Select Committee on Deregulation and Regulatory Reform Ninth Report


Further letter from the Clerk of the Committee to the Department for Work and Pensions

Proposal for the Regulatory Reform (Vaccine Damage Payments Act 1979) Order 2002

Thank you for your further letter of 28 February. We appreciate the Committee's concerns about possible future amendment to the proposals in the draft Order, and as described in the consultation document, but you may be assured that such amendment would not be undertaken lightly.

The transitional claims provisions relate to three categories, those where disallowance was made for failure to satisfy the current time limits, where disallowance was made for failure to satisfy the disability threshold, and where no claim was made on the basis of advice that either the time limit or threshold provisions would not have been satisfied. The arguments for subordinate provisions, about keeping complex transitional provisions off the face of a simple Act, still apply. But in relation to the possibility of amendment of those provisions I can advise that we do not at the moment envisage more than one category where this might apply. This is in the area of failure to claim previously due to advice that either time or disability conditions would not be met.

We have made efforts to ensure that the conditions attaching to transitional claims are fair and equitable to prospective claimants while paying due regard to the need to protect public funds. We will though be dealing with cases that could have their origins more than 20 years ago. Over the life of the Vaccine Damage Payments scheme there have been over 3,000 disallowed claims. About 2,500 cases will have been disallowed on causation grounds, but we have identified about 550 that were disallowed under the time limit or disability threshold provisions and from whom transitional claims will be invited if and when the RRO comes into force. We have no way of knowing how many claims might arise in the "advice not to claim" category, but we might reasonably expect it to be a modest number. It is possible that experience of applying the conditions set out in the draft order may throw up situations that we could not have envisaged and where unreasonable constraints might be imposed on cases that were considered to have merit. Given the overall small number involved it might then be thought to be neither a good use of public funds nor a worthwhile use of Parliamentary time to go through the full RRO process to effect an amendment. Therefore, although the provisions of the draft Order reflect those described in the consultation document, we felt it prudent to allow for possible amendment without the need for a further RRO. Given the uncertainty of the situation for which we are making allowance you will appreciate that it is difficult to give meaningful examples.

While it is possible that an amendment could prescribe tighter conditions it is far more likely that, if a subordinate provisions order were ever to be considered, the intention would be to relax the conditions. We acknowledge that any such order could be brought forward without the kind of extensive consultation required by section 5 of the Regulatory Reform Act but it would be subject to affirmative resolution and thus subject to the scrutiny and prior approval of both Houses. It seemed to us that the situation for which we were allowing was within the type of scenario envisaged for a subordinate provisions order under s4(4)(b) of the Regulatory Reform Act 2001.

6 March 2002

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