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Baroness Byford moved Amendment No. 238:


The noble Baroness said: I beg to move Amendment No. 238 and speak at the same time to Amendment No. 239. I do not understand why health and education bodies want information about the receipt of tax credits. This is a probing amendment which seeks to draw from the Minister the thinking behind this rather strange manoeuvre.

For example, guardians are very often not blood relatives to the child or children for whom they are responsible. I see no obvious connection between the receipt of benefit, the details supplied by the claimant to obtain that benefit and the health or education department's interests in the outcome. Particularly with regard to education, I see no possible connection in a country whose Prime Minister claimed five years ago that education was the number one priority and should be open to all, regardless of race, religion, background, vocation and any other variable.

I fear that these clauses are but the thin end of a wedge aimed at splitting the shields that currently protect people's private information. If the clauses go through I predict that they will become a benchmark for moving personal details around the system at will. I might point out that in private business both the banks and recently a supermarket have experienced details of personal data becoming available in the public domain. That is why I am moving the amendment. I beg to move.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: Perhaps I might intervene. The reason that these powers are necessary is that those are the departments that give passports to benefits. Therefore if they do not have information about tax credit and income levels they cannot do it. That is why the powers are necessary. They are benign.

The Earl of Northesk: This seems an appropriate place in which to make an observation. I need some clarification from the Minister. Here I return to an issue referred to by my noble friend Lord Higgins in a previous debate.

Thus far the Bill has received very little attention as to its juxtaposition with the Data Protection Act 1998.

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That is regrettable, if only because of the huge manipulations of data that it implies will take place once it is enacted.

The noble Baroness will be aware that the first data protection principle states categorically that data can only be used for the purpose for which it was originally collected. This may give rise to all sorts of difficulties with the Government's proposition to integrate tax and benefits, which may relate to this part of the schedule.

First, how do the Government propose to transfer relevant data between departments without breaching the first data protection principle? If we can think in terms of the Government's insistence on administering tax credits in the payroll, data so collected is properly the province of the Revenue. It is a amassed for tax purposes. Logically, therefore, application of the first data principle would suggest that it cannot subsequently be used as a mechanism for assessing appropriate levels of benefit. Thus, notwithstanding the previous comments from the Minister, are the Government absolutely certain that their proposals in the Bill are fully consistent with the Data Protection Act?

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: Yes. Not only that, already DSS information—in other words, whether somebody is or is not receiving income support and so on—is a passport to free school dinners and to maximum housing benefit. Thus the information goes to the local authority and the like. If one did not have that one would be asking somebody who might have problems handling paperwork, bureaucracy and administration to deal with three, four, five or six different government departments as well as local authorities.

So it is well established that information of this sort, which serves as a prod or a ticket or a flag to entitlement—what we would now call a passport to benefit—is conveyed to those authorities. I am just reminded that all disclosures under the powers of the Bill are either applied to the Inland Revenue and DWP or they have specific safeguards in the schedule itself. Without this, frankly, children would not receive free school dinners who are currently so entitled. Without it there would not be free prescriptions. There has to be a way of providing those benefits automatically. If people are asked to apply for them, first, they will not always do so and, secondly, there will be accentuated problems of stigma. We need these powers to protect children.

Baroness Byford: I thank the Minister for her response. We have grave concerns on this issue but I hear her reassurances and at the moment I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 239 not moved.]

Schedule 5 agreed to.

Clause 56 agreed to.

28 May 2002 : Column CWH237

Schedule 6 [Repeals and revocations]:

Baroness Hollis of Heigham moved Amendment No. 240:


    Page 58, line 47, column 2, at end insert—

"In section 21(5A)(b), the words "and 45A(1)(a)"."

The noble Baroness said: This is a group of minor and technical amendments that do not come within my existing four categories or the additional fifth, but they are consequential on the abolition of WFTC and DPTC and the replacement of SERPS with the state second pension. They relate to the same cluster of amendments as we talked about with Amendment No. 217. The main provision is the repeal of Section 45A of Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992 and the Northern Ireland counterpart. Those repeals are effected by Amendments Nos. 220, 228 and others. They are technical and they are consequential. They do not fit into tidy categories, but they are necessary, given both the replacement of SERPS with state second pensions and the abolition of WFTC and DPTC, which has moved across to SERPS. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham moved Amendments Nos. 241 to 248:


    Page 58, line 48, column 2, at end insert—

"Section 45A."


    Page 60, line 6, column 2, at end insert—

"In section 21(5A)(b), the words "and 45A(1)(a)"."


    Page 60, line 7, column 2, at end insert—

"Section 45A."


    Page 61, line 14, at end insert—

"Pensions Act 1995 (c. 26)Section 127."


    Page 61, line 19, column 2, at end insert—

"In Article 18C(7)(b), the words ", working families' tax credit or disabled person's tax credit"."


    Page 61, line 21, column 2, after "paragraphs" insert "2,"


    Page 61, line 22, at end insert—

"Pensions (Northern Ireland) Order 1995 (S.I. 1995/3213 (N.I. 22))

Article 124."


    Page 62, line 24, at end insert—

"Criminal Injuries Compensation (Northern Ireland) Order 2002 (S.I. 2002/796 (N.I. 1))

Article 12(3)."

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Schedule 6, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 57 [Commencement]:

Lord Freeman moved Amendment No. 249:


    Page 31, line 32, at end insert—


"( ) No orders shall be made under this section until the Inland Revenue has published the following—
(a) targets for the time to process claims;
(b) details of the procedure to be followed to assess whether take-up by the disabled and those for whom English is not the first language has reached initial targets;
(c) details of procedures to be followed to establish any emerging organisational deficiencies and how any conclusions are to be subsequently published; and

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(d) policy to be followed in striking a balance between the need to make the system customer friendly and yet to have good compliance."

The noble Lord said: Set out in this amendment are some examples of information that claimants and claimants' organisations would wish to know, and which it is legitimate for them to know. One appreciates that a Bill is an enabling measure and administration follows. To a certain extent, we get ahead of ourselves, however. My noble friend Lord Higgins has referred to the fact that we have had a great raft of government amendments at a very late stage. The Minister has been very helpful with draft regulations, for which we are very grateful, but explanatory notes and procedural notes need to follow. In an ideal world, if we had a draft Bill which either a Committee of this House or a Joint Committee could consider, some of these problems could disappear.

I will be very brief. This is a point of principle and it is a probing amendment. All these issues that I have detailed in my amendments are points that the Inland Revenue will already have decided before commencement. They do not raise issues of principle, but the principle is whether they should be published and put into the public domain before commencement of the Act. I appreciate that it may not be normal constitutional practice to put this kind of amendment on the face of the Bill, but some indication from the Minister would be much appreciated as to when this information—either as an amendment to Clause 57 or in some other way—will enter the public domain. I beg to move.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: I can give the noble Lord a very quick reply, or an extremely long one. Let me try a quick reply and see whether it meets his concern, which is that the Paymaster General will be setting the Revenue clear targets, including some of the items exemplified by him as part of its public service and service delivery agreement. The Revenue's key operational targets, and its performance against those targets, are published in the board's annual report to Parliament. I may have said enough to meet the noble Lord's concerns. If not, perhaps he could press them further.


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