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Lord Higgins: My Lords, I believe there has been some misunderstanding. The two amendments raise quite different issues. I had understood that they were to be taken separately but the initial typing went wrong. I was told that the typing would not be corrected but we would take the amendments separately. I think that would be more convenient.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I thought the second amendment in the group had already been moved and spoken to. Am I incorrect in that belief? I think the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, thought that too.

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, I was just speaking to Amendment No. 12.

Lord Goodhart: My Lords, I was under the same misapprehension. I had not realised that the amendments had been degrouped. I simply assumed that because they appeared in the same group on the Marshalled List I should speak to both of them simultaneously.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, given the lateness of the hour I wonder whether it would help your Lordships if I said that all the points that were raised by the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart--that I am sure would have been raised by the noble Lord, Lord Astor--sought to make it clear that the couple have a choice as to whom the money is paid and payment is made to that person. Page 6 of the guidance notes points out the things a couple should bear in mind in making that choice and emphasises,

Lord Higgins: My Lords, if the noble Baroness does not mind--I do not think this will greatly inconvenience the House--there are one or two points on the second amendment in the group I should like to have raised, but perhaps the noble Baroness would like to end her discussion on the provision we are discussing and then tackle the next one.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I had hoped I had done that. I hope that in that context the noble Lord, Lord Astor, will withdraw his amendment.

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her reply. She offered to ask her noble friend the Lord Privy Seal to write to me. I would be grateful if she would do so as it is an important point. We wish to consider the matter carefully and may return to it at Third Reading. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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11.30 p.m.

Lord Higgins moved Amendment No. 13:

Page 2, line 45, at end insert--
("( ) The Board shall take reasonable steps to ensure that a couple applying for working families' tax credit is aware that it may be paid to either partner, and that it may be paid by the Board direct to a partner not in employment.")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, there are one or two points which we have not covered for the reasons we have just mentioned. There are very strong feelings, particularly among the Citizens Advice Bureaux, that it is extremely important that the points covered by Amendment No. 13 are accepted by the Government. The CAB have described it as vital that it should be made clear to people that they have the option and the choice. They even recommend that it should be made clear in statute that that is so. Perhaps I may ask the noble Baroness whether the Government accept that point completely? What steps are they taking to ensure that the parties concerned are aware of the choices in this matter?

At the risk of trespassing on the noble Baroness's generosity, perhaps I might add one other point. In the earlier discussion about whether the credit should go to the carer and so on, the CAB has also in the context of this amendment raised the whole question of purse to wallet. As we are a little uncertain at the moment, it would be helpful to know before Third Reading where the noble Baroness stands with regard to the credit being paid to the mother, which is currently the situation under family credit. Does she have a view on whether it should be paid to the mother rather than to others? The CAB stress very strongly that they have a number of specific cases where that would have been helpful.

Lord Goodhart: My Lords, what should be provided by way of information in the forms and the guidance notes is not merely the options that are open to the parties if they agree, but also guidance as to what will happen in the event of their failing to agree. That is the last point where I believe that the present information provided is seriously defective. I am hoping for some indication that clearer information will be given when the forms are produced.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, three points have been raised: first, what information do we give; secondly, whether we believe that essentially the mother should be the recipient of WFTC; and thirdly, the guidance to be given if the parties do not agree.

I do not know if the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, has seen the draft of the October form. I am not sure that I am allowed to do this in your Lordships' House, but perhaps I may point it out.

Lord Henley: My Lords, the noble Baroness is not.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: If the noble Lord, Lord Henley, from a sedentary position, wishes to assist the House, he will allow me to read the words that clearly

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cannot be seen from across the Dispatch Box by the noble Lords opposite. It says in bold type:

    "Please read this note before"-- and the word "before" is in heavy capitals; it is the biggest word apart from "Revenue" on the entire form--

    "you complete the form". It goes on:

    "If you are a married couple (or a man and woman who live together as if you are married) you must decide who is going to apply for and receive the payments. That person completes the form as the applicant and the payments will be made to her or him. Once we receive your application, you cannot change this decision. You do not have to be working to receive payments as long as you have a partner who works". That is written in bold type; it asks people to read the form before they fill it in; I do not think it can be made more visually prominent typographically than it is--even if your Lordships cannot see it across the Dispatch Box. I think your Lordships will agree that the forms are as unambiguous as they can be. These are the October forms; they will be revised again from the following April.

Lord Higgins: My Lords, I am most grateful for that helpful intervention. Does the form also make it clear that it may be paid by the board direct to the partner not in employment?

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, that was the point I was making, perhaps slightly opaquely, by saying that I have the October form, under which it would be paid directly at home, whereas from April it will be paid through the pay packet to the partner who chooses to receive it if that partner is in work. At that point the form will be changed to reflect that additional information. That takes place from April, not from October. I made the point that the form will need to be changed in April.

Lord Swinfen: My Lords, when reading from the form the noble Baroness said that once an option had been taken by the couple as to who was to receive the credit, it could not be changed. What would be the position if the person who was receiving the credit was involved in an accident or was taken ill so that he could not handle the credit? Is there a method for dealing with emergencies such as that?

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, if I may, I will follow up that point in writing. What is certainly the case is that the decision cannot be changed within the six-month period. A WFTC claim runs for six months. The couple could choose to make a different decision at the renewal of the claim after six months. Their circumstances may very well have altered, as they usually do, in that situation. However, the presumption is that, to make it easier for employers and also for the couple concerned, a claim runs for six months. If there were an emergency such as he was no longer in work, it would depend on whether he was still on the employer's payroll on statutory sick pay and therefore whether it could be paid through that if he so wished or whether he was no longer employed at all. In that case, the WFTC

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payment would run and be paid by the board and the couple's income would be topped up by JSA or income support, as appropriate, for the remainder of that six-month period.

The noble Lord raised a specific point about a sudden emergency. It may be helpful if I simply write to him on that point. But normally those circumstances would prevail.

Lord Swinfen: My Lords, with the leave of the House, I thank the noble Baroness. I was thinking of the case of an injury that prevented the person actually dealing with the money, particularly if it was paid into a bank account. Sometimes salaries are paid directly into an account and the other party to the partnership may not have access to that account. That is not at all unusual.

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