New Clause 7 - Details of rollout of scheme

Childcare Payments Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:00 am on 28 October 2014.

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‘The Chancellor of the Exchequer shall within three months of the coming into force of this Act lay before the House of Commons a timetable setting out precise details of the rollout of this scheme from autumn 2015 onwards.’—(Lucy Powell.)

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Lucy Powell Lucy Powell Shadow Minister (Education)

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

Far be it for me to hold up Members from their early lunch, which is imminent, as we discuss the last new clause. I will only speak for about 45 minutes on new clause 7—no, I am joking. It relates to the timetable for the roll-outs and the details of them, and we want to take this opportunity to probe the Minister further on some of the timetable and communication issues.

I know that the Minister reassured the Committee in her oral evidence that there would be a full and large publicity campaign around the spring of next year, and I am sure that that timing is welcome on the Government Benches. However, uncertainties remain about the exact timetable and all the processes that need to be put in place, not only by the Government but by many of the other stakeholders. The other organisations involved will need to advise their employees or clients about which scheme they will be better off in, how they might prepare for the scheme and when they can expect to receive support. People will need to put in place preparations for going back to work or increasing their hours, or they will need to identify the right child care or put themselves on a waiting list. Families want to plan for all those things.

I understand that the looming legal case is bringing some uncertainty to the exact timetable. However, the new clause is designed to ask the Minister and the Chancellor to publish a more detailed timetable, so that families understand better when they will become eligible and what they will be eligible for. It would allow for some of the necessary systems to be put in place, such as for advertising and communications, and for all the other stakeholders involved to have that information. If the Minister takes the opportunity to do that now, I will consider in the context of her reply whether to press the new clause.

Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel The Exchequer Secretary

New clause 7 requires the Government to publish precise details of the roll-out of the scheme within three months of Royal Assent. I know that we have discussed many aspects of the roll-out and the scheme design before, but for the benefit of the Committee I re-emphasise that we have had much consultation and have been engaged with stakeholders in the development of the overall scheme. The hon. Lady is well aware of the wide range of work that has been under way on the detailed design and implementation of child care accounts. HMRC is working closely with NS&I and the Government Digital Service to design the scheme and accounts so that they have all the necessary infrastructure and capacity to operate the numbers that people want in good time.

Throughout the Committee, I have been clear that we want to roll the scheme out to parents and childcare providers as soon as possible. We will do that in a way that allows us to learn and build from the early phases of the roll-out as more and more parents want to access the scheme. I am sure that all members of the Committee will recognise that the best approach to that is through the engagement, consultation and discussions to which I have referred consistently. We will announce the precise roll-out in good time for parents to factor the scheme  into their child care plans, and for child care providers to know what they need to do to register for the scheme and take the appropriate decisions.

I hope that I have reiterated many of the points that I have previously made to the Committee about the work that is taking place. We have been clear about our commitment to roll out the scheme as soon as possible. A great deal of work is already under way on designing the scheme, and we are working on the communication avenues with stakeholders and parents. On that basis, I ask the hon. Lady to withdraw the new clause.

Photo of Lucy Powell Lucy Powell Shadow Minister (Education)

I am happy to do so. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Catherine McKinnell Catherine McKinnell Shadow Minister (Treasury)

On a point of order, Mrs Main. May I put on the record the Opposition’s thanks for the excellent chairing of this Committee by you and by Mr Sheridan? We also thank the Officials of the House and the Clerks who have steered us through the Committee incredibly efficiently. I put it on record that it is because we have three female Front Benchers—and a female Chair, indeed.

There is a level of cross-party agreement on the importance of the issues at hand. There have been some points that we have had to seek clarification on and some issues that we have had to raise, and I am sure that many of those issues will be revisited on Report.

I also want to put on record my thanks to Back Benchers, particularly from the Opposition, who have brought forward important issues for debate in Committee. I particularly thank the Minister for her responsive approach to the issues and concerns that have been put forward. She has taken swift action, with the help of her officials, to respond to many of the debates. As a result, it has been a constructive process.

Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel The Exchequer Secretary

Further to that point of order, Mrs Main. I also thank you and Mr Sheridan for chairing our Committee, and I thank all Committee members for their co-operation and good dialogue throughout our sessions. I thank the Clerks and the Officials of the House, and obviously my officials, for all their support. I also thank everybody who came to give evidence. They helped to inform the debate and, importantly, helped with the probing and discussion throughout the Committee stage. I thank all colleagues who have participated and helped to make this such an efficient and effective discussion.

Photo of Sammy Wilson Sammy Wilson Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Treasury)

Further to that point of order, Mrs Main. I want to reiterate what has already been said. I thank you for your chairmanship of the Committee, and I thank all others who have served the Committee during its deliberations on the Bill.

Bill, as amended, to be reported.

Committee rose.