid before Parliament. In Committee, I asked the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the amendment so that we could give full consideration to how powers of direction are used across Government, and to the appropriateness of laying the directions in question before Parliament.

In the case that we are considering, the Secretary of State’s power of direction would be used only in the most exceptional and time-critical circumstances. The power has been provided because although the commission will be a non-departmental public body, ultimate accountability for its performance will remain with the Secretary of State. We had the chance to reflect on the extent of the power over the summer, and we concluded that when the Secretary of State gives a direction, it will be a rare but important step that warrants the direct attention of Parliament, which will provide the necessary and proper parliamentary scrutiny of the relationship between the Secretary of State and the commission.

Amendment No. 3 therefore requires the Secretary of State to lay before Parliament a copy of any directions given to the commission. The requirement is subject to two important exemptions: the first is for information that is commercially confidential, and the second is for information that may relate to specific individuals. The amendment highlights the importance that we attach to parliamentary scrutiny of the Secretary of State’s relationship with the commission. It also shows that we welcome the contribution that the Committee made to the Bill, and that we are willing to act on appropriate suggestions.

On Government amendments Nos. 6 and 7, if the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission is to realise its objectives, it is imperative that it operates within robust and effective governance arrangements, following best practice wherever possible. In the two amendments, it is proposed that the Secretary of State, not the Comptroller and Auditor General, lays the commission’s accounts before Parliament. That minor change to the Bill’s accounts and audits provisions is in line with recent changes to Government policy, and is supported by the National Audit Office. I reassure hon. Members that altering the responsibility for who lays the accounts before Parliament does not change the
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Comptroller and Auditor General’s authority to audit the commission’s accounts, so the change does not weaken parliamentary accountability in any way. The same accounts are being laid before Parliament; it is just a different person who lays them.

Government amendment No. 8 enables aliment orders in Scotland to be recognised, alongside other private maintenance arrangements. Paragraph 5 of schedule 4 proposes an adjustment to basic and reduced rate liabilities where a non-resident parent has an existing maintenance obligation for a child, but where that obligation is not part of the statutory scheme. The commission can recognise the maintenance arrangement as though it were part of the statutory scheme, with the result that all the children supported by the non-resident parent are treated equally. In such cases, the existing qualifying maintenance arrangement will be either a maintenance order or another form of agreement that confirms the non-resident parent’s responsibility for a child.

The amendment seeks to put beyond doubt the fact that maintenance orders made in Scotland—the term “aliment” is used under Scottish law—are to be treated as qualifying maintenance arrangements. That will remove the risk of people misinterpreting and thinking that non-resident parents who support children under aliment might not benefit from those children being recognised under the statutory maintenance system.

Government amendment No. 9 ensures that the test for the granting of a warrant for commitment to prison in Scotland under section 40A of the Child Support Act 1991 is the same as that for granting a warrant for commitment to prison in England and Wales, and the same as that for making an order to disqualify the non-resident parent from driving under section 40B of the 1991 Act. We recognise the differences between the Scottish legal system and the system in England and Wales, but child maintenance cases should of course be dealt with in a consistent manner across Great Britain. The amendment will help to ensure that the different court jurisdictions reach decisions in the same way.

Government amendment No. 10 amends schedule 7 and provides a power, under the affirmative procedure, to change the £800 threshold for the second set of basic rate calculation percentages introduced in schedule 4. That schedule introduces changes to the basic maintenance calculation rate for the future scheme. It amends the existing set of percentages that apply to weekly income of between £200 and £800, and introduces a new set of percentages that apply to any weekly income in excess of £800, subject to a cap of £3,000. The rates were chosen to create approximate parity between liabilities under net and gross income, and the £800 threshold broadly corresponds to the amount of weekly income at which the 40 per cent. marginal income rate tax starts to apply.

We have said that we will review the rates of calculation during each Parliament, and we have retained the power to change them where necessary through regulations under the affirmative procedure. Amendment No. 10 would allow that same power to apply to the £800 threshold amount, thus ensuring consistency in the way in which maintenance calculation rates may be amended.

The Opposition amendments to clause 21 relate to current account deduction orders. I thank hon. Members for tabling the amendments, as it gives me the chance to update the House on the progress that we are making.
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The amendments would expand the breadth of deduction orders and allow for periodic deductions from deposits, as well as current accounts. Since we discussed the matter in Committee on 11 October, we have been considering just how far we should take both the periodic and the lump sum deduction orders. We have had further discussion inside and outside Government, particularly with financial institutions. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the representatives of the banks and building societies, who have been extremely constructive in all our discussions. It remains our intention to come back with proposals ensuring that deduction orders have sufficient scope to ensure that non-resident parents cannot easily avoid them. I trust that hon. Members will be content with my response at this stage, and I ask them not to press their amendments.

