Clause 2 - Basic definitions

Part of Adoption and Children Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 5:00 pm ar 11 Rhagfyr 2001.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Tim Loughton Tim Loughton Shadow Spokesperson (Health) 5:00, 11 Rhagfyr 2001

I am grateful, but I am not sure that we are any closer to an explanation than we were when we started to discuss the amendment. I did not detect any hint of an answer to the reasonable question—which I had asked previously—asked by the hon. Member for Lancaster and Wyre (Mr. Dawson).

The Minister slightly missed the point. She agreed with me on the great diversity in sums awarded in different parts of the country in relation to various services and allowances. She said that the means-testing procedure would need to be examined because of those variations, but my understanding is that there is no variation in means testing. The Benefit Agency rules on how adoption allowances are dealt with vis-a-vis foster care allowances. That does not vary—it is the one bit of consistency in the whole formula. However, the cases are treated, on the face of it, unfairly in terms of what the Bill is intended to achieve. The sums paid by different authorities vary enormously. We have all identified that problem. The means-testing treatment of those sums is standard; it is only the sums themselves that vary. The Minister did not respond properly to that concern.

The Government need more time to sort out how to deal with the problem—the issue is big. They can do it by amending the regulations that we expect to be published in the spring, so I doubt that we will get much more out of Ministers before then. However, the Minister assures us that financial support services are very much in the Government's frame of thinking. On that basis, it would not serve the Committee's purpose to pursue the matter further. However, by raising it now we have drawn to the Minister's attention to how important we, and many people who have made representations to us, think it is. We hope that she will make good the undertakings that she has given to us by ensuring that they appear in the appropriate place in the regulations later next year, by which time we will have finished scrutinising the Bill. On that basis, and because the amendment was only intended to be probing, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.