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Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I normally expect advice on litigation problems from those with experience in the law, so I accept what the noble Lord has said in that there may be some difficulties. However, we do not anticipate great difficulties in this respect. The panel is conducting its affairs entirely

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properly; it is acting independently of government and it will make a recommendation. Parliament will be in a position to endorse or reject that recommendation if the Secretary of State takes it up. Therefore, we are following proper process with regard to these very important decisions.

Lord Harrison: My Lords, while recognising the absolute need for independence of the panel in choosing the site of the first casino, would my noble friend nevertheless reacquaint himself with the regeneration needs of Blackpool? It is important for it to have a new lease of life and to have the casino placed there.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, all Ministers are well acquainted with the regeneration needs of various parts of the country, including Blackpool, but my noble friend will recognise that it would be premature of me to specify any one area for undue consideration at this time. In fact, that is not within my power and it would not be particularly fruitful, given that the independent panel will make its recommendation.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, as consideration is being given to protecting children from the effects of gambling, has any attempt been made to work out whether the costs of dealing with the numbers of problem gamblers that are anticipated as a result of what is planned will be more or less than the costs and benefits of setting up these casinos?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, that is an important question, which reflects our debates during the passage of the Gambling Bill. Both Houses would have passed that Bill only if we had been reassured that the issues of problem gambling had been properly addressed. I reassure the noble Baroness that these matters are very much to be balanced against the regeneration advantages of the casinos. The bidders are well aware of the provisions of the Gambling Act in that respect.

Intellectual Property Rights

3.23 pm

Lord Clement-Jones asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, a strong and balanced intellectual property system is in the interests of the UK’s creative industries. The Government have committed to take forward those recommendations of the Gowers review for which we are responsible, including a package of measures to improve enforcement of copyright, giving Trading

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Standards new powers and additional resources to enforce copyright law, increasing penalties for online infringement and recognising IP crime as an area for police action in the National Community Safety Plan.

Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. He has not mentioned the statement in the Pre-Budget Report:

The European Commission will be reviewing the matter. The Treasury has been driving the review, despite the fact that two other government departments are involved and the DCMS sponsors the creative industries. What plans does the DCMS have for a proper consultation on the recommendations of the Gowers report? Will it consult the public, who have a crucial interest, the creative industries and other interested parties?

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, I answer for the Government, not any particular department, at the Dispatch Box. The term of protection for sound recordings and performance rights is harmonised at European level, as the noble Lord has recognised. As such, it is a matter for the European Commission. That is why the recommendation on the term is made to the Commission. I understand that the Commission plans to consider the issue of term in the forthcoming year as part of its programme of work, so at this stage it has made no recommendations to consider. The Gowers analysis will, however, inform UK participation in relevant European discussions and negotiations.

Lord Winston: My Lords, I declare an interest as the holder of a number of patents in a spin-out biotechnology company at Imperial College. Is the Minister aware that, on average, it costs about three times as much to apply for a patent in Europe as it does in the United States? Furthermore, translations into the respective languages are required. How soon can we expect the implementation of the Gowers review’s recommendation that the establishment of a single-Community patent should be expedited by negotiations in Europe?

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, I am aware of those issues; they were covered in the Gowers review. The report is fresh off the press, and departments are considering it and formulating a detailed action plan to cover those areas for which the Government are responsible, including the point that my noble friend makes.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, the important Gowers review urges the Government to urge the Commission to amend Directive 2001/29/EC. One of the review’s recommendations is to allow an exception for creative, transformative or derivative works. Another is to deal with orphan works. I am looking, for example, at pages 68 to 71 of the report. Will the Government heed those recommendations and seek to put exceptions into the directive to benefit

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consumers and users of intellectual property? At the same time, will they consider the recommendation made in an important article in the Financial Times: that authors who seek an extension by 50 years of the copyright in their works should have to apply for a licence to do so, so that they could be shamed when they made such a monstrous application?

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, for some time now the Government have recognised the problems experienced by anyone who wants to use a work whose rights holder cannot be identified—an orphan work. One of the key problems is that permission is needed to make any copy of certain work. Across the spectrum of the creative industries, it is recognised that solving the problem of orphan works would be good for everyone involved. A solution would benefit all those involved in archiving and cataloguing; all those creators who use older works to create new value; those whose work is restored and may benefit from remuneration from a new source; and consumers. The Government take this issue seriously.

Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, will the Minister answer the question about consultation on the recommendations of the Gowers review?

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, there are 54 recommendations in the Gowers review. Some apply to the UK Government; some do not. Obviously, a range of departments are involved, and a whole load of processes will need to be followed to take those recommendations forward. Some will need primary legislation, some of them secondary legislation, and some will just need action within departments. Determining the proper process depends on which precise recommendation one is looking at. This Government have a strong record of consultation on legislation and secondary legislation, which will doubtless continue in this case.


