Departure Directions

Orders of the Day — Child Support Bill – in the House of Commons at 5:30 pm on 22nd May 1995.

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Amendment made: No. 12, in page 5, line 21, leave out from '(1)' to 'the' in line 22.

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

I beg to move amendment No. 39, in page 5, line 23, after 'State', insert—

  1. '(a) shall give a departure direction, if he is satisfied that the case is one which falls within the provisions relating to child care costs as set out in paragraph 1A of Part I of Schedule 4B; or
  2. (b)'.

Photo of Mr Michael Morris Mr Michael Morris , Northampton South

With this, it will be convenient to discuss also the following amendments: No. 5, in page 5, line 25, after 'in', insert 'paragraphs 2 to 4 of'. No. 6, in page 5, line 30, at end insert— '(1A) Subsections (2) and (3) below shall not apply to departure directions relating to child care costs to be made in accordance with the provisions of subsection (1)(a) above and paragraph 1A of Schedule 4B.'. No. 7, in page 5, line 47, at end insert— '(3A) The Secretary of State shall, by regulations, make provision as to the circumstances in which he would have just cause to decline to make a departure direction under the provisions of paragraph 1A of Schedule 4B.'. No. 8, in schedule 2, page 25, line 12, at end insert—'Child care expenses1A. Unless the Secretary of State can show just cause to do otherwise, on the application of a person with care, a departure direction shall be given with respect to expenses of the applicant necessarily incurred to provide child care required to enable the applicant to take up, or remain in, full-time or part-time employment, which were not, and could not have been, taken into account in determining the current assessment in accordance with the provisions of, or made under, Part I of Schedule 1.'. No. 9, in page 27, line 21, leave out 'special'.

No. 10, in page 27, line 22, leave out 'paragraph' and insert 'paragraphs 1A or'.

No. 11, in schedule 3, page 29, line 30, after 'insert" ', insert '28F(3A),'.

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

The amendment relates to schedule 2, entitled "Departure Directions". Although we welcome the main thrust of the Bill, to introduce departure directions for special cases, the amendment seeks to include the cost of child care in the six-point menu of items in schedule 2 that identifies the special expenses that can be used by absent parents, and also by parents with care, to seek a departure direction.

The amendment specifies the parent with care, but it could apply equally to the absent parent. Throughout our deliberations on the Bill, we have always tried to strike a balance between the interests of parents with care and the so-called absent parent, and amendment No. 39 attempts to strike that balance on a measure that may be used, particularly by the parent with care, for the departure direction.

7.15 pm

Throughout the passage of the Bill, we recognised that the emphasis should remain on the formula for the maintenance assessments and that the departure direction should be used only in special cases. However, we do not believe that adding child care costs undermines that principle. It could be argued that the items already in the menu of special expenses are more likely to be used by the absent parents, whereas child care costs are more relevant to the parent with care; therefore, the amendment represents another attempt to redress the balance between those competing interests and to introduce equity and fairness to the departure direction system.

There are many reasons why the Government should accept the amendment. It is clear from our debates earlier today that they consider that the most appropriate way to alleviate family poverty is for the lone parent to return to work, hence the arguments behind their rejection of the child maintenance disregard and their proposal to introduce the child maintenance bonus. However, it seems to us that they want it both ways by denying the fact that child care costs are a significant element in a decision to return to work. If the Government were consistent in their argument that the best way to alleviate poverty is for people to return to work, they should examine every possibility of enhancing that opportunity, and particular to that is the need to take into account child care costs in the departure formula.

It is a similar argument to one that the Government rightly accepted—that travel-to-work costs should provide a ground for departure, in addition to the provision currently available in the formula. The argument of trying to avoid work disincentives, and even to increase incentives, applies to child care costs in the same way as it does to travel-to-work costs, which the Government accepted.

The issues raised by the amendment were well explored in Committee, when the Government set out their objections to the proposal, but, as we made quite clear in Committee, that did not stop our attempts to change the Government's mind. We hope that they gave the matter further consideration in the period between the end of our deliberations in Committee and those on Report and that, on reflection, they consider it relevant to include child care costs in the list of special expenses.

It will be worth while briefly exploring the Government's reasons for rejection. It was never clear in Committee how the definitive list of six items in the special expenses list was determined. Schedule 2 shows them as the costs incurred in travelling to work; costs incurred by an absent parent in maintaining contact with the child; costs attributable to a long-term illness or disability of the applicant or of a dependant of the applicant; debts incurred before the absent parent became an absent parent in relation to a child with respect to whom the current assessment was made, with significant amendments; pre-1993 financial commitments from which it is impossible for the parent concerned to withdraw or from which it would be unreasonable for the parent to withdraw; and costs incurred by a parent in supporting a child who is not his child but who is part of his family.

