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Lord Higgins: My Lords, the intention of the amendment was to introduce the idea that there might be a review. Therefore I can happily withdraw the amendment, although there may be some outstanding points on Amendment No. 39 to which we shall come in due course--although that amendment, as I understand it, is designed to deal with points I raised in Committee. I shall read the noble Baroness's reply carefully. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 7 [Decisions by officers of Board]:

Baroness Hollis of Heigham moved Amendment No. 4:


Page 3, line 40, after ("made") insert ("for the purposes of this paragraph").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, perhaps I may speak also to Amendments Nos. 5 to 10. These are all technical amendments.

Amendments Nos. 4 and 5 deal with two technical points arising in Clause 7(1). The first ensures that the regulations referred to at the beginning of paragraph (f) mean only those made for the purposes of that paragraph rather than regulations governing entitlement generally to SSP or SMP. The second deals with the missing consequential amendment in paragraph (h) which was mentioned at Committee stage by the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart. We are most grateful to the noble Lord for pointing it out, however embarrassing it may be to the parliamentary draftsman. It is a case of "Bingo!" for the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, He was absolutely right.

Amendments Nos. 6 and 7 make clear provision for the kinds of decisions that can be varied or superseded in accordance with regulations under Clause 9.

The effect of Amendment No. 6 is to make it clear that decisions that supersede earlier decisions can be varied. Amendment No. 7 ensures that a decision which

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has been confirmed or varied by the tax appeal commissioners can subsequently be superseded--but only where circumstances have changed since the decision in a way which justifies a different decision. Nothing in the amendments creates a general right for officials to overturn decisions of an independent tribunal.

There are a number of possible circumstances where decisions may need to be varied. Examples are where the original decision was incorrect for some reason, such as being based on incomplete or incorrect facts. Where circumstances change so that the continuing effect of an original decision is no longer appropriate, then a fresh decision can be made to supersede the original decision. For example, the employment status of an individual may be one such matter in which there may be a move between employment and self-employment.

The purpose of Amendment No. 8 is to ensure that a variation by an officer of an earlier decision, and a decision which supersedes an earlier decision, both carry a right of appeal to the tax appeal commissioners.

As it stands, Clause 10 expressly confers a right of appeal against decisions made under Clause 7 of the Bill. But without this amendment there would be no explicit right of appeal against the variation or superseding of a decision. Amendment No. 8 makes clear provision for appeals in both of those instances.

Amendments Nos. 9 and 10 are further technical amendments to ensure that regulations made by the board can cater for matters that arise pending or out of decisions.

As it stands, Clause 13 (1)(a) enables provisions to be made in regulations for matters arising pending a decision by an officer of the board, but we believe that we need to provide also for matters which arise pending the determination by the tax appeal commissioners of an appeal from such a decision.

The regulations may need to provide in particular for the arrangements to be made for the payment of contributions due under a decision of an officer while that decision is under appeal. Amendment No. 10 enables such provision to be made. These are all technical amendments. I beg to move.

Lord Goodhart: My Lords, I agree that these are all technical amendments. I can only say that, knowing the great skill of the parliamentary draftsmen, it is a rare occasion when one is able to score a goal against them.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, the House and we on the Government Benches in particular are grateful to the noble Lord for his perspicacity on his feet. I hope that your Lordships will accept the amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham moved Amendment No. 5:


Page 4, line 5, leave out ("that Act") and insert ("the Social Security Administration Act 1992").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

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Clause 9 [Decisions varying or superseding earlier decisions]:

Baroness Hollis of Heigham moved Amendments Nos. 6 and 7:


Page 5, line 17, after ("Act") insert ("(including a decision superseding an earlier decision)").
Page 5, line 21, at end insert (", and
( ) for any such decision as confirmed or varied by the tax appeal Commissioners on appeal to be superseded, in the event of a material change of circumstances since the decision was made, by a subsequent decision made by an officer of the Board.").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 10 [Appeals against decisions of Board]:

Baroness Hollis of Heigham moved Amendment No. 8:


Page 5, leave out lines 28 and 29 and insert--
("(A1) This section applies to any decision of an officer of the Board under section 7 of this Act or under regulations made by virtue of section 9(1)(b) of this Act (whether as originally made or as varied under regulations made by virtue of section 9(1)(a) of this Act).
(1) In the case of a decision to which this section applies--").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 13 [Matters arising as respects decisions]:

Baroness Hollis of Heigham moved Amendments Nos. 9 and 10:


Page 7, line 6, at end insert--
("( ) pending the determination by the tax appeal Commissioners of an appeal against any such decision,").
Page 7, line 10, at end insert--
("( ) Regulations under this section may, in particular--
(a) make provision making a person liable to pay contributions pending the determination by the tax appeal Commissioners of an appeal against a decision of an officer of the Board, and
(b) make provision as to the repayment in prescribed circumstances of contributions paid by virtue of the regulations.").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

4.15 p.m.

Clause 19 [Payments in respect of money purchase contracted-out pension schemes to be made out of National Insurance Fund]:

Lord Higgins moved Amendment No. 11:


Leave out Clause 19.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment proposes to leave out Clause 19. I raised the amendment because I am not clear as to the principle of the clause. The clause affects payments in respect of money purchase contracted-out pension schemes to be made out of the National Insurance Fund. Again, I should declare an interest, although the fund of which I am chairman is a final salary scheme and not a money purchase one.

There has been a long history, following the original Budget of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in which the changes in advance corporation tax deprived many pension funds of about £5 billion. Subsequently, a series of changes were recommended by the Government Actuary with regard to how the rebates should be

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adjusted between money purchase and final salary schemes and personal pensions. However, alas, the recommendations of the Government Actuary were not accepted. The overall effect was to push people back into SERPS and, I imagine, in turn to generate more public expenditure of about £500,000.

This is all in the context of the explanatory note which appears at the right hand margin, but I am still not clear as to the purpose of the clause. The problems I have just mentioned have been serious. Much of the clause refers to Northern Ireland and we understand why those changes may be necessary. Even if the situation in Northern Ireland continues as the Government and everyone hope, there are other amendments which reflect the possible change in the situation there.

Leaving Northern Ireland to one side, if the helpful Explanatory Notes are to be believed, what is happening is that the national insurance rebates will be funded from the National Insurance Fund. There are arrangements for paying in and paying out from the Consolidated Fund to the National Insurance Fund, but I am not clear as to the purpose of the merry-go-round. Earlier, we discussed the role of the National Insurance Fund and there were discussions between the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, and myself as to whether it is a pipe or a tank, with flows inwards or outwards.

However, the function of the fund becomes increasingly uncertain with respect to why particular amounts of money--on a substantial scale presumably--should be paid in one direction or another. I wish to ask the Minister whether it has anything to do with the other problems I mentioned which still have severe repercussions. Alternatively, is there some object to the clause which I have been unable to discern? I beg to move.


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