Andrew Selous: I am grateful to the Minister for his explanation of the Government amendments, all of which seem entirely sensible, and which tidy up various aspects of the Bill. He spoke about the need for consistency in appeals, and about copies of directions being laid before Parliament. We are particularly keen to maximise parliamentary scrutiny in the Bill. I have no objection to accounts being laid before Parliament by the Secretary of State rather than the Comptroller and Auditor General; I am more concerned about receiving the accounts on time than about who puts them before the House.

The points about aliment in Scotland are entirely sensible, as is the test of consistency for a warrant of arrest to commit someone to prison in Scotland, so that it is the same for someone in England. We agree, too, with the change in percentages in Government amendment No. 10.

I am grateful for the Minister’s assurance that he will return to the issue that the Opposition raised in Committee and today in amendments Nos. 23 to 25, which would ensure that deduction of earnings orders are imposed on deposit as well as current accounts. That is important, because the distinction between deposit and current accounts has become blurred, and in recent years, more accounts paying a competitive rate of interest allow a higher rate of transactional activity, so it would be possible for non-resident parents to try to avoid a deduction of earnings order by using only deposit accounts. Given his reassurance that he will look at the matter again, perhaps in another place, I am happy not to press any of our amendments to a vote.

7.30 pm

Paul Rowen: May I thank the Minister for Government amendment No. 3, which deals with parliamentary scrutiny—one of our main concerns in Committee? The laying of directions in Parliament gives hon. Members an opportunity to raise their concerns. The other Government amendments are sensible, and we are happy to support them.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause 10

Directions and guidance

Amendment made: No. 3, in page 5, line 14, at end insert—

‘(5) The Secretary of State must lay before Parliament a copy of any direction given under subsection (1)(b).

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(6) The Secretary of State may exclude from what is laid before Parliament—

(a) any information which the Secretary of State considers to be against the commercial interests of any person;

(b) any information which relates to an individual who can be identified from that information.’.— [Mr. Plaskitt.]

Clause 15

Repeal of sections 6 and 46

Amendment proposed: No. 1, in page 7, line 26, at end add—

‘(2) In section 4 of the Child Support Act 1991 (child support maintenance) for subsection (10) substitute—

“In the event that the parent with care and the non-resident parent have entered into a binding Minute of Agreement and—

(a) each party has received independent legal advice prior to signing the said Minute of Agreement;

(b) the agreement contains within it provisions for the maintenance of any children whether by regular payments, transfers of capital or a combination of the two;

(c) there is provision to reconsider any regular payments in the event of a material change of circumstances; and

(d) there is provision within the agreement for enforcement in the event that either party fails to adhere to the provisions of the agreement,

no application may be made to the commission with respect to a qualifying child or qualifying children specified in the agreement.”’.— [Mr. Weir.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 148, Noes 257.
Division No. 18]
[7.32 pm


Afriyie, Adam
Alexander, Danny
Amess, Mr. David
Arbuthnot, rh Mr. James
Atkinson, Mr. Peter
Bacon, Mr. Richard
Barker, Gregory
Baron, Mr. John
Barrett, John
Bellingham, Mr. Henry
Benyon, Mr. Richard
Binley, Mr. Brian
Blunt, Mr. Crispin
Bone, Mr. Peter
Brokenshire, James
Brooke, Annette
Browne, Mr. Jeremy
Bruce, rh Malcolm
Burns, Mr. Simon
Burstow, Mr. Paul
Burt, Alistair
Butterfill, Sir John
Cable, Dr. Vincent
Carmichael, Mr. Alistair
Cash, Mr. William
Clark, Greg
Clifton-Brown, Mr. Geoffrey
Conway, Derek
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Cox, Mr. Geoffrey
Davies, David T.C. (Monmouth)
Davies, Philip
Davis, rh David (Haltemprice and Howden)
Djanogly, Mr. Jonathan
Duddridge, James
Duncan Smith, rh Mr. Iain
Dunne, Mr. Philip
Ellwood, Mr. Tobias
Evennett, Mr. David
Fabricant, Michael
Featherstone, Lynne
Foster, Mr. Don
Fraser, Mr. Christopher
Gale, Mr. Roger
Garnier, Mr. Edward
Gibb, Mr. Nick
Goldsworthy, Julia
Goodman, Mr. Paul
Goodwill, Mr. Robert
Green, Damian
Greening, Justine
Gummer, rh Mr. John
Hague, rh Mr. William
Hammond, Mr. Philip
Harper, Mr. Mark
Harris, Dr. Evan
Harvey, Nick
Heath, Mr. David
Heathcoat-Amory, rh Mr. David
Hendry, Charles
Hoban, Mr. Mark
Hollobone, Mr. Philip
Holloway, Mr. Adam

