Legislative Scrutiny: Welfare Reform Bill; Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Bill; Health Bill - Human Rights Joint Committee Contents


We report here on our scrutiny of the Government's Welfare Reform Bill and the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Bill. We also further scrutinise the Health Bill.

Welfare Reform Bill

We raise a number of human rights concerns, including the following:

  • Proposals to introduce benefits sanctions for drug or alcohol dependent people receiving Employment Support Allowance could interfere with the right to a private life. This section should either be deleted from the Bill or significantly amended.
  • The Government's view is that contractors providing services under the proposals of this Bill would be viewed as public authorities, meaning that they would have to comply with the Human Rights Act 1998. The Government needs to explain further whether and how individuals could bring action against those contractors.
  • We recommend that the proposals to allow the Child Maintenance Enforcement Commission to make orders to suspend driving licenses or passports be dropped from the Bill.

Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Bill

We welcome the following as human rights enhancing measures:

  • Provisions concerning education for detained young offenders
  • The obligation to record the use of force on pupils

We also welcome the desire to provide a clear legal framework for searching pupils in schools for drugs, alcohol and stolen property. However, the Government should publish a rigorous analysis of the evidence of the scale of the problem. This analysis would enable Parliament to make an informed decision about the need for the extended powers, particularly given that these powers will interfere with the right to privacy and to peacefully enjoy possessions.

Health Bill: healthcare for refused asylum seekers

We call on the Government to revise urgently its guidance to NHS trusts about how, and when, to charge refused asylum seekers, in order to meet the recent Court of Appeal's decision that the Guidance was unclear and unlawful. We also recommend that the Government publishes the outcome of its review and its public consultation on access to the NHS for foreign nationals.

We also recommend that people who have claimed asylum can access free primary and secondary care whilst they remain in the United Kingdom.

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Prepared 29 April 2009