Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments Nineteenth Report

Instruments reported

The Committee has considered the following instruments, and has determined that the special attention of both Houses should be drawn to them on the grounds specified.

1 S.I. 2003/492: unnecessarily obscure drafting

Child Benefit and Guardian's Allowance (Administration) Regulations 2003 (S.I 2003/492)

1.1  The Committee draws the special attention of both Houses to these Regulations on the ground that in one respect their drafting is unnecessarily obscure.

1.2  Part 3 of these Regulations provides for the time and manner of payment of child benefit and guardian's allowance. Child benefit is normally paid at four-weekly intervals, but one case where it may be paid weekly is where the person entitled to it has made an election under regulation 20. Regulation 20 applies to a person to whom child benefit is payable for an uninterrupted period beginning before and ending after 15 March 1982, and paragraph (2)(a) allows such a person to "make an election to have benefit paid weekly after 15 March 1982 if he makes it before the end of the period of 26 weeks beginning with the day on which benefit was payable for the first four weeks in respect of which arrangements for four-weekly payment were made".

  1. Four-weekly, as opposed to weekly, payments were introduced with effect from 15 March 1982, and it appeared to the Committee that the day referred to in regulation 20(2)(a) would have been a day on or shortly after that date. The Committee was therefore unable to envisage any circumstances in which an election could now be made within 26 weeks of that day. In a second memorandum printed at Appendix 1, the Commissioners of Inland Revenue explain that the intention is to enable a person who currently receives weekly payments by reason of an election made under earlier legislation, but who subsequently cancels that election and receives four-weekly payments, to elect to revert to weekly payments within 26 weeks of receiving the first four-weekly payment. The Committee accepts that regulation 20 is capable of being read as having this effect, but considers it unsatisfactory to give effect to this intention by substantially reproducing wording from previous legislation which serves to confuse the reader and conceal the intended effect. The Department should have considered more carefully whether a provision in that form was still appropriate or whether it should have been replaced by a provision whose meaning is clear and which is appropriate to the present. The reference to "an election to have the benefit paid weekly after 15 March 1982" is particularly misleading in a provision which has effect from 7 April 2003. The Regulations could easily have preserved the rights of persons who had made an election under the earlier legislation, and given them the right, if they decide to accept four-weekly payments, to elect to revert to weekly payments within 26 weeks of receiving the first four-weekly payment. The Committee therefore reports regulation 20 for being drafted in an unnecessarily obscure way.

previous page contents next page

House of Lords home page Parliament home page House of Commons home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2003
Prepared 21 May 2003