Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page



Page 69, line 28, leave out (“finding") and insert (“decision")

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, Amendments Nos. 146, 147 and 148 are technical amendments that do not alter the meaning of the clause but make it significantly easier to understand. They give greater clarity to the parts of the clause that define which overpayments of disability or incapacity benefits will not be recoverable. They remove unnecessary duplication and ensure that the language used is consistent throughout and is in line with the terms used in the legislation relating to adjudication.

As noble Lords will appreciate, this clause is all about ensuring that there is no requirement to recover overpayments of benefits where it would be unreasonable to do so. It addresses a problem that we have identified with the current rules. In some situations it is not reasonable to expect claimants who are ill or disabled to know that they should report a change in their condition to the Benefits Agency. In such cases we want to ensure that the claimant is not required to repay any overpayment of benefit which may result. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Morris, will be delighted with the amendment.

Clause 64 sets out the circumstances in which these overpayments would be recovered. It is important that this definition is as clear as possible. The amendments do not alter the meaning of this clause but do make the definition of the relevant overpayments easier to understand.

As I am sure your Lordships appreciate, it is important that this provision is clear in its meaning and is no more complicated than it needs to be to achieve its intended effect. I therefore ask noble Lords to accept the amendments to incorporate it in the Bill. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham moved Amendments Nos. 147 and 148:


Page 69, line 30, leave out (“finding") and insert (“decision so given")
Page 70, line 5, leave out from second (“allowance") to end of line 13 and insert--
(“(d) incapacity benefit;
(e) any benefit (other than incapacity benefit) awarded wholly or partly by reason of a person being (or being treated as being) incapable of work; or
(f) any benefit awarded wholly or partly by reason of a person being (or being treated as being) in receipt of any benefit falling within paragraph (c), (d) or (e).")

13 Oct 1999 : Column 473

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 149 and 150 not moved.]

Schedule 8 [Welfare benefits: minor and consequential amendments]:

Baroness Hollis of Heigham moved Amendments Nos. 151 and 152:


Page 124, line 30, at end insert--
(“( ) In section 8 (attendance, information and evidence)--
(a) in subsection (1)(a) (power of Secretary of State to specify place and time for claimant to attend), for “the Secretary of State" substitute “an employment officer"; and
(b) at the end add--
“(3) In subsection (1) “employment officer" means an officer of the Secretary of State or such other person as may be designated for the purposes of that subsection by an order made by the Secretary of State."").
Page 124, line 35, at end insert--
(“( ) In section 36(1) (orders to be made by statutory instrument unless made under specified provision), after “section" insert “8(3),".")

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Baroness of Hollis of Heigham moved Amendment No. 153:


Page 125, line 21, at end insert--
(“ADMINISTRATION OF BENEFITS
.--(1) In each of the provisions of the Administration Act to which this paragraph applies--
(a) any reference to a person authorised to exercise any function of a relevant authority relating to housing benefit or council tax benefit shall include a reference to a person providing services to a relevant authority which relate to such a benefit; and
(b) any reference to the exercise of any function relating to such a benefit shall include a reference to the provision of any services so relating.
(2) This paragraph applies to the following provisions of the Administration Act--
(a) section 110A (appointment of inspectors by authorities administering housing benefit or council tax benefit);
(b) sections 122C, 122D and 122E (supply of information in connection with administration of housing benefit or council tax benefit);
(c) section 126A (power to require information from landlords etc. in connection with claims for housing benefit);
(d) section 182B (information about redirection of post); and
(e) Schedule 4 (persons covered by offence relating to unauthorised disclosures).
(3) In this paragraph “relevant authority" means an authority administering housing benefit or council tax benefit.")

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, Amendment No. 153 makes changes to provisions in the Social Security Administration Act 1992 relating to supply and use of information, particularly for the purposes of investigating cases of benefit fraud. It brings the wording of these provisions into line with the wording used in this Bill relating to the supply and use of information, and ensures that social security

13 Oct 1999 : Column 474

information may, in certain cases, be passed to persons assisting local authorities in the exercise of their functions. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham moved Amendment No. 154:


Page 125, leave out lines 22 to 28

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, these government amendments are all technical amendments dealing with Northern Ireland.