3.29 pm

Lord Grocott: My Lords, with the leave of the House, in a few moments we shall take the Statement on child maintenance, but I need to say a word about the timing of the debates thereafter. Two debates will come immediately after the Statement; first there is the Second Reading debate on the Further Education and Training Bill, and after that comes a European Union Committee report debate. There are a total of 38 speakers in those two debates. Obviously, we do not know when we put the business down how many people will sign up to speak. If the Back-Bench contributions to those two debates—I do not distinguish between them—were around eight minutes each, we would finish at around 11 pm.

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Energy Efficiency and Microgeneration Bill [HL]

Lord Redesdale: My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to make provision about the energy rating of residential properties on the market; to make provision about energy efficiency and microgeneration; and for connected purposes. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a first time.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Bill read a first time, and ordered to be printed.

Business of the House: Standing Order 47

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Amos): My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That Standing Order 47 (No two stages of a Bill to be taken on one day) be dispensed with on Monday 18 December to allow the Consolidated Fund Bill to be taken through its remaining stages that day.—(Baroness Amos.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Concessionary Bus Travel Bill [HL]

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That it be an instruction to the Grand Committee to which the Concessionary Bus Travel Bill [HL] has been committed that they consider the Bill in the following order:

Clauses 1 to 5Schedule 1Clauses 6 to 13Schedules 2 and 3Clauses 14 to 16.—(Lord Davies of Oldham.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Child Maintenance

3.31 pm

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. The Statement is as follows:

“Mr Speaker, with permission, I should like to make a Statement on the future of the child maintenance system.“The Child Support Agency was set up to tackle a failing system of court-administered child maintenance. Despite the best efforts of its staff, the CSA has, however, never properly fulfilled its mission, and its failings have been obvious and apparent for some time. “That is why earlier this year I asked Sir David Henshaw to advise on a fundamental redesign of the child maintenance system. In July, we accepted

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the broad thrust of his recommendations for an entirely new approach. Today’s White Paper makes proposals in five key areas. First, we will remove the barriers that prevent parents from reaching private settlements. Secondly, we will create a simpler and more efficient system for assessing and processing child maintenance liability. Thirdly, we will replace the existing Child Support Agency with a new non-departmental public body—the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission. Fourthly, we will significantly strengthen the enforcement regime. Finally, we intend to do more to promote joint parental responsibility. “Let me take each of those measures in turn. The new system of child maintenance will promote parental responsibility and tackle child poverty. Too often, once parents break up, the current system works against both. The requirement for parents with care in receipt of benefits to use the CSA leads to the overturning of mutually agreed maintenance arrangements and undermines parental responsibility. Prioritising the recovery of benefit expenditure creates the incentive for many non-resident parents to refuse to pay maintenance because their payments go to the Government rather than their child. “Following legislation, from 2008 we will remove the requirement that all parents with care claiming benefit must use the child maintenance system. At the same time, where maintenance is being paid, we will extend the £10 per week benefit disregard to cases on the original scheme, helping around 55,000 children and 40,000 parents with care. And from 2010, when we expect a new system of assessment to be in place, we will introduce a significantly higher maintenance disregard for all benefit claimants, so that more children benefit from the maintenance that parents pay. I believe these changes will help encourage more parents to reach their own maintenance agreements.“I also believe that we can do much more to reduce the bureaucracy of the assessment process. We will take new powers to make fixed-term awards for child maintenance based on the latest tax-year information, unless current income differs by at least 25 per cent. These awards will last for a year. We will use gross income, rather than net. As a result, only three pieces of information will be required to determine maintenance liability: gross income; the number of qualifying children; and the number of children living with the non-resident parent. The assessment process will no longer be frustrated by a non-resident parent refusing to give information on their earnings—we will have obtained it from HMRC. “Changes to policy alone, however, are not enough. Sir David argued that the existing Child Support Agency was not equipped to administer a new system. He recommended a clean break with the past. We agree. A new non-departmental public body, the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission or C-MEC, will therefore be established. It will be led by a child maintenance commissioner. C-MEC will have primary

