Session 2010-12
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Welfare Reform Bill

Welfare Reform Bill

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairs: Mr James Gray  , †Mr Mike Weir 

Baldwin, Harriett (West Worcestershire) (Con) 

Bebb, Guto (Aberconwy) (Con) 

Buck, Ms Karen (Westminster North) (Lab) 

Curran, Margaret (Glasgow East) (Lab) 

Elliott, Julie (Sunderland Central) (Lab) 

Ellison, Jane (Battersea) (Con) 

Elphicke, Charlie (Dover) (Con) 

Fovargue, Yvonne (Makerfield) (Lab) 

Gilmore, Sheila (Edinburgh East) (Lab) 

Glen, John (Salisbury) (Con) 

Grayling, Chris (Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions)  

Green, Kate (Stretford and Urmston) (Lab) 

Greenwood, Lilian (Nottingham South) (Lab) 

Hollingbery, George (Meon Valley) (Con) 

McVey, Esther (Wirral West) (Con) 

Miller, Maria (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions)  

Newton, Sarah (Truro and Falmouth) (Con) 

Paisley, Ian (North Antrim) (DUP) 

Patel, Priti (Witham) (Con) 

Pearce, Teresa (Erith and Thamesmead) (Lab) 

Sarwar, Anas (Glasgow Central) (Lab) 

Smith, Miss Chloe (Norwich North) (Con) 

Swales, Ian (Redcar) (LD) 

Timms, Stephen (East Ham) (Lab) 

Uppal, Paul (Wolverhampton South West) (Con) 

Willott, Jenny (Cardiff Central) (LD) 

James Rhys, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

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Public Bill Committee 

Thursday 12 May 2011  


[Mr Mike Weir in the Chair] 

Welfare Reform Bill

Schedule 10 

Personal independence payment: transitional 

Amendment proposed (this day): 231, in schedule 10, page 138, line 36, at end insert— 

‘(3) The Secretary of State shall not transfer any existing recipients of disability living allowance to personal independence payment, including under sub-paragraph (1), until he has—

(a) published a report about the operation of the personal independence payment application and assessment process for new claimants; and

(b) conducted and responded to a consultation about the process that will be used to transfer existing disability living allowance recipients to personal independence payment.’.—(Margaret Curran.)

1 pm 

Question again proposed, That the amendment be made. 

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Maria Miller):  I was in the process of answering some specific questions from the hon. Member for Glasgow East. She made great play of the number of people of working age migrating from disability living allowance to personal independence payment: 1.8 million over three years. It is always important to put such matters into context. I am sure that the hon. Lady would never want to create any unnecessary anxiety. None of us wants to do that. I can reassure her that the Pension, Disability and Carers Service, known as PDCS, is already accustomed to managing high volumes of work on DLA, due to the large number of recipients. The organisation processes on average 730,000 new and renewal claims for DLA every year. Alongside that, it deals with 285,000 changes each year, for example, when a customer moves house. That constitutes activity in one year. I hope that that reassures the hon. Lady that the organisation is used to dealing with volume in the region of 1.8 million people over three years. I do not wish to sound complacent. The hon. Lady is right to ensure that the Government think carefully about such matters. However, the volumes are usual for this style of benefit. 

I come to the questions about migration, training and ordering of migration. We will ensure that comprehensive training is delivered to staff and independent assessors well before migration begins. Our current plans are to begin staff training as early as November 2012. It will be difficult to start much sooner, because it is important to ensure that people are trained in the process as it goes live, as opposed to anything that might still be under review. As for the order of migration, targets and time scales are being considered and will be informed by

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final decisions on the delivery model for assessment. We will ensure that is done once the additional testing has taken place over the summer. As for new applicants being able to continue with DLA while we transfer to PIP, we will look at that in great detail to ensure that the processes are as they should be. 

There is the further reassurance of external scrutiny. I will soon meet the Cabinet Office on the issue, and am working in partnership with the Treasury. They will provide additional external scrutiny and assurance as part of the major projects authority process. That is a new process created to improve governance, in a way that I am sure the hon. Lady would want the new Government to do. It takes a great deal of interest in significant projects such as this, which have important outcomes for the taxpayer. That will ensure that the project undergoes regular and planned analysis to keep it on track; the sort of scrutiny the hon. Lady has called for. 

I hope I have been able to address some of the hon. Lady’s concerns. There are obviously further details to discuss, and I look forward to that as we proceed with regulations in the House. We will continue to involve disabled people and their organisations in the design and migration exercise. I hope that, with those reassurances, the hon. Lady will reconsider pressing her amendments. 