I would be grateful if the Minister will elaborate on the basis on which those items were chosen. What research was undertaken on those exclusions—and of child care costs, for them to be specifically excluded from the departure direction? The Minister said in Committee that there was considerable research. I hope that he will provide further information tonight.

The Government claim that an addition for child care costs would have little effect on the overall assessment. Many organisations, including the Law Society and Child Poverty Action Group, believe that pre-empts the way in which regulations may be framed and departure officers handle individual cases. The purpose of the appeal for departure is surely to consider special expenses in the context of the whole individual case, to ensure fairness to both parties. When the departure procedure is used, it is important to give genuine consideration to special expenses. There should be the opportunity for both parties to include child care costs.

The Government argue that child care costs are already represented by various components of the formula, and for family credit payments in the calculation of the benefit. Our amendment provides for taking into account only costs not already covered by the formula. Those matters are debateable and, as we pointed out in Committee, need to be clarified in the regulations. Although part or all of the adult personal allowance of £46.50 is included at the first step of the formula, only one quarter of persons with care receive that amount. The final level of the assessment and the family's disposable income, including any benefits received, are the relevant factors. We ranged over that aspect in some detail in Committee. The Minister held to the view that the £46.50 allowance was the contribution to child care costs. In fact, only elements of child care costs appear in the final assessment and they should be taken into account more significantly, by allowing the departure direction to include them.

The proportion of the £46.50 received bears little relationship to the child care costs of the parent with care. In Committee, the Government made great play of the child care component in family credit. Although we welcome that, there is strong evidence that the maximum payable has little relationship to real child care costs. I know that the Government will study the effect of the child care disregard in family credit, but I hope that, since Committee, the Minister has examined more carefully the wide variety of child care costs.

In many ways, the amount available through family credit does not meet the real costs. At this stage, we are asking only for those elements to be kept under review, and for a proper assessment of the way in which amounts in family credit are applied to child care costs—taking into account in the average figures the fact that many people make informal child care arrangements with other family members and friends, which rather skews the information available to help provide the amount of money needed for genuine child care, so that parents with care have the opportunity to return to work, as the Government insist that they do. Departure should be used in cases where the standard formula does not reflect the needs or expenses of a particular family. We hope that the Government will include child care costs in special expenses.

One of the Government's aims is to help lone parents to take employment, by providing a floor of maintenance on which to build. The current formula acts as a disincentive to increasing hours or wages above a certain limit, when the income of the parent with care begins to reduce the maintenance payable. That is surely contrary to the scheme's intention and is particularly damaging to parents for whom child care costs represent a significant proportion of take-home wages. The amendment would ameliorate that effect and, coupled with other measures, would help to increase the disposable income of families in work.

Although we have attempted, as always, to be constructive during the passage of the Bill, in an attempt to restore public confidence in the agency, we met with few concessions in Committee. The argument for child care costs commanded support from all Opposition parties, and it would have a significant impact on furthering the Government's intention to alleviate family poverty. If lone parents' proper child care costs are met, that would allow them to go back to work. I hope that the Government will consider carefully how our proposal harmonises most effectively with other special expenses—particularly travel-to-work costs. The amendment would go a significant way towards redressing the balance between absent parents and parents with care, introduce further equity into the system and restore further public confidence in the agency.

Photo of Ms Liz Lynne Ms Liz Lynne , Rochdale

The Minister opposed the maintenance disregard because he felt that lone parents ought to be encouraged to go back to work. This group of amendments would help lone parents to do that, but they deal with the parent without care as well. The formula is inflexible, but the proposal would free it up just a little. The Minister has acknowledged that there are problems with the Child Support Act 1991, as he has already brought forward departures in certain areas. The principle has been established, for instance, in travel-to-work costs. The Government have also recognised the principle in other social security legislation, particularly in the provisions on family credit. I know that family credit child care costs are not enough and do not nearly meet the real costs of child care, but the principle has been established there.

The amendments seek to add a further departure. They propose that child care costs for the lone parent and for the so-called absent parent are taken into account. There is no difference between the costs in this group of amendments and travel-to-work costs. The amendments have been introduced to enable the parent with care to get back into work.

7.30 pm

If no child care is available, that parent will not be able to go back to work. It stands to reason that, if child care costs are not met, there is no way in which parents can start working again. So-called absent parents have difficulties because their child care costs are not taken into account when their assessment is made. The amendment would also encourage them to work.

