Mr. Hammond: I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. He is making a good defensive case, saying, ''Look, it is 100 quid, and that is better than nothing.'' I agree that it may be better than nothing for some people, but for those who earn above a certain level and do not have the wherewithal to forgo their regular earnings it will be effectively the same as nothing, because they will not be able to claim it. The charge from these Benches to the Government is, ''If you want to talk the talk, walk the walk.'' During the
Column Number: 422past few sittings of the Committee, the Minister has given the impression that the Government are extending to adoptive parents the full of range of benefits that is available to natural parents. Now he is being asked to face up to the fact that their proposals, which are outside the Bill, fall substantially short of that in a way in which will make a material difference to many adoptive parents.
Will the Minister answer my earlier question about expected take-up?
Alan Johnson: Yes, I will come to that. I am just getting into my peroration, for what it is worth, on this matter.
Mr. Hendry: Just before the Minister perorates, will he consider the case of a family who are on the national minimum wage? During the six-week period to which he referred, their earnings would be about £1,100. He is suggesting that if they were adoptive parents they would get £600 over that period. Does he believe that they can sustain that loss of £500?
Alan Johnson: That brings me back to take-up. We expect 100 per cent. take-up because it is currently recommended best practice. All adoption agencies say to a couple who are adopting that at least one of them should take time off work at the time of the placement. The best practice guidance is already usually complied with, which is why it is such a crying shame that it has taken so long for the state to provide any help. The best estimate is that there will be 100 per cent. take-up of these provisions because, based on the advice of adoption agencies, it is already almost 100 per cent.
The hon. Member for Runnymede and Weybridge says that I am making a defence that £100 is better than nothing. Statutory maternity pay, which we shall mirror here, is £75, and statutory maternity pay was stuck at £62 for year after year. In two years we shall have lifted it from £62 to £100, and we are mirroring that payment for both adoption leave and statutory paternity leave. It is a huge advance, and it is recognised as such. We have got that advance in the regulations. There is a difference about the six weeks, of which we have made no secret, and we shall keep the issue under review. It is a significant start on the road to giving adoptive parents help.
I must respond to the point made by the hon. Member for Wealden, which is different but important, concerning people who have more than one job. I need to clarify the situation of someone who is not moonlighting for the same employer, but who has another job elsewhere. The primary legislation on statutory maternity pay contains provisions allowing us to make regulations about women who work for more than one employer. We have used those provisions to cover a situation in which a woman works for more than one employer at the time that she qualifies for statutory pay.
That is best explained by taking the example of an employee who works for two employers at the time that they qualify for statutory maternity pay. In this case they may, if they choose, return to work earlier with one of their employers than with their other. That applies whether they receive statutory pay from both
Column Number: 423employers or from just one. They cannot work for one employer and receive statutory pay from them at the same time, but they can return to work for one employer and receive statutory pay from their other employer. That applies whether they have received statutory pay from the employer for whom they have returned to work and that has now ceased, or whether they did not qualify for statutory pay with that employer in the first place. That is entirely reasonable. An employee who has two jobs may feel able to return earlier to one employerperhaps where he or she works only a couple of hours a week. It is the point that I made to the hon. Member for North Norfolk (Mr. Lamb). That provision is used in maternity leave in particular to reintroduce people gradually back to the workplace after a long absence. It could just as well be used for adoption leave, which spans the same period. Therefore, I am grateful to the hon. Member for Wealden for his prompt to put that clearly on the record.
Mr. Hammond: If I have understood the Minister correctly, he is identifying a positive situation in which it could be right for a person to treat his two separate contracts as two separate contracts and deal with them differently. Does he consider that the Secretary of State's power, for the purpose of statutory adoption pay, to regard two separate contracts as one could be significantly disadvantageous for those whom it affects?
Alan Johnson: I would not have thought so. This is a statutory earnings limit debate. Where a person has two separate contracts of employment for the same employer, which happens, they can be aggregated for lower earnings limit purposes. Where a person has two contracts of employment, one with an employer and another with a subsidiary of the company, they can be aggregated. That is what the provisions relate to, so I see no inconsistency there.
I am reminded of a further point, which is one made by my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West, about whose intervention the hon. Member for Tatton made a rather ungracious comment. My hon. Friend's intervention was spot on, because the hon. Member for Runnymede and Weybridge noticed a problem in a different part of the Bill. Sometimes that is uncomfortable for Ministers, but it is an important part of the role. However, while the hon. Gentleman is right, the advice that I have received from parliamentary counsel, which we will need to consider, is that this can be treated as a typographical amendment. I thought that I would make it clear that he was right and congratulate him on his vigilance.
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I hope that, with those comments, the Committee will agree to allow the clause to stand part of the Bill.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 4, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
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