Margaret Curran (Glasgow East) (Lab):  I thank the Minister for that interesting response. I do not wish to provoke another storm in Committee, whereby we talked about the scale of the challenge in front of us. I take the Minister’s point. We are not just changing an element of a benefit; we are giving it a major overhaul, alongside other changes such as universal credit. The measure is a significant step change, and I still have concerns about that. 

None the less, the Minister said before the break that she will keep Parliament well informed as we proceed with the measure. As the Bill progresses, I hope that she will continue to do that and that she will discuss learning from the samples that she is undertaking and perhaps some of the other work. Parliament will take a very strong interest in how the matter is being pursued. I maintain my principal concern but, in light of the Minister’s assurances, I will not press the amendment to a vote. However, I may come to it another time. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment. 

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.  

Schedule 10 agreed to.  

Clause 91 


Amendment made: 94, in clause 91, page 61, line 7, leave out “under this Part” at insert— 

“made under this Part by the Secretary of State”—(Maria Miller.)  

Kate Green (Stretford and Urmston) (Lab):  I beg to move amendment 186, in clause 91, page 61, line 12, leave out ‘assessment of’ and insert 

‘all aspects of Personal Independence Payments for’. 

I will be brief because I have amendments coming up in a moment that I will discuss in a bit more detail. 

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Clause 91(6) states that regulations will require the approval of both Houses for provisions about the assessment of persons under 16. Through the amendment, I wish simply to point out that the focus only on assessment is too narrow. The regulations that require the approval of both Houses should cover all aspects of the introduction of the personal independence payment for young people and children under 16. I say that to emphasise briefly two or three points I made this morning. The issues for children and young people are different from those for adults in several important respects. It certainly may be the case that the assessment process will need to look different. I think the Minister acknowledged that usefully this morning. 

As I suggested, there are issues where a different approach might be appropriate for children and young people, for example, in relation to the eligibility period for the benefit. On the possibility of a different rates regime applying to children and young people, it may not be right for the two-rate system that is being proposed for adults to apply to children and young people. For children and young people in a residential educational setting, there may be reasons why a different period for either entitlement to the benefit or eligibility could be relevant, for example, to allow families properly to support or settle young people in residential educational care. 

Through the amendment, I simply wish to ensure that the regulations that require the consideration of both Houses cover not just the assessment of children and young people, but the operation of applying PIP to children and young people. I have tabled the amendment to hear from the Minister on that point. 

Maria Miller:  I hope that I can reassure the hon. Lady through my comments. I understand the issue that she is pressing and the need to ensure that there is full scrutiny of the provisions that will eventually be introduced for children. Her amendment would make the first version of all regulations relating to children subject to an affirmative procedure. 

The regulations in clause 78 dealing with the assessment and the required period condition must have a full airing in Parliament and be subject to debate in the first instance. Those were two of the issues that the hon. Lady raised in her comments when adding depth to the intention of her amendment. The provision includes the regulations dealing with the assessment of children, and recognises the importance of those key conditions of entitlement, which will be contained in secondary legislation under our proposals rather than enshrined in inflexible primary legislation, as is currently the case for DLA, causing several problems. However, we do not consider a debate under the affirmative procedure necessary for those conditions of entitlement under the PIP regulations that will be similar to those that apply to DLA, or where changes are relatively minor. I suppose that the hon. Lady and I might have a slight difference of approach on that. 

The information provided to the Committee about our regulation-making powers describes the regulations to be made under each clause and, as the hon. Lady knows well, any regulations made under the negative procedure remain subject to full parliamentary scrutiny, including a debate if any hon. Member decides to pray against. Any measure also remains subject to the scrutiny of the Select Committee on the Merits of Statutory Instruments and the Joint Committee on Statutory

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Instruments. Furthermore, as, again, I am sure she knows, if regulations are laid as a package and one part is subject to the affirmative procedure, the entire package becomes subject to debate—it is a trump card. 

I appreciate that the hon. Lady wishes to ensure that the needs of children receive proper consideration. We share that objective. I assure her that the way in which we have structured the Bill will ensure that that is the case. We are conscious that the needs of children are different from those of adults, as she so rightly said, and that they vary at key stages of the child’s development. As the Government made clear on Second Reading, it is important to get that right. 

