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Baroness Hollis of Heigham: I am sorry that I have failed to make clear the position with regard to the bands of income. As this goes to the core of the Bill, it is important that we share the information now.
The £2,500 applies to those people who are getting the new tax credits, but clearlygiven that only those getting working tax credit and children's tax credit normally will be getting high value tax creditsthat is where the benefit of the £2,500 incentive comes into play. The noble Earl, Lord Russell, was absolutely right to use that phrase. It applies to all claimants, but those on higher incomes are likely only to be receiving the family element of child tax credit, so in practice they are unlikely to benefit because that element is the relatively modest one.
It most helps those who are on the taper with working tax credit and children's tax credit. Thereafter, it tapers and then flattens for those receiving only the children's elementfrom £20,000 to £50,000. Then a smaller, final, gentle taper of about seven pence in the pound is available for those coming off the family element before they come on to child benefit. The main groups of people who will benefit from the asymmetry are those on modest incomes, those who may be going up from £10,000 to £12,000, or from £12,000 to £14,000. Over that three or four year period, if they receive regular increases of that kind, they will in any event move out of that taper and be on the family element alone.
If the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, would like me to write him a more detailed explanation of how these bands are to work, he might find that helpful before we return to this issue at Report stage. I shall be happy to copy that letter to the noble Earl, Lord Russell.
Baroness Hollis of Heigham: Obviously I will defer to the Chairman. I understand that, provided that there is no dissent, government amendments can be accepted by the Committee and incorporated into the Bill. If there is dissent, that does not happen and we would revisit the issue on Report.
Lord Higgins: This circumstance did not arise at our sitting the other day. I think I am right in saying that we went through the entire sitting with all the amendments being withdrawn. Given the scale of government amendments to the Bill, I do not think I would wish to agree them. We may well wish to return to the matter on Report.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: There must be some misunderstanding. Historically, Grand Committees have always been used for the specific purpose of carrying government amendments. We once had a Grand Committee which did nothing else but consider government amendments in order that the Bill could be produced, as it came out of Committee, in the form in which it was intended it should go forward for Report. It would be very undesirable indeed if we were to start opposing government amendments in Grand Committee because we would end up with a Report stage which was unduly delayed and based on a false impression of the Government's intentions.
The Deputy Chairman of Committees: Any issue on which agreement cannot be reached should be considered again on Report when, if necessary, Divisions may be called. Unless, therefore, an amendment is likely to be agreed to, it should be withdrawn.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I do not say that the noble Lord, Lord Higgins is not within his rights to oppose the amendment. However, I do say that this is not the understanding between the usual channels about Grand Committees. We have found it helpful for government amendments to be carried so that the Bill can be considered better on Report.
However, this amendment raises matters of considerable complexity which we shall wish to debate on Report. That is true of a great many of the amendments for reasons we well know; namely, that so many amendments have turned up at the last minute and have not been discussed by the Commons at all. If we were to agree to it, it would then become part of the Bill, and if we wanted to raise the matter again on Report, we would have to table an amendment to change that.
Lord Higgins: In that situation we would end up with a huge list of Opposition amendments. Clearly our sole objectivethere is no partisan point in any of thisis to improve the structure of the Bill. However, if we go along with what the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, suggests is normal practicewe are in a somewhat unusual situation on this Bill because of the vast mass of government amendmentsthen we would end up with the onus of moving amendments on the Opposition side rather than on the Government side, though in fact the Bill is being amended by the Government.
A real problem arises here. The circumstances are not entirely normal but, in any case, unless there is general assent to the amendmentsand those we have just been discussing raise considerable questions with regard to equity between those people receiving tax credits and those not receiving tax creditswe need to consider how best to proceed. If, however, the Government are proposing that this whole wodge of amendments, which have not been considered at all by the Commons and which we are now having put before us, should simply go into the Bill leaving the Opposition to table an equally long stream of amendments to knock them out, that is not a very satisfactory way of proceeding in the scrutiny of the Bill.
Baroness Hollis of Heigham: Perhaps I can make a substantive point and then leave the process point to the noble Lord. It is simply this: some government amendments arise later which are based on shared care. They were propelled into the domain absolutely rightly by the noble Earl, Lord Russell, and do have a policy implication. I can understand the noble Lord having reservations; a lot of amendments were indeed tabled late. But in practice it is now seven or eight days after those amendments were tabled and, had we been on the Floor of the House, I would have been amazed had there been any suggestion that government amendments of a technical and drafting sorteven if they were quite numerous because they were repetitiveshould be resisted by the Opposition. All that does is make a distinction between awards and entitlements.
This is not a policy point; it is a drafting point. Naturally I expect Members to come back on Report to push me on whether £2,500 is the appropriate cap or £1,500, or whether asymmetry was a proper principle to pursue. Unless we have the Bill in a shape to which those amendments can be added, we shall have a double problem on Report. On the one hand I am moving technical amendments while on the other the noble Lord is trying to move amendments to my technical amendments which address the policy substance. I should have thought it would have been for the greater convenience of the Committee if we got the technical drafting out of the way. That would allow us to revisit on Report the policy issues over asymmetry in rises and falls in income.
Lord Higgins: The noble Lord is being extremely helpful. Can I be clear about this? Our objectives are all the same. It is merely a question of procedure. The House of Commons has not considered these amendments at all. They have all been tabled after the Bill has arrived here. If we go along with the procedure that the noble Baroness is suggesting and put them in the Bill, will the House of Commons consider those amendments when the Bill goes back there?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I wanted to confirm that the noble Earl, Lord Russell, is right. Unless an amendment achieves universal consent, it cannot be made in Grand Committee. However, from the beginning, one of the purposes of Grand Committee has been explicitly that government amendments can be made, and when the Bill goes from Grand Committee to the whole House on Report, noble Lords can see the Bill as the Government wish it to be presented on Report.
On one occasionperhaps the Clerks will remind me; it may have been the Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Billthere were so many government amendments that a whole session of Grand Committee was devoted entirely to doing nothing else but passing government amendments. Government amendments have been agreed to on virtually every Bill that has gone before a Grand Committee since the procedure was adopted.
The noble Lord, Lord Higgins, is right. This is not a partisan point at all. It has been found to be helpful if the House on Report can consider the Bill as the Government would wish it to be presented. There is still the opportunity for the Opposition or anybody else to propose amendments to those matters which have been inserted into the Bill in Grand Committee. My noble friend Lady Hollis is right in saying that any amendment, whether it is made in Grand Committee or on Report, goes back to the House of Commons
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