Horam, Mr. John
Horwood, Martin
Howarth, David
Howarth, Mr. Gerald
Hunter, Mark
Hurd, Mr. Nick
Jack, rh Mr. Michael
Jackson, Mr. Stewart
Keetch, Mr. Paul
Key, Robert
Knight, rh Mr. Greg
Kramer, Susan
Lait, Mrs. Jacqui
Lamb, Norman
Lansley, Mr. Andrew
Laws, Mr. David
Leech, Mr. John
Letwin, rh Mr. Oliver
Lewis, Dr. Julian
Liddell-Grainger, Mr. Ian
Lilley, rh Mr. Peter
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
Main, Anne
Maples, Mr. John
McIntosh, Miss Anne
McLoughlin, rh Mr. Patrick
Mercer, Patrick
Milton, Anne
Mulholland, Greg
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Newmark, Mr. Brooks
O'Brien, Mr. Stephen
Ottaway, Richard
Paterson, Mr. Owen
Penning, Mike
Penrose, John
Pickles, Mr. Eric
Pritchard, Mark
Pugh, Dr. John
Randall, Mr. John
Redwood, rh Mr. John
Rennie, Willie
Robathan, Mr. Andrew
Rosindell, Andrew
Rowen, Paul
Sanders, Mr. Adrian
Scott, Mr. Lee
Selous, Andrew
Shapps, Grant
Simmonds, Mark
Smith, Sir Robert
Soames, Mr. Nicholas
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spink, Bob
Stanley, rh Sir John
Steen, Mr. Anthony
Streeter, Mr. Gary
Stunell, Andrew
Swayne, Mr. Desmond
Swire, Mr. Hugo
Syms, Mr. Robert
Taylor, Dr. Richard
Thurso, John
Tredinnick, David
Turner, Mr. Andrew
Tyrie, Mr. Andrew
Vara, Mr. Shailesh
Viggers, Peter
Villiers, Mrs. Theresa
Wallace, Mr. Ben
Waterson, Mr. Nigel
Watkinson, Angela
Webb, Steve
Weir, Mr. Mike
Whittingdale, Mr. John
Wiggin, Bill
Williams, Stephen
Willis, Mr. Phil
Willott, Jenny
Wilson, Mr. Rob
Winterton, Sir Nicholas
Wright, Jeremy
Yeo, Mr. Tim
Young, rh Sir George
Tellers for the Ayes:

Stewart Hosie and
Bob Russell

Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, rh Mr. Bob
Allen, Mr. Graham
Anderson, Mr. David
Atkins, Charlotte
Baird, Vera
Balls, rh Ed
Banks, Gordon
Barlow, Ms Celia
Barron, rh Mr. Kevin
Battle, rh John
Bayley, Hugh
Beckett, rh Margaret
Bell, Sir Stuart
Benn, rh Hilary
Benton, Mr. Joe
Betts, Mr. Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blackman-Woods, Dr. Roberta
Blears, rh Hazel
Blizzard, Mr. Bob
Borrow, Mr. David S.
Brennan, Kevin
Brown, Lyn
Brown, rh Mr. Nicholas
Brown, Mr. Russell
Browne, rh Des
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Burnham, rh Andy
Butler, Ms Dawn
Byrne, Mr. Liam
Caborn, rh Mr. Richard
Cairns, David
Campbell, Mr. Alan
Caton, Mr. Martin
Cawsey, Mr. Ian
Chaytor, Mr. David
Clapham, Mr. Michael
Clark, Ms Katy
Clarke, rh Mr. Charles
Clelland, Mr. David
Clwyd, rh Ann
Coffey, Ann
Cohen, Harry

