CHILD MAINTENANCE DISREGARD (No. 2)

Orders of the Day — Child Support Bill – in the House of Commons at 4:26 pm on 22nd May 1995.

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'(1) In section 136(5) of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992, after paragraph (b), there shall be inserted the following paragraph— (bb) in calculating the income of a person claiming income support, a prescribed amount of any payment or payments of maintenance made or due to be made by—

  1. (i) the claimant's former partner, or the claimant's partner's former partner; or
  2. (ii) the parent of a child who is a member of the claimant's family, except where that parent is the claimant or the claimant's partner,
shall be disregarded;". (2) At the end of that section, there shall be added the following subsection— (6) In this section 'partner' shall have the meaning prescribed.".'.—[Mr. Bradley.]Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Mr Keith Bradley Mr Keith Bradley Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Social Security) 4:35 pm, 22nd May 1995

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Throughout the passage of the Bill, whether on the Floor of the House or in Committee, the Labour party has attempted to be constructive. In that spirit, I have moved new clause 3, which would introduce a child maintenance disregard into the legislation.

As I am sure you are aware, Madam Speaker, this is the fourth time that we have tried to insert a child maintenance disregard into the Bill. We first attempted to do so by way of a reasoned amendment to the Second Reading debate, and we tried to introduce it in two different ways in Committee. We are now attempting on Report to introduce the disregard, which we believe is a crucial omission from the legislation.

As we have made three previous attempts to introduce a disregard, I do not intend to range over all the issues involved this afternoon. We have always intended to be constructive in the debates, and I hope that our proposals will at last find favour with the Government. However, I proceed with some trepidation, as I do not know whether the Secretary of State, who is lined up against me in the debate, will be persuaded by the logic of the arguments in support of the disregard.

Under the current arrangements, any maintenance that is paid to the parent with care who is in receipt of income support is deducted pound for pound from that income support. Therefore, the parent with care—normally the mother—and subsequently the children do not receive a single penny from any maintenance payment. Despite all the changes that have been made to the Child Support Act 1991 at various stages through the regulations and through this legislation, the situation will not alter, and the arrangements whereby income support is reduced pound for pound will remain in place.

However, the situation could be rectified if income support claimants were able to keep a small amount of every maintenance payment, which would be known as the maintenance disregard. We are attempting to establish the principle of such a disregard in new clause 3. If the Government were to accept that principle this afternoon, we would welcome their views about the level at which to set the disregard, which would then be debated subsequently as part of the regulations and the provisions in the Bill.

Such a child maintenance disregard would essentially have two effects. First, the poorest children would gain from maintenance payments. Secondly, the so-called absent parents—I accept that that definition is not satisfactory, but it is the terminology used in the Bill, so I shall use it for the purposes of the debate—would have an incentive to pay, and parents with care would have an incentive to apply for maintenance through the Child Support Agency.

Let me put the proposal in some overall context. According to official statistics, seven out of 10, or 70 per cent., of one-parent families claim income support. In February 1994, 42 per cent. of all claimants having benefit deducted to replace social fund loans were lone parents, and in 1993, 46 per cent. of parents with care on benefit were repaying fuel debts. Those and other official statistics show that lone parents on income support face particular financial hardship. The child maintenance disregard proposed by the Labour party is an attempt to address the problem.

The Government consistently oppose the proposal, because they do not wish to incorporate any work disincentives into the benefit system; hence their proposal in the Bill to introduce a child maintenance bonus instead. However, that proposal is inadequate.

Like the back-to-work bonus in the new jobseeker's allowance, it does not benefit families at the point of real need, but instead promises help, probably in future but perhaps never, as it may take as long as four years of consistent eligibility to reach full entitlement to the new bonus. We believe strongly that split families, with one parent caring for children, need help immediately, not at some future date.

The Government should recognise that many factors are involved in the decision to seek work, particularly when the needs of young children or other responsibilities, such as caring for sick or disabled relatives or friends, have to be taken into account. Those acting in a caring capacity may not be able to seek work. Even if such a person were available for work, there is clearly no guarantee that work would be available.

Throughout our deliberations on the matter, the Government have been unable to provide clear evidence that introducing a maintenance disregard on income support creates a disincentive to work. I should be grateful if they could provide that evidence this afternoon.

However, to allay the Government's fears on that point, it may be possible to run the small weekly disregard alongside the child maintenance bonus in order to help people back to work, thus enabling lone parents on income support perhaps to take part-time work, and therefore immediately reducing the social security bill and the cost of the disregard, and allowing lone parents to obtain skills and ultimately move into full-time work in the longer term, when their children become less dependent.

In addition, a small disregard provides protection against the complete loss of income support that may be associated with maintenance payments, and other losses, such as free school meals and other benefits, that lead to the classic poverty trap, where someone might end up far worse off through the loss of their total entitlement to income support and insufficient compensation.

It must be stressed that the introduction of such a child maintenance disregard is not the only answer in addressing the enormous problems associated with child poverty, but we believe that it is a clear and proper step in the right direction. The Government, on the other hand, believe that only if lone parents return to work will the problems of poverty really be overcome.

It is interesting to note that, in one of our debates in Committee on that point, there was an exchange of views between my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. Wicks) and the Minister. When he was asked how many people were lifted off benefit by the proposals so far, the Minister recognised that, despite the massive £9 billion currently paid in support of lone parents, only 8,000 out of 1 million people—or less than 1 per cent.—had been lifted off benefit. That shows that more must be done to effect the changes that the Government intend.

4.45 pm

The Opposition are clear that it is not enough to look only at in-work benefits. We have to consider the reality for lone parents who are out of work, their availability for benefit, and the amount of money they should be given to ensure proper care for their children. Many organisations, such as the Child Poverty Action Group, the citizens advice bureaux and many others representing lone parents and single people living in poverty, identified that the Government's approach is far too simplistic, and that we cannot look at work as the only way out of poverty.

There are many reasons why it may not be possible to obtain paid employment. Lone parents with young children may feel it more appropriate to remain at home to care for their children, particularly in their early years.

By refusing to accept the need for a small maintenance disregard, the Government are perpetuating the anomaly whereby children of lone parents who cannot take employment do not gain from the payment of child maintenance. According to the Child Support Agency's own statistics, they represent not only the great majority of CSA clients, but the poorest of those clients.

In Committee, the Government claimed that the welfare of the child was at the heart of the legislation. If that is the case, they would surely wish to accept new clause 3. It would give more money to the children of parents with care; it would act as an incentive to co-operate with the agency; it would provide an incentive for so-called absent parents to pay maintenance; and it would help restore public confidence in the agency by showing people on income support that the Treasury was not the only gainer and that, crucially, the children would also gain, as was clearly envisaged by the Government's White Paper entitled "Children Come First".

