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Lord Addington: My Lords, I wish to ask one further question which I should have asked before. Will part

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of the interview--under whatever title--be to make sure that the person receives all the benefits to which he is entitled?

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, yes. It obviously depends on the circumstances but certainly part of the interview will be to discuss benefit entitlement. For example, we already have stories of carers coming in from some of the ONE pilots. Because of the nature of the caring responsibility, they are some way from going back into the labour market and those people have had benefits drawn to their attention to which they were entitled but were not receiving. That has been appreciated.

In the same way, a lone parent may not be aware that if she were to go back to work she may be entitled to a child tax credit or a childcare credit which is one aspect of the WFTC of which many lone parents are not, as yet, fully aware and which it may be important for them to know about.

I want to make two points dealing with the rhetoric about people who are homeless and destitute. First, we have always, even under previous Labour governments, had an interview as part of the benefit process. Dropping that and trying to do it by way of paper or by telephone has not worked. We are going back to the procedure which we believe will be supportive and helpful. The voluntary organisations with which we have worked welcome that.

Secondly, no one needs to be homeless or destitute. This is not a prison sentence. Anyone who is not receiving his benefit because he has not turned up for the interview can have that benefit reinstated as soon as he does so. For example, if someone has moved address and, as a result, has lost his benefit entitlement, he can re-apply. There is no problem. If people wish to renew a benefit which has, so to speak, run out, they must attend the interview and go through the procedures. I cannot see why that should lead us into rhetoric about homelessness and destitution.

Equally, I must say that the Liberal Democrats should not wave a big stick threatening to defy the views of the elected House on those issues by voting down regulations, which in relation to such issues is quite improper. That is particularly the case because some of the things for which the noble Lord, Lord Addington, called, have already been done. Perhaps his noble friend Lord Russell should have appreciated that point. There has already been a jobseeker's allowance evaluation, in 1998. It was a qualitative research on disallowed and sanctioned claimants, which provides much of the information the noble Lord sought. If there are any other research areas which he or his noble friend Lord Russell feel should be explored further, we are always open to consider them and the methodology. I do not believe that we should be criticised for not doing what we have already done. Perhaps noble Lords were not aware that it had already been done.

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Given all I have said, I hope that noble Lords will feel able to approve the regulations and that, as a result, we shall be able to establish the ONE pilots on a firm basis.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Contracting Out (Functions relating to Social Security) Order 2000

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 1st March be approved [12th Report from the Joint Committee].--(Baroness Hollis of Heigham.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Occupational and Personal Pension Schemes (Penalties) Regulations 2000

Baroness Hollis of Heigham rose to move, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 22nd February be approved [11th Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, these regulations will allow Opra to impose a civil sanction on trustees who fail to produce audited accounts on time or fail to provide required information to the Registrar of Occupational and Personal Pensions. Opra currently has power only to impose a criminal penalty and that has not proved as effective as intended. As your Lordships will be aware, all Pensions Act regulations which involve a criminal sanction are required to go through the affirmative procedure. We are seeking to set appropriate offences as civil offences. Essentially, the two that we are seeking to establish are where employers fail to pay pension contributions on time. Rather than having to pursue a lengthy and time-consuming criminal prosecution, Opra would be able to impose an immediate civil sanction for such breaches. We believe that that is a more appropriate procedure than a criminal prosecution.

I could take the time of the House in explaining why the provision is necessary, but I wonder whether your Lordships would seek for me to do so tonight. I hope that I have your Lordships' consent in moving the regulations. Unless there are any questions about what the regulations will achieve, which is essentially to move from criminal to civil offences where employers fail to return their accounts on time and trustees fail to undergo properly their responsibilities, I am happy to move the Motion. But if your Lordships have any further inquiries, I should be happy to try to answer them. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 22nd February be approved [11th Report from the Joint Committee].--(Baroness Hollis of Heigham.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

        House adjourned at thirteen minutes past six o'clock.

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