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Lord Higgins: My Lords, I have two questions. First, did the Chancellor make clear what the position was on savings in the course of his Budget speech, when he announced the guarantee? Secondly, I am somewhat astonished at how little the cost is. If I understood it correctly, the noble Baroness said that to raise the limit would cost £110 million and to abolish all capital restraints would cost £1 billion. From a personal point of view, I am rather surprised that that is so. One knows what frightful anguish there is, particularly among pensioners, who find that their last bit of capital has to be run down before they can receive any benefits.

11.15 p.m.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, the noble Lord asks whether the Chancellor made it clear in his Budget speech. He made it clear to me. I am sorry if the noble Lord did not get the same understanding, but I was perfectly well aware that a minimum income guarantee, a disablement income guarantee or a pensioner's income guarantee was subject to the capital rules. That has always been the case. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer had meant to say, "Irrespective of the capital they may have in this, and only in this, case", he would have said so. He did not. Therefore the existing framework of capital rules applies as elsewhere. That is perfectly unambiguous.

Lord Higgins: My Lords, did the Chancellor make it clear to the public at large, who may not necessarily be aware of this point?

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, in all fairness, the Chancellor of the Exchequer can hardly read out the Social Security Rule Book or the way he is building on WFTC. He made it clear, as the DSS in its turn made clear with the minimum income guarantee, that this is subject to the capital rules. The reason for that is a perfectly proper one. People who might have quite low incomes--say, a pension--who are in their sixties, and then their elderly parents die and they inherit a substantial sum of money from a property (say, £50,000, £100,000 or £150,000), cannot reasonably still expect to enjoy income support coming from other taxpayers who may have fractionally higher earnings but no capital at all. That is the reason for the capital rules. It is not unreasonable that people should draw down their capital.

I said to the noble Lord that if we were to raise the capital ceilings from £3,000 to £5,000 and from £5,000 to £10,000--these figures came out in discussions with the honourable Member in the other place, Mr. Webb, of the Liberal Democrat Party--the cost would be £110 million; if we were to abolish the ceiling altogether, as a ballpark figure the cost would be £0.75 billion to £1 billion. Those are very large sums

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going to people who have a generous amount of capital. That cannot be reasonable and I hope the noble Lord will therefore feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Swinfen: My Lords, I shall withdraw the amendment. But I shall read with interest what has been said by all who have taken part in the debate and may possibly come back at Third Reading. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 10 not moved.]

Clause 3 [Transfer of associated property, rights and liabilities etc.]:

[Amendment No. 11 not moved.]

Clause 5 [General functions of Board]:

Lord Astor of Hever moved Amendment No. 12:


Page 2, line 45, at end insert--
("( ) The Board shall take reasonable steps to ensure that a person applying for working families' tax credit is aware that if she fears domestic violence from her partner she may submit the claim form without the signature of her partner.")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 12 seeks to ensure that a woman fearing domestic violence from her partner should be able to apply for WFTC without first obtaining his signature. Writing this on to the face of the Bill would ensure that this option was made plain in all WFTC forms and leaflets.

The proposed legislation assumes that couples are able to discuss together who should receive the payment. Indeed, the WFTC explanatory leaflet advises a couple to think how they budget and who organises the family's money in deciding who should receive the payments. But the CAB tells me that it sees many clients who are not in a position to reach agreement with their partners. In particular, women living in violent relationships may be afraid to assert their wish to receive WFTC.

Many women seeking CAB help because of domestic violence are short of money and cannot meet the needs of their children. It is likely that those most in need of exercising the choice for WFTC payments will be those least able to exercise it. The CAB told me of a typical case in the south of England of a woman with one daughter whose husband was both an alcoholic and violent. He spent all their benefit income on drink and she had no money at all. She and her daughter were afraid to live at home.

According to a women's unit fact sheet--Better for women, better for all--the Government are making violence against women a priority, as women themselves are telling them that it is one of their biggest concerns. Indeed, the Women's Unit commissioned a package of research into the accommodation support services for households experiencing domestic violence.

The noble Baroness, the Lord Privy Seal, is the Minister for Women. Indeed, according to this fact sheet, she is a member of the ministerial committee overseeing the Violence Against Women crime reduction programme. When the Minister responds,

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perhaps she can tell me whether she has discussed this amendment with her noble friend the Lord Privy Seal and whether or not she welcomes it.

