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Baroness Hollis of Heigham moved Amendments Nos. 153 to 155:

Page 85, line 4, leave out subsections (3) to (5)
Page 85, line 17, leave out ("24D") and insert ("24B")
Page 85, line 18, leave out ("of nullity")

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Lord Goodhart had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 156:

Page 85, line 19, leave out from ("before") to end of line 20 and insert ("1st January 2000.")

The noble Lord said: I am fairly certain that this amendment has not been debated. In view of the lateness of the hour and the fact that no doubt the Minister will not have been briefed on the amendment, I shall not move it tonight. However, it is likely that I shall raise the matter at Report stage.

[Amendment No. 156 not moved.]

20 Jul 1999 : Column 959

Baroness Hollis of Heigham moved Amendments Nos. 157 to 159:

Page 85, line 21, leave out subsection (7)
Page 85, line 24, leave out subsection (8) and insert--
("(8) Paragraph 3 of Schedule 3 does not have effect if the proceedings in which the decree is granted were begun before the day on which section 19 comes into force.")
Page 85, line 43, leave out subsection (12)

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 80, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 81 and 82 agreed to.

Schedule 13 [Repeals]:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendments Nos. 159A to 159H:

Page 159, line 28, column 3, at beginning insert--
("In section 8(3), the words ", subject to section 21(4) below,".")

Page 159, line 41, column 3, at end insert ("4(6),")
Page 160, line 10, column 3, at end insert--
("Section 145(1)(a)(i) and (ii).")

Page 160, line 22, column 3, at beginning insert--
("In Article 9(3), the words ", subject to Article 21(4),".")

Page 160, line 29, column 3, leave out ("and 24(3)") and insert (", 24(3), 33(5) and 75(3)")
Page 160, line 31, column 3, leave out ("and 38(4) and (5)") and insert (", 38(4) and (5) and 49(3)")
Page 160, line 31, column 3, at end insert--
("In Schedule 5, paragraph 2(2).")

Page 160, line 33, at end insert--
("1999 c. 10.Tax Credits Act 1999.In Schedule 2, paragraph 34.In Schedule 6, the entry relating to the Social Security Administration (Northern Ireland) Act 1992.")

The noble Lord said: These amendments were spoken to with Amendment No. 143AD. I beg to move.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Schedule 13, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 83 [Commencement]:

[Amendment No. 160 not moved.]

Baroness Hollis of Heigham moved Amendments Nos. 161 and 162:

Page 86, line 18, after ("5") insert ("and 62A to 62C")
Page 86, leave out line 19 and insert--
("(c) section 80(6) and (8); and")

On Question, amendments agreed to.

20 Jul 1999 : Column 960

Lord Goodhart moved Amendment No. 162YA:

Page 86, line 23, at end insert--
("( ) Sections 68 to 73 shall not come into effect until such day (not earlier than 6th April 2000) as the Treasury may by order appoint.")

The noble Lord said: This is an example of my wish always to be of help to the Government in the drafting of their legislation. It seems to me odd that Clauses 68 to 73 are Treasury clauses. There are powers to make regulations under them which are made by the Treasury. However, as far as concerns the commencement power, the power to make a commencement order is given to the Secretary of State by Clause 83. It seems to me that a commencement order in respect of these clauses should be made by the Treasury. I beg to move.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I suspect that the noble Lord has identified a technical issue relating to the drafting of Clause 83, which contains no specific provision to bring the NICs measures into effect. Therefore, by default it is taken to be the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Social Security to make the necessary commencement order. However, as the noble Lord made clear, responsibility for national insurance policy was transferred to the Treasury and Inland Revenue in April by the Social Security Contributions (Transfer of Functions, Etc) Act 1999. I had better take this matter away for further consideration. If an amendment is necessary, we shall table it at a later stage. Any such amendment would have to be drafted by parliamentary counsel.

Lord Goodhart: In that case, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Higgins moved Amendment No. 162ZA:

Page 86, line 25, at end insert--
("( ) sections 49, 50(1), 50(2) (except for sections 39B(3) and 39B(4)(b) of the Contributions and Benefits Act contained therein) and section 51;")

The noble Lord said: It is perhaps a shame that we mentioned the previous matter. I deal with Amendment No. 162ZA briefly but it is a not unimportant point. I am aware that the Child Poverty Action Group in particular is concerned about this matter. The wording of the amendment is rather obscure. Effectively, it seeks to bring forward the date when widowers receive the new pension which the Government have conceded in the light of the case before the European Court of Human Rights. We propose that those people whose cases have been upheld by that Court should not have to wait until 2001 before they receive assistance. Various cases have been brought to my attention in which people may suffer hardship as a result of delay.

I understand that one of the reasons for the delay is problems with computers. The more I hear about the department's computers, the more concerned I become. Only this morning, representations were made to me that people who had deferred their entitlement to the state pension had been told that the Government hoped to pay them by next November. Perhaps we should have a debate soon about the department's computers, which

20 Jul 1999 : Column 961

are giving grave cause for concern. At all events, one would have thought that in the context of this amendment payments could be made manually. We hope that such payments will be made. I beg to move.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: This amendment would bring forward implementation of the new bereavement benefit scheme to the date when the Act was passed but delay one element of it; namely, the 26-week time limit for the payment of bereavement allowance. I am a little surprised that the noble Lord tables this amendment now, given the very thorough discussions held earlier. However, I sympathise with his intention that, because the current scheme of widows' benefits discriminates against men, it should be changed as soon as possible.

On the other hand, it would not be possible for the Benefits Agency to implement any part of the new scheme before April 2001. Once the parliamentary process is completed, the changes require extensive modifications to our computer systems, as the noble Lord so shrewdly--and, I fear, the second House repeatedly--anticipated. We are not able to begin spending money on the development of these computer systems until the Act receives Royal Assent. The Benefits Agency will also need time to ensure that staff are fully trained. This means that inevitably there will be a time lag between Royal Assent and implementation of the proposals.

I do not believe that I need go into the details of the proposals. Given that it is simply not possible to introduce the new scheme, or some parts of it, as soon as the Bill receives Royal Assent, I hope that the noble Lord will withdraw his amendment. I could describe what we are doing, but I am sure that the noble Lord does not want me to describe again the policy intention; certainly, the Opposition Chief Whip urges me not to do so. In the light of that, I ask the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment. We cannot do it even if we wanted to. Therefore, the amendment is not appropriate.

Lord Higgins: The noble Baroness said that the preparatory work to make provision for the computers in relation to this proposal, which we would like to see accelerated, could not be undertaken until the Bill received Royal Assent. Am I wrong in thinking that this kind of preparatory expenditure would be appropriately authorised once the Bill had a Second Reading in another place?

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: Perhaps I should write to the noble Lord. I understand that some preparatory expenditure can follow Second Reading but the bulk that the noble Lord seeks cannot. It has to await Royal Assent to the Bill.

Lord Higgins: Perhaps the Minister will write to me. We are all interested in getting the matter moving. Subject to that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 162A to 163A not moved.]

20 Jul 1999 : Column 962

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