Lord Marsh: My Lords, will the Minister elucidate on that response? Does he mean that the higher the level of the minimum wage, the more efficient small businesses will become?
Lord Haskel: My Lords, I mean that if the minimum wage is at a reasonable level, firms will be encouraged to invest.
Lord Waddington: My Lords, is the noble Lord saying that if an employer has to pay more in wages, he will shed labour and go for new technology, thus being able to operate with fewer employees?
Lord Haskel: My Lords, I am afraid that that is the way of business today. Increased productivity often means more investment and fewer people.
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Lord Davies of Coity: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that, with the introduction of the national minimum wage, employers who at the moment provide no training for employees will in future do so? That will make the employees more effective and thereby improve the prosperity of the company.
Lord Haskel: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for making that point. I entirely agree with him. He is absolutely right.
Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, can the Minister say, in plain English, what is the meaning of "mentoring services"? If he does not know, how can he answer any of these questions?
Lord Haskel: My Lords, the meaning of "mentoring services" is clear. The idea is that experienced men and women will help small or new businesses to overcome the errors that they themselves made in their earlier experience.
Art Treasures: Retention in UK
Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare asked Her Majesty's Government:
Whether they will help to retain exceptional art treasures in this country when national or regional museums or galleries are unable to raise enough funds to match 75 per cent. grants from the heritage lottery fund.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, all applications to the heritage lottery fund require an element of partnership funding to demonstrate support for and commitment to the project. Were the Government to provide that funding, it would undermine the demonstration of that commitment. It would also undermine the existing arm's length relationship between the Government and lottery distributors and would risk breaching the principle of additionality.
The lottery has helped towards the purchase of many works of art and the Government help to keep art treasures in the UK through their funding for national and regional museums and galleries, the export control system and concessionary tax schemes.
Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. However, will he agree that there should be exceptions while our nation is going through a period of such glory with its artists and sculptors? Last week we lost Lucian Freud's masterpiece because the Tate Gallery could not, in the time required, put the money together. Will the Government reconsider exceptional circumstances?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the heritage lottery fund set up rules for itself. One of those rules is that it will not normally consider works of art created in the past 20 years. As the noble Lord will know, the
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Lucian Freud "Large Interior, W11" was painted in 1979. In fact, no approach was made to the heritage lottery fund. As a rule, it does not intervene in the sale of works of art in New York, which is where the Freud picture was sold.
Lord Strabolgi: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the Sherborne Missal, which has been on extended loan to the British Library, has now been offered in lieu of inheritance tax? Will the Government ensure that what is probably the most important medieval manuscript in the country is retained?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I too saw the article in The Times last week in relation to the Sherborne Missal and wondered at the illustration shown. I am glad to be able to tell my noble friend that the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport agreed to accept the Missal in lieu of inheritance tax on the estate of the late Duke of Northumberland. Arrangements for transfer to the British Library are in hand.
Lord Quirk: My Lords, will the Minister agree that a general problem with the heritage lottery fund is that good causes are increasingly chasing the funds from a finite number of charities and commercial firms in order to meet the threshold of 25 per cent.? Is not there a case for lowering that 25 per cent. threshold to 15 per cent., or even to 10 per cent., which is currently the target for smaller projects? Even then, as we see with the Handel House Museum, good causes experience great difficulty in raising the money.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I appreciate the difficulty, though I should point out that the threshold set by other distributors of lottery funds for matching funding is actually higher than the 25 per cent. set by the heritage lottery fund. It is the responsibility of the lottery fund itself to establish its threshold. We would be under considerable criticism, not least from the Opposition Front Bench, if we sought to intervene.
Lord Skidelsky: My Lords, I completely accept the case for matching funding, but am still puzzled by what the Minister said. Is it not the case that the conditions for matching funding have been relaxed in other areas? Should not we aim for some consistency over the whole field? Otherwise, we may give some people a sense of being unfairly treated.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the requirement for matching funding is not unfair treatment. If there has been any relaxation in other areas, it is nevertheless the case that the heritage lottery fund has a lower threshold for matching funding than some other distributors. It is not a question of unfairness; it is a question of maintaining the demonstration of commitment for support for a project, which is the basis for requiring matching funding. Indeed, that was established by the previous government.
The Earl of Carlisle: My Lords, has the noble Lord's department earmarked those works of art of exceptional
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value to the nation which it does not wish to see leave this country? If so, will the Minister ensure that the list is brought up to date annually?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am not aware of any such list and I believe it would be impossible to compile one.