I hope that, even at this late stage in our deliberations, the Government will accept that there is clear merit in introducing the child maintenance disregard. If they accept that, they will clearly wish to add new clause 3 to the Bill.

Photo of Mrs Mildred Gordon Mrs Mildred Gordon , Bow and Poplar

I support what my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Withington (Mr. Bradley) has said. Lone parents with care represent the majority of those on income support, and nothing in the Bill will give immediate help to that group of parents.

All the organisations that support lone parents—those that have attacked the Bill as well as those that feel that the Child Support Agency can do something—are united in asking for a disregard. As has been said, lone parents on income support are often deeply in debt, with rent arrears, debts for utilities and debts for the repayment of social fund loans. They need help now to stop them going under.

Organisations that support lone parents report that they are unable to give their children adequate diets, and that mothers in particular often go hungry, damaging their health and that of their children. Those parents may never be able to return to work successfully, even when their children are of school age, because they will have got into such difficulties. If they are not helped now, the Bill will postpone long-term solutions, not provide them.

The maintenance bonus, which will take some years to accrue fully, could be paid in addition to a disregard. I see no contradiction. The immediate need to alleviate child poverty remains. The Government argue that the way to get lone parents off income support is to make them all go out to work, usually in low-paid jobs—but no paid work is available in many areas.

Employers are often prejudiced against mothers with small children, thinking that their home responsibilities will prevent them from giving full attention to their job. Women often have multiple responsibilities, such as caring for aged or disabled parents, relatives or neighbours. Mothers often do not want to leave children under five years of age. The Government always claim to favour choice, so they should give women the choice whether to leave their children under five to do low-paid jobs or to look after their children themselves.

I have always advocated a nursery place for every child that can benefit from one, but not every child will do so. When I collected my own son from a nursery all day for the first time, I asked him whether he liked it. He said, "It was very nice, but I don't want to go every day." I respected the fact that he was not ready, at the age of three, to leave his mother, be dragged out come rain or shine, and be left with strangers all day.

When my son reached school age, I left secondary teaching to teach in a primary school. It always worried me, when the new intake arrived, to hear some children screaming for weeks on end, making themselves sick. When teachers said that such children had settled down, I often felt that they had given up in despair, and that really they were not ready to be separated from their mothers if they were to grow up as secure, stable individuals. It is wrong to drive all mothers out to work and not give them the chance to enjoy decent living standards while looking after their young children at home.

One third of our children live in households having less than half the average income. If the Child Support Act 1991 and the Bill are to have any effect, they must address, and do something positive to alleviate, child poverty. If the Government ensured that, the public would not think that they were totally uncaring, and huge crowds of angry people would not come to see us, write to us and attend meetings throughout the country because they feel that they are being conned and that the Government do not care about child welfare.

Improving the legislation would have a positive effect on the non-resident fathers, who we want to provide support for their children. Although there may be a few rascals, most fathers care about their children. If they knew that the mothers would enjoy some benefit and be able to raise their income above the level of income support, they would be more eager to pay. For all those reasons, I ask the Government to think again, and to include in the Bill a disregard for parents with care on income support.

Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms , Newham North East

All of us are aware of the enormous problems caused by child support legislation, and many believe that the changes that we are now considering offer the last chance to get the system right and in a form that will be defensible, widely supported and able to function properly. I had hoped and expected that there would be serious scrutiny of the proposals in Committee and an attempt to reach an all-party consensus, so that all hon. Members could have confidence in a supportable way forward.

I am a relatively new Member of the House, so perhaps I was hoping for more than was possible, but no such all-party consensus emerged. Not one speech in Committee was made by a Conservative Back Bencher. Conservative Members made four brief interventions, but that was the sum total of their contribution. I note that those hon. Members are not present in the Chamber.

I am extremely puzzled that so little interest was shown by Conservative Members, that they remain unconcerned about getting the changes right, and that they have failed to display a give-and-take approach that might have led to changes in which we could all have confidence. Not one substantive Opposition amendment has been accepted by the Government. We have before us only the changes that the Government first thought of, which were whipped through the Committee without the serious scrutiny that I had anticipated.

One major reason for the anger surrounding the legislation is that, in many cases, not a penny of the maintenance paid goes to the children who are intended to be the beneficiaries of the child support regime. As 80 per cent. of the agency's caseload is parents with care who are on income support, they account for a high proportion of the total.

The child maintenance bonus offers some prospect of eventually benefiting the children involved, but that payment will not be made immediately. The bonus will anyway be capped and have a fixed maximum value, and many parents with care will never be in a position to receive it.

Despite the changes made by the Bill, we will end up with a child support regime that remains unsupportable and that will continue to provoke immense fury among the people affected by it. The fact that none of the payments will benefit most of the children involved is a major part of the regime's unacceptability. I hope that the Government will accept the new clause, which would be a big step towards creating a defensible system, which all of us want to achieve.

5 pm

Photo of Ms Liz Lynne Ms Liz Lynne , Rochdale

I shall not speak on all the groups of amendments, not out of any particular consideration to right hon. and hon. Members—even though, of course, I have that consideration—or out of any satisfaction with the Bill, which is a poor measure and falls far short of what we would wish to be enacted, but because I do not believe that the Government will move on any of the amendments. It is a waste of time for all of us to sit here and try to make the Government see some sense. I should like the wholesale scrapping of the Child Support Act 1991, but, unfortunately, we are not debating that today.

Parents with care will have their benefit clawed back by the Government, pound for pound. That hardly seems fair or just. The case has been well aired and well argued both on Second Reading and in Committee, so I shall not detain the House for long. I should like to point out, however, that some inconsistency exists between what the Minister has been saying and his position. I heard him say that he deplored children of lone parents living in poverty. The new clause would help to get those children out of that poverty, and they form the bulk of the people we dealt with in the Child Support Act.

The new clause would not do a great deal—that would depend on how we set the maintenance disregard—but it would help. To a certain extent, lone parents and their children would be helped out of poverty

Over and again, the Minister says that he wants to get those parents back to work, which seems to be his argument against granting a maintenance disregard. We shall find out whether that is the case when we debate child care costs later this evening. If he accepts the proposal, perhaps I will believe him, but I doubt that he will. He certainly did not accept it in Committee.

