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Baroness Hollis of Heigham: Perhaps I may briefly respond to the Minister. First, I do not believe that any of us would deny the administrative pressure that the agency is under and the need to ensure that it not only delivers assessments but also that it does so accurately, especially in the light of the report of the Public Accounts Committee. At present, I believe I am right in saying that one assessment in two is incorrect. Therefore, it is clearly right that the agency should slow down its speed of taking on new cases to ensure that the assessments are accurate. We do not challenge that fact. However, given the need to prioritise the taking on of cases by the CSA, we object to the fact that it is taking on first not the cases where the parents want the agency to intervene but where the Treasury wants it to do so.

Where parents want the CSA to set the maintenance level and to be the collection enforcement agent, we believe that that should be the mechanism for prioritising rather than the mechanism which the Government have adopted which is to take on, whether they want it or not, those cases where parents are on benefit and ignore, again whether they want it or not, those cases where the parents are not on benefit. It seems to me desirable at this stage, given that this Act has had such an unfortunate history, if the Government

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can now work with the grain of what people wanted rather than against it. This discussion has allowed the Minister to make moves in that direction.

The second point I want to make is in terms of the level of awards based on court settlements that are going to families where the absent father's new partner is bringing her children into the relationship; in other words, the step-children. We hope that court settlements will gradually float up to a more realistic level; but again I hope that between now and Report stage, when we may want to revisit some of these issues, the Minister can give us some guidance whether as regards a family in that situation who are, as it were, looking after the children from the three forms of family, there is some way to encourage court settlements to move upwards, possibly through a departure system where this can be taken into account. I do not know whether there could be a departure system for the CSA as a collection agency but perhaps we can explore this further. I think there is a real problem here which may, if we are not careful, damage the second family to such a degree that that family breaks down, as the first family has already done. That was one of our fears.

Finally, I was delighted to hear the Minister say, to the sound of violins, that he was learning from past mistakes; that we of course wanted him to learn from past mistakes; that he will continue to learn from past mistakes and why should we prevent him from learning from past mistakes? That is splendid! What we actually want is that the Minister should learn from his past mistakes, but that he will also recognise that those mistakes might not have occurred if the Minister had done something else—that is, listen to the Opposition at the time. I hope that as we go through to the Report stages of other Bills which are currently before the Chamber which concern social security and other fields, the Minister will say to his colleagues, "Do not do as I have done, which is to be forced to learn from my past mistakes; but do as I ought to have done, which is listen to the Opposition at the time the Bill is going through the Chamber. If you do that we may get better legislation and less legislation because we shall not need to return to it to amend it".

Clause 18 agreed to.

Clauses 19 and 20 agreed to.

Clause 21 [Fees for scientific tests]:

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 88:


Page 16, line 31, after ("out") insert ("(otherwise than under a direction or in response to a request)").

The noble Lord said: Clause 21 provides for the Secretary of State to recover DNA test fees where—

Baroness Trumpington: My noble friend should speak also to Amendment No. 89.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My noble friend has pointed out that I am also speaking to Amendment No. 89. The noble Baroness said that it was some time since she spoke; it is some time since I moved a government amendment, as is quite clear. Perhaps that is a point that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon

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of Glaisdale, has made on a number of occasions today. I shall start again. In moving Amendment No. 88, I wish to speak also to Amendment No. 89.

Clause 21 provides for the Secretary of State to recover DNA test fees where, following a DNA test, an alleged parent admits paternity or a court judges him to be the father. This amendment restricts this recovery power so that where the test is taken at the direction of the court, the Secretary of State must apply to the court for the fees to be included in costs awarded to him if he is successful in establishing paternity. It would not be right for officials acting for the Secretary of State to have the right to recover DNA test fees in the circumstances where a judge also has the discretion to award these fees as part of the costs of a court case. In theory there could be a conflict in that in the unlikely event that a court declined to award costs to the Child Support Agency, it would still be able to recover DNA test fees using the new statutory right provided in Clause 21. This amendment recognises the important principle that officials should not be able to bypass the court's discretion to award costs. I invite the Committee to accept these two amendments. I beg to move.