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responsibility for all aspects of operational policy and delivery, overcoming one of the flaws in the existing division of responsibilities. The commission will be given extra powers to recover maintenance from those who repeatedly fail to pay. These will include the imposition of curfews and surrendering of passports, piloting mandatory withholding of wages as the first means of collecting maintenance, and exploring with the financial services sector new powers to collect maintenance from accounts held by financial institutions. We will remove the requirement to apply to the courts for a liability order before taking enforcement action. We will also take powers to recover debt from deceased estates. “In future, I expect that C-MEC will charge the non-resident parent for its services, and that we will publicise the names of non-resident parents who are successfully prosecuted or have a successful application made against them in court. “About 7 per cent of births in the UK are registered solely to the mother, yet in around half of these cases, mothers continue to have significant contact with the father following the birth. The law currently automatically assumes that married couples will be jointly registered, whereas unmarried parents have to both agree before a father’s name can appear on the birth certificate. The CSA has to close one-tenth of cases simply because the father cannot be traced.“The Government have concluded that more should be done to promote joint registration. Current legislation should be changed to require both parents’ names to be registered following the birth of their child, unless it would be unreasonable to do so. We will consult in more detail on this issue and legislate only once we are sure that robust safeguards can be put in place to protect the welfare of children and vulnerable mothers. “I know that two further issues will be of particular interest to many Members on all sides of the House: first, the management of existing debt; and, secondly, the transition to the new system.“The CSA has accumulated around £3.5 billion of debt. Approximately half is owed to parents with care. In his report, Sir David suggested that the Government consider taking a power to write off debt. I have decided against any general write-off power. I believe that parents have a right to expect that the Child Support Agency, and its successor body, will use every power available to recover this debt. There are some limited cases where we will need to deal with completely irrecoverable debt; for example, where the parent with care or the non-resident parent is deceased, or where the parent with care has asked for a cessation of recovery activity. In total, I do not expect these debts to exceed £50 million.“I agree with Sir David’s suggestion that the CSA and its successor body should be able to negotiate offers to settle debt, including factoring debt. I want to make clear, however, that where the debt is owed to the parent with care, any decision

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to factor debt or accept less than the full amount will be taken only with their full agreement. I also agree with Sir David’s recommendation that we take powers to manage down existing debts, and I intend to revalue punitive interim maintenance assessments so they more realistically reflect a parent’s actual liability. I believe that this will provide a stronger basis for the CSA, and its successor body, to chase down those debts and get money flowing to parents with care. “Let me turn finally to the issue of transition. Unrealistic expectations about moving from one system to the other have blighted previous attempts to reform child maintenance. In moving to a new system, we will need to strike a balance between providing a clean break for C-MEC and ensuring that maintenance payments that are flowing well can continue. “Following legislation later this Session, we aim to establish C-MEC in 2008. It will prepare and procure for the new system of assessment and delivery to be in place within two years. Existing cases will be able to make private arrangements or, if they prefer, move to the new system over a three-year period or take advantage of a simple cash-transfer service. This cash-transfer service will, where both parents agree, minimise disruption by continuing to move maintenance payments between parents based on their current maintenance award. “The final details of the transition process will be worked through by C-MEC but I am confident that the approach set out in the White Paper will effectively balance the interests of existing and new clients. This White Paper sets out a fundamental redesign of the system of child maintenance. I am confident that it provides a proper foundation for a much more effective and efficient system. It will realign policy in this area with the reality on the ground. It will help to address child poverty much more clearly. I commend this White Paper to the House”.

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

3.41 pm

Lord Skelmersdale: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for repeating the Statement made not so long ago in another place. I am most grateful, too, for the short conversation that we had this morning. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, has not been responsible for the CSA for very long but already he has been extremely active on its behalf—or, perhaps I should say, on behalf of parents with care who are not receiving financial support for their children from the absent parent.

Alas, all the trials, tribulations and reforms that the agency has been through have not resolved the position of this failed organisation. We all know about the disastrous record of the CSA, and recent DWP quarterly reviews make sombre reading indeed. The most recent change has been the outsourcing of the investigative powers of the CSA. This is far from enough. I should be grateful, therefore, if the Minister

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would tell me how successful that has been. I accept, of course, that it is early days.

The new scheme has not proved to be working any better than the original one, and the initial administrative reforms suggested by Sir David Henshaw are clearly insufficient to make much of a difference. Were the Home Secretary suddenly to become the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, he would surely say that the CSA was not fit for purpose. The Minister will doubtless not use those words, but I agree that the only logical thing to do is to scrap it and start again.

Certainly, the best solution of all is for the separated parents to come to their own financial arrangements, so I agree that the new commission should come into play only when that does not happen. The state will know that only when it is told, so application by the parent with care is essential.

I understand that the White Paper proposes that the formula of 20, 15 and 10 per cent will remain in place, but the assessment will be made on last year’s gross income as recorded by Revenue and Customs. However, the problem remains of extracting the relevant money. It is suggested that bank accounts be accessed directly by the commission and/or that wages be withheld. I am sure that there will be a strong reaction to that, as we will have to be absolutely sure that the commission has made the right assessment in the first place. The history of the CSA does not give me any confidence that that will be so. Am I right that currently only the courts can authorise such action?

Many of the parents with care are on state benefits, and I should like to know how many there are in the current and expected caseload. As the average payment is currently around the £22 level and the Minister told me this morning that there is no disregard on old cases, that makes an enormous difference to parents’ income. I am therefore glad that this is to be extended to them.

However, I am afraid that I cannot be so complimentary on the subject of birth certificates. The noble Lord tells me that 7 per cent of parents do not have both parents’ names on the certificate. I do not think that many of the 7 per cent will want to have the father’s name on it and, anyway, what help will that be? Absent parents move—perhaps to a different county, abroad or wherever—and I should not have thought that a name alone would be of much use in tracking them down. When—referring directly to the Statement—would it be “unreasonable” for both parents not to have their names on a birth certificate?

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