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Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: If we accept the noble Earl's argument it would mean that the provisions in Schedule 5 of the Supplementary Benefit Act 1976 would remain. They require the Secretary of State to provide directly run resettlement units. There are now only two such units remaining—one in Glasgow (outside Glasgow, in fact) and one in Leeds. Neither are housed in suitable buildings. We intend that both those units will be closed by April 1996 and be replaced by more suitable facilities.

Through the good works of the Resettlement Agency, our policy over a number of years has been to disengage from the direct management of resettlement units. We do not believe that we should be in the business of managing such units. That policy has been widely welcomed, not least by the organisations which provide resettlement places. There are now more places available to people who need resettlement and there has been a huge improvement in their quality.

In 1989 we set up the agency with the main aim of disengaging the Government from the running of those resettlement units. Eight units have been replaced by more modern facilities. Eleven former units are now managed by voluntary organisations and the two remaining units, with the enactment of this clause, will also be replaced by better and more modern facilities. The agency currently provides or funds over 4,100 beds, makes grants to almost 100 separate organisations and over 200 projects and we spent around £22 million on grants to voluntary organisations and local authorities in the last financial year.

I think that perhaps the noble Earl has missed the significance of the phrase "without a settled way of life". The help given by the agency and the voluntary bodies that I mentioned goes beyond the confines of homelessness.

The aim of resettlement is not limited to securing temporary or permanent accommodation. We require organisations not only to provide accommodation but to help individuals to cope with permanent accommodation. Various forms of help are offered—training in life skills and helping to secure health care. I can understand why the noble Earl has put down an amendment to probe what we are doing but I can assure him that the situation we envisage in the future under the new system, with the voluntary bodies, local authorities and others providing this kind of work, will be better than what we have had heretofore with the department trying to do it with its own hand. I am sorry for my abbreviated reply. I hope that that assures the noble Earl.

Earl Russell: I am very grateful for that reply. I shall not debate it now but I should be grateful if the Minister could answer two questions. Can he tell me that Schedule 5 funding will continue? Can he tell me that

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the full rigour of this Bill, and especially the appearance clause, will not be applied to the homeless as it is to the others?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I think I can assure the noble Earl on both points. As far as I understand the second one, anything to do with looks or clothes does not come into it when it comes to the organisations to which we shall be paying grant taking in people who need the kind of resettlement help they provide. As to the noble Earl's first question, we shall continue to do the work we have set our hand to do so far as concerns paying grants to these voluntary organisations.

Earl Russell: I thank the Minister warmly.

Clause 27 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 178 not moved.]

Clause 28 agreed to.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 178A:


After Clause 28, insert the following new clause:

Insolvency

(".—(1) In section 71 of the Administration Act (overpayments), after subsection (10) insert—
"(10A) Where—
(a) a jobseeker's allowance is payable to a person from whom any amount is recoverable as mentioned in subsection (8) above; and
(b) that person is subject to a bankruptcy order,
a sum deducted from that benefit under that subsection shall not be treated as income of his for the purposes of the Insolvency Act 1986.
(10B) Where—
(a) a jobseeker's allowance is payable to a person from whom any amount is recoverable as mentioned in subsection (8) above; and
(b) the estate of that person is sequestrated,
a sum deducted from that benefit under that subsection shall not be treated as income of his for the purposes of the Bankruptcy (Scotland) Act 1985."
(2) In section 78 of the Administration Act (recovery of social fund awards), after subsection (3) insert—
"(3A) Where—
(a) a jobseeker's allowance is payable to a person from whom an award is recoverable under subsection (3) above; and
(b) that person is subject to a bankruptcy order,
a sum deducted from that benefit under subsection (2) above shall not be treated as income of his for the purposes of the Insolvency Act 1986.
(3B) Where—
(a) a jobseeker's allowance is payable to a person from whom an award is recoverable under subsection (3) above; and
(b) the estate of that person is sequestrated,
a sum deducted from that benefit under subsection (2) above shall not be treated as income of his for the purposes of the Bankruptcy (Scotland) Act 1985.".").

The noble Lord said: This new clause will enable the recovery of overpayments of social security from jobseeker's allowance paid to bankrupt people. The clause provides that any such amounts deducted from jobseeker's allowance payable to a bankrupt person are not treated as income for the purposes of the Insolvency Act 1986 and the Bankruptcy (Scotland) Act 1985. Thus creditors would be prevented from accessing these sums.