Often, those people have a second family, and both parents are working. Child care costs must be taken into account. It is only fair to treat the parent with care and the parent without care equally. The parent without care would be able to pay the assessed maintenance. The amendment would enable the parent with care to take up work and to get off benefit. Surely that is what the Government have been talking about. The amendment would help people to do that.

The main reasons why lone parents—parents with care—do not work is that they cannot find work or there is nothing that they can do for their children. They do not have relatives around or friends who can look after their child at no cost. If they could employ a child minder to look after that child, they could go back into the work force. That would help not only them but the absent parent.

The Minister says that he wants to lift parents out of poverty. The amendment is a way to do it. I urge him not to reject it yet again. He rejected it in Committee and he keeps rejecting it, but he cannot reject the maintenance disregard and child care costs. It does not make sense. As I said, the proposal affects not only the parent with care but the parent without care. We need a child care cost departure to enable parents to work if they want to.

I am asking not for an automatic right to child care costs but for an application for departure. I am not saying that, if a parent with care has a highly paid job and expensive child care costs, those should be met; of course they should not. It would not be reasonable to expect them to be met within the maintenance formula.

As the Minister accepts, the majority of lone parents are on income support and cannot get back into the work place, so the floodgates will not be opened by the amendment, but it will help those who want to work. I stress again: surely that is what the Government want.

We must avoid the situation where people are better off out of work. If the Minister did not agree to the amendments, he would be accepting the principle that people were better off out of work. I hope that he will change his mind and agree to the amendments.

Photo of Mr George Stevenson Mr George Stevenson , Stoke-on-Trent South

In arguing for this element to be considered for departure, we aim to instil a further degree of fairness in the starting point, otherwise the whole system becomes the subject of further suspicion. The inclusion of child care costs would enhance that aim. As has been stated, in the main such costs are borne by lone parents. The Government may be worried that accepting the proposal will open the floodgates, but I do not believe that that will happen.

Many lone parents are not employed, but research shows that, of those lone parents who are employed, about 29 per cent. have the additional burden of child care costs—not an insignificant figure, so we are considering an important issue. Particularly for lone parents on low disposable incomes, those costs are not a marginal issue, but an extremely important one. Some would argue that it is a vital issue.

I find it a little perplexing that the Government seem to have accepted travel-to-work costs as grounds for departure, yet they resist child care costs. Travel-to-work costs as grounds for departure are in addition to existing provision. I assume that the motivation behind that is to avoid work disincentives. Surely the arguments apply equally to child care costs.

The Government seem to object to the addition on the ground that it may have little effect on overall assessments. At the very least, that argument pre-empts the form any regulations may take and the discretion that may be used by the departure officer.

The Government argue in terms of cost and say that child care costs are represented already in the components contained in the present formula. From reading the amendment, I understand that it is concerned with costs that are not covered by the present formula. The Government may feel that the amendment duplicates what is already there, but it does not.

If the Government were prepared to concede the amendment, there would be a need for clarification in the regulations—that is accepted—but it is the principle that is vital, and hon. Members have already referred to that. The final level of the assessment and disposable income, including benefits, are important factors in the equation. The current formula is a disincentive to work, because wages above a certain level become a penalty. Surely that is contrary to the Government's stated policies and objectives. The addition of child care costs to the disregard system would not, therefore, be contrary to what the Government are arguing for. It would enhance their objectives. It is also consistent with similar changes that they have made in other sectors, such as family benefit, and with the travel-to-work costs element, which, in certain circumstances, would be subject to the disregard.

Photo of Malcolm Wicks Malcolm Wicks , Croydon North West

I am in favour of the proposal for departure, which in this instance means to take out of account child care costs. It is a modest proposal in many respects but it could be important, especially for mothers in one-parent families, or for fathers who are caring for their children.

We talked earlier about the Government's clear strategy to encourage more and more one-parent families away from dependence on income support into independence in the labour market. We had a quarrel about how maintenance disregard might fit into that strategy, but many of my right hon. and hon. Friends agree that if so many families, including many children, are to be moved out of poverty, it must be via jobs and, we hope, high-quality jobs. That is why child care is so important.

We need to think through the implications of the Government's strategy and our arguments about child care, which have been so ably advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Withington (Mr. Bradley) from the Opposition Front Bench. At present, there are many formidable barriers to one-parent families on income support who wish to seek independence. Those who think that we must shift resources in social policy away from family breakdown services—I regard income support as essentially a family breakdown service—towards investment so that people move from dependency towards independence must recognise the barriers standing in the way of one-parent families.

