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Baroness Williams of Crosby: I ask only one question. The amendment goes a little way towards meeting some of the points raised. Can he say a few words on subsection (5) (a) which provides,


Is it widely envisaged that these sums will be recovered subsequent to the claimant receiving work?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I discussed the matter in relation to an earlier amendment. I said that the question of recovery did not have a very good history. It is difficult to administer. At the time I believe that I suggested—I cannot remember the terms—that we should not pay on account and try to claw it back.

It is difficult to administer. It is not easy. We do not like to do that if we can possibly avoid it.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Carter moved Amendment No. 168:


Page 33, line 19, leave out ("or not responsible").

The noble Lord said: This is a simple probe. It would be helpful if the Minister can assist us. The purpose of the amendment is to seek an answer from the Government. The income support regulations were amended, under the equivalent power in Section 137 of

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the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act, so as to treat the parent in receipt of child benefit as being responsible for the child and no one else being so responsible. That means that the other parent who is not "responsible" cannot obtain benefit for the child during any period—I refer to school holidays, the sickness of the responsible parent, or other circumstances which all of us as parents can envisage—that he or she has the child living with him or her because the "responsible" parent is unable to look after the child.

It would be helpful to hear whether our understanding of the situation is correct. I beg to move.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I am happy to explain this provision. It is not new. It carries forward provisions currently contained in Section 137(2) (m) of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992. As in many areas of this Bill, we intend to make the same use of the power as is currently made in income support.

The regulations will largely cover those cases where a child or young person spends part of the week with each parent. In these cases, income-based JSA in respect of the child will normally be paid in full to the partner receiving child benefit, regardless of the number of days the child or young person spends with each parent. I believe that this is the right approach.

I am sure that most of the Members of the Committee will agree that it is not appropriate for the department to get deeply involved in the private affairs of people to whom it pays benefit. It is the responsibility of the adults concerned to share the benefit between them if they wish to do so.

The alternative would be for us to try to split the benefit to take account of the number of days the child spends with each parent. This was the procedure under supplementary benefit and was, I am advised, an administrative nightmare. In some cases benefit had to be adjusted every week.

I believe that this power provides for a sensible treatment of these difficult cases. It recognises that the parents involved must be responsible for caring for the child or children, and must reach agreement over the financial arrangements for doing so. I hope that with that explanation the noble Lord will withdraw his amendment.

Lord Carter: I shall read what the Minister said. I do not think that it meets the real problems I described. However, I understand the point the Minister made about administrative problems. I wish to read what the Minister said. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 169 not moved.]

Schedule 1, as amended, agreed to.

10.45 p.m.

Clauses 19 to 22 agreed to.

Clause 23 [The back to work bonus]:

Lord Swinfen moved Amendment No. 170:


Page 18, line 47, after ("allowance") insert (", incapacity benefit, severe disablement allowance, invalid care allowance").

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The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 170 and at the same time speak to Amendment No. 173, with which are grouped Amendments Nos. 174 and 175. The first of the amendments seeks to extend the back-to-work bonus to more people than those who are in receipt of the jobseeker's allowance, particularly to disabled people and carers.

Under current rules, people can work part-time and claim benefit and some of their earnings can be ignored. Most people can keep up to £5 per week or £10 per couple before their benefit is reduced. People with a disability premium can keep up to £15 per week. The jobseekers White Paper indicated that the back-to-work bonus is designed to provide incentives for, and ease the transition into, full-time work of people who are or who have been on jobseeker's allowance or income support. Based on every pound of earnings someone has above the £5 limit, a claimant can build up a credit of 50 pence which will be payable in a lump sum up to a maximum of £1,000 when the claimant moves into employment of 16 hours or more each week or when their partner moves into employment of more than 24 hours a week. Someone can qualify for a back-to-work bonus once they have been employed for three months. The amendment suggests extending the provisions to people on incapacity benefit, severe disablement allowance and invalid care allowance.

The purpose of Amendment No. 173 is to extend the employer's national insurance holiday to people who are out of work as a result of incapacity for work or caring responsibilities. The Bill includes provision for a one-year national insurance holiday for employers recruiting someone who has been unemployed for at least two years as part of a package of work incentives. The amendment seeks to extend the provision to carers and disabled people not—I emphasise "not"—signing on as available for work but claiming invalid care allowance or incapacity benefits. Surely, the case for tackling the employment disadvantage faced by disabled people is equally as pressing to the long-term unemployed. I beg to move.

Lord Carter: I wish to speak to Amendments Nos. 174 and 175 in the names of myself and my noble friend Lady Hollis. The amendments deal with the extension of the national insurance holiday for employers to former carers as well as the long-term unemployed. The arguments are much the same as those advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen. The purpose is to extend to former carers as well as the long-term unemployed the national insurance holiday for employers. That can be done by linking the scheme to periods of receipt of the invalid care allowance (ICA) and not just the jobseeker's allowance.

The carers who are entitled to ICA will not appear as registered unemployed because they are exempted from signing on. As the rules stand, therefore, we feel that many former carers will miss out on the scheme. I understand that the Government have expressed sympathy with the issue. They suggested that the problem is of administration rather than principle and I believe that the Minister for Social Security and Disabled People, Mr. William Hague, has said that he

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will look into the issue. Without going through all the statistics, it would be helpful if the Minister could tell the Committee how far the consideration has gone.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I wish to address Amendment No. 170 first. The main participants in the scheme will be unemployed people on jobseeker's allowance and lone parents on income support. Disabled people on income support will be able to participate and any earnings above the £15 disregard will count towards the scheme. Any disabled person who claims jobseeker's allowance and makes himself available for work can also benefit from the scheme.

However, we do not see a case at this stage for extending the scheme to the other benefits proposed in the amendment. This new initiative is about helping people who are in the labour market and who need help to get into a job. People who are receiving incapacity benefit and SDA are claiming those benefits on the basis that they are incapable of work. If they are able to undertake therapeutic work, their earnings disregard is the not inconsiderable sum of £44 a week.

Turning to Amendments Nos. 173, 174 and 175, the clause already contains a power to extend by regulations the scope of the national insurance holiday to include people receiving the benefits referred to in these amendments.

The national insurance holiday is intended to provide an incentive to all employers to provide job opportunities for the long-term unemployed. It is essentially aimed at making more attractive to employers those people who may have become demotivated by their inability to find work. This means that it is aimed at helping back into work people who have been capable of work but have not been able to find it rather than those who have been incapable of work.

On Amendments Nos. 174 and 175, we considered whether ex-carers who received income support throughout the qualifying period should be able to qualify for the NI holiday. Carers may be distinguished from people receiving an incapacity benefit in that they were capable of work and would have been in a job but for the caring. We acknowledge that, and I am therefore pleased to tell the Committee that we intend that ex-carers who have received income support should fall within the scope of the national insurance holiday.


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