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Baroness Cumberlege: I believe that I have already covered some of the points raised by the noble Baroness, but perhaps I may reaffirm that we agree that there may be occasions when it would not be right to recover funds. We also agree that it is right to leave the question of when to seek recovery to the discretion of the local authorities. That is why we intend to table an amendment to give a general provision allowing local authorities to recover funds if they are not satisfied that they have been spent properly.

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I do not think that I can add anything further except that I have already spoken to Amendment No. 41, which we feel is unnecessary also.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: I thank the Minister for that answer and am happy to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 31 not moved.]

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 32:

Page 2, line 10, leave out subsection (7).

The noble Baroness said: Amendment No. 32 is grouped with Amendment No. 34 which stands in the names of the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, and the noble Lord, Lord Carter, and with Amendment No. 47 which stands in my name. Amendment No. 47 is my substantive amendment and seeks to replace the power to make regulations by statutory instrument subject to annulment with an obligation to make regulations which in the first instance are subject to the affirmative procedure.

We started this afternoon with a comment from the noble Lord, Lord Rix, about the consultation paper having been received by the voluntary organisations late on Friday. It is, of course, right that that consultation should be conducted before the regulations are laid but, as many noble Lords have pointed out, there is a real difficulty in considering the Bill without the regulations because so much is to be dealt with by regulation. It would be far more satisfactory if we had the benefit of the regulations before considering the Bill. That would undoubtedly have shortened today's proceedings.

It seems to me that regulations which deal with a new subject area should be subject to the affirmative procedure in the first instance and thereafter to the negative resolution procedure. That would strike a good balance, requiring the House to devote its attention to those regulations the first time round, but not taking up parliamentary time thereafter unless that was felt to be necessary. The working of this Bill will depend on the regulations and it is therefore particularly important that those regulations be fully scrutinised. I beg to move.

Lord Carter: I intervene solely for clarification because we have already gone over this ground. Can the Minister confirm that she will table an amendment to deal with the point about debt recovery in subsection (5) and a general amendment along the lines of that proposed by both the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, in respect of regulations being subject to the affirmative procedure the first time round and the negative resolution procedure thereafter? As I understand it, that is the Government's intention. The Government accept the recommendation of the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee to change Clause 1(7) to cover the provisions of Amendment No. 47. Is that right?

Baroness Cumberlege: Not quite, but perhaps the noble Lord will listen to what I have to say. I have already given--and I now repeat--the assurance that we shall take into account the views expressed in this debate in making our decision on the content of the

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regulations. We will also be taking into account the responses to the major consultation exercises that we have initiated on the content of the regulations.

The main drawback to the proposed amendments is that they require the Government of the day to find parliamentary time every time they wish to amend, in however minor a fashion, one of the regulations. It is not always easy to find parliamentary time, especially if there is some reason why amendments need to be made at a particular time or within a particular timescale. I sense that Members of the Committee have already heard these arguments. These amendments raise the possibility of amendments to regulations being delayed, even though everyone might agree that the amendments were desirable, because of constraints on parliamentary time. The amendment would also be inconsistent with existing legislation in the community care field, where Members have been content to allow negative resolution regulations.

The question of the appropriateness of the Government's proposals on secondary legislation was considered by the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee. We have accepted its recommendation on Clause 1(5) but it has made no recommendation on the rest of the proposed regulatory powers. It was content with our proposal that negative resolution regulations should be made. That is the position.

Baroness Hamwee: In using the term "content" I do not refer to the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee but to Members of the Committee. From time to time we express ourselves to be content when we are, in fact, resigned rather than content.

One of the normal responses to the Minister's argument is that on important subject areas Members can be trusted not to be frivolous. Therefore, if amendments to regulations are not required, parliamentary time will not be taken. As the Minister sensed that Members of the Committee may have heard her argument before, I sense that they may have heard that one too. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 33 and 34 not moved.]

Lord Carter moved Amendment No. 35:

Page 2, line 12, at end insert--
("( ) The Secretary of State shall lay before each House of Parliament a report evaluating the working of this Act within three years of the date of its commencement.").

The noble Lord said: This amendment deals with the requirement on the Secretary of State to lay before each House of Parliament a report of an evaluation of the provisions of the Act within three years of the date of its commencement. We have discussed the matter before in respect of other Bills. In essence, this is a new scheme. It expands an existing scheme but it is different in the way in which it will work as a general enabling provision. A number of detailed aspects of policy are to be dealt with in regulations.

We understand the point about issuing guidance and we now have the consultation paper. The Local Authority Social Services Act 1970 provides that:

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    "Local authorities shall, in the exercise of their social services functions, including the exercise of any discretion conferred by any relevant enactment, act under the general guidance of the Secretary of State".

It is also understood that the department will issue more general practice guidance about how local authorities may wish to establish their local schemes.

That is a new approach. There will be some risks which will have to be monitored, as mentioned in the consultation paper, and there will be a need for audit trails. I referred earlier to the patchwork quilt that will develop because different authorities will have different levels of skill, enthusiasm or whatever in establishing the schemes. We believe that there is a clear need for central monitoring of the sharing of experience. The social services inspector will have a crucial role to play in the dissemination of information as well as reviewing the progress of the Act.

This is a probing amendment and we are not certain about the provision, three years. However, the idea is that the Secretary of State should be able to report on a regular basis, we suggest within three years of the date of the commencement of the Act, on how it is working. I beg to move.

Baroness Cumberlege: I am not sure whether the noble Lord, Lord Carter, sees beauty in a patchwork quilt or whether he sees it as a disadvantage. The Government would undoubtedly be monitoring the implementation of direct payments and reporting to Parliament when appropriate. At this stage we are content to make a commitment that we will give Parliament a report on the workings of the Act within three years of commencement but we do not see that it is necessary to write it into the Bill.

Lord Carter: Is that a concession or not?

Baroness Cumberlege: It is a patchwork quilt.

Lord Carter: I am overwhelmed. It is a commitment in Hansard but it is not on the face of the Bill. It is half a loaf and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 36 not moved.]

8.45 p.m.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham moved Amendment No. 37:

Page 2, line 14, at end insert--
("( ) The Secretary of State may issue guidance about the matters to be taken into account and the manner in which an authority is to discharge its functions under this Act and before issuing such guidance the Secretary of State shall consult with such persons as he considers appropriate.").

The noble Baroness said: I hope that the Minister will think that this amendment is another apple pie, motherhood and American patchwork quilt. It recognises that on the one hand some local authorities and disabled people have extensive knowledge of direct payments, independent living and so forth. They may know, for example, the advantages and

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disadvantages of purchasing through an agency, of employing someone directly or of working through a local voluntary agency. They will also know about the need, for example, of support packages, of appropriate methods of monitoring, of training and the like. There is a great deal of experience and knowledge tucked away within local authorities, voluntary organisations and, above all, with the ILF.

However, other local authorities may not have such experience. They and disabled people in their areas will be coming new to direct payments. I hope that the Minister will say that the amendment is unnecessary because she will introduce the provision in any event but it will simply authorise the Secretary of State to issue guidance and to consult those best informed when issuing that guidance, on the ground that it constitutes the diffusion of useful knowledge. The Victorians would have been proud of her. I beg to move.

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