Age-Related Payments Bill

– in a Public Bill Committee at on 25 May 2004.

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[Derek Conway in the Chair]

Photo of Derek Conway Derek Conway Conservative, Old Bexley and Sidcup 9:25, 25 May 2004

Before I call the Minister to move the programme motion, I want to say that it is in order for hon. Members to remove their jackets, if they so wish.

Photo of Malcolm Wicks Malcolm Wicks Minister for pensions, Department for Work and Pensions

I beg to move,

That—

(1) during proceedings on the Age-Related Payments Bill, in addition to its first meeting on Tuesday 25th May at 9.25 a.m., the Standing Committee shall meet on Tuesday 25th May at 2.30 p.m.;

(2) consideration of the Bill by the Committee shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at 7 p.m. on Tuesday 25th May;

(3) it be a recommendation of the Standing Committee that proceedings on consideration and Third Reading should (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion three hours after the commencement of proceedings on consideration or, if earlier, at the moment of interruption.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr. Conway. I think that it is my first such experience. The Bill is short, but important. It has one clear and simple objective in mind. It has been agreed through the usual channels that the Committee does not need to sit for two days, but that two sittings today will be adequate. Optimists may consider that we could finish our deliberations on the Bill this morning but, looking at members of the Committee, I am more on the pessimistic side.

Photo of Nigel Waterson Nigel Waterson Shadow Minister, Economic Affairs

I also welcome you to the Chair, Mr. Conway, and, in due course, your colleague, Mr. Pike. The Bill is short. It is good to see the old firm reunited after our discussions on the Pensions Bill a short time ago. I told my agent that I was not willing to debate Bills with fewer than 300 clauses, so the Bill under discussion today is a bit of a come down for me. I am reflecting on what to do with the four volumes of the Committee Hansard report that landed on my desk yesterday.

The Bill is interesting and there is much technical detail that we still want to drag out of the Minister. Incidentally, now that he has had chance to reflect on matters since the Bill was discussed on Second Reading and consult his diary, we are keen to find out whether he learned about the proposal at the same time as the rest of the nation, which was during the Budget speech. As the Committee will have gathered, the Bill has all the hallmarks of panic, hurried legislation. One thing that the Minister and I agree on is that the Bill has a clear and simple objective. Sadly, however, we do not agree about what that is.

The Bill's clear and simple objective is to save the Government's electoral bacon. From my canvassing and my visit to the pensioners' parliament in Blackpool a few days ago, I can assure the hon. Gentleman that that is not working. It is welcome that he is shoving half a billion pounds in the direction of those who are over 70. They will raise a glass to him, but I doubt whether it will gain a single vote or draw attention away from the enormous increase in council tax throughout the country, especially in the south, since the Government came to power. However, we can return to such issues in Committee. I am content with the programme motion and it is now time to get on with the Bill.

Photo of Steve Webb Steve Webb Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Good morning, Mr. Conway. I hope that our deliberations will be one of the least onerous duties that the House has to perform and that we will be shot of this shabby and opportunistic Bill by the end of the day. We have entered into the spirit of scrutinising the Bill by breaking a tradition and tabling a few amendments to keep the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Waterson) busy. Although we have tabled amendments to clauses that will enable certain issues to be discussed, it would be helpful if the Minister could say a few words about those clauses to which no amendments have been tabled. I do not wish to detain the Committee. Let us hope that we can scrutinise the Bill expeditiously and enjoy the spring evening later today.

Question put and agreed to.

Photo of Derek Conway Derek Conway Conservative, Old Bexley and Sidcup

I remind the Committee that there is a money resolution in connection with the Bill, copies of which are on the Table. Adequate notice should be given of amendments. As a general rule, my co-Chairman, Mr. Pike, and I do not intend to call starred amendments, including those that may be reached during the afternoon sitting.Clause 1 ''Qualifying individual'' and ''relevant week''