Unfortunately, those barriers are formidable. They include, of course, low wages. Many of us would argue that the Government have enabled lower wages to be paid, which has led to social security chickens, in terms of costs, coming home to roost. That is one reason why the social security budget is at a record level. That has resulted not because we are a more socially secure society—that is not why we are spending more on state benefits—but because we are now a more socially insecure society. That is the paradox at the heart of the Government's social policies.

There is the low wages barrier and, for one-parent families, there is the means testing barrier. A Government who have lived by means testing will die by it because of their failure successfully to pursue the strategy of moving one-parent families into the independence of the labour market. Unfortunately, that policy has been unsuccessful. We know that in one year only 8,000 one-parent families moved off income support because of the child support element. It is necessary to repeat the same statistic. We know that seven out of 10 one-parent families are dependent on income support. The means-test mountain is a formidable barrier to independence. Indeed, it is a mountain that most one-parent families fail to climb, often because it is impossible to do so.

That brings me to the other barrier of child care. We are all aware of the relevant arithmetic. One-parent families that are seeking work—many would seek part-time work because, like other mothers, or parents generally, that is the only way in which they can make sense of their dual responsibilities within the family and in employment—are aware that wages for part-time work or, indeed, for full-time work, are only slightly in excess of the moneys that they would receive through income support. The extra moneys are eaten up if it is necessary to pay for child care. That is why the amendment is vital. I am surprised that we are having to make such heavy weather of the arguments that lie behind it, given that we are trying to help the Government implement their strategy of moving people back into the labour market.

Let us concede that the Government's policy, as announced in their Budget a year or two back, of allowing for a child care element in family credit is to be welcomed. In a sense, we are trying to pursue the logic of their policy. I should emphasise that we are talking about quality child care, not child care per se. If we are to provide more assistance for all parents, not only one-parent families, we must recognise that the best social policies apply to all families. We must understand that many parents may have to sort out the problem for themselves by providing a lower quality of child care than many of us would accept for our children. That is my worry.

We must at some stage switch the debate from child care to quality of care. If we fail to do so, I predict that we shall soon hear about more cases of children not being looked after properly, and sometimes being neglected or abused because parents were not able to afford adequate child care. Let us not go for child care on the cheap. That is not always better than no child care.

The Minister may now agree that the arguments in support of a modest proposal for a departure for child care costs fit into the logic behind what the Government are claiming that they are trying to do. We, too, would like more one-parent families, if they choose to take the course, to be more independent in the labour market, and enabled to be independent by a range of training and employment measures, a parcel into which child care fits as a crucial element.

Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Social Security) 7:45 pm, 22nd May 1995

Opposition Members have proposed that persons with care responsibilities should be able to seek a departure direction where they necessarily incur child care costs in taking up or remaining in employment. I appreciate their comments. I refer to the hon. Member for Manchester, Withington (Mr. Bradley) and his colleagues and to the hon. Member for Rochdale (Ms Lynne). The hon. Lady has so far resisted the requests of the hon. Member for Withington to enlighten us by setting out her alternative to the child support system that we are discussing. She has had several opportunities to present it to us. There is still time, and I am sure that the hon. Member for Withington and I share the view that it would be interesting to consider it in more detail later. In the meantime, we must await her alternative with bated breath.

As hon. Members on both sides of the Chamber will appreciate, I understand the sentiments that lie behind this flawed amendment. The Government share the objective of improving work opportunities for women with children. That is why we have introduced the child care disregard in the in-work benefits, such as family credit, disability working allowance and housing benefit, and in council tax benefit, which was introduced in October.

The hon. Member for Withington asked why we decided to opt for certain expenditures in the departure system and not others. After some consideration of the way in which the child support system works, we accepted that one of the flaws was perhaps that the system was too rigid and that there should be room for an element of discretion within it.

We made it clear throughout consideration of the Bill in Committee—I think that to a great extent we were joined by Opposition Members—that if the system was to work properly, it was important to keep the gateways reasonably tight at first for the departure system. After due consideration, we decided that it will always be possible to extend the gateways. Once an opportunity has been created, it is always extremely difficult to restrict it or to bring it to an end. If the discretionary system, coupled with the system in which the majority of us—beyond the hon. Member for Rochdale and her colleagues—believe, is to work and the formula is to work in the majority of cases, it is important that the element of departure should now be relatively tight.

We considered carefully where the greatest pressure points were to be found in the system before coming to a decision on the expenses that we should allow, and that the hon. Member for Withington enumerated. We trawled carefully the representations that were made by constituents through their Members in correspondence. We considered carefully what was being said to us by various organisations. During our review, which took place largely in the autumn, we examined as carefully as we could the various pressure points.