We are clear that we will need to develop a specific child assessment before we can apply the new PIP to children. Furthermore, the Government are committed to consulting on the arrangements for children—another reassurance which I hope the hon. Lady will find helpful. There will, therefore, be ample opportunity for the families of disabled children, organisations representing their interests and hon. Members to scrutinise our full proposals. I reassure her that I have listened carefully to what she said and I share her desire to have a full and open debate about all aspects of the measures for children. I am not, however, prepared to commit to regulations subject to the affirmative procedure across the board, as she proposes, but if I consider it appropriate that other regulations should be subject to the affirmative procedure, the Bill can be amended at a later stage. 

Given such assurances, I hope that the hon. Lady is willing to withdraw her amendment. 

Kate Green:  I am grateful to the Minister for her assurances, and for her generous assumption of my understanding of the process of scrutinising statutory instruments. I have certainly taken note of all the opportunities available to hon. Members in future to ensure that the regulations receive full scrutiny. 

I understand where the Minister is coming from with almost everything she has said. The families of disabled children would not necessarily think that changes to things such as the three-tier rates or the period during which children in residential educational settings can receive the benefit are minor, but I welcome what she said about the specific child assessment and consultation process that will be put in place before any such regulations are laid before the House. That would certainly give every opportunity for such issues to be explored in full. 

I was also interested in the Minister’s assurance that, if necessary, the Bill could be amended to allow for a widening of the scope of which regulations fall under the affirmative procedure. She saw no difficulty in that and my hon. Friends and I will want to consider the implications. Her assurance is welcome and, in the light of those points, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment. 

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.  

1.15 pm 

Margaret Curran:  I beg to move amendment 229, in clause 91, page 61, line 12, at end insert— 

‘(c) regulations under section 83,’.

The amendment returns to a lively debate that the Committee had about the withdrawal of DLA mobility component in residential care, and it relates to the

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procedures surrounding that withdrawal. The proposal would ensure that any regulating powers in clause 83—“Persons receiving certain services”—must be subject to an affirmative vote in each House of Parliament. The argument for the affirmative process for the PIP regulations is strengthened categorically, I would argue, by the lack of information that will be released on the review into DLA mobility component. As MPs will not be given the information before voting on it, the argument that any future regulations must be subject to greater scrutiny is very strong. If there are any concerns at all, at the very least, we should move to the affirmative procedure. 

A lot of questions remain following our decision in Tuesday’s vote. I do not know whether we have established that PIP will only be removed in case of overlap. The individualistic approach that the Minister argued for seems to run counter to the approach that has been taken in residential care. If clause 83 is merely a power, leaving it in the Bill does nothing to calm those who are worried about that potential cut. Although I am happy to revisit the substance of our argument on clause 83, I do not necessarily want to. My appeal is that, given the nature of our debate and because of the concern about the proposals, it is more than reasonable to ask that the provision be subject to the affirmative procedure. That would be a minor concession for the Government to make, given the scale of the concern. 

Maria Miller:  I thank the hon. Lady for outlining the intention behind her amendment. Although I understand why she has tabled it and brought those concerns to the Committee’s attention, I hope that I can reassure her that the change is not needed. There are significant controls in place to enable adequate consideration by Parliament not only on this measure, but on many others in the Bill. The information provided to the Committee on our regulation-making powers clearly describes the purpose of the regulations associated with each clause in the Bill. 

I reassure the hon. Lady that we clearly and obviously continue to abide by the Government code of practice, which ensures that we consult publicly and openly on all regulations coming out of the PIP measure, whether they are affirmative or negative. It is useful to bring that to the attention of not only the hon. Lady, but all members of the Committee. The hon. Member for Stretford and Urmston said that it was helpful for me to outline some of the measures. Given that some hon. Members have less experience on Bill Committees than others, being aware of some of the real powers of scrutiny that are an important part of the process that we are all involved in might help. I assure hon. Members that any regulations made under the negative procedure always remain subject to full parliamentary scrutiny, should Parliament wish that to be the case, including through a prayer debate. All regulations are scrutinised by the Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee and the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments. Furthermore, regulations—as I have said before, but it is helpful to remind hon. Members—are often laid as a package. If one part of that package requires an affirmative procedure debate, they will all be subject to such a debate. 

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I assure hon. Members that I have listened carefully to what has been said on this matter throughout and during our debate on Tuesday. I hope that when the hon. Member for Glasgow East has had time to reflect and perhaps read through some of the debate in Hansard, she will see that we have a shared conviction, which is to ensure that the elements of the Bill that relate to care home residents work well. We are taking the concerns of those who carefully follow our proceedings extremely seriously, and we want to look at the facts of a case before any final decisions are made. 

