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Lord Goodhart: The Government's response to this amendment seems to indicate that in their mind appearances are more important than reality. The Social Security Advisory Committee performs extremely useful functions in relation to benefits and, so far as I can see, the only reason it is not to be allowed to continue that function in relation to the working families' tax credit is in effect the name of that benefit or credit; that is, the idea that the working families' tax credit must not be treated in any way as if it were a social security benefit. That is ironic when one considers that at least for the time being the primary legislation which will continue to govern the working families' tax credit is the social security contributions and benefits legislation.

I am glad to hear that the Inland Revenue intends to consult widely on the draft regulations. Nothing in this amendment is intended to restrict the Inland Revenue's power to do so and to consult as widely as possible. However, the Social Security Advisory Committee is in a position to give the Inland Revenue extremely valuable advice. The Inland Revenue should be required to seek that advice and to consult the Social Security Advisory Committee. I must confess that I find the Government's response on this issue extremely disappointing. While at this time of night I do not intend to divide the Committee, this is an amendment which we may well seek to bring back at Report stage. For the time being, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 14 agreed to.

Clause 15 [New category of child care providers for tax credit purposes]:

[Amendment No. 60 not moved.]

Lord Goodhart moved Amendment No. 61:

Page 8, line 32, after ("which) insert ("shall in the case of the first regulations made under this section be made only if a draft of the regulations has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament and in the case of subsequent regulations")

4 May 1999 : Column 661

The noble Lord said: This is the final amendment in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Russell. During the debate on Clause 6 I moved an amendment asking for the affirmative procedure to be used for the initial regulations governing payment of tax credit through employers. A similar issue now arises over the new childcare regulations under Clause 15. These are novel and important regulations.

Under family credit, disregard of childcare costs was allowed for registered childminders and other registered daycare providers. For family credit, there were no separate childcare regulations because family credit made use of the existing scheme of childcare registration under the Children Act 1989. Registration under that Act is carried out by local authorities and the rules on the basis of which they conduct their registration functions are contained mainly in the Act itself. Those who have to be registered under the Children Act are providers of care for children under the age of eight. The local authority registration will continue to be the test for eligibility for childcare credits for children under eight.

However, childcare credits will be capable of being claimed under the working families' tax credit for children up to 14, or indeed up to their 16th birthday if they suffer from a disability. Therefore new rules are needed to cover care for children from the ages of eight to 14. These are provided by a new set of regulations which will be made not by the Treasury but by the Secretary of State. As the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, mentioned in the debate on the previous amendment, that will be not the Secretary of State for Social Security but the Secretary of State for Education and Employment.

The Bill provides not for registration of providers by local authorities but for approval by accredited organisations--therefore, to some extent, one could say it is being privatised. The draft regulations which have been published lay down the rules for accreditation. To be accredited, an organisation must operate a satisfactory system for approving care providers; it must have a good record and reputation in the field of childcare; it must have the ability to ensure the quality of childcare provided by those whom it approves. Schedule 1 provides a detailed list of matters to be covered by the system to be adopted by an accredited organisation. Those matters must include the setting up of an independent award panel to take the decisions; the setting out of criteria to be met by providers; the provision of trained quality assessors; the provision for an appeal against a refusal to approve; and the provision of a complaints procedure.

Schedule 3 sets out the matters which are to be included in the criteria for approval. Those criteria must include ensuring the health, safety and welfare of all children; the employment of sufficient staff; the offering of a planned programme of supervised activities; and the operation of an equal opportunities policy. These regulations, therefore, are extensive and of great importance because they will be the whole bedrock of the childcare that is to be provided for children from their eighth birthday up to their 14th birthday.

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The Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee said:

    "In view of the width and significance of the power the House may wish to consider whether the bill should be amended to provide for the affirmative procedure to apply on the first occasion that the power is exercised". The Government response in this case, as in the case of Clause 6, was, I regret to say, negative. They said:

    "The draft regulations will be published and comments will be actively sought from key opinion formers in the childcare field". That is right. But Parliament should be allowed to debate these issues before they become law.

As I said earlier, consultation is not enough, nor is the publication of these draft regulations now. Further consultation is to take place; it is clear that these regulations are not in their final form. The final form could be substantially different and Parliament should have a chance to look at these regulations in their final form, which it can do only if the affirmative procedure is used or if someone goes through the elaborate and, frankly, unnecessary business of praying against the regulations. Once again, I ask the Government to reconsider their decision not to use the affirmative resolution procedure even on the first occasion when these extremely important new regulations are introduced. I beg to move.

Lord Higgins: I support the amendment of the noble Lord and I hope that the Government will take into account the points that he has made.

Lord Haskel: I welcome the additional help with childcare costs for children from eight to 14 and 16 for disabled children. It is certainly a major development and I congratulate the Government on it. However, the scheme is complicated. Indeed, there will be two tiers of regulation. There will also be the quality assurance scheme, about which the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, has spoken. The scheme will be welcomed by parents and by organisations involved in childcare. However, it is complex and it is new, as the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee has pointed out. It seems to me that, with all the complexity and novelty, parents and childcare organisations might benefit from the debate which goes with an affirmative procedure. Perhaps the Government might benefit from hearing the expert views of noble Lords in the House when we debate the affirmative procedure. Perhaps my noble friend the Minister may wish to give further thought to this matter.

10.15 p.m.

Earl Russell: I shall not repeat what I have already said tonight about the standing of the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee. We have already debated one amendment dealing with a recommendation of that committee which was not accepted. If it should happen again, one might be tempted to say that one such accident might happen to any government but two savours of carelessness.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: Never carelessness by intent or by intent aforethought.

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This amendment seeks to provide that the regulations to be made under Clause 15 should be made using the affirmative procedure when the powers are first introduced. It may help if I begin by describing briefly what Clause 15 does.

As many noble Lords will be aware, WFTC builds on the rules for family credit and the new childcare tax credit WFTC builds on the definition of eligible childcare used in family credit. However, there was a gap here in relation to childcare for the eight to 14 year-old age group. Clause 15 aims to plug that gap by extending the range of quality childcare for this group that will be eligible for the childcare tax credit. I am delighted that so many noble Lords, including my noble friend Lord Haskel, welcomed this extension of government policy. Indeed, I think the relevant government departments are to be congratulated on taking it forward not just to 12 but to 14 through to 16 for disabled children. That is a major extension of the support we can offer working parents.

The two departments--the Inland Revenue and the DfEE--have worked up this scheme, which will create a new type of childcare provider which can be added to the list against whose costs the parents can claim the childcare tax credit. The scheme will enable parents to use a wider range of childcare--breakfast clubs, after school clubs, holiday clubs; the kind of provision that is more appropriate for older children--regardless of whether they are run by a school or use school premises. As I said, the proposal has been widely welcomed. It will make an important contribution to national childcare strategy. It will help working families and boost the provision of good quality affordable childcare for older children. The regulations under Clause 15 are to provide for this new scheme for the accreditation of childcare providers.

The amendment seeks to provide that these regulations should be made by the affirmative procedure, at least in the first round. Perhaps I may paraphrase the remarks made earlier by my noble friend on Amendment No. 40. The clause currently provides the power for regulation followed by the negative procedure before both Houses. Sometimes your Lordships seem to suggest that if regulations are dealt with by the negative procedure the House does not have the opportunity to scrutinise them. That is simply not true. As my noble friend Lord McIntosh said, on many occasions the noble Earl, Lord Russell, and I prayed against regulations under the negative procedure and we had exactly the same kind of debate and the same kind of scrutiny as we would have had under the affirmative procedure.

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