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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am not sure that I am grateful to the noble Baronesses, Lady Wilcox and Lady Barker, for their reception of the regulations and the order. Clearly, both noble Baronesses are concerned with much wider issues than those which are involved in these limited statutory instruments. The noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, did not quite say that she does not believe that the money would go into the health service, but she said that the money that went into it would be wasted on more managers, that it would not result in good value for money, and that what we are proposing here is a return to a tax and spend culture.

It is sufficiently clear from what has happened to the health service that the improvements are being made at the front line. Since 1997 we have gained 15,000 more doctors and consultants, 30,000 more therapists and scientists, and 35,000 more nurses, midwives and health visitors. If there is any question as to how the money has been spent, we have introduced independent audit procedures and scrutiny procedures, including scrutiny of patient complaints.

These national insurance contributions will help to fund the 7.4 per cent annual real growth in spending for the National Health Service, which amounts to 8.6 billion in the year 2003–04.

I am also confident that the way in which it is being raised is fair. It is right that the contributions should be from all employees—that is the Beveridge principle that people in work pay for benefits and health services that they will need when they are no longer in work. That has been the principle since the 1940s. It is also right that employers should contribute, since the Confederation of British Industry itself estimated that in 2001, workplace absence for health reasons cost employers 11.8 billion. This is good value for money for both employers and employees and I have no apology whatsoever for the policy behind it.

As for the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, I have of course read them all before: I read Steve Webb's speech and Dawn Primarolo's reply. I must tell the noble Baroness that this is not a debate about the Green Paper or about the principle of the

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reduced rate; it is a debate about who should make contributions to the National Health Service. I noticed that she did not for a moment say that married women should not make their fair contribution to the National Health Service. My noble friend Lady Hollis and I should be happy to debate with the noble Baroness on any proper occasion the whole issue of married women and reduced-rate contributions, but that issue is not before us. The issue is who should contribute to increased funding for the National Health Service. On that, I am glad that we are in agreement. I commend the regulations to the House.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Social Security (Contributions) (Re-rating and National Insurance Funds Payments) Order 2003

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 5th February be approved [11th Report from the Joint Committee].—(Lord McIntosh of Haringey.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Child Benefit and Guardian's Allowance (Decisions and Appeals) Regulations 2003

9.32 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Baroness Hollis of Heigham) rose to move, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 5th March be approved [13th Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I beg to move that the Child Benefit and Guardian's Allowance (Decisions and Appeals) Regulations 2003 be approved.

I should have loved to extend the previous debate and suggested that, with hindsight, we all have 20:20 vision. I know from my experience of women who were required to contribute to pension schemes and may have objected at the time but were retrospectively jolly glad; but the reverse can be true. But I shall stick to my own regulations tonight, not trespass on my noble friend's territory, and ask your Lordships to approve the regulations.

The regulations transfer responsibility for decision making in child benefit and guardian's allowances to the Commissioners of the Inland Revenue, as provided for under Section 50 of the Tax Credit Act 2002. That Act transferred responsibility for the administration of both child benefit and guardian's allowance to the board—that is, the Commissioners of the Inland Revenue.

In June 2001, the Prime Minister announced the transfer of responsibility for child benefit and guardian's allowance in Great Britain. That was followed a couple of months later by confirmation

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from the Northern Ireland Assembly. The transfer there will occur on 1st April. So the policy intent of the regulations has already been well discussed and aired in your Lordships' House.

Child benefit and guardian's allowance will remain social security benefits and the rules that govern entitlement to them and how they should be administered will remain those set out in existing social security Acts. The four sets of regulations on child benefit and guardian's allowance laid on 3rd March, of which this set forms part, bring together in a consolidated set of regulations all the provisions in secondary legislation that govern those two benefits across the UK as a whole. That is the reason for their length. The new regulations are necessary as a result of the transfer of responsibility to the Inland Revenue.

In other words, there is no policy change; the regulations consolidate a whole set of regulations scattered across a whole set of social security legislation, further complicated by the fact that the current legislation applies both to Great Britain and to Northern Ireland, and we are bringing them together into one.

The new sets of regulations ensure that those claiming, or advising claimants on these benefits, as well as the Revenue itself, will need only to refer to a single set of up to date provisions that clearly set out the extent of the Revenue's powers in relation to those benefits.

The particular set of regulations before your Lordships today replace those provisions in the current Social Security and Child Support (Decisions and Appeals) Regulations, and the Northern Ireland equivalent, relating to child benefit and guardian's allowance. They create a consolidated set of regulations governing all decisions made by the board in relation to child benefit and guardian's allowance in Great Britain and Northern Ireland, including when decisions can be changed, information can be requested, payment can be suspended or entitlement terminated and finally when and how claimants can appeal those decisions. I repeat that there is no policy change. It is consolidation—something that usually your Lordships anxiously ask us to pursue.

I am sure that your Lordships would like me to make it clear that appeals against decisions on these benefits will continue to be heard by the same appeals tribunals as now. They will be governed by the Social Security Act 1998, as now, and there is no intention of changing that.

These regulations merely replace the existing regulations in Great Britain and Northern Ireland—a consequence of the transfer of responsibility. They do not change the nature of any of the rights, nor the responsibilities or powers provided for in the existing regulations. That was not the intention of the transfer.

In practice, therefore, claimants will see no difference as a result of the new regulations. They will have the same rights and responsibilities under these new regulations as they do now. They will be able to appeal against decisions in the same way and to the

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same appeal bodies as now. In Great Britain, that means an appeal tribunal or the Appeals Service and in Northern Ireland its equivalent. But those who rely on understanding the precise powers that apply to decisions of the Inland Revenue in such cases, such as local advice groups, legal advisers and the Revenue's own decision-makers, will be able to rely on a single, clear set of provisions, because we are consolidating them.

In line with the principles of the Tax Law Rewrite, we have tried to ensure that these new regulations are written in simple, plain English to make them as easy as possible to follow, given the complex situations that they need to cover. We also felt that taking the opportunity to consolidate the regulations was preferable to relying on ad hoc amendments to the existing regulations to ensure maximum clarity and accessibility.

As I have said, these regulations make no substantive changes to claimants' rights and responsibilities. But I hope that your Lordships will agree that that is a useful clarification. They are necessary because of the development of new tax credits and the implications for children.

In conclusion, I am satisfied that these regulations are compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. I commend the regulations to your Lordships, noting that they are essentially a bundle of technical changes transferring policy responsibility from the Department for Work and Pensions to the Board of Inland Revenue. The appeals and decision-making process remains unaltered, policy remains unaltered, and consolidation should increase clarity. With that, I hope that these regulations will be warmly welcomed.

Moved, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 5th March be approved [13th Report from the Joint Committee].—(Baroness Hollis of Heigham.)

Baroness Wilcox: My Lords, I thank the Minister for her canter through the draft Child Benefit and Guardian's Allowances (Decisions and Appeals) Regulations 2003. I am happy to accept these regulations which transfer the administration of the payment of child benefit and the guardian's allowance from the Department for Work and Pensions to the Inland Revenue. For benefits to reach those who need them most, it is essential that the system is as simple and as user-friendly as she described. I understand from the ninth report of the Standing Committee on Delegated Legislation that these regulations go quite a way to achieving that.

I note that those individuals who are currently responsible for the administration of child benefit and guardian's allowance will still be responsible after the transfer, in the same location and in the same job. The only change is that they will be part of the Inland Revenue. There should therefore be no additional training costs or significant costs resulting from the

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transfer of responsibilities, but I should like to seek reassurance from the Minister on that. That apart, I am pleased to support these draft regulations.


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