I sympathise with the hon. Lady’s desire to ensure that the provisions receive the fullest scrutiny, but I hope that she understands that, with all the different measures that we have in place, I am not prepared to commit to making regulations subject to affirmative procedure today. I will, however, ensure that I keep that under consideration, and if it were appropriate for other regulations to be subject to the affirmative procedure, that is something that we can consider. I appreciate her wish to ensure that the needs of those in hospitals or care homes receive proper consideration, and I can assure her that that will always be the case with the Government. With those comments, I hope that the hon. Lady can withdraw her amendment. 

Margaret Curran:  I thank the Minister for that reply. I must say that I am far from an expert on procedures, but I have experience from another place—the Scottish Parliament—which Mr Weir will be well acquainted with, so I have some grasp of the different procedures that can be deployed in such circumstances. I understand the Minister’s argument about standard procedures of scrutiny and that scrutiny takes place in varied structures and processes, and there are times when that is appropriate, but we have a choice of procedures. It is open to us to choose the affirmative procedure, and that is there for a purpose. If it was just as the Minister described, there would be no reason to choose between negative and affirmative, but affirmative is there for a reason. 

I can think of no other circumstances in which we need the affirmative procedure except for these. There is still a degree of confusion. There are still outstanding policy issues that the Government need to bring forward. There is still this scale of concern. Parliamentarians are still unclear about what will actually happen and what the impact of this policy, either in principle or in practice, will be. Given the scale of concern, it is the least that we can do. That concern is not only about the policy, but about all the details of the proposals and what they actually mean. We still do not know what the review is doing, who is involved in it, what it is considering, what the impacts are or what choices the Government are considering. Affirmative procedure still needs to be considered. 

At the heart of the affirmative procedure is the fact that it leads to another vote in Committee—another vote in the parliamentary process. That is why it is critical. That is why it is there. Quite properly and quite reasonably, as the Minister outlined, it is not the same as the other regulations and scrutiny, and it is appropriate in these circumstances. The affirmative procedure is there to enable us to have that vote. I appeal to anyone with a modicum of concern about the withdrawal of the mobility component for those in residential care to support the affirmative procedure. It is a basic democratic principle. 

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Sarah Newton (Truro and Falmouth) (Con):  None of us is under any illusion about the amount of concern that exists about some of the widely promoted possible implications. I am reassured, however, and I am disappointed that the hon. Lady is not reassured by the great thoroughness with which the Government have spelled out how they will consult on the measures and by how they have postponed any decisions to ensure that anybody who requires mobility support will receive it. We will have ample opportunity, through all the measures that are available to us as parliamentarians, to ensure that we hold the Government to account so that anybody who is in residential care right now who needs support with their mobility will have it. 

Margaret Curran:  I have to say that the people and organisations that I have talked to have absolutely and categorically not had that reassurance. I have pressed the Minister to explain to me who will get the mobility component if they stay in residential care and who will not. From the hon. Lady’s contribution, she perhaps has an understanding that I do not. It is clear that some people will not receive it. Those currently living in residential care do not know whether they will get it. 

Maria Miller:  Will the hon. Lady give way? 

Margaret Curran:  May I just finish this point? I am happy to go back into the substance of the argument, but I am making a slightly different point. Perhaps I will be proven wrong, but we have affirmative procedure for exactly this kind of case, which is one where there is a distinction and where we are still arguing about the detail. I am not going back into that argument—enthusiastic though I am. It is about actual Parliamentary scrutiny, and the procedure is therefore exact in these circumstances. It is not about the policy itself; it is the procedure we are debating now. 

Maria Miller:  I know that the hon. Lady does not intend to create concern among individuals who may be residents of care homes. She may or may not be aware that there are many residents of care homes who do not currently get mobility allowance. There may be people who do not receive mobility allowance under PIP because they are not be eligible for it and may not have been eligible for it under DLA. I urge her to take a measured approach to this and not to assert that individuals will not receive a benefit for which the assessment has not yet been made. 

Margaret Curran:  I thank the Minister for the opportunity to clarify my remarks. I would certainly not wish to raise the alarm for people who currently do not get a benefit and imply that they should get it. However, there is no doubt that people who currently receive this benefit are very worried that they may not get it in the future, and that they have no clarification about that. If the Minister had been with me—I know she was invited—with the 5,000 people demonstrating yesterday, she would have seen that many of those people were not clear about this benefit and were concerned. It would be fair to say that we were referred to during that demonstration. 

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This is about the empowerment of Parliament: it is about the affirmative procedure. If the Minister is right and all these concerns can be allayed straightforwardly—they have not been to date—there is nothing to fear from the affirmative procedure. It gives Parliament the opportunity, and it is very important to do that. 