We must realise that some lone parents cannot find work. The Minister knows that other ways exist of getting people out of poverty apart from making them go back into work. A maintenance disregard is one of those ways. If a lone parent wants work and finds it, that is great. No one is against that; everyone would support it. In a way, the maintenance bonus will help them to achieve that, but it does not go far enough.

We must ensure that lone parents and their children are not suffering too much. Therefore, we also need the maintenance disregard. If parents without care felt that their children were benefiting, that would encourage them to co-operate with the Child Support Agency law. I am totally opposed to the Act, but I know that the Government will not move on it, so we must find some way of making it just a little better.

I have not heard the Minister or anyone else advance any convincing arguments against a maintenance disregard. I do not know whether he will suddenly come up with some convincing arguments today, but I doubt it. The proposal would also encourage parents with care to co-operate as they would feel that their children were going to benefit and they know that when income support goes, passported benefit and free school meals go. The maintenance disregard would help to offset that clawback of money.

Voluntary organisations and the Law Society want the new clause to go through. I hope that the Secretary of State and the Minister will accept it. They must ask themselves why all these people want the maintenance disregard, and why everyone recognises the reasons for it except the Government Front-Bench team. The Child Poverty Action Group, for instance, points out that the maintenance bonus is one of the few things proposed to help lone parents with children.

Even though the White Paper says that children come first—and we have said that over and again in Committee—they do not come first in the Bill or the Child Support Act. The Treasury comes first. The Government do not really want to put children first. If they did, they would accept the new clause. The Minister and the Secretary of State can prove that they want children to come first merely by accepting the new clause now.

Photo of Dr Norman Godman Dr Norman Godman , Greenock and Port Glasgow

As always, I promise to be brief, but I should like to ask the Minister a couple of questions. I have long supported child support legislation, but I was always critical of existing legislation, and, indeed, of this Bill. I support new clause 3 and the comments of the hon. Member for Rochdale (Ms Lynne).

I have a number of concerns about the legislation and the way in which it is implemented. What deeply concerns me is the apparent dilatoriness of officials in Falkirk Child Support Agency office, and the often off-hand way in which they treat my constituents.

On Friday evening, a young woman came to see me at my surgery. She is precisely caught up in the circumstances that the new clause seeks to deal with. She has had little or no help from the Falkirk office in more than a year. I intervened on her behalf more than a year ago.

That decent, honourable, poor woman—and she is a poor woman—is living in abject poverty. On Friday evening, she came back to my surgery to complain about what I have just called the apparent dilatoriness of the officials in Falkirk. I would happily bring the details of that case to the Minister's attention, because I know that he will pursue the matter with Miss Chant and her officials.

That young woman is seeking to bring up a child in a rough, tough part of Greenock. She is having an enormously difficult time of it, and she would be helped by better and more courteous assistance from the Falkirk office. She is in difficult circumstances, and, like many others, she would benefit from such support.

I have yet to meet a constituent who, under the extant legislation, is defined as an absent parent and seeks to avoid his obligations to his child or children. Some of them may avoid not only their obligations but my surgeries, knowing that I speak in a fairly straightforward manner on these issues. The overwhelming majority of those people—whose wives may be on income support, and hence would be helped by the acceptance of the new clause—readily acknowledge that they have a duty to protect their children.

Given that the Minister will reject the new clause, may I ask what guidelines are given to local officers in relation to applications made by such mothers for community care grants from the social fund? If they are not to be assisted through a maintenance disregard, why not assist them by way of another disregard: by telling them that they will not be given a crisis loan when they seek assistance to purchase essential resources for the house, but that they will always be considered sympathetically for a community care grant?

Why cannot women caught up in such circumstances be offered community care grants instead of crisis loans? The Minister will resist new clause 3, but if such emphasis were given in relation to parents with care seeking financial assistance from the local Benefits Agency, that would be of some help.

I know of a young person who made such an application to the Benefits Agency in Greenock. She wanted a community care grant, not a loan that she would have to pay back out of her social security income. The young woman concerned had no complaints against the staff of the agency at Greenock. Indeed, the agency is to receive an award in a fortnight's time from Renfrewshire Enterprise because of its business plan and the work that it carries out in the area. Nevertheless, the young woman did not receive a community care grant. My advice to local officials is that, in such circumstances, they should help claimants by offering a community care grant rather than a loan.

If it is custom and practice that a community care grant is usually made available rather than a crisis loan, has that principle been established in local offices? I hope that the Minister will respond positively to my question. For most women—in this instance, we are talking mainly about women—it would be of help to know that they can obtain a community care grant rather than being offered a loan. If it is not custom and practice that such preferential treatment is offered, will the Minister give serious consideration to issuing appropriate guidelines by amending the criteria on which grants and loans are assessed?

I do not want to drift off course, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if you will forgive that maritime metaphor, in anticipation of the Minister's rejection of the new clause. I wish only to make a plea of mitigation. If the new clause is rejected, my question should be given serious attention.

In Australia, disregard is an established practice. I was recently speaking to people who are concerned with child support legislation in South Australia. They assured me that it is working well. The Minister will say, "The hon. Gentleman is bound to say that." I accept that there have been difficulties in implementing that legislation in Australia, but I was told that, in the state of South Australia, it seems to be working well. I am told that, to some extent, it meets the needs of women who are caring for children while living in inadequate housing and being unable to provide their children with the resources that other children come to expect as the normal scheme of things.

In the new clause, we are not asking for a great deal. Surely a compassionate Government should accept it in its entirety. We are not talking about an enormous number of women or a huge amount of money. If the new clause were accepted, some compensation would be made available to those whose lives are at best sparse and at worst characterised by sheer misery.

Photo of Malcolm Wicks Malcolm Wicks , Croydon North West

I support the new clause. I shall start by reflecting on why child support legislation has become controversial, which has necessitated, among other things, the Bill that is before us. That controversy relates directly to the issue which the new clause seeks to take up. It is legislation designed to bring about a cultural change—some might say a cultural revolution—after many years during which fathers were often able to escape financial responsibilities for their children.

Governments worldwide, and certainly in the United Kingdom—rightly, in my view—are seeking to promote the principle of parental responsibility. After many years during which fathers escaped their responsibilities—when court orders were not enforced—our child support legislation perhaps constitutes a major cultural revolution.

5.15 pm

The Government are seeking to respond to two major trends that are affecting the family, both of which are extremely controversial. The first is large-scale separation and divorce, which means that more and more people—adults and children—are living in one-parent families.

Secondly, there is the increasing phenomenon of single-never-married women with children, something to which the House needs to return on another occasion. The phenomenon is to be found in other European nations, but I think that Britain is ahead—I do not use that word in an approving way—and at the top of the league table. Single-never-married women represent the fastest-rising category of single parents in the United Kingdom. They are the group most likely to be dependent on income support.

