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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the ministerial group has met several times. I am a member of it and I have not been able to attend a single meeting because of other responsibilities. The noble Baroness is right to say that Taskforce 2000 has been replaced by Action 2000. It has a part-time chairman in Don Cruickshank who is of course the director-general of Oftel. However, as the noble Baroness may be aware, it has recently appointed a full-time chief executive, Gwynneth Flower, who has been the chief executive of the Central London Training and Enterprise Council. The budget for Action 2000 has been increased from about £1 million to about £10 million. It is not a question that we are not taking this matter seriously.
Lord Peyton of Yeovil: My Lords, I am sure the whole House welcomed the original Answer of the noble Lord, and particularly the statement that he made that this country is leading others in the precautions it is taking. I hope he will bear in mind the fact that it is possible for this country to be immensely affected by confusion imported from and generated elsewhere.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, of course that is right. One of the reasons it is perhaps more important for us to be ahead of the game is because we are so much a trading nation and so much of our national infrastructure is internationally dependent. I must confess that although I am sure we are doing what we can, I am by no means confident of the outcome. One of the things we have to consider is what happens if things go wrong. Perhaps we could have a kind of civil defence programme to be brought into force on 1st January 2000.
Lady Saltoun of Abernethy: My Lords, would the noble Lord like me to help him reassure the House by telling him that when I borrowed a computer from the computer room the other day, I was assured that all House of Lords computers were millennium bug-free?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am grateful for that. I thought that I had already given the assurance that all purchases by Government have been millennium bug-free since September 1996. There are other things that can still go wrong.
The Government will shortly be announcing the membership of and terms of reference for a national advisory group on personal, social and health education in schools. The group will in principle be able to consider personal finance and other aspects of financial literacy as part of its work.
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, yes, the Government very much accept that preparing young people in this area is enormously important. Indeed, perhaps if I had been better prepared I might have made a little more money throughout my life than I have done.
We shall be interested to learn from the Personal Finance Education Group. Officials with observer status have represented the department on it and want to work closely with it. The Government are also aware of the good practice schemes involving education business partnerships which help prepare people for the realities of economic life. They are always interested in hearing about successful schemes of this kind.
The Earl of Clanwilliam: My Lords, in view of the Minister's remarks about the necessity for preparation, does the noble Baroness accept that teachers responsible for the operation of such a scheme will have been brought up in the 1960s and 1970s when the idea of savings and personal finance was not a major subject of the curriculum? Now that young adults are expected more and more to start saving early, as soon as they start earning, should not more importance be placed on the training of teachers on this important subject?
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, yes, I entirely accept that. Through the standards fund the Government want to find ways of providing better training for teachers in this area, in particular in-service training. We shall be looking at that. The subject can best be covered in personal and social education. I have no doubt that the advisory group that the Government are setting up will wish to look at teacher training as part of its remit.
Lord Beloff: My Lords, does the Minister agree that one of the problems of revising the curriculum is the number of subjects that people wish to put into it? Is it not most important that space be preserved for subjects which help children ultimately to earn an income rather than the problem of managing it when they have one?
Lord Carter: My Lords, between the two debates today, my noble friend Lady Hayman will, with the leave of the House, repeat a Statement that has been made in another place on the Greater London Authority White Paper.
Moved, That the debate on the Motion in the name of the Lord Allen of Abbeydale set down for today shall be limited to three-and-a-half hours and that in the name of the Lord Alton of Liverpool to one-and-a-half hours.--(Lord Carter.)
Clauses 1 to 3, Clauses 9 and 10, Clause 40, Clause 11, Clause 41, Clause 12, Clauses 18 and 19, Clauses 4 to 8, Schedule 1, Clause 13, Schedules 2 and 3, Clause 42, Clauses 14 and 15, Schedule 4, Clauses 16 and 17, Schedule 5, Clauses 20 to 24, Clause 35, Clause 59, Clauses 25 and 26, Clause 43, Clauses 27 and 28, Clause 44, Clauses 29 to 34, Clauses 36 and 37, Clause 39, Clauses 45 to 58, Clauses 60 to 69, Clause 38, Clauses 73 and 74, Clauses 70 to 72, Clauses 75 to 80, Schedules 6 and 7, Clause 81.--(Baroness Hollis of Heigham.)
Lord Renton: My Lords, having carefully studied the amazing sequence which the Minister has inserted on the Order Paper for discussion of the clauses and schedules of the Social Security Bill, may I ask the noble Baroness how she justifies this confusing disorder? It is not the first time in recent weeks that we have had such a Motion. We had one on the Crime and Disorder Bill, for example, and it did not help very much. Can the noble Baroness tell the House how she justifies jumping to and fro with clauses and schedules? It really cannot help the Committee stage to go smoothly.
Lord Higgins: My Lords, perhaps I may say that with her customary courtesy the noble Baroness was kind enough to send me a note which purported to explain the listing which now appears on the Order Paper. It transpired that further changes were necessary. One has only to look at the Order Paper to realise that it really is a rather extraordinary mess and will be rather difficult to deal with at Committee stage. Nonetheless, I think that its present form is the best that can be achieved.
In the light of the Statement that we shall have tomorrow--we may well have a great deal more social security legislation in the future--will the noble Baroness give an assurance that we shall not be faced with a similar situation again? Does she agree that the initial drafting of the Bill most certainly should have been in a more logical order?
Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I have very real sympathy with the points made by both the noble Lords, Lord Renton and Lord Higgins. The Bill is complex. It introduces unified decision-making and appeals arrangements across the range of departmental business. That means that many of the provisions are mirrored in a number of different clauses--on housing benefit, child benefit and vaccine damage.
To help the flow of debate, the order for consideration brings together clauses which cover the same issue, even though they may appear by clause number in different parts of the Bill, but in relation to different aspects of the department's business. For example, Clause 10 covers the revision of benefit decision. Those provisions are mirrored in Clause 40 in relation to child support decisions so they have been brought together for the purposes of debate.
We have not changed the order in which the main issues of the Bill are laid out. Part I deals with decision-making and appeals; Part II deals with national insurance matters; Part III deals with various benefit issues; and that order remains. We have grouped the clauses and schedules on the same subject in a sensible way.
I have two further points. First, the proposed order does not mirror the way in which the Bill was handled in the Commons Committee because the structure for the Commons Committee was even more complex, with even more clauses moved around. This grouping mirrors the way in which the Bill was handled at Report stage in the Commons.
Secondly, as the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, kindly indicated, this was agreed in consultation with the official Opposition Front Bench and the Liberal Democrat Opposition Front Bench. As regards the complexity of the drafting, and as regards lawyers and parliamentary draftsmen, I suspect that as a distinguished lawyer the noble Lord, Lord Renton, has more insight into that aspect than I have.
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