The list of special expenses that we propose to allow reflects the consideration that I have described. With the exception of one or two interested groups and fairly recent interest, the issue of child care for parents with care responsibilities was not a serious one when compared with the clean-break argument or travel expenses, for example. All Members will remember the representations that they received on those matters. I ask them to consider whether the same pressure was raised on child care costs for parents with care responsibilities. I have to say that that was not my experience and I do not really feel that similar pressure was there. Given the amount of concern, we felt it unnecessary to include those costs in a scheme that was primarily intended as a safety valve to relieve the areas of greatest pressure.

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

Will the Minister give me an assurance that the research that he undertook included groups representing the so-called "absent parent" as well as the parent with care, because quite clearly the child care cost may refer more reasonably to the parent with care and less so to the so-called absent parent?

Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Social Security)

Yes, of course. As the hon. Gentleman appreciates, representations in relation to child support come from all sides, but often the interests of the parties are quite different. A number of the cases where departure was argued for by those representing the so-called absent parent would be diametrically opposed to the interests of the parents with care. The Government understand that, because, peculiarly—almost uniquely—one of the aims of the system that the Government have set up is to hold the ring between those competing interests. I shall refer to that point later. We received representations from all sides.

As I made clear from the start in Committee, and as the Government have made clear from the beginning of the reform process, the departure system is genuinely designed to deal with the issues that have been of major concern since the Child Support Act 1991 came into operation. It is not our intention to allow any conceivable expense to be cited as grounds for a departure order. To do so would be to run the risk of there being a return to a discretion-based free-for-all.

We believe quite strongly that the current legislation already makes some provision for child care costs. If I may, I shall explain this again briefly to the House. The first step in assessing liability under the formula assessment is to calculate what is known as the "maintenance requirement". That is the amount calculated as representing the basic needs of a child and is based on income support rates. The maintenance requirement includes an amount in respect of the fact that a child needs to be cared for. The carer element is currently £46.50 if the youngest child is under 11 years of age. That compares well with the average cost to families of professional child care of some £42.40 a week. The carer element is designed to cover either the parent with care's own cost if she stays at home and provides care, or the cost of providing for that care if she chooses to work. Thus, the formula already makes a significant contribution towards any child care that may be incurred.

We believe that we have already provided significant help towards child care costs and not just through the benefit system, although of course the changes made to family credit last year are a genuine development of the policy, which we all share, towards assisting women who want to go back into work. Where a working person with care is eligible for family credit, disability working allowance, housing benefit or council tax benefit, costs of up to £40 a week can be disregarded in assessing entitlement to those benefits. The combined effect of those allowances means that working parents can be better off by up to £38.20 a week. We have now seen some 17,000 claims to family credit under that particular system.

I should also point out that those benefits allow for the disregard of the first £15 of maintenance received. That is in addition to the child care disregard and may be used towards the cost of child care, where such costs are incurred.

One can go wider. The hon. Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. Wicks), who is always thoughtful and always well worth listening to on family issues, asked about the Government's policy and intention. Scattered across the system now—from the Department of Employment, the Department of Social Security and through to the Department of Health—is a whole variety of provision for child care costs, on a level unheard of under any previous Government. It is a great determination that we have and I believe that the contribution and support that we are giving, from tax relief to the expansion of day nurseries, is really quite substantial.

Photo of Malcolm Wicks Malcolm Wicks , Croydon North West

I am grateful to the Minister. Has the Department done any computer modelling recently to allow not only for the support that the Government are now giving through family credit, as the Minister said, but the likely wages that mothers might receive in either part-time or full-time work, to see what the net gain to those mothers would be if they returned to the labour market?

Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Social Security)

The Department carries out a large amount of modelling, but I do not have that model with me at the moment.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned the barrier caused to progress through low pay. As he knows, we would consider an even greater barrier to low pay to be that of no job whatever, which a minimum wage—the policy of the hon. Gentleman and his party—would introduce. If he is seriously concerned about that issue, that is something that he must bear in mind. I believe that the deputy leader of the Labour party has already recognised that. Therefore, I do not accept the need for the amendments. The carer element in the formula and the maintenance and child care disregards in family credit provide sufficient help for those expenses.

