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Lord Carter: My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the Minister.

To respond to the noble Earl, Lord Russell, it seems extraordinary to me that his major constitutional point on the rule of law, and all the other points that he raised, were apparently completely ignored and overlooked by his Liberal colleagues in the other place, who said nothing on this Bill, so far as I can make out, in any of the areas that he raised. When the Bill came to this House he decided to take up all these points. I will certainly not take any lectures from the noble Earl when the latest report from the Network Against the Child Support Act (NACSA) states that,


etc., etc.

Earl Russell: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Carter, was in the Chamber when the Motion, That the Bill do now pass was moved in 1991. Does he remember that I told the House then that the Bill would prove unenforceable, as it has?

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Lord Carter: My Lords, I said much the same thing. That is why we have this Bill that tries to improve the working of the Child Support Agency. I was about to say that prima donnas on an ego trip are not the best way to improve a Bill. Perhaps I shall not say that since it will upset the noble Earl.

I am grateful to the Minister for what he said. He has now given me the answer that I was hoping—

Baroness Seear: My Lords, very reluctantly I have to interrupt the noble Lord, partly because he quoted various remarks about the Liberal Democrat Party, which he read at such speed that they were totally incomprehensible to me. They did not sound very flattering. I should like to be able to argue with the noble Lord, but, as he did not make it at all clear what he was saying and as it is now half past eleven, I do not intend to do so. I merely wish to register that I think the whole of this little episode is rather unfortunate.

Lord Carter: My Lords, the noble Baroness is quite right, but I did not start the "little episode". To the Minister I say that this is the answer that I wanted. It is not entirely satisfactory, but it is the answer that I was hoping to get when I raised the point in Committee. As he has now answered the point that I made then, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Carter moved Amendment No. 45:


Page 19, line 33, at end insert:
(""partial compensation" means a weekly amount not lower than any difference between the child maintenance taken into account when the family credit or disability working allowance was calculated and the new child support maintenance assessment;").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment deals with partial compensation. The effect of the amendment is to ensure that no claimants for family credit or disability working allowance end up worse off than they would have been without any CSA assessment. It takes into account the Government's argument that not all FC and DWA claimants have the full CSA assessment taken into account in the first instance; for example, if the absent parent had not been making the payments before the benefit calculation.

We suggest that compensation should equal the amount of maintenance taken into account after the £15 maintenance disregard has been applied, where this is larger than 50 per cent. of the actual reduction. There were some objections from the Government to that approach in the other place. Therefore, we have produced a compromise position. The increased expenditure involved is insignificant. We accept that this will be slightly harder to administer, but there should not be a large problem as the payments are being made by the FC and DWA unit, which has access to the figure used in the last benefit calculation.

In the light of that introduction, I hope that the Minister will accept the amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, this amendment is concerned with the level of compensation to parents with care on family credit for reductions in maintenance. We discussed much earlier today aspects

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of family credit and how maintenance impacts on it. We have now come to this amendment which is about the compensation being paid.

As drafted, the clause provides for the method of calculating the compensation to be set out in regulations, which your Lordships will have the opportunity to debate in due course. We intend to provide that the compensation will be at the level of half the reduction in the maintenance assessment for the outstanding period of the family credit award.

For many families, that formula will provide full compensation for their actual financial loss. Some will even be over-compensated. That is because the maintenance assessment and the amount of maintenance taken into account in the family credit assessment are often different. The amount taken into account in the assessment is the actual amount of maintenance being received in the period immediately before the claim. In many cases, that is considerably less than the maintenance assessment itself. The noble Lord's amendment recognises that by providing that the compensation will be based on the difference between the amount of maintenance taken into account in the family credit assessment and the new maintenance assessment.

We considered the option of basing the compensation on this method, as proposed in the amendment, but the problem with that solution is that it would make the compensation exercise much more complicated and time-consuming. It would be necessary to examine the details of the family credit assessment in each case, whereas the method that we propose relies simply on the reduction in the maintenance assessment itself without the need to refer to the details of the family credit assessment. This enables the Benefits Agency to make the payments very quickly, as soon as the family needs them. The noble Lord's amendment would slow down the process, with the risk that the family would have to wait some time for the money which it needs.

Furthermore, many families would be likely to receive less compensation under the noble Lord's amendment than they will do under the broad brush scheme. I fully accept—I believe I said it previously—that this is a broad brush scheme, but I believe that it is one which delivers what we all want as quickly as possible. Any attempt to fine tune it in order to make it a more detailed scheme, treating every case and every family credit separately, would complicate the issue and take up much more time. Looking at it in the round, it would not be to the advantage of the parent with care, who could have to wait some considerable time for her compensation.

I understand the noble Lord's point but I hope that, with my explanation that perhaps the broad brush approach is the best one to stick with, he will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Carter: My Lords, as the Minister said, what we have now is a broad brush approach. We did not feel that the way that we suggest is that much harder to administer because all the figures are available.

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However, I should like to read what the Minister has said. It is a complicated point. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 25 [Payment of benefit where maintenance payments collected by Secretary of State]:

[Amendment No. 46 not moved.]

Clause 30 [Short title, commencement, extent etc.]:

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 47:


Page 23, line 8, leave out ("and 17") and insert ("16A, 17 and 18").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 49 and 50. Amendments Nos. 47 and 50 are minor and technical amendments. Amendment No. 50 corrects a minor drafting error in an earlier amendment. However, Amendment No. 49 introduces a new provision relating to expenses for people attending hearings before a child support commissioner. Such a provision already exists in social security legislation and the new paragraph we propose to add to Schedule 4 to the Child Support Act 1991 by means of this amendment to Schedule 3 to the Bill will mean that a consistent approach is taken for child support cases. Our colleagues in Northern Ireland propose to bring forward legislation along these lines for their own purposes in due course. The amendment therefore proposes an amendment to paragraph 8 of Schedule 4 to the 1991 Act to prevent provision for travel and other expenses from applying to Northern Ireland. Amendment No. 49 is a technical amendment which gives effect to this exclusion.

Amendment No. 49 also ensures that a further provision in the Bill, which we had always intended should extend to Northern Ireland, does so. This provision enables issues arising from the payment of the child maintenance bonus to be dealt with by the Social Security Advisory Committee. The necessary amendment to Clause 30 was overlooked when we introduced that provision through an amendment agreed in Committee. With that explanation, I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 3 [Minor and Consequential Amendments]:


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