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Baroness Noakes: My Lords, the Minister has repeated the refusal to give the costings of the elements of the package of changes made in the PBR, and perhaps that did not surprise us. He said that it cannot be done; of course it can be done. Before they made their decision on the package of changes, did the Government have any analysis put to them of the effect of the individual changes, in particular the incidence of the changes in numbers of tax credit recipients from the different elements of the package? What sort of analysis was made available to the Government before they decided on this so-called package?

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, I do not have the precise detail of what was submitted to Ministers before me. I reiterate that these matters were looked at as a package, because the order in which you unpick the individual components could impact on the amount that you attach to each component. The work has been done, looking at it as a package, and I believe that is the correct way to do it. Those figures have been put clearly before both Houses.

Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay: My Lords, that really will not do. No business considering a plan could possibly not look at the individual elements in that package. While one understands that there may be inter-relationships and there may be behavioural changes, it is quite ludicrous to say, as the Minister is saying, "Trust us; we are the Treasury". Frankly, we do not.

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, I am not saying that. I am saying that the package of measures has been costed. That costing has been laid out in the Pre-Budget Report, and it has been extended since so there is a five-year projection of the costs, benefits and savings that come from it. It is entirely appropriate to look at the whole package of the measures that were introduced together as a development of the system.

Baroness Noakes: My Lords, if the Minister persists in the view that it has to be looked at as a package, will he nevertheless say for the package overall how many individuals suffered from the introduction of the package and how many did better from the introduction of the package?

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, that depends on how people respond to the package. Obviously, those people whose incomes increase beyond £2,500 in a period who will not have that clawed back are potential beneficiaries, but the need to report income earlier and to respond to other elements of the package could have an adverse effect on such individuals. We believe that the overall impact could reduce overpayments from rises in incomes by one-third by 2007–08.
 
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I have tried my best to deal with questions on that matter. I have been consistent with explanations given in another place and to the Public Accounts Committee. As I said in my introduction, these regulations and orders increase certain rates and thresholds and are in line with the Government's commitment to make work pay and tackle child poverty.

Tax credits provide financial support to nearly 20 million people. They play a major role in moving people into work and aid mobility of labour, helping men and women move up the employment ladder, thus achieving the Government's aim of greater employment flexibility. The policies have combined with economic stability, which has helped to increase the number of people in work by 2.4 million. In any single year, three million people change jobs and 200,000 men and women who move into new or better-paid jobs see their family income rise by more than £10,000. The tax credit system has been designed to offer support to people as they move between jobs and as their circumstances change.

Tax credits together with child benefit deliver support to virtually all families with children in the UK. They tackle family poverty, with 700,000 children lifted out of relative poverty since 1998–99 and 1.8 million lifted out of absolute poverty since 1996–97. I commend these regulations and orders to the House.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Guardian's Allowance Up-rating Order 2006

1.47 pm

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 13 February be approved [19th Report from the Joint Committee].—(Lord McKenzie of Luton.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Tax Credits Up-rating Regulations 2006

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 13 February be approved [19th Report from the Joint Committee].—(Lord McKenzie of Luton.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Child Benefit (Rates) Regulations 2006

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 13 February be approved [19th Report from the Joint Committee].—(Lord McKenzie of Luton.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.
 
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Special Health Authorities (Audit) Order 2006

1.48 pm

Lord McKenzie of Luton rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 13 February be approved [19th Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the order was laid on 13 February. It is being made under the Government Resources and Accounts Act 2000 and is intended to make the Comptroller and Auditor-General the statutory auditor of four new special health authorities. In conjunction with an accompanying negative resolution order, laid on 8 February, the order will ease the audit burden on these special health authorities and the Department of Health, while maintaining full parliamentary accountability. I am grateful for the assistance we received from the Department of Health and the National Audit Office throughout the process of preparing these orders.

It may be helpful if I first explain that this is the third time that we have taken such orders through Parliament since 2003. Noble Lords will be pleased to hear, however, that this is likely to be the last, because the Health Bill, currently going through Parliament, includes provision to amend the National Health Service Act 1977 so that in future all special health authorities will be statutorily audited by the Comptroller and Auditor-General without the requirement to take an instrument through Parliament using powers available in the Government Resources and Accounts Act 2000.

The timetable of the Health Bill is such that we need this order to cover the audit of the special health authorities for the current financial year. We cannot wait until the deliberations on the Health Bill have been completed and it is necessary to take this instrument through Parliament in this financial year. If we fail to do that, four special health authorities will be subject to the administratively expensive dual audit regime process, under the National Health Service Act 1977.

I turn to the order itself. The Special Health Authorities (Audit) Order 2006 deals with the audit of four newly established Special Heath Authorities and has been prepared in consultation with the Department of Health. The Special Health Authorities are the Health and Social Care Information Centre, NHS Blood and Transplant, the NHS Business Services Authority, and the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement. The Special Health Authorities were set up during the current financial year following the Department of Health's review of its arm's-length bodies, the conclusions of which were announced in July 2004.

The Government are giving the Comptroller and Auditor General statutory audit authority to audit the Special Health Authorities and are removing the requirements for two sets of accounts to be prepared for each—one by the authority and the other by the Department of Health—and for each authority to be,
 
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in effect, audited twice—once by auditors appointed by the Audit Commission and again by the Comptroller and Auditor General.

The order will put the new Special Health Authorities on a par with all the others. The Comptroller and Auditor General will be the statutory auditor in place of the Audit Commission and thus the dual audit burden will be avoided. The companion negative resolution order will mean that the Department of Health need not prepare summarised accounts for three of the four new Special Health Authorities.

The audit arrangements for these new Special Health Authorities are proposed to take effect from this financial year. The individual Special Health Authorities' accounts will of course be laid before Parliament. The proposals continue the Government's commitment to improve parliamentary accountability. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 13 February be approved [19th Report from the Joint Committee].—(Lord McKenzie of Luton.)


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