There is a further point, which I must raise as it concerns perhaps a slightly greater flaw than anything else. Uniquely, in the list of special expenses, it seems that the Opposition's amendment would make departure mandatory, in that the normal just and equitable provisions, which are there for the special expenses, appear to have been excluded. It is a serious and important point. I am not saying this dismissively. Under the amendment, the Secretary of State, unless he has just cause to rule it out, should otherwise allow it. The hon. Gentleman made a point of saying that, because he was tailoring it to any costs not covered by the formula, only in cases where a higher amount of child care costs had been incurred would the special allowance and departure be considered. The mandatory element of the amendment suggests that, providing that a parent with care could come along and show that she was genuinely incurring virtually any child care costs that she was prepared to put before the tribunal, the mandatory element of the amendment would require it to be taken into account and awarded, with the burden falling on an absent parent.

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

If that is the only argument against the amendment—I accept the technical flaw—and if the Minister will accept the principle of including child care costs, I would accept a redrafted amendment tabled in the Lords.

Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Social Security)

That was a good attempt to deal with one of the two major flaws of the argument, but not, alas, the second, which was what I referred to earlier: our contention that the child care element is there.

I shall return now, if I may, to the point that I made right at the start about holding the ring and holding the balance. It is wholly laudatory for the Government to attempt in a variety of different ways to ease the transition of women back into work. I maintain that the Government seek to do that not only through the element in the formula or through the family credit disregard but in a variety of other provisions as well. However, the provision would place an extra unbalanced burden on the absent parent. We are holding the ring here. We are already asking the absent parent to make a contribution to child care through the formula. To ask the absent parent to make a further contribution to child care—double provision—does not seem to us to be right.

It is correct, therefore, to try to ensure the ability of women to go back into work, and we seek to do that in a variety of ways. It is for the Government to find ways to do that, and we shall continue to do so. It seems to me that the way to do that is not through this provision. It is not through an extra burden on the absent parent or through an extra mandatory requirement. For those reasons, I ask the House to reject the amendment.

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

I am grateful for the response from the Minister, although, clearly, I am disappointed that he has not accepted the arguments that I and my hon. Friends have made in support of including child care costs in the departure formula.

As has been clearly pointed out, it was a particularly modest proposal. We accept the principle that the formula should be used in the majority of cases, but the amendment proposed that the departure direction should be used only in special cases, and it was our intention—as it was in Committee—to retain responsibility for that by not including a whole range of options in the departure formula. For that very reason, we specifically moved amendments in Committee that included training elements and child care costs. It was not our intention at any stage to use that procedure to open up the floodgates to allow everyone to apply for departure. We were looking specifically at a matter that we think is of major concern, particularly to the parents with care.

We believe that the way in which the departure directions will be used will be of particular advantage to absent parents: I do not argue with that. We are, however, trying to introduce equity and fairness by including child care costs—particularly for parents with care—in the departure formula. Throughout our deliberations, we have tried to strike that balance, to ensure that all parties involved in the agency's operations retain confidence in the system through the introduction of the appeals system that we have discussed—a system that has been requested by the Opposition throughout our proceedings on the Bill. We are disappointed that the Government are not prepared to accept our modest proposal. I feel that the views of the House should be tested, and I urge it to divide on the amendment.

8 pm

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 210, Noes 261.