The divorce phenomenon and the phenomenon of never-married-single women are controversial and would tax any Government. These phenomena have often become controversial also because of maladministration. There is controversy also because a public wider than those immediately concerned are cynical in believing that the Bill is not a true child support measure. When we are presented with evidence that the vast majority of one-parent families—those on income support—are not receiving extra benefit from child support, we can understand the public's cynicism. That is why the new clause should be taken seriously by the House.

Although I have used the term, I am not an Exchequer supporter. I do not disregard the interests of the taxpayer generally. I am struck by the fact, as are my colleagues, I am sure, that many of the families who come to see us at our surgeries are intact families where the marriage has survived. They are two-parent families that are often struggling against the odds, often in difficult economic times and in a difficult job market, to maintain their own children.

One of the difficulties for the Government is that they are presiding over record levels of taxation and at the same time record levels of social security expenditure. They are doing so—this is the paradox that we need to unravel and understand—at a time when there is a record level of social insecurity, in my judgment.

We must not make the mistake of saying—this certainly applies to my right hon. and hon. Friends—that there is an association between social security spending—state benefit spending—and true social security in the community. We need to think through the implications of that. If they can be avoided, I do not want to impose greater burdens on taxpayers who are looking after their own children. At the same time, however, a balance must be struck. In my judgment, a disregard—in other words, enabling one-parent families on income support to receive some of the benefit of child maintenance—is a part of the balance that should be introduced into the system.

If child poverty, not the Treasury, had been at the centre of concern when framing child support legislation, we would have had better social policy. These are always controversial matters, as evidence from various societies shows. At the same time, I think that a wider concern would have produced better social policy.

We need to get to grips with the fact that the rise of one-parent families is perhaps now the major cause—it is certainly a major cause—of child poverty in this country. The Secretary of State will have seen the recent report on low income statistics from the Social Security Committee, which contains a table that shows the total number of children—our children, really—on income support in Great Britain. It is extraordinary in terms of the total number, but what strikes me as important about those data is that, increasingly, it is the one-parent family that is associated with poverty.

Opposition Members—perfectly rightly—say a great deal about unemployment, but in 1992, whereas 865,000 children of parents who were unemployed were on income support, the number of children on income support in lone-parent families was 1,750,000, a much larger number. That is the group that is growing most rapidly. When unemployment goes up and down—we can argue about how far it will go—at least it brings down the number of children in poverty for employment reasons.

As far as I can judge, the rise in the number of lone-parent families is somewhat impervious to changes in the economic cycle. It is certainly on the increase at the present time, even when official unemployment statistics point in the other direction. That major contributor to child poverty is of relevance to the new clause, because in a modest way it is saying, "If we can address the poverty of the children of families on income support, at least that will improve the welfare of those children." The welfare of those children must be at the heart of this measure.

I think that the Government will reply—we shall judge soon—that they do not consider a maintenance disregard as the way to tackle poverty, that evidence shows that we need to enable one-parent families to get into the labour market—to get jobs, in simple terms. I do not think that I and my hon. Friends would largely disagree with that broad analysis. Certainly, when one thinks about public expenditure priorities in the future, it is difficult to envisage any Government finding the resources to increase income support to such a level that one would seriously dent the poverty that those children face.

I would argue that the Government are now pushing that analysis too far. If one could devise a strategy to include employment, training, child care and the rest, that would be a good thing, and I would encourage it. In fact, I would encourage the Government to go rather further in that direction. By saying no to the disregard but yes to the child support bonus, which borrows heavily from the Jobseekers Bill—once one gets a job, one gets some benefit from the extra maintenance—the Government are in a curious position for the traditional "party of the family". There are lots of inverted commas in that phrase. They are now saying—not about all mothers—that a lone mother's place is in the job market.

I find that rather interesting, as I have been a student of Tory family politics for a number of years. Whereas, a decade and a half ago, the Tory party of the family was very much persuaded that a woman's place was in the home, and did not really like all the trendy new feminist stuff about careers and so on, there came a time when it came to recognise that perhaps women did have rights in the labour market, and a good thing too.

I had assumed, until I attended the recent Committee that considered the Bill, that the party of the family at least supported the idea of choice. I think that choice is important, and I commend the principle of choice to the Secretary of State. I should have thought that we should be saying to lone mothers on income support, particularly when there are young children, "Although we might give you certain incentives and programmes to get into the labour market, nevertheless, as a mother of a child of four or five, you have a choice: whether to stay at home to look after your own child or to get a job."

Is the Secretary of State an advocate of choice in that area? I hope he is. I am bound to say that the force of this social policy is to push lone mothers into the labour market. If one stays on income support, one does not get any net benefit from child support. That is a serious point.

My hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Withington (Mr. Bradley) made the point that very few lone mothers are coming off income support because of child benefit. A figure of 8,000 in one year has been cited, against 1 million families involved. I should like to ask the Secretary of State about choice, or whether indeed there is now no choice for lone mothers on income support except to stay in poverty. Is he really now saying that the mothers of England who are on income support have to get jobs, because the Government will not offer any more?

I support my hon. Friends' arguments for a disregard, because those of us who support child support and who did so before we knew that the Government were to introduce it are wrestling with the difficult task of trying to save decent principle from bad practice. That is what it is about.

We have rehearsed some of the likely history of this before. We know that a former Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, whom I read about in the public prints only today, announced the policy of child support and parental responsibility. My guess is that the official records one day will reveal that the Department of Social Security probably wanted a disregard, because there is some wisdom in that Department, or there certainly used to be, but, of course, the Treasury saw an opportunity.

The Treasury looked anew at public expenditure targets and projections, it won the battle with the Department of Social Security about the disregard, and it said, "You are not having it. We can't afford it." The original Child Support Bill was therefore a Bill deformed at birth.

That is the difficulty that we have had ever since. If only we could have had a disregard, we could have faced up to the critics of the Bill, including some, not all, of the nastier elements in British life who send obscene and dangerous communications to the staff of the Child Support Agency, and said, "No, this is child support not just in name. We can now point to evidence that children in the most impoverished circumstances are getting extra benefit."

One could point to data such as those in Australia, which show that children are getting more money. At least this is making an impression on child poverty, as caused by those circumstances. But I am afraid that the Treasury, which I have always regarded as a social policy literacy-free zone, got its claws into it and attempted to destroy it at birth. Therefore, some of us have been trying to help the Secretary of State and his colleagues to rescue it ever since by proposing changes and tabling amendments.