Sarah Newton:  The point is important. We know that there are many thousands of people up and down the country listening to what we are saying today. This is not just conversation between ourselves: Hansard will be communicated widely. No one on this side of the Committee is not clear in their own mind about the Government’s commitment to ensure that anyone with a disability in residential care who needs support with their mobility will receive that support. Because we have that clarity, which has been given to us time after time, the processes will be there for me as a Back Bencher to ensure that I hold my Government to account through all the debating and all the statutory instruments. 

Margaret Curran:  I repeat to the hon. Lady that people are not as reassured as she seems to think. There is a lot of evidence about that. She may have been reassured that there are many people, but she is in danger of shooting the messenger. We are expressing views that have been put us very strongly. There are many people up and down the country. She may be satisfied that she has had ample information, and that there is ample opportunity to use the procedures of the House of Commons. However, that is not adequate. An affirmative procedure is not the most revolutionary step one could take to deal with this. 

I am not suggesting that we upturn all the procedures of the House of Commons and introduce some unheard of new step. It is a standard procedure that emphasises the need for Parliament to be involved where there is a particular issue to consider. It is a small, minor step that could be taken and it would show good will on the part of the Government to do so. It would show respect to the people who have not got the clarity of Government Members. It would be a recognition that the Government are beginning to “get it” a wee bit and, believe me, as someone who takes a great interest in this field, that is genuinely required. It gives us that extra opportunity. It is extraordinarily disappointing to say no to this. It seems to indicate that we are a wee bit insular on this Committee and that we are not understanding what is really going on out there or what the debates are among the charities, the organisations and the care homes. 

Lilian Greenwood (Nottingham South) (Lab):  Does my hon. Friend agree that, while clause 83 remains in the Bill and says that people in residential care in receipt of qualifying services paid for out of public funds may lose their personal independence, there will be concern among people currently in receipt of the mobility component? 

Margaret Curran:  I thank my hon. Friend for that reference. It makes the point about why we need the affirmative procedure. If Government Members are satisfied, they have nothing to fear from the affirmative procedure because it can clearly explain the Government’s position and provide that reassurance. On that note, I will press my amendment. 

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1.30 pm 

Question put, That the amendment be made. 

The Committee divided: Ayes 10, Noes 12. 

Division No. 14 ]  


Buck, Ms Karen   

Curran, Margaret   

Elliott, Julie   

Fovargue, Yvonne   

Gilmore, Sheila   

Green, Kate   

Greenwood, Lilian   

Pearce, Teresa   

Sarwar, Anas   

Timms, rh Stephen   


Baldwin, Harriett   

Bebb, Guto   

Ellison, Jane   

Elphicke, Charlie   

Glen, John   

Miller, Maria   

Newton, Sarah   

Patel, Priti   

Smith, Miss Chloe   

Swales, Ian   

Uppal, Paul   

Willott, Jenny   

Question accordingly negatived.  

Kate Green:  I beg to move amendment 187, in clause 91, page 61, line 13, after ‘unless’, insert 

‘a public consultation has taken place and’. 

The Chair:  With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment 185, in clause 91, page 61, line 14, at end insert— 

‘(6A) Regulations under this Part must outline how the Government will ensure a smooth transition from Disability Living Allowance to Personal Independence Payments for disabled young people when they turn 16.’.

Kate Green:  The amendments relate to the consultation process, which we talked about this morning. I want to put a few more issues on the record so that the Minister may have a chance to respond to them. The amendments also relate to the transition process for those children currently in receipt of disability living allowance who are likely to be among the first to be assessed for the new PIP because they will reach their 16th birthday at around the time that the new payment comes in. They will, therefore, be required to go through an assessment to claim the new benefit. 

As I said this morning—this is the specific problem in the consultation—the issue is of concern because PIP is initially intended as a benefit for working-age, disabled people. We all acknowledged this morning that PIP essentially has that age group in mind and may not fully reflect the specific needs of disabled children. 

We want to ensure that the consultation on introducing PIP for children properly addresses the different needs of children and young people so that PIP supports the extra costs of living with a disability. I want to mention a few of the instances in which there is a case for designing PIP differently so that it takes account of the specific needs of children. It would be useful if the Minister could comment on these particular aspects. 

We have already touched on some of the issues. The Minister herself has touched on this first issue. The frequency of assessments for children can be a particular factor that causes distress or concern for children and their families. It may be appropriate to look at less frequent assessments for children whose health conditions

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or impairments will not change or get better, or for whom extra distress will be caused in carrying out assessments for PIP at the same time as assessments for other care needs. I was grateful to the Minister for raising the issue herself this morning. I would simply add that parents are concerned about who carries out the assessment of children. Parents have expressed concerns that social services, which may have some contact with the family where a child is severely disabled, may none the less not be particularly good at assessing some of the aspects of living with that disability. So the assessment process for children will need to be looked at with particular care. 

