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Earl Russell: This is a very little clause but there is possibly a great deal contained within it. It may be that the Minister will attempt to reassure me that this is in part the result of the style of draftsmanship favoured at the moment—the catch-all style of draftsmanship which is designed to provide for every contingency. Certainly, as drafted, this clause covers an awful lot. It deals with persons subject to immigration control and it says,

which could mean all sorts of things—

    "for excluding entitlement to, or to a prescribed element of, child tax credit or working tax credit (or both), or ... for this Part to apply subject to other prescribed modifications".

It then says that,

    "'Person subject to immigration control' has the same meaning as in section 115 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999".

There is not much that a Secretary of State could not do under that clause. The Minister will no doubt come back with an answer that relates firmly to her present intention. It is possible that what she has to say about her present intention may be perfectly acceptable. I keep an open mind on that until I have heard it. What is certain is that the Minister is not going to be in office several centuries hence.

This Act may remain on the books for goodness knows how long and it does allow people to respond to grand panic and change everything that they have in the rules simply—if I may so put it—with a stroke of the pen. That is a temptation into which Ministers should not be led.

It is no good telling me that there are certain things which simply will not be done. Most of the way through my political life, in fact before it began in any serious sense, right back to the Kenya Asians in 1977, things have been done to persons subject to immigration control which I had believed all my life up to that point no British Government could ever possibly have done. I can still remember David Frost, on "That Was The Week That Was", appearing

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accompanied by a laurel wreath labelled "British Passport Second Class"—a clear crib from the opening shot of "Passport to Pimlico".

It is no good telling me, therefore, that these powers will not be abused, though they could be abused. We have no idea who is going to be in office in this country 30 or 40 years hence. I think we should not lead them into temptation. The Minister should tell us what she wants to do with the clause. Then we could have bands which would probably allow her to do what she wants.

If she is not satisfied with that, then we could consider another course. However, we should not include in the Bill a Cambyses clause under which the Secretary of State may do whatever he likes. Parliaments do not always like what Secretaries of State seek to do. If they confer Secretaries of State with such a power, then in effect that is an act of abdication, something which this Parliament ought not to do. We are not in the business of trusting the executive to that extent. I beg to move.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: I wish to make two opening points. First, these powers in essence continue the existing powers introduced under the existing tax credits legislation, but in a new format for reasons that I shall explain. Secondly, the regulatory powers attached to them, which the noble Lord queries, were regarded as satisfactory by the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. I know that that committee puts the concerns of the noble Earl high on its agenda if it believes that any powers may be used improperly. It may be helpful to add a little further detail to the first of my points.

Clause 38 provides for regulations to be made about the access of people subject to immigration control to tax credit. Rules about immigration control are a matter for the Home Office set out under existing legislation, in particular the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, to which the clause refers. The cross-reference made in the clause is very precise to the legislation from which it is drawn. Therefore, should any changes in Home Office legislation be made, then either amending legislation or regulatory reform orders would be required.

The rules about immigration are a matter for the Home Office and are set out in existing legislation. The noble Earl will know that it is a longstanding requirement of the immigration rules that those coming to the United Kingdom should be able to support themselves without recourse to public funds. For this reason, persons subject to immigration control are not able to claim WFTC and DPTC. We shall bring forward appropriate regulations in due course.

A power to make regulations has been taken because it would not in itself have been sufficient simply to insert references to working tax credit and child tax credit in the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. Working tax credit and child tax credit would be claimed jointly by members of a couple—which is why we need an assignment—rather than by a particular individual on behalf of the couple, as is currently the case with regard to income support, income-based

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jobseeker's allowance, WFTC and DPTC. I know that the noble Earl welcomes the joint claim, which is why we have to introduce this further amendment.

Where only one partner in a couple is a person subject to immigration control, it will be necessary to modify the provisions of Part 1 in so far as they relate to the treatment of couples to make clear how the other partner is to be treated. It is also likely that other rules such as those concerned with the engagement of the claimant in qualifying remunerative work and his or her responsibility for a child, will require modification.

I repeat, the clause does not introduce any new principle of policy. Quite properly, it makes clear on the face of the Bill that, in line with the established approach under the immigration rules, persons subject to immigration control may be excluded from entitlement to the new tax credits. In doing so, it goes no further than the approach already taken with regard to a range of different systems of support under existing legislation, but it does allow us to make some modifications to the provisions of Part 1 to ensure that cases where we need to treat differently the two people comprising a couple—because only one is subject to immigration control—are dealt with appropriately.

There is nothing new in the clause. The regulations have been accepted as appropriate by the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. With those reassurances, I hope that the noble Earl will feel able to withdraw his proposal that the clause should not stand part of the Bill.

Earl Russell: If the noble Baroness were prepared to draft a clause saying precisely what she said she intended to do: that people subject to immigration control are to support themselves without recourse to public funds, and that we need further regulations to make this apply to joint claims by couples, I would not say a word to oppose such a clause. However, I do not understand why the clause is so widely drafted that it will allow that policy intention to take place. I do not see, for example, why we need to refer to,

    "prescribed descriptions of such persons".

That invites a distinction by nationality which, though it probably would not fall foul of the European Convention on Human Rights, would not necessarily be understood to do so in the Home Office. Its decision-making in relation to immigration is, I believe, the worst part of any interim decision-making in British government. Nor has the Minister filled me with confidence by saying these powers have been here before. I alluded at the beginning of my speech to policy introduced in 1977. This country's record in the whole of the second half of my lifetime on questions relating to asylum and immigration has done more to make me ashamed of my country than anything else done by a British government since the invasion of Suez. To say that it is not new will not do anything to reassure me. Nothing short of a more tightly defined set of vires would do that, but in the meantime I see no point in further using up the Committee's time today and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment for the time being.

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Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 38 agreed to.

Clauses 39 to 43 agreed to.

Schedule 3 [Tax credits: consequential amendments]:

Baroness Hollis of Heigham moved Amendment No. 215:

    Page 42, line 2, at end insert—

"Legal Aid, Advice and Assistance (Northern Ireland) Order 1981 (S.I. 1981/228 (N.I. 8))

3A The Legal Aid, Advice and Assistance (Northern Ireland) Order 1981 has effect subject to the following amendments.
3B In Article 3(1)(b) (persons eligible for advice and assistance), for the words after "income support" substitute "or an income-based jobseeker's allowance (payable under the Jobseekers (Northern Ireland) Order 1995 (S.I. 1995/2705 (N.I. 15)))."
3C In Article 7(2) (contributions from persons receiving advice or assistance), for the words from ", an income-based" to "family credit" substitute "or an income-based jobseeker's allowance (payable under the Jobseekers (Northern Ireland) Order 1995 (S.I. 1995/2705 (N.I. 15)))".
3D In Article 14(5) (assessment of disposable capital and income and of maximum contribution), for the words after "income support" substitute "or an income-based jobseeker's allowance (payable under the Jobseekers (Northern Ireland) Order 1995 (S.I. 1995/2705 (N.I. 15))).""

The noble Baroness said: Amendment No. 215 is technical, but does not fit within the four categories. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, will be pleased that I have to invent a fifth category, making sure that there is a read-across to Northern Ireland. The amendment simply makes consequential amendments to the Legal Aid, Advice and Assistance (Northern Ireland) Order by removing references to family credit. As a result of the Tax Credits Act 1999, those references are taken to be references to WFTC, which will be abolished by the Bill, leaving the references redundant. Similar references to DPTC are contained in secondary legislation, which is a matter for the Lord Chancellor's Department. With that explanation, I hope that the Committee will accept these minor consequential amendments. I beg to move.

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