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Lord Hardie moved Amendment No. 134:


Page 61, line 33, at beginning insert ("In").

The noble and learned Lord said: Amendments Nos. 134 and 135 clarify that only the tribunals abolished by the Bill should be removed from Schedule 4 to the Parliamentary Commissioner Act 1967. Amendment No. 135 lists the relevant tribunals whose entries will cease to have effect. I beg to move.

Lord Renton: Perhaps I may refer to just one word. It appears at the top of page 16 of the Marshalled List and is a word I do not recollect seeing before in our statutory provisions. Line 1 states,


We then read a list of statutory tribunals. Is that the right way to describe them?

The Deputy Chairman (Baroness Lockwood): We are presently debating Amendment No. 134.

Lord Renton: Amendments Nos. 134 and 135 are being taken together. As I see it, Amendment No. 134 is to insert the word "in" and Amendment No. 135 is the amendment of substance.

I know that this is a small matter, but we should try to get the drafting right and to be consistent, so far as it is wise to be so, with what has gone before. I do not ask for

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an answer now, but, when the Bill is considered on Report, the Government may find a better way of describing the removal of those tribunals.

Lord Hardie: As the noble Lord will be aware, the schedule as it stands is a list of various tribunals. The amendment seeks to remove certain tribunals from the list. However, I take the noble Lord's point. We can look to see whether there could be more appropriate wording to deal with the matter, but I think the noble Lord understands the sense of what is being proposed.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Hardie moved Amendment No. 135:


Page 61, leave out line 34 and insert ("the following entries shall cease to have effect, namely--
"Tribunals constituted in Great Britain under regulations made under section 4 of the Vaccine Damage Payments Act 1979";
"Child support appeal tribunals constituted under section 21 of the Child Support Act 1991";
"Social security appeal tribunals constituted under section 41 of the Social Security Administration Act 1992";
"Disability appeal tribunals constituted under section 43 of that Act"; and
"Medical appeal tribunals constituted under section 50 of that Act".").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Hardie moved Amendment No. 136:


Page 61, line 38, after ("qualified") insert ("adjudicating").

The noble and learned Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 136, I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 140, 146 and 147. These amendments are purely technical. Amendment No. 136 is required to amend the incorrect reference to "specially qualified medical practitioner" in paragraph 4(1) of Schedule 6. The correct title is "specially qualified adjudicating medical practitioner" which is contained in Part III of Schedule 1 to the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975. Adjudicating medical practitioners and specially qualified adjudicating medical practitioners are among the officers disqualified from membership of the House of Commons.

Amendments Nos. 140, 146 and 147 all relate to provisions in the Child Support Act 1991. Subject to the Committee's agreement, I do not think it is necessary to discuss them in detail. They simply clarify and make minor amendments to terms used in that Act. I commend the amendments to the Committee. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Hardie moved Amendments Nos. 137 and 138:


Page 62, line 18, leave out ("or 7").
Page 62, line 35, at end insert--
(". After section 7A of that Act there shall be inserted the following section--
"Finality of decisions.
7B.--(1) Subject to the provisions of this Act, any decision made in accordance with the foregoing provisions of this Act shall be final.

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(2) If and to the extent that regulations so provide, any finding of fact or other determination embodied in or necessary to a decision, or on which a decision is based, shall be conclusive for the purposes of further decisions." ").

The noble and learned Lord said: These amendments have already been spoken to. I beg to move.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Lord Hardie moved Amendment No. 139:


Page 63, line 12, at end insert--

("Abolition of Domestic Rates Etc. (Scotland) Act 1987 (c.47)

. In paragraph 7A of Schedule 2 to the Abolition of Domestic Rates Etc. (Scotland) Act 1987 (recovery of outstanding community charge by deductions from income support or jobseeker's allowance), for the words "appeals and reviews" in sub-paragraph (2)(a) there shall be substituted the words "appeals to appeal tribunals constituted under Chapter I of Part I of the Social Security Act 1998 and decisions under section 10 or 11 of that Act".
Local Government Finance Act 1988 (c.41)

. In sub-paragraph (2)(a) of paragraph 6 of Schedule 4 to the Local Government Finance Act 1988 (recovery of outstanding community charge by deductions from income support or jobseeker's allowance), for the words "appeals and reviews" there shall be substituted the words "appeals to appeal tribunals constituted under Chapter I of Part I of the Social Security Act 1998 and decisions under section 10 or 11 of that Act".").

The noble and learned Lord said: In moving this amendment, I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 148 and 154. These amendments are wholly technical and consequential amendments to other primary legislation as a direct consequence of the provisions in this Bill. The amendments replace references in other legislation to reviews and appeals with reference to the new provisions for appeals, appeal tribunals and decisions under Clauses 10 and 11 of this Bill. I beg to move.

Earl Russell: I have one query about Amendment No. 139. This deals with the collection of arrears of the community charge. It is no doubt a matter of my own ignorance but I did not realise that we were still collecting those arrears. How much longer are we to go on collecting them? Is it not really about time that we stopped?

Lord Renton: I share the ignorance so modestly expressed by the noble Earl. I, too, was puzzled. Each of the three amendments grouped together has the same purpose; namely, to get rid of the words "appeals and reviews" and to substitute the words "appeals to appeal tribunals." This is a little mysterious. I think we are entitled to an explanation.

Lord Hardie: Perhaps I may deal, first, with the point raised by the noble Earl, Lord Russell. The answer is yes, we are still collecting arrears of community charge. Cases are still outstanding. The answer as to when we will stop is presumably when the arrears have been paid. I cannot give a date because it depends on the arrears being paid.

I turn to the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Renton. I shall deal with the amendments in each provision. In Amendment No. 139 there is reference to two statutory provisions: the Abolition of Domestic Rates Etc. (Scotland) Act 1987 and the Local Government Finance Act 1988, which is the English equivalent of the earlier Scottish provision relating to the recovery of

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outstanding community charge by deductions from income support or jobseeker's allowance. In these provisions, as I explained in general terms in my earlier comments, the reference to "reviews and appeals" should be replaced by reference to provisions for appeals to appeal tribunals constituted under Chapter 1 of Part I of this Act. We are amending the earlier legislation to reflect the situation which is brought in by this Bill. I hope that that explains the position.

Lord Renton: It means that there will be no more reviews. There will only be appeals to the appeal tribunals. That is perfectly clear.

6.45 p.m.

Earl Russell: It is my recollection--I may be mistaken and I have not had time to check--that there was a limitation of actions on the collection of community charge arrears. My recollection is that shortly before the community charge was abolished this limitation of actions was lengthened to six years. It is, I believe, now more than six years since we last collected any community charge. I thought therefore that the period of actions had now come to an end. I may be in error--I am perfectly willing to admit the error: it is only a recollection--but since the collection of arrears, some of them obviously uncollectable, has caused a good deal of hardship, a good deal of trouble, a good deal of labour and a good deal of administrative cost to those responsible for collection, I wonder whether we should look at the case for saying that this has gone on long enough.

Lord Hardie: That would appear to be outwith the scope of the Bill and it would also be a matter for the local authorities charged with collecting arrears. The effect of not collecting arrears would have financial consequences for local authorities. No doubt they will weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of recovering or not recovering, as the case may be.

In relation to the limitation point, perhaps I may write to the noble Earl. I shall check the position and give a definitive response.

On Question, amendment agreed to.


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