Division No. 154][8.01 pm
AYES
Abbott, Ms DianeGilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Adams, Mrs IreneGodman, Dr Norman A
Ainger, NickGolding, Mrs Llin
Allen, GrahamGordon, Mildred
Alton, DavidGraham, Thomas
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Ashton, JoeGriffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Austin-Walker, JohnGriffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)Grocott, Bruce
Barnes, HarryGunnell, John
Barron, KevinHain, Peter
Battle, JohnHall, Mike
Bayley, HughHanson, David
Beckett, Rt Hon MargaretHarvey, Nick
Beith, Rt Hon A JHattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Bell, StuartHenderson, Doug
Benn, Rt Hon TonyHeppell, John
Berry, RogerHinchliffe, David
Bradley, KeithHodge, Margaret
Brown, N (N'c'tle upon Tyne E)Hogg, Norman (Cumbernauld)
Burden, RichardHoon, Geoffrey
Byers, StephenHowarth, George (Knowsley North)
Caborn, RichardHowells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Callaghan, JimHoyle, Doug
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)Illsley, Eric
Campbell-Savours, D NIngram, Adam
Cann, JamieJackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)
Carlile, Alexander (Montgomery)Jamieson, David
Chidgey, DavidJanner, Greville
Chisholm, MalcolmJones, Barry (Alyn and D'side)
Clark, Dr David (South Shields)Jones, Ieuan Wyn (Ynys Môn)
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)
Clelland, DavidJones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW)
Clwyd, Mrs AnnJowell, Tessa
Coffey, AnnKeen, Alan
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn)
Cook, Robin (Livingston)Khabra, Piara S
Corston, JeanKilfoyle, Peter
Cousins, JimLestor, Joan (Eccles)
Cummings, JohnLewis, Terry
Cunliffe, LawrenceLitherland, Robert
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr JohnLivingstone, Ken
Dafis, CynogLloyd, Tony (Stratford)
Dalyell, TamLlwyd, Elfyn
Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral)Lynne, Ms Liz
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)McAvoy, Thomas
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)McCartney, Ian
Denham, JohnMacdonald, Calum
Dewar, DonaldMcKelvey, William
Dixon, DonMackinlay, Andrew
Donohoe, Brian HMcLeish, Henry
Dowd, JimMcMaster, Gordon
Dunwoody, Mrs GwynethMcNamara, Kevin
Eagle, Ms AngelaMacShane, Denis
Eastham, KenMadden, Max
Enright, DerekMaddock, Diana
Etherington, BillMahon, Alice
Evans, John (St Helens N)Mandelson, Peter
Ewing, Mrs MargaretMarek, Dr John
Fatchett, DerekMarshall, David (Shettleston)
Faulds, AndrewMarshall, Jim (Leicester, S)
Flynn, PaulMartlew, Eric
Foster, Rt Hon DerekMeacher, Michael
Foster, Don (Bath)Meale, Alan
Foulkes, GeorgeMichael, Alun
Fraser, JohnMichie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Fyfe, MariaMilburn, Alan
Galloway, GeorgeMiller, Andrew
Garrett, JohnMoonie, Dr Lewis
George, BruceMorgan, Rhodri
Gerrard, NeilMorley, Elliot
Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley)Short, Clare
Mudie, GeorgeSimpson, Alan
Mullin, ChrisSkinner, Dennis
Murphy, PaulSmith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Oakes, Rt Hon GordonSmith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
O'Brien, Mike (N W'kshire)Snape, Peter
O'Brien, William (Normanton)Spearing, Nigel
O'Hara, EdwardSpellar, John
Olner, BillSteinberg, Gerry
Orme, Rt Hon StanleyStevenson, George
Paisley, The Reverend IanStott, Roger
Pickthall, ColinStrang, Dr. Gavin
Pike, Peter LSutcliffe, Gerry
Pope, GregTaylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Powell, Ray (Ogmore)Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Prentice, Bridget (Lew'm E)Timms, Stephen
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)Tipping, Paddy
Primarolo, DawnTouhig, Don
Purchase, KenTurner, Dennis
Quin, Ms JoyceTyler, Paul
Radice, GilesVaz, Keith
Randall, StuartWalley, Joan
Raynsford, NickWardell, Gareth (Gower)
Rendel, DavidWicks, Malcolm
Robinson, Geoffrey (Co'try NW)Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
Roche, Mrs BarbaraWilliams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
Rogers, AllanWinnick, David
Rooker, JeffWorthington, Tony
Rooney, TerryWright, Dr Tony
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)Young, David (Bolton SE)
Ruddock, Joan
Sedgemore, BrianTellers for the Ayes:
Sheerman, BarryMr. Robert Ainsworth and
Sheldon, Rt Hon RobertMr. Jon Owen Jones.
NOES
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey)Carlisle, Sir Kenneth (Lincoln)
Aitken, Rt Hon JonathanCarrington, Matthew
Alexander, RichardCarttiss, Michael
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby)Cash, William
Allason, Rupert (Torbay)Chapman, Sydney
Amess, DavidChurchill, Mr
Ancram, MichaelClark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Arbuthnot, JamesClifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)Coe, Sebastian
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv)Colvin, Michael
Atkins, RobertCongdon, David
Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E)Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Baker, Rt Hon Kenneth (Mole V)Cormack, Sir Patrick
Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset)Couchman, James
Banks, Matthew (Southport)Cran, James
Banks, Robert (Harrogate)Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire)
Bates, MichaelCurry, David (Skipton & Ripon)
