|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Baroness Hollis of Heigham: That depends on the original dialectic, which I do not accept. Another category of wrecking amendment, which I perceive this to be, seeks to turn the Bill into something else. What else would you call an amendment which seeks to take more than 50 per cent of those the Bill is designed to help out of the system? Many of them will be working for small employers who will put pressure on them to drop out of the system.
I do not know what Members of the Committee call a wrecking amendment, but I believe that anything which seeks to take the majority of employers and employees out of the scheme is a wrecking amendment. We can argue semantics and say 60, 70 or 80 per cent, but that is what the Committee is seeking to do. The Bill will be turned into something it is not; a family credit stage two Bill instead of a Tax Credits Bill.
I had hoped that the noble Earl, Lord Russell, with his considerable experience of family credit and social security, would have taken the point on board, but I repeat that couples do not have a choice as to how the payment is made. It is customary for both partners to work because today three-quarters of married women work. So they have a choice as to whom the tax credit may be made. If the person to whom the credit is made is in work, they do not have the choice that the amendment seeks to offer to lone parents; that, though in work and being paid, they receive the payment at home. If a couple chooses that the person in work shall receive the tax credit, it will be paid through the pay packet.
I am sorry that the noble Earl, Lord Russell, did not take that point on board the first time around. I repeat that a lone parent in work is in exactly the same position as the couple who have chosen the person in work as the recipient; the tax credit is paid through the pay packet.
I hope that Members of the Committee will not accept the amendment. It gives the majority of eligible claimants the opportunity of dropping out of the system and returning to family credit. I believe that less scrupulous employers might press some people into accepting that opportunity. As a result, lone parents will not be receiving a tax credit through their pay packets and therefore they will not see the connection between work and its return. We will then be back to where we were before the Bill was introduced; that is, family credit, a 79 per cent take-up and a considerable reluctance among many lone parents to move into work because they do not see at the point of entering work that work pays. That is what this Bill is about.
I cannot stop your Lordships wrecking the Bill. You have the vote; we know that from long experience. You can do so. But do not kid yourselves that you are doing anything other than taking the heart out of the Bill. You have taken out 70 per cent of employers, potentially, and you now seek to take out more than 50 per cent of employees. So be it, if that is what you want, but do not pretend to yourselves that you are improving the Bill. You are not; you are destroying it.
Lord Higgins: It was noticeable that as against the large number of outside bodies to which I referred as being in favour of the amendment the noble Baroness did not quote one in favour of the Government's position.
As regards choice, the Minister seemed to quote the figures on the assumption that every lone parent given the choice would decide to take it. She is assuming that they want the choice and she seeks to deny it to them. As regards couples, only one of whom works, it will remain the case that in choosing to whom the payment is made they can decide to have it paid direct.
The Minister said that this was a wrecking amendment. That is a serious point and ought not to go unanswered. Having been in the other place for 33 years, I know a wrecking amendment when I see it. As already pointed out, the Government, having accepted the point about couples only one of whom is working, have undermined the point of principle. At all events, I am advised that the concept of a wrecking amendment is not known to your Lordships' House. It is known in another place. The decision on whether an amendment is wrecking is taken by the Chair and I am grateful to my noble friend Lady Fookes, who was a Deputy Speaker in the other place, for confirming that. If it is indeed a wrecking amendment it is not selected. However, this amendment and one far wider were selected and debated. One of them was voted on in the House of Commons.
While the noble Baroness may bandy around an expression not recognised in this House, it is clear from what happened in the other place that this is not a wrecking amendment. I believe that it improves the Bill and that the outside representations make an overwhelming case for why lone parents, who have been attacked from other sides, should have a choice. For that reason, I seek the opinion of the Committee.
Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.