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Lord Higgins: My Lords, my noble friend the Opposition Chief Whip suggests that this is clearly a birthday present for the noble Baroness. Indeed, I believe that that is probably the case. Of course, we understand her feelings on this particular subject. However, this is yet another example of recycling the same piece of news over and over again. As the noble Baroness rightly pointed out, this was originally foreshadowed some considerable time ago. None the less, it is helpful.

The noble Baroness was kind enough to write to me and my colleagues about the new clause and has now put it on the record. As I indicated earlier, there is not perhaps a case for having a correspondence course, but for having a debating Chamber. To the extent that the noble Baroness has spelt it out very clearly this evening, I do not want to delay the House any longer. However, the noble Baroness will no doubt want to reply to the point just made by my noble friend.

Lord Goodhart: My Lords, I, too, greatly welcome this new clause. It seems to me to be an admirable idea. However, I have one very small quibble to make which I hope will not be seen as looking a gift-horse in the mouth; namely, why is it necessary to leave it until October 2000? I realise that it would not be possible to introduce it in October of this year, but I wonder why it could not perhaps be introduced in April 2000 rather than waiting until October. Having said that, I reiterate that I think this is an admirable amendment and one which we certainly are very happy to see included in the Bill.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I am delighted at the overwhelming enthusiasm which has come from the Benches opposite. It is very welcome at

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this time of night. However, I must say that it seems to me that the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, is being a little churlish. Indeed, if we fail to trail something and give notice that we shall be introducing something later in a Bill, we are told that we are springing it on noble Lords and that they have not had adequate or ample time to discuss it, prepare for it, take advice on it, reflect upon it and move amendments to it. But when we do give adequate notice so that noble Lords will know what we are doing and can take advice, consult and, if they want, bring forward possible amendments at a later stage, we are told that we are "recycling".

The noble Lord's version seems to suggest that we only recycle good news and that we fail to consult when the news is bad. As I said, that is rather churlish at this time of night, given the care that we have taken to ensure that the Opposition Benches know of the Government's intentions, precisely because this is a major and difficult change to introduce technically. Therefore, we wanted noble Lords to have ample time to reflect upon it and to make such consultations as they deemed necessary and appropriate.

In fact, it is for reasons of practicality as regards the technicalities that this will take until October 2000 to introduce. The changes between DWA and this new fast-track provision are quite detailed to finesse. We shall have to work closely with the organisations involved to ensure that we get the small print correct right through the regulations and the like. We need to take care in that respect.

A query was raised about the 20 per cent. Of course, there always is a cliff edge, but that figure was chosen because it represents the case of someone in work who has suffered a disability, which will seriously affect his earning power if, as a result, he loses the equivalent of one day's worth of earnings a week. That was how we arrived at the figure of 20 per cent. But of course, the amount paid will be certified by the employer and if, as a result, the person qualifies by virtue of his or her disability and reduced earnings, he or she will be eligible for DPTC. However, they will be eligible for that while remaining in the job they currently hold.

It would not be appropriate for someone to receive a benefit when, although disabled, his earnings were not affected by his disability. Such a person may be a high earner irrespective of his disability. He may, for example, be confined to a wheelchair, which will not impede his ability to be a skilled computer or IT processer earning a substantial salary. Such a person may receive DLA by virtue of his disability, but it would be unreasonable for him to receive DPTC. The point about DPTC is to ensure that someone whose earnings drop by virtue of a disability but who has negotiated with his or her employer either to do a job with reduced responsibilities or to do a different job within the same organisation--so he or she does not fall out of the labour market--will be compensated for that through the tax credit. I believe that is a decent, proper and splendid thing to do.

Lord Swinfen: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for giving way. If someone has a disability and he stays

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with the same employer, that is quite an easy matter to judge. However, if someone has an accident which results in a disability which means that he is away from work for some months--he may be in hospital and then have to recover from the accident--and then obtains another job with a different employer, it is much more difficult to ascertain whether that person's earning ability has dropped by 20 per cent. It is not the earnings that are so important but the ability to earn. Earnings are not static. Piece-work is easy to judge, but creative work is much harder to assess.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, perhaps I spoke too fast, given the lateness of the hour. This is a procedure additional to the existing route. The case described by the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, would come under the existing routes of DPTC and DWA--in other words, it would be a case of DWA turned into DPTC. The noble Lord mentioned the case of someone who has fallen out of work because of an accident, has been in hospital, has come on to a qualifying benefit, has changed employer and as a result will be eligible for the existing structure and pattern of DWA, which will have become DPTC.

What we are introducing in addition to that--not to replace it--is what we call the fast track procedure for people for whom we can intervene while they are still on statutory sick pay with their existing employer, so that they can have the confidence that they can go back to work--possibly with reduced hours or doing a different job within that organisation--with that employer. However, to enable them to do that, we need to know about their disability and their earnings level. As I say, the case that the noble Lord mentioned is not likely to fall within the fast track procedure but rather within the alternative, basic mainline procedure which is the existing DWA procedure turned into DPTC.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

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

Lord Higgins moved Amendment No. 33:

Page 8, line 36, at end insert--
("( ) provide that where child care is provided by an adult member of the family to which the working families' tax credit or the disabled person's tax credit is payable, the Secretary of State shall take into account, for the purposes of subsection (1), an amount equivalent to the average charges made by persons in the new category;")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, as regards my response to the previous amendment it certainly was not my intention to be churlish. I was only glad to see how delighted the noble Baroness was with it. I think it is an improvement which should be welcomed. I certainly would not wish it to be thought otherwise.

The proposals in this Bill with regard to childcare were much advertised in advance but failed to appear for a long time; in fact the House of Commons had an opportunity to debate them only on the final day in that House before they came to this House. A number of

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aspects of the matter have not yet been fully discussed and perhaps we may return to them at Third Reading. When the provisions eventually appeared in the other place, they were largely related to the question of what organisations might be approved of rather than anything else.

The purpose of this and the following amendment is to seek the Government's view in respect of individuals who provide childcare. Such individuals may enable others to return to work when they might not otherwise have been able to do so. The Government seem to be restricting assistance entirely to organisations such as playschools, which provide formal care, rather than including relatively informal care.

If people who would otherwise be at home looking after children are to return to the workplace, one would have thought that some informal arrangements were also important, but possibly not practical without a degree of financial support. It is curious that the Government will provide financial support to a formal organisation but not an individual childcarer. I thought that it would be helpful to move this amendment to see whether the Minister can clarify the situation. In light of her response, we might return to the issue at a later stage. I beg to move.

Lord Goodhart: My Lords, as this amendment is potentially of considerable importance, I ought to make our position clear, even at this time of night. I had some difficulty working out what the amendment is intended to mean. As I read it, it intends to provide childcare credit where an adult member of the family is concerned, meaning necessarily the caring parent, because the "family" for these purposes comprises the parents and the children. Having heard the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, I think that he means members of the family in a broader sense than is used in the legislation. I refer, for example, to a grandmother looking after her grandchildren.

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