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Mr. George Osborne : I, too, take this opportunity, on the Opposition's behalf, to congratulate the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd). She has had a pretty memorable 12 months in this placeindeed, I saw her on television the other day, being awarded the prize for Back Bencher of the year. That was for other things, but I hope that she will also remember the past 12 months for this Bill and what she is seeking to achieve through it.
I want briefly to acknowledge the work members of the all-party group on population, development and reproductive healthwhich includes people from both sides of the Houseunder the chairmanship of the hon. Member for Calder Valley (Chris McCafferty). That group has been particularly active in lobbying on this issue. And I join the Minister in once again congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Broxbourne (Mrs. Roe), who first brought this issue to the House's attention in 1985.
Before I finish I want briefly to discuss one point. Of course, there have been no prosecutions under the Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act 1985although two doctors have been struck off the registerso we must ask whether the Bill will lead to an increased likelihood of successful prosecutions in this country. There are already great difficulties in communicating the law to immigrant communities and in taking action to protect girls from this practice. An increase in the maximum penalty or the creation of new offences will be academic if knowledge is poor and prosecution remains almost impossible to obtain.
In general, however, we very much welcome the Bill, which provides a valuable opportunity to improve the protection of girls and women in the UK. The House's handling of it is a welcome reflection of this issue's importance and the seriousness with which it deserves to be treated. I commend the Bill to the House.
Dr. Tonge : The Liberal Democrats also welcome the Bill. On behalf of all health and social services professionals in this country, I would like to thank the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd) for choosing this issue when she won the ballot for a private Member's Bill. The subject has exercised many people for the last 20 years and the problem has escalated during that time. As the hon. Member for Tatton (Mr. Osborne) said, I hope that the Bill will lead to prosecutions. Only by that means will we manage to highlight the problem. I thank the hon. Ladyand everyone else who has helped to pilot the Bill through the Housefrom the bottom of my heart.
Mr. Wilshire : I, too, will be brief, because we have other business to consider. Having perhaps worried the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd) by my amendments, I would like to take the opportunity to
On the number of prosecutions to which the Bill will lead, I would like to think that just one prosecution will get the message out pretty firmly and pretty smartish. If this practice continues, I certainly hope that there will be one prosecution and, if it continues after the first, I hope that there will be lots more prosecutions. We must take action; we must prosecute; we must send out the message. On the issue of the appropriate penalty, I was relieved that my hon. Friend the Member for Mole Valley (Sir Paul Beresford) did not press his amendment to reduce it, because I would have been forced to debate whether 14 years was adequate. I accept the hon. Lady's wisdom on that.
'(1) Section 630(1) of the Income and Corporation Taxes Act 1988 (definitions) is amended as follows.
(2) After the definition of "authorised insurance company" there is inserted
(a) a child of the member who is under the age of 18;
(b) a child of the member who is aged 18 or over and who is continuing to receive fulltime education;
(c) a person who is financially dependant on the member; and
(d) a person who is dependant on the member by reason of disability."
(3) At the end there is inserted
John Healey: I congratulate the hon. and learned Member for Harborough (Mr. Garnier) on piloting the Bill thus far through the House. However, as I explained in Committee last week, the Government cannot acceptin principle or in practicesome of the provisions in the Bill, and some issues remain to be dealt with. I therefore propose new clause 2 and associated Government amendments Nos. 2 and 3.
Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough): I am acutely aware of the time constraints that face us this afternoon, though one resulting joy is that the hon. Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) will not be able to speak for two and a half hours. The Minister need not explain the new clause and corresponding amendments at great length, because I accept them.
John Healey: I am grateful to the hon. and learned Member for Harborough for indicating his acceptance at this stage. I shall not develop my argument to the extent that I could, but a couple of important points need to be made to enhance the House's understanding.
Mr. Andrew Dismore (Hendon): I understand that the hon. and learned Member for Harborough (Mr. Garnier) accepts the Government new clause and amendments, but ultimately they are a matter for the House and at some stage of the debate I want to raise some of my concerns about the amendments. I therefore hope that the Minister will outline the amendments in a little more detail.
The new clause inserts definitions of "dependant" and "surviving spouse" into the Income and Corporation Taxes Act 1988. I propose the new clause because, although the Bill purports to be about setting a minimum retirement income for members of personal pension schemes so that they do not have to rely on state support, it is also important to think about the spouses and dependants of the scheme member, once he or she has died. The risk is that they would suffer the very real disadvantages that the Bill would impose just as much as the scheme members. In essence, the Bill would wipe away the rule that says that by age 75 all pension funds built up with the benefit of tax relief, other than the tax-free lump sum, must be used to provide a secure income for the whole of a person's remaining retirement. Instead it would require people with personal pensions to buy an index-linked annuity by age 65 of at least a minimum amount to be specified annually by order. The Bill would allow any funds not used to buy such an annuity to remain tax free in a retirement income accountor RIA. It would allow unrestricted access to the funds of the RIA at any time and the ability to pass residual funds on death to the annuitant's estate. That in a nutshell is what the Bill would do.
While the Government agree that pension annuities deserve wider debate, the proposals in this Bill are not the way forward. They would help only a minority of the better-off, and they would also seriously disadvantage the vast majority of people in personal pension schemes, and their dependants, who are saving for their retirement. That is an extremely important point that is consistently glossed over by the Bill's proponents.
John Healey: I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman, who has been a staunch proponent of the Bill and of a wider debate on annuities. I pay tribute to him for that, because he brings great expertise from his previous professional life and his time in the House to the issues.
Mr. Flight: I thank the Minister for his kind comments. The pensions Green Paper contains a commitment to end the obligation to buy an annuity by 75. Much discussion has taken place within the pension industry on what would happen then, but can the Minister confirm that that undertaking represents a commitment from the Government to address the issue and end the enforcedand outdatedobligation to buy an annuity?