The majority of the subject matter of the Bill is devolved under the Northern Ireland Act. We had hoped that devolution in Northern Ireland would have occurred before the Bill received Royal Assent and any corresponding legislation for Northern Ireland would have been a matter for the Assembly. As it is likely that the Bill will be granted Royal Assent before devolution in Northern Ireland, it is prudent to take steps to ensure that corresponding Northern Ireland legislation can be enacted within a similar timescale to the rest of the United Kingdom. The negative resolution Order in Council clause is a well-established procedure for allowing Northern Ireland to legislate where it is desirable to have parity and early implementation. This new clause is provided for by Amendment No. 266.

The amendments ensure that corresponding provision can be made for Northern Ireland as soon as possible after the Bill receives Royal Assent.

Amendments Nos. 154 and 260 provide that the Social Security Advisory Committee is able to advise on Northern Ireland provisions corresponding to the measures in the Bill. I ask your Lordships to support the amendments. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 67 [Sharing of functions as regards claims and information]:

Baroness Hollis of Heigham moved Amendment No. 155:


Page 72, line 37, at end insert--
(“(3A) Regulations under this section may make different provision for different areas.
(3B) Regulations under any other enactment may make such different provision for different areas as appears to the Secretary of State expedient in connection with any exercise by regulations under this section of the power conferred by subsection (3A) above.")

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this is another group of technical government amendments which ensure that some regulations can apply in some parts of the country but not in others. This is necessary to enable provisions in the Bill such as the ONE service to be introduced initially in pilot areas rather than nationally. In other words, it is entirely benign.

The amendments simply ensure that the regulation-making powers are fully in place, as intended. I commend them to the House. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

13 Oct 1999 : Column 475

Clause 68 [Supply of information for certain purposes]:

Baroness Hollis of Heigham moved Amendment No. 156:


Page 73, line 35, after (“to") insert (“, or designated for the purposes of this section by an order of,")

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 9 [New threshold for primary Class 1 contributions]:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 157:


Page 128, line 16, at end insert--
(“( ) Regulations under this section shall be made by the Treasury."")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 158 to 164 and 271. I speak first to Amendment No. 271. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, who in Committee identified the technical issue relating to the drafting of Clause 84. I said at the time that I would take the matter away for further consideration and table an amendment at a later stage.

At present Clause 84 has no specific provision for bringing the mixed measures into effect. Therefore, by default it is the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Social Security to make the necessary commencement order. However, as the House is aware, responsibility for national insurance policy was transferred in April this year to the Treasury and the Inland Revenue by the Social Security Contributions (Transfer of Functions, etc.) Act 1999. Amendment No. 271 will therefore make Treasury Ministers responsible for appointing the date from which the national insurance contribution measures come into effect.

The other amendments in the group deal with the power to make regulations in relation to parts of Schedule 9 and Schedule 10. Amendments Nos. 157 and 158 make it clear that regulations in respect of the new Section 6A of the Contributions and Benefits Act will be made by the Treasury. That is currently not explicit in the drafting. Amendments Nos. 159 to 164 deal with contracted-out rebates in relation to the Pensions Schemes (Northern Ireland) Act. They relate to the power to make regulations to allow employers to recover contracted-out rebates from the Inland Revenue in cases where the rebate owed is greater than their national insurance contribution liability. That may arise, for example, where a large proportion of employees earn between the lower earnings limit and the new primary threshold because earnings in this band will be eligible for contracted-out rebates but not liable for contributions. This will bring the Pensions Schemes (Northern Ireland) Act into line with GB legislation. I urge the House to support the amendments. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

13 Oct 1999 : Column 476

Schedule 10 [New threshold for primary Class 1 contributions: Northern Ireland]:


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page