At present, family credit must be paid to the female partner. Under WFTC, it is proposed that the couple will decide who is to claim. We wish to ensure that a woman, fearing domestic violence from a partner, should be able to submit a claim for WFTC on her own, without the signature of her partner. We believe that that should be stated in the WFTC claim pack and contained in primary legislation so that it cannot be ignored in the future. I beg to move.

Lord Goodhart: My Lords, I certainly support the spirit behind these amendments. As far as concerns Amendment No. 12, I believe that what the noble Baroness said in response to Amendment No. 6 makes it clear that the Government have already gone some way towards this position. In the event of the couple failing to reach an agreement as to which of them is to receive the tax credit, it is now clear that the Government are prepared to authorise the Inland Revenue to accept applications submitted by the caring parent herself, without the signature of her partner. The only practical question is whether the parties need to have made an attempt to agree; in other words, the right of the caring partner to submit an application without the partner's signature can only be done if there has been discussion about it. At any rate, in exceptional circumstances, it would mean that the caring partner could do it without reference to the working partner.

It is desirable, in general, that this should only be done where there has at least been a discussion on the subject. If Amendment No. 12 were adopted, there would obviously be the risk that it could merely postpone rather than avoid the incidents of violence which will happen, not when there is discussion about who is to receive the tax credit but when the man, whom we assume to be the violent working partner, discovers that his non-working partner has already claimed for credit. Of course, that would be an unfortunate situation. Nevertheless, it seems to me that there may be exceptional cases where it would be desirable to have the possibility of applying, even if a previous attempt has not been made to reach an agreement.

I strongly support Amendment No. 13. Indeed, it merely raises again the point I made on Amendment No. 6. At that stage, the noble Baroness's reply was cut off by circumstances before she could make it. Although she indicated by sign language that she would write to me, perhaps this would be an opportunity to put a statement on the record about what the Government intend as regards providing information on this issue in the claim pack.

Lord Swinfen: My Lords, I should also like to express my support for Amendment No. 12. However, we have been given an example of a situation where the husband drinks. I just wonder what the position would

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be where the wife drinks. There is no provision for that and I am not sure that such a situation would be covered by Amendment No. 6.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, with all due respect, I do not think that in this Bill we can sort out all the problems of drinking partners. Other agencies such as Alcoholics Anonymous, or even the police where the situation has escalated into violence, may be more appropriate agencies to deal with the matter.

As regards Amendment No. 12, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Astor, for raising the issue of domestic violence. It becomes your Lordships to discuss this matter even though the hour is late. The noble Lord asked about the work of my noble friend Lady Jay in this respect. She chairs a women's committee which considers violence, among other issues. I represent the DSS on that committee and I work closely with my noble friend, as with other Ministers, both male and female, across government to ensure that issues such as domestic violence are reviewed across the waterfront of government, if I may put it that way.

The noble Lord is quite right in assuming that the Government regard this issue with great concern. Under the guidance of my noble friend we are doing our best to respond to it. We know of some of the circumstances that trigger domestic violence, such as drink and drugs. We are studying anger management. We are also considering issues such as child contact and family contact centres. We recognise that domestic violence occurs but we do what we can to ensure that children at any rate are protected and enjoy a decent quality of family life in so far as the state, in its limited capacity, can ensure that. I am sure that my noble friend Lady Jay will be willing to write to the noble Lord, Lord Astor, if he wishes to know more about our initiatives on this front. I am happy to send him literature, if he wishes.

There is a difference between whether the presumption in a situation of domestic violence is that the couple are still together or whether they are separated. Clearly, if they are together, if she fails to sign his form, or he fails to sign her application form, the money goes to her as the applicant. This position will now be protected--as we said earlier on Amendment No. 6--by regulations to that effect. If they remain as a couple despite domestic violence, the regulations are in place to ensure that she will get the money. If he knocks her around subsequent to that, I am afraid that her recourse then is to the police, women's aid and the like. If the violence has resulted in the couple separating, at that point she becomes, for our purposes, a lone parent. If she is in work, she will qualify for WFTC on her own. If she is not in work, she will not qualify for WFTC; she will be eligible for income support and related benefits. He, as effectively a single, separated man, will qualify for nothing at all. That is the situation as regards domestic violence. I am happy to try to enlarge on any of the wider issues of domestic violence through correspondence or literature, if the noble Lord wishes.

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The second amendment in the group--


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