I repeat that the taxpayer has an interest—I know that from my advice surgeries, and how poor some of the families paying tax are—but the introduction of a disregard would have brought some social balance into the scheme. Although one or two of us have had this argument before, cross-party, and to some extent we have exhausted the arguments, I hope that Parliament might think again today. I hope that the Secretary of State will have listened carefully to the arguments and will recognise that, if we are to create social policy out of this child support measure, a disregard is a modest but essential step in that direction.

Photo of Mr George Stevenson Mr George Stevenson , Stoke-on-Trent South 5:30 pm, 22nd May 1995

On Friday, I attended a meeting in Stoke-on-Trent involving people who had been seriously affected by the ignominious activities of the Child Support Agency. One reason for their continuing anger is their belief—justified, in my view—that any resources acquired by the agency are, in the main, not being passed on to the children whom, according to the Government, the whole mechanism is designed to support. The new clause is intended to deal with a fundamental contradiction that the Government, for some reason, have failed to recognise since the agency was set up a few years ago.

No doubt the Secretary of State will try to justify the Government's rejection of the new clause. I cannot see for the life of me—I know that the same applies to my hon. Friends—why the Government apparently intend, rather than supporting a maintenance disregard, merely to disregard the strength of our argument. If the fundamental principle is to ensure that children receive support, where is the sense in continuing to support a mechanism that will not achieve that? The new clause begins to address this serious anomaly.

The new clause was discussed in detail during that meeting on Friday. The result was a clear message to the Government: they are making a big mistake if they believe that changes that have been wrung out of them in a Bill forced on a reluctant Secretary of State—no doubt in the face of strong Treasury resistance—and will be drip-fed into the system created by the original legislation and the agency's activities, along with their rejection of a very reasonable new clause, will melt away the anger about the fundamental injustices that remain. Until such injustices are dealt with—new clause 3 tries to deal with one of them, albeit in a small way—the campaign, the justifiable protests and the anger that is felt throughout the country will not only remain but intensify.

Photo of Mr Derek Enright Mr Derek Enright , Hemsworth

I have surgeries or appointments every week, and not a week has gone by without someone complaining to me about the unjust workings of the Child Support Act. They do not complain about the Act itself; most fathers admit that they have a duty to pay what their children require to receive a decent upbringing. They are complaining about the fact that the payment formula has been worked out in such a way that the poorest sections of the population are badly hit.

In particular, second families in which the husband is dutifully paying what he is required to pay have suddenly been made to double their payments. That is a major problem in low-wage areas such as the one that I represent: it is entirely wrong for those bringing up children on poverty wages suddenly to have sub-poverty wages thrust on them, and the exemptions demanded by the new clause would make a considerable difference.

It is not as if the Child Support Agency were currently at its most efficient. We were assured that the calculations affecting both the single partner requiring maintenance—male or female—and those paying the maintenance would be made more efficiently, but that has not happened. The cases that infuriate me most involve ladies whose husbands have left them and their children to fend for themselves: the agency personnel say that they cannot possibly deal with those cases within two years, and are making no effort to find husbands who are not low earners but are, in fact, doing extraordinarily well. Where is the stretching of manpower that the Government claimed would be achieved?

It is a question of natural justice—of the recognition that families fall apart, and that we must do our best to foster the new relationships that result without exacerbating difficulties between former partners. Previously, when wives—predominantly—were left on their own, they and their children received allowances in addition to other allowances; now they do not. The allowances are cut to a minimum, so that parents cannot bring up their children decently. Moreover, such parents are unable to secure even the part-time jobs that exist in my constituency, because they are so poorly paid that the money would make no difference to their allowances.

No doubt the Government will reject the new clause, but I hope that they will show themselves to be flexible and imaginative. The Bill has its roots in cross-party co-operation: the ideals that inspired it are essentially cross-party, and those ideals remain.

I hope that, even at this late stage, the Government will feel able to examine the position and do what they can. I hope that they will understand the difficulties experienced by a woman with one, two or three children who is shut up on her own because it is not worth her while to go out and get a job, and the effect that those difficulties will have on her children. That applies particularly in an area such as mine, where there are few diversions that provide opportunities to meet other people. Jobs often provide the only chance for people to come together. The Bill is a disincentive for families to take jobs.

Laying down a rate and taking a fixed amount from a man's wage makes the abandoned family, if we may call it that, no better off, but makes the new family infinitely worse off. That is precisely what is happening in terms of the marginal levels. We have made a meagre suggestion to try to alleviate some of the difficulties. It is not a massive step, and we may be criticised for not tabling a more substantial amendment. However, that meagre measure should be considered. It would cost the Treasury scarcely anything, if anything at all when one considers the way that crime could be prevented by a sensible use of this measure. The Government should accept it.

Photo of Peter Lilley Peter Lilley Secretary of State for Social Security

The new clause deals with an area that has been the main cause of disagreement. However, disagreement has not been characteristic. On the contrary, I endorse the remark by the Opposition Front-Bench spokesman, the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) that the Opposition have been supportive, co-operative and constructive. I welcome that, and may have the opportunity to say more about it later. That attitude is in marked contrast to that of the Liberal party, which has been fundamentally irresponsible and negative in this matter.

Before coming to my overall reply, I should like to mention one or two points raised by hon. Members. The hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman) spoke about problems that he has encountered at Falkirk. I shall certainly respond to his specific points if he pursues them with me or with my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary.

The hon. Gentleman asked whether community care grants could be an alternative to a maintenance disregard. It would not be possible or sensible to give privileged access to community care grants to people who were getting maintenance, and the new clause would give them the right to higher benefit. The Child Support Agency does not give advice on access to community grants. That would be delivered by the Benefits Agency, which is often housed in the same building, and would be in accordance with existing criteria.

As always, the hon. Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. Wicks) made an interesting contribution. He has always been robust in his support of the Bill's underlying principles—even when he disagrees with us on the detail. He suggested that the choice of the mother to return to work was at stake. By its nature and through its rules, income support loads the choice against taking up work, because it means that, for every £1 earned above the first few pounds, one is paid £1 less benefit. To try to restore the balance, we have introduced maintenance credit. The new clause would intensify the disincentive, and bias the choice against work.

The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Stevenson) and some other hon. Members said that the resources raised by the Child Support Agency go mainly to the Treasury. But the Treasury has no money. All the maintenance is paid to the mother and belongs to her. To the extent that benefit is offset by that, money is returned to the taxpayer who is the source of all public finance. We should never forget that.

