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Mr. Swinney: It appears that the Government have put their case this evening, only to be confronted by a series of hurdles designed to make it difficult for them to change their position.

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I want to speak to Lords amendment No. 87, a new clause. I welcome the fact that the affirmative procedure is to be used for the regulations made under the new clause. Bearing in mind the fears raised by the proposal to reduce benefit for lone parents, the public would be staggered if they believed that Parliament was not according to issues of such sensitivity the sort of scrutiny afforded by the affirmative procedure.

It is important to assure our constituents that regulations of this nature will be subjected to the closest possible consideration by the House. The public need reassuring that there will be such scrutiny of a variety of aspects of the legislation. They need to know that enough parliamentary time will be devoted to issues raised by the Government in future, whether they relate to changing the constitution of appeals tribunals or to powers to reduce benefits to lone parents. These are fundamental issues; if Parliament cannot devote the right amount of scrutiny to them, it will be failing in its duty to the public. That is why I welcome the Government's response to the Lords amendments.

Miss Kirkbride: I had the privilege of serving on the Standing Committee some time ago. Before being elected, I sat up in the Press Gallery as a journalist, and I can only describe what the Minister has said this evening as a U-turn. We should like more of them in other areas of the Bill; at any rate, the Government are eating a good deal of humble pie tonight, given what they said during that interminable Standing Committee--[Laughter.] It was my first experience of a Standing Committee, and the debates sometimes seemed rather long to me.

We are grateful that the Minister has listened to the concerns that we expressed in Committee. When the Bill was in Committee last autumn, it seemed symptomatic of the then new Government that they were arrogant enough to propose that these measures should be put through without proper scrutiny. We were often left in the dark, not knowing whether Ministers meant to employ the affirmative or the negative procedure--or indeed what they were proposing. It is important that the Government have now accepted that when we are spending a great amount of public money, the public should at least know where they stand with regard to appeal procedures and to other things that the Government were trying to slip in. I have many constituents who are concerned about their rights and the appeal procedures on the benefits that are available to them.

The regulatory framework must be made much clearer, so I am grateful for the U-turn that Ministers have made tonight. We should like more as we proceed, but I thank the Minister for his interest so far.

5.30 pm

Mr. Keith Bradley: I find it extraordinary that the Opposition have the effrontery even to raise the issue of secondary legislation. Year after year when they were in government, they introduced skeletal Bills, such as the Jobseekers Bill, on which I am sure the hon. Member for Bromsgrove (Miss Kirkbride) reported in her former life, in which, as she will have noted clearly, most of the provisions were in secondary legislation. The file of

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papers on secondary legislation was 10 times thicker than the Bill itself, so we will take no lessons from the Opposition.

Mr. Waterson: Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Bradley: No, I am making my point. We understand that there is a reshuffle in the air on the Opposition Benches.

We were not brought up short by the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee because it accepted our principle that most of the detail should be in regulations. Out of more than 100 regulation-making powers, it commented only on five. It vindicated our assertion in Committee that the structure in the Bill was right and the use of powers was appropriate.

Yet again, the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Waterson) is confusing that Select Committee with the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, which he continually refers to. They are different. The Select Committee looks at whether we have appropriate powers, whereas the Joint Committee looks at specific regulations and decides whether those powers are being exercised appropriately. It has not looked at regulations yet in this respect. The comments are appropriate in relation to the fact that the Select Committee examines the generality of the use of powers.

Mr. Waterson: I thank the Minister for giving way because we may be able to save a bit of time by my intervening at this stage. I am well aware of the difference that he mentions because, of course, I served for some four or five long years on the Joint Committee, but my recollection of the Standing Committee is that, at one point, he was trying to defend the Bill as it stood by saying that the regulations would be considered in due course by the Joint Committee. I do not think that he fully appreciated or had a complete grasp--I may be doing him an injustice, in which case he will put me right--of the narrow compass of the Joint Committee's responsibilities.

Mr. Bradley: We are in danger of compounding the confusion and the difference of view that we had in Committee--and still do--even further. The Committee that I was referring to was the Select Committee, which scrutinises the generality of the powers. The hon. Gentleman refers to the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, which considers these matters only when it has such instruments before it and examines whether those powers are being used appropriately. There was confusion in Committee on that point, and there continues to be.

What is important is that when regulations are laid--we have to recognise that this is a long and technical Bill--they are correct. If they are not, we would only be criticised again for having to amend or replace them and, again, the Opposition would say that we had not done our job properly. As we have made clear, we shall also use the ad hoc group on implementation, which will help us to implement the Bill. Representatives from the Child Poverty Action Group, the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux and Age Concern, for example, are serving on that group, so their views will be taken into account as the Bill is implemented.

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I am sure that we have noted the general welcome from hon. Members on both sides of the House for my announcement on statutory instruments. It would be wrong to delay the House any further by not approving them.

Lords amendment agreed to.

Lords amendment No. 16 agreed to.

Clause 14

Redetermination etc. of appeals by tribunal

Lords amendment: No. 17, in page 8, line 26, leave out ("shall") and insert ("may")

Mr. Keith Bradley: I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: With this, it will be convenient to take Lords amendment No. 18.

Mr. Bradley: Amendment No. 17 allows a tribunal chairman, who is considering an application for leave to appeal against a decision of a tribunal, the discretion either to set aside that decision and refer it back to an appeal tribunal, or to grant leave to appeal to a commissioner. As clause 14 is currently drafted, the chairman would be required to set aside an erroneous decision and refer the case for redetermination by a tribunal.

Concerns were expressed in another place that a chairman would be required to set aside an erroneous decision even where he had been outvoted at the tribunal on the same issue, which could place him in a difficult position.

Mr. Burns: On a point of information, will the Minister confirm that, notwithstanding what he has just said about this issue being raised in another place, it was also raised in the Committee upstairs in this House?

Mr. Bradley: I cannot confirm it in the sense that I do not have Hansard in front of me, but I am sure that the hon. Gentleman must be referring to some comment that he made in Committee and I would not in any way wish to undermine that position. If he now wishes to take credit for the amendment, again, we are all on the same side on this one.

Mr. Burns: The Minister is right in his surmise. It was raised in the Committee of this House, so will he tell the House: if it was so compelling an argument in another place, why did he not listen and why was it not compelling in Committee?

Mr. Bradley: If we go down that route of argument, there would no point us discussing these amendments and the Government laying out their position on accepting them. The parliamentary process is a total process: through Second Reading, Committee, the Lords and back again. Throughout that process, not just in parts of it,

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we are a listening Government. I am pleased that we have listened very carefully to the arguments throughout that process and have come to a conclusion on them.

Mr. Burns rose--

Mr. Bradley: I wish to make progress. I do not think that we need to make a fuss about nothing on this point.

Mr. Burns: If the Minister gives way, it will save me having to make a speech

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