Cooper, Rosie
Cooper, rh Yvette
Corbyn, Jeremy
Crausby, Mr. David
Cruddas, Jon
Cunningham, Mr. Jim
David, Mr. Wayne
Davidson, Mr. Ian
Davies, Mr. Dai
Davies, Mr. Quentin
Dean, Mrs. Janet
Denham, rh Mr. John
Devine, Mr. Jim
Dhanda, Mr. Parmjit
Dismore, Mr. Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Dobson, rh Frank
Doran, Mr. Frank
Drew, Mr. David
Eagle, Maria
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs. Louise
Ennis, Jeff
Farrelly, Paul
Field, rh Mr. Frank
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flello, Mr. Robert
Flint, Caroline
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Mr. Michael (Worcester)
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
George, rh Mr. Bruce
Gerrard, Mr. Neil
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Gilroy, Linda
Goodman, Helen
Griffiths, Nigel
Grogan, Mr. John
Gwynne, Andrew
Hall, Mr. Mike
Hall, Patrick
Hamilton, Mr. David
Hanson, rh Mr. David
Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Harris, Mr. Tom
Havard, Mr. Dai
Healey, John
Hendrick, Mr. Mark
Hepburn, Mr. Stephen
Hesford, Stephen
Hewitt, rh Ms Patricia
Heyes, David
Hillier, Meg
Hood, Mr. Jim
Hoon, rh Mr. Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, rh Mr. George
Howells, Dr. Kim
Hoyle, Mr. Lindsay
Hughes, rh Beverley
Humble, Mrs. Joan
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Illsley, Mr. Eric
Ingram, rh Mr. Adam
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Jenkins, Mr. Brian
Johnson, rh Alan
Johnson, Ms Diana R.
Jones, Helen
Jones, Mr. Kevan
Jones, Lynne
Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald
Keeley, Barbara
Keen, Alan
Keen, Ann
Kemp, Mr. Fraser
Kennedy, rh Jane
Khan, Mr. Sadiq
Kidney, Mr. David
Kilfoyle, Mr. Peter
Knight, Jim
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Lammy, Mr. David
Lepper, David
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Mr. Ivan
Lloyd, Tony
Love, Mr. Andrew
Lucas, Ian
Mackinlay, Andrew
Mactaggart, Fiona
Malik, Mr. Shahid
Mallaber, Judy
Marsden, Mr. Gordon
Martlew, Mr. Eric
McAvoy, rh Mr. Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCarthy, Kerry
McCarthy-Fry, Sarah
McDonagh, Siobhain
McFadden, Mr. Pat
McFall, rh John
McGovern, Mr. Jim
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McKenna, Rosemary
McNulty, rh Mr. Tony
Merron, Gillian
Michael, rh Alun
Milburn, rh Mr. Alan
Miliband, rh David
Miliband, rh Edward
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Mr. Austin
Moffat, Anne
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moon, Mrs. Madeleine
Morden, Jessica
Morgan, Julie
Morley, rh Mr. Elliot
Mudie, Mr. George
Mullin, Mr. Chris
Munn, Meg
Murphy, Mr. Jim
Murphy, rh Mr. Paul
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Mr. Mike
Osborne, Sandra
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Plaskitt, Mr. James
Pope, Mr. Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Mr. Gordon
Primarolo, rh Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Mr. Ken
Purnell, rh James
Rammell, Bill

Raynsford, rh Mr. Nick
Reed, Mr. Andy
Reed, Mr. Jamie
Riordan, Mrs. Linda
Robertson, John
Robinson, Mr. Geoffrey
Rooney, Mr. Terry
Roy, Mr. Frank
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Christine
Salter, Martin
Sarwar, Mr. Mohammad
Seabeck, Alison
Sharma, Mr. Virendra
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Mr. Barry
Sheridan, Jim
Simon, Mr. Siôn
Simpson, Alan
Singh, Mr. Marsha
Skinner, Mr. Dennis
Slaughter, Mr. Andy
Smith, Ms Angela C. (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
Smith, Angela E. (Basildon)
Smith, Geraldine
Smith, rh Jacqui
Smith, John
Snelgrove, Anne
Soulsby, Sir Peter
Southworth, Helen
Spellar, rh Mr. John
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Straw, rh Mr. Jack
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Taylor, Ms Dari
Thomas, Mr. Gareth
Thornberry, Emily
Timms, rh Mr. Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mr. Mark
Touhig, rh Mr. Don
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Mr. Paul
Turner, Dr. Desmond
Turner, Mr. Neil
Twigg, Derek
Vaz, rh Keith
Walley, Joan
Waltho, Lynda
Wareing, Mr. Robert N.
Watson, Mr. Tom
Watts, Mr. Dave
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Williams, rh Mr. Alan
Wills, Mr. Michael
Wilson, Phil
Winnick, Mr. David
Winterton, rh Ms Rosie
Woolas, Mr. Phil
Wright, Mr. Anthony
Wright, David
Wright, Mr. Iain
Wyatt, Derek
Tellers for the Noes:

Mark Tami and
Tony Cunningham
Question accordingly negatived.
3 Dec 2007 : Column 636

3 Dec 2007 : Column 637

3 Dec 2007 : Column 638

Clause 41

Lump sum payments

Mr. Clapham: I beg to move amendment No. 15 in page 36, line 24, at end insert—

‘(1A) A dependant will receive the same payment as that payable to a person with diffuse mesothelioma.’.

Madam Deputy Speaker: With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment No. 16, page 40, line 36 in clause 49, after ‘payment’, insert ‘for—

(i) earnings lost,

(ii) the cost of care incurred, or

(iii) loss of mobility

during the relevant period’.

Mr. Clapham: My hon. Friend the Minister will know that under the Pneumoconiosis etc. (Workers Compensation) Act 1979, there are two lists of payments. One refers to live claimants and the other to dependants. It is worth looking at the reasons that have been given historically for the considerable difference in payments to live claimants and to dependants.

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