5.45 pm

Although I have carefully considered the arguments for a maintenance disregard as set out in the new clause and as argued in Committee, I reject the proposal for three basic reasons. First, the best way to help lone parents raise the standard of living of themselves and their children is to help them to return to work. Most of them wish to do that. The disregard would effectively pay people more to refrain from working. It raises the hurdle that they have to vault if they are to get back into work and the amount they have to earn to make that worth while. It is precisely the wrong approach.

We have put the £15 disregard into the benefits that help people who are seeking work or are in work. They are: family credit, disability working allowance, housing benefit and council tax benefit. On top of that, we have increased the incentive to get off income support and back into work by introducing the maintenance credit, which is worth up to £1,000 and is payable when people get back into work.

The hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. Enright) asked us to be flexible and imaginative if we could not accept the new clause. Ours is a flexible and imaginative response, and it was certainly not expected until we presented the Bill. The proposal to introduce a maintenance disregard is particularly odd, because it would give extra only to those who get maintenance, and nothing to those who get none. It would be hard to justify to those who were in that unfortunate position.

Secondly, I do not support the proposal because we are sceptical about the claim, by the Opposition in general and by the hon. Member for Bow and Poplar (Ms Gordon) in particular, that a disregard would persuade absent parents who were otherwise resisting paying maintenance to pay up with more enthusiasm. There is no evidence that, because parents with care receive a £15 disregard in the in-work benefits, absent parents would be less reluctant or more willing to pay maintenance.

If there is any such effect, the maintenance credit, which enables a parent with care and the child to benefit by up to £1,000 in maintenance from the absent parent, should act as a spur. It should encourage the parent with care to go back to work, and if she does that she may share part of the financial responsibility of maintenance and reduce the assessment of the absent parent. Because of the maintenance credit, the absent parent should be more willing to pay than he was in the past.

By contrast, the disregard would discourage parents from returning to work. I regret to say that that has been a major source of friction, because the absent parent sees the parent with care staying at home on benefit, and resents the fact that that parent is not working.

In any case, the changes that we have made through the package of measures introduced by regulations from the beginning of April and incorporated in the Bill will go a long way to reduce the genuine resentments that caused many absent parents to be reluctant to co-operate with the agency and to pay maintenance. I hope that we will undermine resistance in that way rather than by the introduction of a maintenance disregard.

The final reason for rejecting the proposal for a maintenance disregard is the cost to the taxpayer. The administration cost alone would be some £40 million a year. At the level that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) originally proposed, it would cost in total some £340 million, including administration costs. His last proposal would cost some £245 million a year, including administration costs.

Certainly, whatever the Opposition are talking about—and they are not specific in the new clause—they are talking about hundreds of millions of pounds extra for the taxpayer to pay. This very day, the Leader of the Opposition in his Mais lecture is claiming that the Labour party has abandoned the politics of tax and spend, yet the new clause is down on the Order Paper in his name. We have to ask whether he is aware of that, or whether it has been put down by his hon. Friends without his knowledge.

If so, I have to say that it is a fairly frequent occurrence. I have today listed and published 20 spending commitments in the social security sphere alone, the bulk of them put down in the name of Leader of the Opposition, that have been debated in this Parliament and to which we may suppose that the Labour party is committed. They effectively amount to the rejection of the average £4 billion a year of savings that I proposed, as a result of my Mais lecture, in social security spending by the end of the decade, and £14 billion a year in the next century.

We know that the average working family—married couples and self-supporting lone parents—on average pay around £1,500 a year in extra tax to meet the cost of supporting lone parents on benefit. I do not believe that they want to spend hundreds of millions of pounds more on top of that, yet that is what the new clause would mean. They certainly will not believe any Labour leader who claims that he is against tax and spend while advocating that sort of policy.

The Leader of the Opposition claims that he is clothing his party in the robes of fiscal responsibility, but the new clause shows that the emperor has no clothes. The Labour party has no clothes; it is not so much new Labour as nude Labour. The proposals that we have before us today are typical of old Labour—throwing money at any problem and encouraging dependency.

Photo of Malcolm Wicks Malcolm Wicks , Croydon North West

I regret interrupting the sound bites. To get back to reality and, if I am allowed, to the new clause, am I right to say that it was under this Government that the amount of maintenance collected under the old regime declined and declined, at huge public cost, and that it is under this Government that the proportion of one-parent families dependent on income support, at great public cost, has risen and risen? The Government have spent and, as a consequence, they have had to tax.

Photo of Peter Lilley Peter Lilley Secretary of State for Social Security

There has been a trend under Governments of both parties, in this country and in many others, towards the break-up of the family and towards having children out of wedlock, both of which have contributed to the growth of lone parenthood, in Britain and abroad. We believe that that was aggravated by the old system of judgments that were made, but often not enforced, by the courts in cases where proper maintenance was not paid. That is why we, and the whole House, agreed to replace the old system with this system—with, I have to say, the honourable and straightforward support of the hon. Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. Wicks).

We believe that it is right to do so, because, ultimately, the responsibility for supporting children is that of both parents. Even if they split up, the taxpayer should come in only to the extent that the parents do not have the means to support their children. The Child Support Agency exists to assess whether parents have those means, and to ensure that they pay if they do. Where parents do not have the means, of course, the taxpayer has to bear much of the cost.

Photo of Malcolm Wicks Malcolm Wicks , Croydon North West

I am not in the business of always defending the last Labour Government, but my recollection is that, in the late 1970s, about four out of 10 one-parent families were on income support. That is a huge proportion, but it is now seven out of 10. The public expenditure implications of that are obvious to us.

Photo of Peter Lilley Peter Lilley Secretary of State for Social Security

Surely that is a reason for supporting the proposals which we have put forward and which are inherent in the Bill, not for increasing the level of benefit, which would encourage more people to remain on benefit and fewer to work.

One of the reasons for the trend that the hon. Member mentioned is that, over that period, whereas more married women have gone out to work, fewer women lone parents have gone out to work. The number has declined. That must be for the very incentive reasons which I spelled out earlier, and which would be exacerbated were we to accept the new clause.

For all those reasons, I believe that it is much better that we rely on maintenance credit and on the disregard in the in-work benefits, rather than on increasing the level of benefit arbitrarily for those who are receiving maintenance, thereby discouraging a return to work, costing the taxpayer money, and, not, I believe, leading to any measurable increase in compliance with the Child Support Agency.

Photo of Mr Keith Bradley Mr Keith Bradley Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Social Security)

I am grateful for the Secretary of State's opening remarks, but his speech went downhill from that point. We have always tried to be constructive, to try to get equity into the system. The changes that have been made most recently in regulations and in the Bill have basically favoured the so-called absent parent. I do not argue with that, but the new clause attempts to bring in a disregard to try to get fairness and equity in the changes, and to give more support to parents with care.

