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Earl Russell: My Lords, will the Minister concede that not all complaints come from men?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: Yes, my Lords; I will concede that. However, as I am sure the noble Earl is well aware, a great majority of them do come from men.

The noble Earl asked me about Regulation 43(5). I should say that the first amendment is intended to secure the policy intention that payments under a mortgage protection policy are to be ignored to the extent that they exceed the allowance for the mortgage interest in an absent parent's protected income. The second provision is for the calculation of protected income to take account of any payment of child maintenance which an absent parent or his partner is liable to make under a foreign court order. That is the background to those two provisions.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, asked me if the regulations will reduce the number of errors. I believe that I have answered that point, but I can tell the noble Baroness that the CSA is continuing to improve. Indeed, its recent performance has been very encouraging--around 70 per cent. of maintenance arrears now checked prove to be correct. The significant simplification in the review process that we are looking at today will, I believe, make the information that we need to collect easier to obtain. It will also mean that the processing of the review will be very much quicker and easier. That ought to help absolutely everyone: parents with care and absent parents.

I turn now to Regulation 3 and overpayments resulting from agency error; in other words, official error overpayments. Those are technically left to the discretion of the Secretary of State, but my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary in the other place, Mr. Andrew Mitchell, made it very clear during the final stages of the Child Support Act 1995 that

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consideration will be given to the circumstances of overpayment. If it were wholly due to official error, it would be very unlikely that repayment would be required. So there is a discretion. I hope that that assurance will help the noble Baroness who, I believe, asked me that question.

I believe that I have answered all the questions of detail that were raised. The noble Baroness and the noble Earl indicated one or two fields in which we still do not agree; indeed, I mentioned the one about family credit. Another one is that, if the arrears come in, the parent with care may not actually benefit because, of course, she has already had her income support payments which included the theoretical amount which ought to have come in if the absent parent was paying.

I hope that the child maintenance bonus which is to be introduced from April 1997 will allow parents with care to gain up to £5 per week from maintenance in a lump sum to be paid to them when they leave income support for full-time work. I hope that that is at least a step in the direction of helping the parent with care back into work and also letting the parent with care see that some of the money coming from her absent husband or former husband does in fact benefit her when it comes to that change-over into work. I see that the noble Baroness wishes to intervene. I give way.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I thank the Minister for giving way. As it looks as though the noble Lord is about to wind up his response, I should like to ask him one further question. It relates to an area of concern which has already been debated and explored in the House and for which I should like the up-to-date figures. Can the noble Lord say how many reduced benefit sanctions there have been on parents with care because of refusal to co-operate with the agency? How many of those cases have been appealed on the grounds of fear of domestic violence and how many of those appeals have been granted? That was one of the major areas of concern. We hope that our fears will be allayed, but perhaps the Minister can help us in that respect.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I am sorry to say that I did not mention that matter in my response. The fact is I do not have the relevant numbers to hand, and I did not want to try to speculate. However, I shall write to the noble Baroness with those figures when they become available. Having said that, I commend the regulations to the House.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Child Support (Compensation for Recipients of Family Credit and Disability Working Allowance) Regulations 1995

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 16th November be approved [1st Report from the Joint Committee].--(Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish).

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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Bristol Development Corporation (Area and Constitution) Order 1995

4.8 p.m.

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Earl Ferrers) rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 15th November be approved [1st Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Earl said: My Lords, the order is required in order to wind up the Bristol Development Corporation. It revokes the 1988 order which designated the urban development area and which established the development corporation. The order will take effect in two stages. First, that part of the 1988 order, which is designated the urban development area, is to be revoked on 1st January 1996. Secondly, that part of the order which established the corporation is to be revoked on 1st April 1996.

The reason for having two stages is that on 1st January the corporation will cease to exercise any operational functions. It is, therefore, quite proper that the urban development area status should be removed on that date. The corporation will then have three months in which to produce its annual report and accounts and to wind up its affairs. On 1st April next year, therefore, the corporation will finally be dissolved.

All development corporations were intended from the outset to be limited-life bodies. They were set up in order to deal with the physical and economic regeneration of various inner-city areas. The Bristol Development Corporation has largely done what it set out to do, and that is why we are able to wind it up.

The area which the Bristol Development Corporation inherited lies to the east of the city centre. For a variety of reasons it had declined for over 40 years. The city council's own figures showed a five-fold increase in the amount of land which had been designated as derelict or underused during the period from 1965 to 1988.

The main project which the corporation had to undertake was to build a new two kilometre spine road linking the M32 and the A4. In the process of doing this, various pieces of land were "unlocked" which had been previously inaccessible and they have attracted over £200 million of private investment in the process. The road carried 22,000 vehicles a day which before had either used small, residential streets as a short cut or had crawled through the congested city centre. The road was built in record time and under budget. It caused minimal disturbance to business and none to residential properties.

Among the new developments which have been made possible by the new road is a highly successful leisure and retail complex at Avon Meads, which has brought a new lease of life to the area. A recent survey showed that 92 per cent. of visitors thought that the development was something of which Bristol could be justly proud. In the Avon Valley, the corporation has established an urban village of nearly 700 houses--many for first time buyers--with shops and a doctors' surgery. Another 400 houses are planned and are under construction.

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This riverside setting has been transformed from a derelict eyesore into the largest residential development in Bristol.

Several new business parks have been developed which have provided much needed employment. These are now places to move into, and not out of. The corporation has also laid the foundation for the future regeneration of the important Quay Point site, which is next to Temple Meads station. It has now sold the site to English Partnerships who will try to secure a development scheme which will revitalise this part of the city. By the end of this year the corporation will have reclaimed 64 hectares of previously derelict land and it will have provided 6.4 kilometres of road. It will have provided 116,000 square metres of new commercial floorspace which will have been developed. Nearly 700 houses will have been built and 4,600 jobs will have been created. For every £1 of public money which will have been invested, the private sector will have invested £3.

I think that that is a record of which the corporation can be quite rightly proud, and I congratulate its board and officials for their achievements over the past seven years.

Having created the framework for the continuing resurgence of east Bristol, it is right to wind up the corporation. It is now for others to carry on the work and to build upon the achievements which have been made by the corporation. The order is necessary in order to wind up the corporation, and I commend it to your Lordships. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 15th November be approved. [1st Report from the Joint Committee.]--(Earl Ferrers.)

Lord Williams of Elvel: My Lords, the House will be grateful to the noble Earl for introducing this order. It is a very rare occasion on which I find myself able to support Government legislation, let alone Government subordinate legislation, but in this case we welcome the order. I do not go along wholly with the noble Earl in his description of the triumphs of the Bristol Development Corporation because, as he will be aware from debates which have taken place in another place, there are two points of view on its achievements. Nevertheless, it is right at the present time for the activities of the development corporation to be transferred partly, as I understand it--perhaps the noble Earl can answer this rather small point--to English Partnerships, but mainly to the local authorities in question. If the noble Earl can say what will be the role of English Partnerships in the future I shall be most grateful and we need not worry your Lordships any longer on this particular order.


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