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The Government consider that it is not right to stop recovering overpayments of benefit and social fund loans from current benefit just because a person has been declared bankrupt. The clause also ensures that there is equity between bankrupt persons and other people who have money deducted from their benefit for the same reasons. Without these procedures persons who are bankrupt will be more favourably treated than others receiving benefit. Nevertheless, there are maximum limits on the rates of deductions which can be made from income-related benefit to prevent hardship arising. I commend the amendment to the Committee.

Lord Carter: Can the Minister confirm that in effect this makes the Government a preferential creditor in the situation?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: The Government would not be a preferential creditor in regard to any other assets but they can continue to take off the benefits still being paid what that person owes them due to a social fund payment or some other overpayment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

On Question, Whether Clause 29 shall stand part of the Bill?

Baroness Williams of Crosby: I wish to ask a question on this issue. It is so late that I can do no more than ask a very broad question and give notice that we shall take this matter up at later stages of the Bill. When one reads Clause 29 one is bound to say that, added to what is already a chilling Bill, one now sees provision for inspectors. It is very difficult to see quite what inspectors are meant to do. According to Clause 29, they are supposed,


    "to examine, either alone or (if he thinks fit)"—

presumably, the inspector thinks fit and not the person being investigated—


    "any matters arising under this Act on which he may reasonably require information".

In certain circumstances, they would have access to private dwelling houses. In all other provisions they will have access to any premises liable to inspection. The issue about dwellinghouses arises if it is thought that there is a trade or business being conducted in them, but they do not have to have any evidence to bear out why they think that. I find the whole of Clause 29 profoundly disturbing. At this stage I can only ask the Minister the purpose of this inspection and what the inspectors are meant to be doing.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: Powers of inspection have existed in social security law for a long time, with the use of inspectors a key part in protecting the benefits system from abuse. In the main, Clause 29 carries forward provisions which have existed for many years. Will the noble Baroness accept that I shall study what she has said and write to her in as much detail as I can about the issues she has raised and copy the letter to the Leaders of the other parties?

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Clause 29 agreed to.

Clause 30 [Offences]:

[Amendment No. 179 not moved.]

Clause 30 agreed to.

Clause 31 [Interpretation]:

[Amendment No. 180 not moved.]

[Amendment No. 181 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

[Amendment No. 182 not moved.]

Clause 31 agreed to.

Clause 32 [Regulations and orders]:

[Amendment No. 183 not moved.]

Clause 32 agreed to.

Clauses 33 to 35 agreed to.

Clause 36 [Transitional provisions]:

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendments Nos. 183A to 183F:


Page 30, line 9, leave out ("by virtue of regulations under") and insert ("under regulations made by virtue of").
Page 30, line 11, leave out from ("allowance") to end of line 12 and insert ("(a "transitional allowance")—
(i) of such a kind,
(ii) for such period,
(iii) of such an amount, and
(iv) subject to such conditions,
as may be determined in accordance with the regulations;").
Page 30, line 12, at end insert:
("(bb) for a person's continuing entitlement to a transitional allowance to be determined by reference to such provision as may be made by the regulations;").
Page 30, line 13, leave out from ("a") to end of line 14 and insert ("transitional allowance").
Page 30, line 15, leave out from ("a") to end of line 16 and insert ("transitional allowance").
Page 30, line 29, leave out from ("that") to ("allowance") in line 31, and insert ("the rate of a contribution-based transitional").

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 183A is a purely technical amendment and its purpose is simply to correct an inaccuracy in the drafting. Before I go to the others, it is our normal practice to make transitional arrangements to protect existing claimants when changes are made to the benefits system. We intend to apply that principle to people in receipt of unemployment benefit and income support at the point of change to the jobseeker's allowance.

Amendments Nos. 183B, 183D and 183E ensure that the term "transitional allowance" is used with reference to payments of jobseeker's allowance made under the transitional arrangements. We consider that this improves the clarity of the drafting by clearly identifying where the payment of jobseeker's allowance is made. Amendment No. 183F similarly provides that, where a person meets the conditions for contribution-based JSA, then any payment under the

27 Apr 1995 : Column 1147

transitional arrangements shall be "contribution-based transitional allowances". These amendments provide for the regulations to be tailored to meet the transitional arrangements to bring these proposals into effect. I beg to move.


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