I am grateful for the contributions of my hon. Friends, which, as always through the passage of the Bill, have been extremely thoughtful and positive, particularly on the matter of a disregard.

I am also grateful for the support of the Liberal Democrats for this proposal, but we have heard again tonight that their basic position is to scrap the Bill and replace it with family courts. I am pleased that, during the debate on new clause 4, which proposes an advisory committee and relates to family courts, their spokesperson will have the opportunity to give details about how family courts would work. They promised during the passage of the Bill that they would give us that detail. However, I will not stray into that now.

It must be stressed again that, under the current arrangements parents with care on income support lose, pound for pound, for any maintenance paid. The sole intention of the new clause is to try to give more money to the poorest parents to help their children. It is not a case of the Labour party having no clothes. We are trying to ensure through the new clause that the parents with care can afford the clothes their children deserve. That is why we are trying to improve the financial situation of parents with care who have to rely on benefit.

In his summing up, the Secretary of State said that there was a clear disincentive against going back to work, but he also, I think, said that many parents with care wanted to go back to work. I asked him about evidence of that disincentive. He did not provide any, but I hope that he will do so after the debate.

The Secretary of State also repeated the arguments made in Committee and on Second Reading, that the way to alleviate poverty for lone parents is to enable them to return to work. I would not argue with that as a long-term aspiration, but lone parents, especially those with young children, should have the choice of bringing up their children themselves and remaining at home on a decent level of income. They may be on benefit, so the need for a disregard is paramount, to ensure that we raise marginally the level of income of those parents caring for children at home.

6 pm

My hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. Wicks) said that he remembers the Tories advocating a family policy to enable mums to remain at home to look after their children. The headlines were reinforced by Tory propaganda about latchkey children. The Bill attempts to return to the situation in which lone parents are forced to return to work when they do not have adequate child care provision. The sole purpose of the new clause is to introduce a disregard, and bring those vital extra pennies into the family to support children.

We strongly believe that a disregard would be an incentive to co-operate with the agency and pay what is required. It would mean that the public had confidence that the Child Support Agency was making money available to support children. The new clause puts children first and would give more money to the poorest families to enable them to support their children. I urge the House to support us in our attempt to protect and support children, by supporting the new clause.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 211, Noes 259.

