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Leave out lines 116 to 122.

The noble Earl said: The amendment again relates to methods of legislation. The words I am trying to delete are ones which allow regulations to prescribe matters which are to be taken into account or not taken into account in determining good cause, or circumstances in which a person is or is not to be regarded as having good cause for failing to comply with regulations. We cannot make law like that. We must set out the general principle and then judge whether the case meets it. The provision is trying to foresee all cases in advance and it does not work. It will lead to endless trouble: appeals, doubts, big cases. It will lead to a vast amount of legal expense. Even if it is not the intention to rule out other forms of good cause which the regulations do not happen to remember to prescribe, it will make it much harder for the adjudication officer to take them into account than it would otherwise have been.

It is becoming obsessive; it is legislation in the style of people who dust the furniture 12 or 15 times a day. I wish the Department of Social Security would make sure that it possesses a copy of the Renton Report, reads it carefully and drafts its legislation accordingly. I beg to move.

Lord Inglewood: A claimant may have a good reason for failing to attend the Jobcentre to sign on or failing to attend a Restart interview. He may be sick, he may have a job interview or he may be dealing with an urgent domestic problem. Subsection (2) (d) enables entitlement to cease or not to cease if the claimant shows within a prescribed period that he had good cause for his failure to attend. This carries forward existing practice where a person can make a delayed claim for unemployment benefit or will not be disallowed for failing to attend a Restart interview if he can show good cause. Good cause, however, is not defined in either case.

Throughout JSA, we are aiming to introduce greater clarity into benefit procedures and conditions. At present the adjudication officer decides on the merits of each case whether the claimant has good cause, guided only by precedent. We believe that that introduces uncertainty and inconsistency into the arrangements for claimants. By prescribing in a non-exhaustive list matters which are or are not to be taken into account by the adjudication officer, it will be clearer for all concerned whether or not the reasons for non-attendance should lead to the claimant losing benefit.

Earl Russell: I wish that both departments would read the Renton Report. That argument about certainty is the draftsman's will-o'-the-wisp. It is explained in the report far more clearly and powerfully than I could ever do it that the attempt to pursue certainty by total enumeration is destined to inevitable failure, at great expense and in great confusion. The desire for certainty I understand, share and respect. What I do not accept is that certainty can ever be achieved by that method.

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I ask the Minister whether, when I raise points of this kind (which I shall continue to do) during the remainder of proceedings on the Bill, I may have replies which relate to the point of my concern. This is the wrong method of drafting legislation; it will lead to uncertainty, not certainty. It will lead to confusion, not clarity. If one could only get something by wanting it, life would be so simple. You get clarity—in so far as you ever do—only by having a general principle, the application of which to particular cases you have to leave to be settled judicially. You cannot possibly foresee the particular circumstances until you get to them. This provision is very gravely mistaken and we shall have to return to it. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment No. 49, as an amendment to Amendment No. 4, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Turner of Camden moved, as an amendment to Amendment No. 4, Amendment No. 50:


Line 122, at end insert:
("( ) Regulations made under this section shall provide that at each stage the claimant is notified of his right to appeal against any decision made and of the procedure to be followed.").

The noble Baroness said: I shall probably be told that this amendment is not necessary as there is provision in the Bill for the right of appeal. However, new Clause 6 is the core of this Bill. Regulations made under this section will determine whether claimants will receive their benefit. We have already voiced our concern that the likely effect of this Bill when it is on the statute book will be to diminish the number of people who receive the new benefit as compared with those receiving unemployment benefit. Indeed, that would appear to be one of its main purposes.

Procedures for appeal may be lengthy; and even if arrangements are made whereby benefit continues pending appeal—as indeed it should—people who have received an adverse decision will be very worried about their future entitlement prospects. It is absolutely essential that such people are advised at each stage, not only of their right of appeal if the decision is an adverse one, but also as to how to go about it and the procedures to be followed.

I cannot emphasise too strongly that we are here dealing with people who are mostly poor and extremely vulnerable. It is up to Parliament to ensure that the procedures that they have to follow in order to secure the benefits to which in many cases they may feel their contributions entitle them are as user-friendly as possible. I hope therefore that the Minister will feel able to accept this amendment. I beg to move.

Earl Russell: I am happy to support this amendment. The right of appeal is important. Notification of the right of appeal is something without which the right cannot be beneficial, as it should be. I do not think that we understand often enough quite what a fog most people dealing with the benefits system are in. After all, most of us can remember the sort of fog that we were in when we first arrived here, or in some cases in the other place, and were faced with Marshalled Lists, groupings, amendments and Bills and were trying to juggle them with each other. I was certainly in great confusion. I often still am. I do not see why we should suppose that people on

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benefit are any better able to manage than we are. If they do not receive some help and guidance they may have all the rights in the world, yet if they do not know about them, if they do not find out about them and cannot exercise them, they are under a very extreme form of arbitrary power, even when there is no such intention—as I accept there very often is not—on the part of any of those dealing with them.

Therefore, a provision for notification of rights of appeal is essential. It is likely to do a great deal of good at very little cost, without the sacrifice of any principle of the Government. I cannot imagine that the Minister will have any objection in principle to this provision. He may try to tell us that it is unnecessary; I do not think that he can tell us that it conflicts with any of the principles of the Bill. I am sure that it does not, I am glad to say. If it does not conflict with any of the principles of the Bill, I wonder whether perhaps this is just one amendment in relation to which the word "resist" does not appear on the brief, or, if it does, it might even, for once in a blue moon, be deleted.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: The noble Earl may be at least momentarily pleased to hear that the word "resist" does not appear in my brief—however, the word "reject" does.

This amendment would ensure that claimants are told of their rights of appeal if their entitlement to JSA ceases because they fail to attend a jobcentre as required. It is not clear to me why the amendment picks out this particular circumstance, because benefit can be disallowed for a variety of other reasons, but there is no question of our failing to inform claimants of their rights. Claimants get a pack of general information when they first sign on. It includes information about their right to appeal against any decision by an adjudication officer.

It is true that there are agencies of government which are making considerable efforts to try to make forms understandable and readable, and they are often colour-coded to help people wade through them. I fully accept that sometimes they are difficult to understand because of the variations in the human circumstance for which they have to cater, but over the years we have made considerable advances to get away from what was pretty impenetrable language to language which people can understand.

Once a decision has been given, the claimant is sent written notification setting out the decision, explaining its effect, notifying the claimant of his right to appeal to a social security appeal tribunal and explaining the procedure. JSA arrangements will continue to follow that general procedure, and the arrangements in the case of decisions as a result of non-attendance will be no different.

The letter is a standard notification, and the last paragraph says,


    "After a decision has been made by the adjudication officer you can appeal to a Social Security Appeal Tribunal. If you wish to appeal ask for a leaflet NI246 at either your Employment Service Office or a Benefits Agency office. You should appeal within three months from the date at the top of the decision letter. Leaflet NI246 contains full details about the appeal system and what happens at the appeal hearings"

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That is the letter which is sent out to explain the situation. In addition, at the beginning claimants receive a pack of general information which informs them about their rights of appeal against any decisions of the adjudication officer. I hope that with those assurances the noble Baroness feels able to withdraw her amendment.


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