We talked this morning about the qualification period before entitlement to DLA. If it is increased from the current three months for children under the age of 16 that would cause considerable concern. Families need support early on when a child is identified as having a disability or impairment. Three months is a long time in the life of a young child and addressing the needs of children as early as possible is really significant for their well-being in childhood and also for their long-term outcomes in adulthood. 

We talked about children in residential schools and the importance of giving proper consideration to ensuring that the way in which the mobility payment is retained enables them not just to be mobile in the educational setting, but to play an active part in their family life during the holidays and at weekends, and to ensure that families have the money to maintain the child’s strong familial relationships while they are in their residential educational setting. It is not unknown for schools to provide transport between home and school only at the beginning and end of term and not during the term to enable children to spend time with their families at weekends. Clearly that is an issue for children and young people that might warrant special consideration. 

I raised some of these issues with the Minister of State, Department for Education, the hon. Member for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton (Mr Gibb) and asked to what extent such support beyond the beginning and end of term was already being provided and what sort of support was being provided for transport costs by residential educational settings. He could not tell me much about that because it is apparently a matter for local discretion. I expect that will continue to be the case, but it is important that children are facilitated to have proper contact with their families during the school term. 

We discussed the concern about a potential change to the current situation where disabled children can gain three levels of the daily living component and two levels of the mobility component. Overall, if the Government decide that it would be appropriate to bring disabled children on to the PIP system, it would be helpful if the welcome consultation and review process that the Minister described followed the review of how PIP works for adults. Some useful lessons could be learnt from that on how to be adapt the system to meet the specific needs of disabled children. If there is be a full consultation, as the Minister has pleasingly indicated, the public should be clear about its process and be given every opportunity to participate. 

I apologise for taking the amendments in reverse order. Amendment 185 on consultation is intended to ensure that if PIP is introduced for children it is well

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designed and can respond to the concerns and issues that many families with disabled children would want to be given the fullest consideration. I am sure that the Minister will be able to give us considerable reassurance on that point, but it is useful to put on the record some of the concerns that disabled children’s families are already raising and I am grateful for the opportunity to do that. 

On transition, my specific concern is that young teenagers are likely to be among early implementers of the move to PIP. They will reach their 16th birthday more or less at the time that PIP comes into play for adults so they would, presumably, be undergoing an assessment at an early stage. The Minister helpfully said this morning that until people were migrated they would remain on disability living allowance, which means that two very different systems will be running for disabled people at the same time. It is important that we are reassured about how the Government intend to ensure a smooth transition between DLA and PIP for disabled young people, particularly if they are likely to have to make that transition in their teens, as they turn 16. We are all keen for that process to be as smooth as possible. 

Government Members have rightly mentioned that transition from childhood to adulthood can be extremely stressful for disabled people and their families, because of the changing infrastructure of support that they have to access; the way in which assessments for that change in support can be carried out by their local authority and others; and the worry that there will be some sort of gap as that transition takes place, and services or financial support will disappear for a while as the systems readjust to the child’s moving into the adult environment. Families of disabled children have said they and their children often feel that they are starting from scratch at that moment, with no clear pathways for how the young person will move from childhood to adulthood in both social care and financial support. 

Disabled young people and their families currently report limited problems with the reassessment process during the transition from DLA as a child to DLA as an adult, even though the systems currently operate differently for the two groups. It would be disappointing if the Government did not have arrangements in place to ensure that a smooth transition is maintained in the benefits system for disabled young people who turn 16. As we can expect that these young people will be among the first to be moved on to the new PIP system, it is important that both the system itself and the transition process are fit for purpose and designed to support this group’s specific needs. 

I hope that the Minister will take the opportunity to provide clarity on how she intends to support disabled young people during this time in their lives. I am sure that all hon. Members agree that it is a time of great upheaval and uncertainty, which we would not want to see made worse. 

Maria Miller:  Amendments 185 and 187 both appear to be intended to add provisions in relation to children. The first seeks to provide a specific regulatory framework for the transition process, and the second seeks to ensure that the first set of regulations dealing with a future assessment will be subject to public consultation. 

