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Baroness Gould of Potternewton moved Amendment No. 189:

Before Clause 114, insert the following new clause:

Carers' credits

(". For any person attaining pensionable age on or after 6th April 1999, for the purposes of Schedule 3 to the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992 (contribution conditions for entitlement to benefit) and for the purpose only of calculation of retirement pensions, a person prevented from regular employment by responsibilities at home shall be treated as having paid primary Class I contributions during any period during which they were so prevented.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving this amendment I shall speak also to Amendment No. 194. The aim of the new clause and Amendment No. 194 is to ensure that all those eligible for home responsibility

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protection instead have their contributions credited on the same basis as people who are registered as unemployed or in receipt of invalidity benefit. They will be treated as having paid primary Class 1 contributions during the period of time that they are prevented from doing so because of care responsibilities in the home.

Currently, for people in that situation HRP provides for them to have each of those years up to a maximum of 20 deducted from the requisite number of qualifying years for a category A pension. The introduction of HRP was a major breakthrough, particularly for women who failed to qualify for pension rights because of long breaks in their working life.

But the position is not satisfactory for a number of reasons. As home responsibility protection is based on a full tax year and not credited on a week-by-week basis, any year in which a person meets only the requirements for that part of the year will not qualify, creating for those people serious gaps in the protection afforded. Similarly, while equalisation of the maximum number of years for HRP for a full basic pension at 22 years will remove the discriminatory element between women and men, the time limits still penalise those with large families or families with children with special needs.

Other flaws in the current arrangements are, first, many carers miss out because of the narrow qualifying base. Secondly, for those looking after people with disabilities HRP does not provide an automatic payment. They are often unaware that HRP exists. The most important reason for this change is that it will bring people into the contribution system. That has to be beneficial since it reinforces their responsibility for making adequate provision for their retirement. For instance, they would be reminded by the contributions agency if they do not have a full insurance record for a particular year and so be prompted to pay Class 3 contributions to protect their pension entitlement.

It is important to stress that this is broadly a cost-neutral option, as HRP and carers' credit give the same level of entitlement. Equally important, the date of April 1999 proposed for implementation allows time for the necessary administrative changes and coincides with the Government's stated intention to make provision for HRP to be extended to SERPS.

The Government may argue that there is no need for this amendment as they are committed to making the change. We believe, however, that it is important to include this clause in the Bill to guarantee that there will be no removal of HRP without it being replaced by more adequate provision.

Finally, it is estimated that the unpaid work of carers saves the Government £34 billion a year. A more comprehensive approach to protecting their pensions would show that their efforts are truly appreciated. I therefore hope that the Government will feel able to accept this modest amendment. I beg to move.

Baroness Seear: My Lords, as president of the Carers National Association I must declare an interest in supporting this amendment. I wish to support it as powerfully as I possibly can. In the early days of carers' work becoming recognised, those of us who were working for carers did a survey to ask what their major

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anxiety was. It may perhaps surprise your Lordships to learn that their major anxiety was, "What is going to happen to us when we get old? We are looking after people who cannot look after themselves now. When it is our turn, what is going to happen to us?". So many of them had to give up opportunities to earn a pension for themselves and they had even lost their right to the state pension because they were not paying contributions.

If the work of carers is to be carried out properly, they must be free from this haunting anxiety that they will be in deep poverty when they themselves reach old age. Indeed, a great many of them are in deep poverty already. Some security in old age is essential and therefore I beg the Government to get this amendment onto the face of the Bill.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I am not sure whether I am alone in feeling like an actor in a B movie which comes on after the audience has gone, or almost all gone. The long service medal people remain, I see.

These amendments seek to limit the effect of the current provisions of home responsibilities protection. They would treat any person attaining pensionable age on or after 6th April 1999 who is prevented from regular employment by responsibilities at home as having paid primary Class 1 contributions for the purposes of calculating retirement pension during any period during which they were so prevented.

These amendments which seek to replace home responsibilities protection with national insurance credits are unnecessary. Home responsibilities protection, as the noble Baroness, Lady Gould of Potternewton, rightly said, already provides a simple and effective mechanism which fully protects the entitlement to the state basic pension of people whose working patterns are interrupted by caring responsibilities.

It may help if I explain how it works. Home responsibilities protection allows years of caring to be excluded from the number of qualifying years otherwise needed for basic pension purposes, subject to a minimum of 20 qualifying years. So those whose opportunity to work is limited by caring responsibilities at home are not penalised in terms of the ability to maintain entitlement to a full basic pension. It is available to carers of children under 16 and to carers of the sick and disabled.

Our own proposals included in the Bill will ensure that, as women's pension age goes up, and the number of years needed for a full basic pension increases to 44 years, so the number of years that can be covered by home responsibilities protection increases by three years to 22 years. That will retain the principle that a person with caring responsibilities can earn a full basic pension with half the number of qualifying years normally needed. The protection available should thus provide adequate coverage for the majority of carers.

We value the role played in society by those who care for others. I agree entirely with the tribute which the noble Baroness, Lady Gould, paid to those who carry out that caring, whether for children, the elderly or the

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infirm. However, I believe that home responsibilities protection fully recognises that value and is a fair measure to protect carers' entitlement to basic pension. By the year 2030, it is estimated that more than 4 million women alone will be benefiting. I am content that home responsibilities protection fulfils our obligation to safeguard future basic pension rights for people with caring responsibilities.

Having heard my remarks about HRP and my confirmation of how it works—it seems to me that it fulfils the objectives of the noble Baroness—I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

7.30 p.m.

Baroness Gould of Potternewton: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that detailed reply, but I regret the fact that he has not found it possible to take on board our dissatisfaction about the flaws in HRP which I have outlined.

The Minister said that he values the role which carers play in society. I question that because the provisions do not fully cover carers in their old age. As the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, said, they should be free from such anxieties when they are looking after other people, yet no provision is being made to ensure that the maximum number of people can claim HRP or a new contributory benefit. It is estimated that more than 7 million carers work for some 20 hours a week without pay. It is a great pity that the Government are not prepared to make this small change to improve their situation. Nevertheless, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, I beg to move that further consideration on Report be now adjourned. In moving this Motion, perhaps I may suggest that Report stage begin again not before 8.30 p.m.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

Civil Evidence (Family Mediation) (Scotland) Bill [H.L.]

7.33 p.m.

Report received.

Clause 1 [Inadmissability in civil proceedings of information as to what occurred during family mediation]:

The Lord Advocate (Lord Rodger of Earlsferry) moved Amendment No. 1:

Page 2, line 9, at end insert:
("(5) A document purporting to be a certificate by the Lord President for the purposes of this Act shall be accepted by the court as such unless the contrary is proved.").

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, at the Committee stage of this Bill on 21st February, the noble and learned Lord, Lord McCluskey, suggested that it would be wise to consider inserting a provision into Clause 1 to the effect that a document purporting to be a

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certificate by the Lord President of the Court of Session approving an organisation should be accepted by the court as such unless the contrary is proved. We are most grateful to the noble and learned Lord for making that point. We have been happy to take his advice. Indeed, there is a precedent in statute for such a provision. Therefore, I hope that the amendment will be acceptable to your Lordships and, in that spirit, I beg to move.

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