Earl Russell: I have no objection to the substance of these amendments, but it is an appropriate place to ask one question that I have been wanting to ask the Government for some time. They show a great deal of confidence in DNA testing. Are they aware that that confidence is by no means entirely shared by all the academics who are competent to judge it? Are they aware of the dispute in this area; are they following it, and will they keep a scintilla of an open mind and consider that their reliance on DNA might just possibly be mistaken?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: The Government follow all these matters with considerable interest and have some high-powered scientific advisers who can give them advice. I cannot vouch for the present one, but I can certainly vouch for the chief scientific adviser to the Prime Minister and the Cabinet, who has recently retired. He was an eminent scientist and he was a Scot, needless to say. I am quite sure that he and his colleagues would follow all these matters. I have done so because I have a small interest in the world of science.

I know that there is a little bit of an argument—as the noble Earl has drawn to my attention—but when it is a matter of paternity cases where there are three samples and we know where they have come from, the matching is extremely accurate. I think the doubts the noble Earl has cast in that case would not be justified. However, I can assure him that the Government are always open to new advances in science. I hope that he can accept that assurance. As I have said, in the particular case that we are considering, the science is pretty well accepted by everyone. The noble Earl shakes his head. I was going to say that does not include every scientist because there is always one person who still does not believe what all the rest believe.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

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Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 89:


Page 17, line 12, after ("tests") insert:
(""direction" means a direction given by a court under section 20 of the Family Law Reform Act 1969 (tests to determine paternity);
"request" means a request made by a court under section 70 of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1990 (blood and other samples in civil proceedings);").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 21, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 22 agreed to.

Baroness Trumpington: I beg to move that the House do now resume. In moving this Motion, I suggest that the Committee stage begins again not before twenty-five minutes past eight o'clock.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

Civil Evidence Bill [H.L.]

7.27 p.m.

The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[Viscount St. Davids in the Chair.]

Clauses 1 to 9 agreed to.

The Lord Chancellor moved Amendment No. 1:


After Clause 9, insert the following new clause:

Admissibility and proof of Ogden Tables

(".—(1) The actuarial tables (together with explanatory notes) for use in personal injury and fatal accident cases issued from time to time by the Government Actuary's Department are admissible in evidence for the purpose of assessing, in an action for personal injury, the sum to be awarded as general damages for future pecuniary loss.
(2) They may be proved by the production of a copy published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office.
(3) For the purposes of this section—
(a) "personal injury" includes any disease and any impairment of a person's physical or mental condition; and
(b) "action for personal injury" includes an action brought by virtue of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1934 or the Fatal Accidents Act 1976.").

The noble and learned Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 1, I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 2, 9 and 10. At Second Reading, the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, who has explained that he sadly is unable to be with us this evening, asked me to consider including in the Bill the recommendation of the Law Commission that what are known as the Ogden Tables should be admissible evidence in personal injury actions. These are actuarial tables issued from time to time by the Government Actuary's Department and published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office. They can

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be used to determine the capital value of the sum to be awarded by the court as damages for future pecuniary loss. The recommendation was contained in the Law Commission's report on structured settlements and interim and provisional damages. The Government announced on 22nd March this year that they had accepted the report.

The draft clause makes it clear that the tables and notes are admissible evidence, notwithstanding that they are hearsay, and provides that they can be proved simply by producing a copy published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office. The notice provisions in the Bill are not appropriate to their use.

The Law Commission commented in its report that the use of Ogden Tables should make for greater consistency in courts and that their use should be encouraged.

I hope that the clause that I have brought forward will be satisfactory to the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, and I commend it to the Committee.

Amendment No. 2 extends the new clause on the admissibility of the Ogden Tables to Northern Ireland. The rest of the Bill does not so apply, since the hearsay rule is currently the subject of consideration by the Law Reform Advisory Committee for Northern Ireland. It is right that it should have the opportunity to consider that general matter, which is the main subject matter of the Bill. The applicability of the Ogden Tables in Northern Ireland seems a wise move. Therefore I have tabled Amendment No. 2.

Amendments Nos. 9 and 10 are amendments to the Long Title of the Bill to take account of the introduction of the new clause on the admissibility and proof of the Ogden Tables. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clauses 10 to 14 agreed to.

7.30 p.m.

Clause 15 [Short title, commencement and extent]:


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