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I would like to say at the outset that I understand the purpose of the amendments that the hon. Member for Stretford and Urmston has set out so clearly, and I agree that it is vital to ensure that children on DLA experience a smooth transition to PIP when they reach the age of 16. Likewise, I agree that regulations as important as these, which would introduce an assessment regime for children, should be subject to consultation, and the hon. Lady has my absolute assurance that that will be the case. 

1.45 pm 

On amendment 185, powers in clause 90 and schedule 10 already provide for important transitional arrangements. Those regulatory arrangements will, as a matter of course, deal with the very important issue that she has highlighted regarding ensuring that children receiving DLA move smoothly to PIP in a way that is sensitive to their needs and circumstances and which ensures no break in payment where that is appropriate. Clearly such regulations will also need to be supported by guidance, to decision makers and trained independent assessors, to fully support the aim of the smooth transition. I can again assure the hon. Lady that we will publicly consult on the regulations that would relate to the issue she has highlighted. 

The hon. Lady referred to the consultation that we held on the totality of the new reforms around DLA. It is worth explaining to her why we held a 10-and-a-half-week rather than a 12-week consultation as part of the important process of developing that. The code of practice on consultation sets a standard that we aspire to; it is not binding. In this case, we are consulting on general principles only. As I have outlined to the Committee at length, there will be extensive opportunities for the Government to take views on how we might deliver the reforms. The change in timing in no way implies a lack of desire to get comments. We received 5,500 comments, which hopefully proved that the change in timing was not a limiting factor. There were some problems with the consultation website for two days, so we extended the consultation period by four days to ensure that those problems were not a barrier to people participating. 

With regard to amendment 187, I am happy to confirm that it is our firm intention to consult on such regulations, whether they apply to people of working age or to children. We said so in the policy briefing, which hon. Members will have received a few days ago and which has been made more widely available through our website. The hon. Lady referred to a number of specific matters, such as assessments, that it would be important to review through regulations. She asked who would undertake such assessments, and talked about important issues such as the qualifying period. 

Sarah Newton:  Like all my colleagues on this side of the Committee, I spend a lot of time listening to the concerns of people with disabilities and of families that are doing a great job of caring in what can be a very difficult situation. The qualifying period concerns us all. It would be very helpful for us to hear a bit more from the Minister today about those concerns. As the reforms are being more widely debated and we have representations from all sorts of organisations, we would like to be reassured that she is listening very carefully to concerns about the qualifying period and its impact. 

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Maria Miller:  I thank my hon. Friend for those comments. I know that she has been having discussions about the issue with people in her constituency and I applaud her work on ensuring that people are fully aware of exactly what the Government are introducing. The hon. Member for Glasgow East said that some of the people she meets are perhaps less clear than they would be if she were able to make the information that we give her available to her constituents. That may help in the process. It would perhaps be a useful way for us proceeding. 

We debated the qualifying period extensively on Tuesday, and it is an important difference between us. I explained that it was not about any spending issues; it is much more about getting an alignment in how we deal with long-term disability. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Truro and Falmouth for picking up on an important point, because we will be able to consider the issue of children and qualifying periods separately to the debate on adults. As part of the deliberations about children, we can look at that specifically to see what would be most appropriate for children under 16. That is yet another demonstration of the importance that we attach to the difference between adults and children, and of how, although the measures for adults and children are contained in one Bill, we will deal with the practicalities of the evolution of the assessment and the operational procedures on an individual basis to ensure that we develop the most appropriate procedure for children. It is important for us to say that. If we were minded to look at a way in which to vary the qualifying period for children, we would consider it carefully.

The hon. Member for Stretford and Urmston talked about children turning 16 shortly after the introduction of PIP, and made the assumption that they would be the first to go through the new assessment. I can understand why she assumed that, but I would like to clarify the matter for her. The migration strategy is a very detailed piece of work, in terms of who would be migrated at which point. There are very important equality issues tied up with all those matters, and they are being looked at carefully, but we obviously want to consult disabled people, their families, and user-led organisations to get that important aspect of the Bill right. We would also include organisations representing disabled children. So I urge the hon. Lady not to make the assumption, at this stage, that 16-year-olds would be the first to go through the new assessment, because that may or may not be the case. We want to look at it in great detail. 

I want to reassure hon. Members that, as we develop these processes and any regulations that emerge from them, we want to continue to work closely with disabled people, their families and advocates, and disabled people’s organisations. It is vital to ensure that, for instance, any unintended consequences of the process are ironed out well before the introduction, and that supporting regulations receive the appropriate public scrutiny through open consultation. 

I realise that I did not touch on our work on the assessment for children, but we have covered that previously, so I hope that the hon. Member for Stretford and Urmston will forgive me for not going over that argument. Given the assurances that I have given in this and previous debates, I hope that she feels able to withdraw the amendment. 