Batiste, SpencerDavies, Quentin (Stamford)
Bendall, VivianDavis, David (Boothferry)
Biffen, Rt Hon JohnDay, Stephen
Bonsor, Sir NicholasDeva, Nirj Joseph
Booth, HartleyDevlin, Tim
Boswell, TimDicks, Terry
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham)Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Bottomley, Rt Hon VirginiaDover, Den
Bowden, Sir AndrewDuncan, Alan
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir RhodesDuncan-Smith, Iain
Brandreth, GylesDunn, Bob
Brazier, JulianDurant, Sir Anthony
Bright, Sir GrahamDykes, Hugh
Brooke, Rt Hon PeterElletson, Harold
Brown, M (Brigg & Cl'thorpes)Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Browning, Mrs AngelaEvans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)
Budgen, NicholasEvans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)
Burns, SimonEvans, Roger (Monmouth)
Burt, AlistairEvennett, David
Butcher, JohnFaber, David
Butterfill, JohnFabricant, Michael
Carlisle, John (Luton North)Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Forsyth, Rt Hon Michael (Stirling)Maitland, Lady Olga
Forth, EricMalone, Gerald
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir NormanMans, Keith
Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)Marland, Paul
French, DouglasMarlow, Tony
Fry, Sir PeterMarshall, John (Hendon S)
Gale, RogerMarshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)
Gallie, PhilMartin, David (Portsmouth S)
Gardiner, Sir GeorgeMates, Michael
Garnier, EdwardMerchant, Piers
Gill, ChristopherMills, Iain
Gillan, CherylMitchell, Sir David (NW Hants)
Goodson-Wickes, Dr CharlesMonro, Sir Hector
Gorman, Mrs TeresaMontgomery, Sir Fergus
Gorst, Sir JohnMoss, Malcolm
Grant, Sir A (SW Cambs)Neubert, Sir Michael
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)Nicholls, Patrick
Hague, WilliamNicholson, David (Taunton)
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir ArchibaldNicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)Norris, Steve
Hampson, Dr KeithOnslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley
Hanley, Rt Hon JeremyOppenheim, Phillip
Hannam, Sir JohnOttaway, Richard
Hargreaves, AndrewPatnick, Sir Irvine
Harris, DavidPattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Haselhurst, AlanPawsey, James
Hawkins, NickPeacock, Mrs Elizabeth
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 TerenceRedwood, Rt Hon John
Hill, James (Southampton Test)Renton, Rt Hon Tim
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham)Riddick, Graham
Horam, JohnRobathan, Andrew
Hordem, Rt Hon Sir PeterRobinson, Mark (Somerton)
Howard, Rt Hon MichaelRoe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela
Howell, Sir Ralph (N Norfolk)Ryder, Rt Hon Richard
Hughes, Robert G (Harrow W)Sackville, Tom
Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)Sainsbury, Rt Hon Sir Timothy
Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)Scott, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Hunter, AndrewShaw, David (Dover)
Hurd, Rt Hon DouglasShaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Jack, MichaelShephard, Rt Hon Gillian
Jackson, Robert (Wantage)Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Jenkin, BernardShersby, Michael
Jessel, TobySims, Roger
Johnson Smith, Sir GeoffreySkeet, Sir Trevor
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Kellett-Bowman, Dame ElaineSmith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Key, RobertSoames, Nicholas
King, Rt Hon TomSpencer, Sir Derek
Kirkhope, TimothySpicer, Sir James (W Dorset)
Knapman, RogerSpicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)Spink, Dr Robert
Knight, Greg (Derby N)Spring, Richard
Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n)Sproat, Iain
Knox, Sir DavidSquire, Robin (Hornchurch)
Kynoch, George (Kincardine)Steen, Anthony
Lait, Mrs JacquiStephen, Michael
Leigh, EdwardStem, Michael
Lidington, DavidStewart, Allan
Lightbown, DavidStreeter, Gary
Lilley, Rt Hon PeterSweeney, Walter
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)Sykes, John
Lord, MichaelTapsell, Sir Peter
Luff, PeterTaylor, John M (Solihull)
MacKay, AndrewTaylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)
Maclean, DavidTemple-Morris, Peter
McLoughlin, PatrickThomason, Roy
McNair-Wilson, Sir PatrickThompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)
Madel, Sir DavidThompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Thumham, PeterWheeler, Rt Hon Sir John
Townend, John (Bridlington)Whitney, Ray
Townsend, Cyril D (Bexl'yh'th)Whittingdale, John
Tracey, RichardWiddecombe, Ann
Trend, MichaelWiggin, Sir Jerry
Trotter, NevilleWilkinson, John
Twinn, Dr IanWilshire, David
Viggers, PeterWinterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Waldegrave, Rt Hon WilliamWinterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)
Walden, GeorgeWolfson, Mark
Walker, Bill (N Tayside)Wood, Timothy
Waller, GaryYeo, Tim
Ward, JohnYoung, Rt Hon Sir George
Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)Tellers for the Noes:
Waterson, NigelMr. Andrew Mitchell and
Wells, BowenMr David Willetts.

Question accordingly negatived.

Amendments made: No. 13, in page 5, line 23, leave out 'such a' and insert 'a departure'.

No. 14, in page 5, line 30, leave out 'the proposed' and insert 'a departure'.—[Mr. Arbuthnot.]