Clause 18 - Cases where there is more than one eligible person

Part of Childcare Payments Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:30 pm on 23 October 2014.

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Photo of Catherine McKinnell Catherine McKinnell Shadow Minister (Treasury) 12:30, 23 October 2014

Unfortunately, the Minister’s response on clause 16 did not dispense with the queries that I have about clause 18, because they refer to sensitive matters. Eligible parents may find that they cannot decide between themselves who should operate the child care account for a given child, and both may have applied to HMRC to open an account, so that there is a dispute. Clause 4 specifies that only one person may be an account holder, and it follows that parents need to decide between themselves who will hold and operate the account.

In an ideal situation, amicable arrangements should always be reachable, but that is not the reality for a number of households. I therefore wish to probe the Minister on how HMRC intends to deal with a dispute. I understand that HMRC will be put in the position of having to decide who should be allowed to open the child care account. What provisions will be in place for appeals against such a decision?

Clause 24, which we will come to, allows HMRC to place restrictions on a child care account when another parent has applied to open an account for the same child while HMRC makes a decision on who should have that account. That speaks to the concerns expressed on clause 16 about who will be delivering the accounts, because although with the best will in the world the Government wish the scheme to be a haven of simplicity, complexities will arise.

Will the Minister clarify how HMRC will make such decisions? Will there be set criteria that HMRC officials will have regard to in such cases? Has she made any assessment of the number of cases of separated parents in dispute that HMRC could be dealing with? Her predecessor, the hon. Member for South West Hertfordshire (Mr Gauke), informed me in answer to a written parliamentary question that some 30,000 separated parents  were expected to apply for child care accounts. Does the Minister know how many of those separated parents might fall into the category described in clause 18? So far, there does not seem to be a huge amount of information. I appreciate that she will be unwilling to focus on such a negative aspect of the scheme, but parents who will be affected would welcome some clarity.