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Kate Green:  I am grateful to the Minister for a very useful and interesting response on several important aspects, including to some questions I did not ask. It is always very welcome to have that information, and to hear the Minister amplify a little the reason why the Government feels that a 10-and-a-half-week consultation period is acceptable: there will be significant further consultation on delivery of the benefit. I hope that when that consultation takes place, it will extend to the full period to which we aspire for consultations. As my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow East has pointed out several times today, many people have a lot to say about the reforms, and naturally we want—as I am sure that the Minister does—to ensure that they have the fullest opportunity to do so. 

I was very interested in the Minister’s remarks on the qualifying period. I am grateful for her recognition that there might be specific issues around the qualifying period in relation to children and young people. The hon. Member for Truro and Falmouth also made that point; there is common understanding of why there might be particular aspects to take into account. I interpreted the Minister’s comments to men that, although her justification for a six-month qualifying period for adults was about standardising definitions in the context of other equality legislation, there might be a case for a different approach to children. I do not think for a minute that the Opposition have bought in to the standardisation argument for adults. However, taking that at face value for the moment, there is an overriding consideration for children. It is the Children Act approach: the well-being of the child should be paramount. I suggest to the Minister that that might be the right framework for determining how the PIP process is designed for children, including the way in which the eligibility period is considered. 

I am grateful to the Minister for her interesting comments on the process of determining who will migrate when, and that we should not assume that those who would have had to be reassessed for DLA at the age of 16 will automatically be at the top of the queue for an assessment for PIP. Her commitment to full consultation on that migration process is very welcome. It will be a good opportunity to ensure that the disruption young people experience is kept to a minimum. That is an important transition point for young people in so many ways. There is often an educational transition, and they may be thinking about different residential settings at that stage in development. I hope that, if the Minister is saying that much wider and more detailed thinking is to be done on the profiling and timing of who migrates and when, there will be an opportunity to think imaginatively about the migration of young people. As I have said, although it is not particularly significant in relation to DLA transition, there are a lot of surrounding issues. If anything goes wrong with the money for the family when it is coping with those surrounding issues, that undoubtedly makes things very difficult. 

I welcome the Minister’s comments that we will have the opportunity to review detailed regulations and guidance, as the migration is implemented. I am confident that they will be subject to full scrutiny in the House and beyond. The debate has been very useful, and I am grateful to the Minister for the care with which she has responded. On the basis on what she has told us, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment. 

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Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.  

Amendments made: 95, in clause 91, page 61, line 15, leave out subsection (7) 

Amendment 96, in clause 91, page 61, line 25, at end insert— 

‘( ) Regulations made by the Scottish Ministers under section 89 are subject to—

(a) the affirmative procedure, if they contain provision amending or repealing primary legislation (within the meaning of that section), and

(b) the negative procedure, in any other case.’—(Maria Miller.)

Clause 91, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.  

Clause 92 ordered to stand part of the Bill.  

2 pm 

Miss Chloe Smith (Norwich North) (Con):  I beg to move, That the debate be now adjourned. 

Stephen Timms (East Ham) (Lab):  May I put on record my disappointment that the Government are curtailing our debate so early? We expected a further two and half hours of debate. There is a great deal to talk about. The reason we were given for sitting late on Tuesday night was so that we could get ahead of the indicative schedule, because we need to have a new debate now, following the House’s decision on Monday, on the child poverty and social mobility commission.

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Finishing so early today takes us back to the indicative timetable that we had at the outset. We are throwing away all the gain we made by sitting late on Tuesday. There is a great deal in the Bill still to discuss. We are about to move on to the benefit cap, which gives rise to significant concerns. We have the debate to come on the child support arrangements and a whole raft of new clauses, including the Government’s new clause, which the Secretary of State promised us, on new arrangements for child care support. I am getting anxious that the time available to us will be be tightly constrained, given how much there still is to debate. 

The Chair:  It is up to the Opposition if they wish to oppose the Adjournment. It is open to them to do so, but I am not aware of any other procedure. The Adjournment has been moved; it is up to the Committee whether to adjourn. Does the right hon. Gentleman wish to push the matter to a vote? 

Stephen Timms:  I am not proposing that, Mr Weir. The Government clearly have their numbers, which I do not propose to try to defeat. However, I want to put on record my disappointment that we are finishing so early when there is still so much to discuss. 

Question put and agreed to.  

2.1 pm 

Adjourned till Tuesday 17 May at half-past Ten o’clock.