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These notes relate to the Lords Amendments to the Welfare Reform Bill, as brought from the House of Lords on 27th March 2007 [Bill 89]
WELFARE REFORM BILL
EXPLANATORY NOTES ON LORDS AMENDMENTS
1. These explanatory notes relate to the Lords Amendments to the Welfare Reform Bill, as brought from the House of Lords on 27th March 2007. They have been prepared by the Department for Work and Pensions in order to assist the reader of the Bill and the Lords Amendments and to help inform debate on the Lords Amendments. They do not form part of the Bill and have not been endorsed by Parliament.
2. These notes, like the Lords Amendments themselves, refer to HL Bill 24, the Bill as first printed for the Lords.
3. These notes need to be read in conjunction with the Lords Amendments and the text of the Bill. They are not, and are not meant to be, a comprehensive description of the effect of the Lords Amendments.
4. All the Lords Amendments were in the name of the Minister except for Amendment 1, which was opposed by the Government.
Bill 89EN 54/2
COMMENTARY ON LORDS AMENDMENTS
Lords Amendment 1
5. This clause would commit the Secretary of State to commissioning and laying before Parliament independent reports on the operation of the assessments under clauses 8 and 9. This is an annual commitment for the first five years after implementation of the revised assessments.
Lords Amendment 2
6. Lords Amendment 2 will amend the definition of health care professional in clause 10(8) (work-focused health-related assessments) in order to maintain a consistent definition of health care professional throughout the Bill.
7. This amendment lists three categories of regulated health care professional on the face of the Bill to provide a meaning for the phrase "health care professional" used in the Bill: (a) registered medical practitioners, (b) registered nurses and (c) occupational therapists and physiotherapists regulated by the appropriate statutory body. It also provides a regulation-making power to be able to add to this list of regulated health care professionals in the future.
Lords Amendments 3 to 7
8. Clause 15 allows contracted out providers to exercise functions of the Secretary of State relating to conditionality. The amendments will create a new category of excluded decision, which will mean:
9. Excluded decisions will be any decision that a person has failed to comply with a conditionality requirement under clauses 10, 11 or 12 (work-focused health-related assessment, work-focused interview and work-related activity); decisions on whether a person had good cause for not complying with the conditionality requirement; and decisions about the reduction in benefit as a result of a person failing to comply with a conditionality requirement without good cause.
Lords Amendment 8
10. This amendment was brought forward to address a recommendation by the Lords Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. Lords Amendment 8 will make any regulations to be made under clauses 2(2)(c), 2(3)(c), 4(4)(c) and 4(5)(c) subject to the affirmative procedure. These powers enable additional conditions of entitlement to the Support Component and the Work-Related Activity Component to be prescribed, in addition to those set out in the Bill itself.
Lords Amendment 9
11. Lords Amendment 9 will limit the duration of the powers in clause 30. Such clauses are known as "sunset clauses".
12. Subsection (3) will bring the provisions of clause 30 to an end at 31 December 2010. Any regulations made under this provision will cease to have effect after this date, although it is possible for the regulations to cease to have effect before that date if they so provide. For example, it is intended that regulations made under the piloting power (new section 130G) will cease to have effect before that date. Further primary legislation will need to be in place to allow the scheme (or any replacement scheme) to operate after 31 December 2010.
13. Subsection (4) will enable the Secretary of State to make orders preventing anything which has been done under clause 30 from having effect after 31 December 2010. The piloting regulations will end any sanction in force at the end of the pilot period so it is highly unlikely that this power will be used but it is included as a safeguard.
Lords Amendments 10 to 12
14. Lords Amendments 10 and 11 were tabled in response to reports by the Joint Committee on Human Rights and the Lords Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. These amendments will ensure that certain activities concerned with the use of social security information under clause 40 are provided for on the face of the Bill rather than through regulations. Amendments 10 and 11 limit the scope of the use of information under clause 40 to the declared policy intention of enabling relevant authorities (and in particular local authorities) to promote the greater take up of social security benefits.
15. Lords Amendment 12 is consequential to Amendments 10 and 11. Amendment 12 will ensure that section 123 of the Social Security Administration Act 1992 ("the 1992 Act") applies to English county council staff in relation to the disclosure of personal information. (It already applies to DWP staff and local authority staff administering Housing Benefit.) Specifically, it will ensure that such staff can be prosecuted under section 123 of the 1992 Act for the unauthorised disclosure of social security information that comes into their possession by reason of their social security claims and information functions conferred by the amendments made by clause 40.
Lords Amendments 13, 15, 16 and 55
16. Lords Amendment 13 will allow the Secretary of State and the eligible member of an appeal tribunal to refer a person to a health care professional, rather than just a medical practitioner for medical examination and report. Such a reference can be made where considered necessary for the purpose of providing the Secretary of State with information for use in making a decision on entitlement to benefit or to aid the appeal tribunal's determination of an appeal.
17. Lords Amendment 13 will also allow the eligible member of an appeal tribunal to specify the description of health care professional to whom a person is to be referred.
18. Lords Amendments 15 and 16 make provision for the commencement of the provision inserted by Amendment 13.
19. Lords Amendment 55 consequentially amends section 123 of the Social Security Administration Act 1992 which prohibits unauthorised disclosure of information.