Lord Rowallan: My Lords, with nearly £4 billion outstanding which has not been given out so far on this matched funding scheme of the National Lottery Distribution Fund, cannot exceptions be made where a loan is given for exceptional treasures which can be repaid at a later date?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the noble Lord and I have been in correspondence on this matter. It is not the case that £4 billion has not been distributed due to lack of matching funding. The £4 billion to which the noble Lord refers is that amount of money, much of which is committed to future projects, which has not been drawn down. We discourage applicants from drawing down the money until they need it.
Lord Annan: My Lords, in response to the noble Earl's question, is the Minister aware that, certainly in the case of the National Gallery, there is a desiderata list?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am delighted to hear it. I did not suggest that it was not possible to compile individual lists. I was asked by the noble Earl, Lord Carlisle, whether there was a list for the whole country. I expressed doubt as to whether it was possible to compile such a list or bring it up to date.
Business of the House: Tax Credits (Initial Expenditure) Bill
The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Richard): My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.
Moved, That Standing Order 44 (No two stages of a Bill to be taken on one day) be dispensed with on Thursday 21st May to enable the Tax Credits (Initial Expenditure) Bill to be taken through its remaining stages that day.--(Lord Richard.)
On Question, Motion agreed to.
Social Security Bill
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Social Security (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): My Lords, I beg to move that the Commons amendments be now considered.
Moved, That the Commons amendments be now considered.--(Baroness Hollis of Heigham.)
On Question, Motion agreed to.
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COMMONS AMENDMENTS TO CERTAIN LORDS AMENDMENTS[The page and line refer to HL Bill 55 as first printed for the Lords.] LORDS AMENDMENT
Class 1 contributions
After Clause 50, insert the following new clause--
(".--(1) For subsection (1) of section 5 of the Contributions and Benefits Act (earnings limits for Class 1 contributions) there shall be substituted the following subsections--
"(1) For the purposes of this Act there shall for every tax year be--
(a) a lower earnings limit (for primary Class 1 contributions);
(b) an upper earnings limit (for primary Class 1 contributions); and
(c) an earnings threshold (for secondary Class 1 contributions).
(1A) For the tax year 1999-2000, the lower earnings limit (for primary Class 1 contributions) shall be £81.
(1B) For the tax year 2000-2001 and each subsequent tax year, the limits and threshold referred to in subsection (1) above shall be specified for that year by regulations which, in the case of those limits, shall be made in accordance with subsections (2) and (3) below."
(2) For subsection (1) of section 6 of that Act (liability for Class 1 contributions) there shall be substituted the following subsection--
"(1) Where in any tax week earnings are paid to or for the benefit of an earner over the age of 16 in respect of any one employment of his which is employed earner's employment--
(a) a primary Class 1 contribution shall be payable in accordance with this section and section 8 below if the amount paid exceeds the current lower earnings limit (or the prescribed equivalent in the case of earners paid otherwise than weekly); and
(b) a secondary Class 1 contribution shall be payable in accordance with this section and section 9 below if the amount paid exceeds the current earnings threshold (or the prescribed equivalent in the case of earners paid otherwise than weekly)."
(3) For subsections (1) and (2) of section 8 of that Act (calculation of primary Class 1 contributions) there shall be substituted the following subsections--
"(1) Where a primary Class 1 contribution is payable, the amount of that contribution shall be the primary percentage of so much of the earner's earnings paid in the tax week, in respect of the employment in question, as--
(a) exceeds the current lower earnings limit (or the prescribed equivalent); and
(b) does not exceed the current upper earnings limit (or the prescribed equivalent);
but this subsection is subject to regulations under section 6(5) above and sections 116 to 120 below and to section 41 of the Pensions Act (reduced rates of Class 1 contributions for earners in contracted-out employment).
(2) For the purposes of this Act the primary percentage shall be 10 per cent; but the percentage is subject to alteration under sections 143 and 145 of the Administration Act."
(4) For section 9 of that Act there shall be substituted the following section--
"Calculation of secondary Class 1 contributions.
9.--(1) Where a secondary Class 1 contribution is payable, the amount of that contribution shall be the secondary percentage of so much of the earnings paid in the
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tax week, in respect of the employment in question, as exceeds the current earnings threshold (or the prescribed equivalent).
(2) For the purposes of subsection (1) above, the secondary percentage shall be 12.2 per cent; but the percentage is subject to alteration under sections 143 and 145 of the Administration Act.
(3) Subsection (1) above is subject to regulations under section 6(5) above and sections 116 to 120 below and to section 41 of the Pensions Act."").
The Commons agreed to this amendment with the following amendments--
Line 4, leave out ("subsections") and insert ("subsection").