Division No. 153][6.01 pm
AYES
Abbott, Ms DianeEvans, John (St Helens N)
Adams, Mrs IreneEwing, Mrs Margaret
Ainger, NickFatchett, Derek
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Allen, GrahamFlynn, Paul
Alton, DavidFoster, Rt Hon Derek
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)Foulkes, George
Ashton, JoeFyfe, Maria
Austin-Walker, JohnGalloway, George
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)Garrett, John
Barnes, HarryGeorge, Bruce
Barron, KevinGerrard, Neil
Battle, JohnGilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Bayley, HughGodman, Dr Norman A
Beckett, Rt Hon MargaretGolding, Mrs Llin
Beith, Rt Hon A JGordon, Mildred
Bell, StuartGraham, Thomas
Benn, Rt Hon TonyGriffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Berry, RogerGriffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Boateng, PaulGrocott, Bruce
Bradley, KeithGunnell, John
Brown, N (N'c'tle upon Tyne E)Hain, Peter
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)Hall, Mike
Burden, RichardHanson, David
Byers, StephenHarvey, Nick
Caborn, RichardHattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Callaghan, JimHenderson, Doug
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)Heppell, John
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)Hinchliffe, David
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)Hodge, Margaret
Campbell-Savours, D NHoey, Kate
Cann, JamieHogg, Norman (Cumbernauld)
Chisholm, MalcolmHoon, Geoffrey
Clapham, MichaelHowarth, George (Knowsley North)
Clark, Dr David (South Shields)Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)Hoyle, Doug
Clelland, DavidHughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Clwyd, Mrs AnnHughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Coffey, AnnHughes, Simon (Southwark)
Cohen, HarryIllsley, Eric
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)Ingram, Adam
Cook, Robin (Livingston)Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)
Corston, JeanJamieson, David
Cousins, JimJanner, Greville
Cummings, JohnJones, Barry (Alyn and D'side)
Cunliffe, LawrenceJones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr JohnJones, Lynne (B'ham S O)
Dafis, CynogJones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW)
Dalyell, TamJowell, Tessa
Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral)Keen, Alan
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn)
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)Khabra, Piara S
Denham, JohnKilfoyle, Peter
Dewar, DonaldLestor, Joan (Eccles)
Dixon, DonLewis, Terry
Dobson, FrankLitherland, Robert
Donohoe, Brian HLivingstone, Ken
Dowd, JimLloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Dunwoody, Mrs GwynethLlwyd, Elfyn
Eagle, Ms AngelaLynne, Ms Liz
Eastham, KenMcAvoy, Thomas
Enright, DerekMcCartney, Ian
Etherington, BillMacdonald, Calum
McKelvey, WilliamRendel, David
Mackinlay, AndrewRobinson, Geoffrey (Co'try NW)
McLeish, HenryRoche, Mrs Barbara
McMaster, GordonRogers, Allan
MacShane, DenisRooker, Jeff
Madden, MaxRooney, Terry
Mahon, AliceRoss, Emie (Dundee West)
Marek, Dr JohnRuddock, Joan
Marshall, David (Shettleston)Sedgemore, Brian
Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S)Sheerman, Barry
Martlew, EricSheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Meacher, MichaelShort, Clare
Meale, AlanSimpson, Alan
Michael, AlunSkinner, Dennis
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Milburn, AlanSmith, Chris (Isl'ton S & F'sbury)
Miller, AndrewSmith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Molyneaux, Rt Hon JamesSpearing, Nigel
Moonie, Dr LewisSpellar, John
Morgan, RhodriSteinberg, Gerry
Morris, Rt Hon Alfred (Wy'nshawe)Stevenson, George
Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley)Stott, Roger
Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon)Strang, Dr. Gavin
Mullin, ChrisSutcliffe, Gerry
Murphy, PaulTaylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Oakes, Rt Hon GordonTaylor, Matthew (Truro)
O'Brien, Mike (N W'kshire)Timms, Stephen
O'Brien, William (Normanton)Tipping, Paddy
O'Hara, EdwardTouhig, Don
Olner, BillTurner, Dennis
Orme, Rt Hon StanleyTyler, Paul
Paisley, The Reverend IanVaz, Keith
Pickthall, ColinWalley, Joan
Pike, Peter LWicks, Malcolm
Pope, GregWilliams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
Powell, Ray (Ogmore)Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
Prentice, Bridget (Lew'm E)Winnick, David
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)Worthington, Tony
Primarolo, DawnWright, Dr Tony
Purchase, KenYoung, David (Bolton SE)
Quin, Ms Joyce
Radice, GilesTellers for the Ayes:
Randall, StuartMr. Peter Mandelson and
Raynsford, NickMr. George Mudie.
NOES
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey)Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Aitken, Rt Hon JonathanBrown, M (Brigg & Cl'thorpes)
Alexander, RichardBrowning, Mrs Angela
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby)Budgen, Nicholas
Allason, Rupert (Torbay)Burns, Simon
Amess, DavidBurt, Alistair
Ancram, MichaelButterfill, John
Arbuthnot, JamesCarlisle, John (Luton North)
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)Carlisle, Sir Kenneth (Lincoln)
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv)Carrington, Matthew
Atkins, RobertChannon, Rt Hon Paul
Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E)Churchill, Mr
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)Clappison, James
Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset)Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Banks, Matthew (Southport)Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Banks, Robert (Harrogate)Coe, Sebastian
Bates, MichaelColvin, Michael
Batiste, SpencerCongdon, David
Bendall, VivianCoombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st)
Beresford, Sir PaulCoombs, Simon (Swindon)
Bonsor, Sir NicholasCormack, Sir Patrick
Booth, HartleyCouchman, James
Boswell, TimCran, James
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham)Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire)
Bottomley, Rt Hon VirginiaCurry, David (Skipton & Ripon)
Bowden, Sir AndrewDavies, Quentin (Stamford)
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir RhodesDavis, David (Boothferry)
Brandreth, GylesDay, Stephen
Brazier, JulianDeva, Nirj Joseph
Bright, Sir GrahamDevlin, Tim
Dicks, TerryKnight, Greg (Derby N)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord JamesKnight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n)
Dover, DenKnox, Sir David
Duncan, AlanKynoch, George (Kincardine)
Duncan-Smith, IainLait, Mrs Jacqui
Dunn, BobLegg, Barry
Durant, Sir AnthonyLeigh, Edward
Elletson, HaroldLennox-Boyd, Sir Mark
Emery, Rt Hon Sir PeterLidington, David
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)Lightbown, David
Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Evans, Roger (Monmouth)Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Evennett, DavidLord, Michael
Faber, DavidLuff, Peter
Fabricant, MichaelLyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)MacKay, Andrew
Fishburn, DudleyMaclean, David
Forsyth, Rt Hon Michael (Stirling)McLoughlin, Patrick
Forth, EricMcNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir NormanMadel, Sir David
Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)Maitland, Lady Olga
Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)Malone, Gerald
French, DouglasMans, Keith
Fry, Sir PeterMarland, Paul
Gale, RogerMarlow, Tony
Gallie, PhilMarshall, John (Hendon S)
Gardiner, Sir GeorgeMarshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)
Garnier, EdwardMartin, David (Portsmouth S)
Gill, ChristopherMates, Michael
Gillan, CherylMawhinney, Rt Hon Dr Brian
Goodlad, Rt Hon AlastairMerchant, Piers
Goodson-Wickes, Dr CharlesMills, Iain
Gorman, Mrs TeresaMitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Gorst, Sir JohnMitchell, Sir David (NW Hants)
Grant, Sir A (SW Cambs)Monro, Sir Hector
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)Moss, Malcolm
Hague, WilliamNeubert, Sir Michael
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir ArchibaldNewton, Rt Hon Tony
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)Nicholls, Patrick
Hampson, Dr KeithNicholson, David (Taunton)
Hanley, Rt Hon JeremyNicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Hannam, Sir JohnNorris, Steve
Hargreaves, AndrewOnstow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley
Harris, DavidOttaway, Richard
Haselhurst, AlanPatnick, Sir Irvine
Hawkins, NickPawsey, James
Hawksley, WarrenPickles, Eric
Hayes, JerryPorter, Barry (Wirral S)
Heald, OliverPorter, David (Waveney)
Heath, Rt Hon Sir EdwardPortillo, Rt Hon Michael
Heathcoat-Amory, DavidPowell, William (Corby)
Hendry, CharlesRathbone, Tim
Higgins, Rt Hon Sir TerenceRiddick, Graham
Hill, James (Southampton Test)Robathan, Andrew
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham)Robinson, Mark (Somerton)
Horam, JohnRoe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Hordem, Rt Hon Sir PeterRowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)
Howard, Rt Hon MichaelRumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela
Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)Ryder, Rt Hon Richard
Howell, Sir Ralph (N Norfolk)Sackville, Tom
Hughes, Robert G (Harrow W)Sainsbury, Rt Hon Sir Timothy
Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)Shaw, David (Dover)
Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Hunter, AndrewShephard, Rt Hon Gillian
Hurd, Rt Hon DouglasShepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Jack, MichaelShersby, Michael
Jackson, Robert (Wantage)Sims, Roger
Jenkin, BernardSkeet, Sir Trevor
Jessel, TobySmith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Johnson Smith, Sir GeoffreySmith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)Soames, Nicholas
Kellett-Bowman, Dame ElaineSpencer, Sir Derek
Key, RobertSpicer, Sir James (W Dorset)
Knapman, RogerSpicer, Michael (S Warcs)
Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)Spink, Dr Robert
Spring, RichardWaldegrave, Rt Hon William
Sproat, IainWalden, George
Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Steen, AnthonyWaller, Gary
Stephen, MichaelWard, John
Stem, MichaelWaterson, Nigel
Stewart, AllanWatts, John
Streeter, GaryWells, Bowen
Sweeney, WalterWheeler, Rt Hon Sir John
Sykes, JohnWhitney, Ray
Tapsell, Sir PeterWhittingdale, John
Taylor, John M (Solihull)Widdecombe, Ann
Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)Wiggin, Sir Jerry
Temple-Morris, PeterWilkinson, John
Thomason, RoyWilletts, David
Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)Wilshire, David
Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Thumham, PeterWinterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)
Townend, John (Bridlington)Wolfson, Mark
Townsend, Cyril D (Bexl'yh'th)Wood, Timothy
Tracey, RichardYeo, Tim
Trend, MichaelYoung, Rt Hon Sir George
Trotter, NevilleTellers for the Noes:
Vaughan, Sir GerardMr. Sydney Chapman and
Viggers, PeterMr. Timothy Kirkhope.

Question accordingly negatived.