Lords Amendments 14 and 23
20. Lords Amendment 23 (which amends section 11 of the Social Security Fraud Act 2001) was tabled in response to a recommendation of the Lords Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. As a result of the amendment, regulations to be made under sections 7(4B) and 9(4B) of the 2001 Act will be subject to affirmative resolution procedure. These provisions relate to loss of benefit following benefit offences, including the effect on benefits of members of the offender's family.
21. Lords Amendment 14 amends clause 67 to ensure that the provision inserted in section 11 of the 2001 Act by Lords Amendment 23 will have the same extent as that section (which extends to Northern Ireland as well as England and Wales and Scotland).
Lords Amendment 17
22. As a result of this amendment to paragraph 10(21) of Schedule 3 to the Bill, the Secretary of State will have an obligation to review the amounts of ESA each year to see if they have retained their value. Paragraph 10(21) of Schedule 3 will amend section 150 of the Social Security Administration Act 1992 to achieve this.
Lords Amendments 18 to 22
23. Lords Amendments 18 to 22 will make regulations to be made under section 62(4A) in the Child Support, Pensions and Social Security Act 2000 subject to the affirmative procedure. These amendments were tabled in response to a recommendation of the Lords Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. Under section 62(4A) of that Act, a breach of a community order could lead to a loss of entitlement to an income-related employment and support allowance.
Lords Amendments 24 to 52
24. Lords Amendments 24 to 52 will amend Schedule 4 in order to ensure that there are sufficient powers to migrate all those with an existing award of benefit relating to incapacity or disability on to Employment and Support Allowance. They are technical in nature.
25. Lords Amendment 24 will amend paragraph 2(a) of Schedule 4 which provides for regulations to make provision for claims made for Incapacity Benefit, Income Support and Severe Disablement Allowance before the appointed day to be treated wholly or partly as claims for Employment and Support Allowance.
26. Lords Amendment 25 will ensure that regulations may make provision for the exclusion of the making of a claim for Incapacity Benefit or Severe Disablement Allowance on or after the appointed day. There is to be no equivalent provision excluding claims for Income Support on the grounds of incapacity because Income Support will continue but as from the appointed day will no longer be available on that ground.
27. Lords Amendments 26, 27 and 28 will ensure that regulations may make provision for claims for Incapacity Benefit, Income Support or Severe Disablement Allowance made on or after the appointed day to be treated in prescribed circumstances as claims for ESA.
28. Lords Amendment 29 will ensure that regulations may make provision for a claim for ESA to be treated as a claim for Incapacity Benefit, Income Support or Severe Disablement Allowance. This is to clarify the existing benefits to which this power may be applied.
29. Lords Amendments 31 to 40 will ensure that regulations may make provision enabling an award of ESA to be made on terms that match the terms of the award that would have been made if the person had been entitled to a new award of Incapacity Benefit, Income Support on the grounds of incapacity or Severe Disablement Allowance which linked to a previous claim.
30. Lords Amendments 41 and 43 to 51 will move the definition of "existing award" from paragraph 7(4) to paragraph 11 and amend the reference to an existing award of income support so that it covers an award made to a person to whom regulation 6(4)(a) (disabled workers) or regulation 13(2)(b) or (bb) (persons in relevant education) of, or paragraph 7(a) or (b) (people who are incapable of work or are treated as such), paragraph 10, (disabled students), paragraph 12 (deaf students) or paragraph 13 (Registered blind) of Schedule 1B to, the Income Support (General) Regulations 1987 applies. This is to ensure that the definition is accurate and correctly placed in the bill. Lords Amendment 30 is a technical amendment flowing from this change.
31. Lords Amendment 52 will define Incapacity Benefit, Income Support and Severe Disablement Allowance for the purposes of Schedule 4. This is to replace the previous definitions to ensure that the powers in Schedule 4 apply to all relevant groups who may be migrated to the new benefit. Lords Amendment 42 is a technical amendment flowing from this change.
Lords Amendments 53 and 54
32. Lords Amendment 53 makes it clear that the power to make regulations under paragraph 9 of the Schedule to the Pneumoconiosis Etc. (Workers' Compensation) Act 1979 is exercisable by the Secretary of State.
33. Lords Amendment 54 was tabled in response to a recommendation of the Lords Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. It sets out more precisely the circumstances in which the power to amend the Schedule to the 1979 Act, conferred by paragraph 9 of that Schedule, may be exercised. As a result of the amendment, that power will be exercisable only in relation to the list of cases in which a person is not a relevant employer (see paragraphs 2 to 6 of the Schedule). This will allow quick response to changes or advances in medical science, or knowledge, in relation to the diseases covered by the 1979 Act by adding to or amending the list of cases in which employers are disregarded.
FINANCIAL EFFECTS OF LORDS AMENDMENTS
34. Lords Amendment 1 requires the Secretary of State to produce an annual report on the assessments of limited capability for work and limited capability for work-related activity for the first five years after Employment and Support Allowance is introduced. This will result in a small increase in administrative costs.
35. Lords Amendment 13 extends the power of the Secretary of State and the eligible member of an appeal tribunal to refer people to approved health care professionals and not just medical practitioners for medical examination and report. Without these powers there would be a cost in continuing to use medical practitioners alone to provide the information necessary for the Secretary of State for use in making a decision on entitlement to benefit or to aid the appeal tribunal's determination of an appeal.
|© Parliamentary copyright 2007||Prepared: 20 April 2007|