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COMMONS AMENDMENTS

350Clause 86, page 60, line 33, at end insert--
("( ) Before making any determination, issuing any guidance or giving any directions under this section relating to all local authorities in England or Wales or any description of such authorities, the Secretary of State or (as the case may be) the National Assembly for Wales must consult--
(a) such local authorities or representatives of local authorities as appear to him or it to be appropriate,
(b) such recipients, or representatives of recipients, of welfare services as appear to him or it to be appropriate, and
(c) such providers, or representatives of providers, of welfare services as appear to him or it to be appropriate.")
351After Clause 86, insert the following new clause--
DISCLOSURE OF INFORMATION

(" .--(1) Subsection (3) applies to information which is held by, or by a person providing services to, the Secretary of State and which relates to income support or income-based jobseeker's allowance.
(2) Subsection (3) also applies to information relating to housing benefit which is held by--
(a) an authority administering housing benefit, or
(b) a person authorised to exercise any function of such an authority relating to housing benefit.
(3) Information to which this subsection applies may be supplied to--
(a) a local authority to which any grant is or will be paid under section 86, or
(b) a person authorised to exercise any function of that authority relating to that grant,
for purposes connected with the application of that grant towards expenditure falling within section 86(1) or (2) (as the case may be).
(4) Information which is supplied to an authority or other person under subsection (3) may be supplied by the authority or person to a person who provides qualifying welfare services for purposes connected with the provision of those services.
(5) For the purposes of this section a person is to be regarded as providing qualifying welfare services if--
(a) he provides welfare services,
(b) a local authority contribute or will contribute to the expenditure incurred by him in providing those services, and
(c) that contribution is or will be derived (in whole or in part) from any grant which is or will be paid to the authority under section 86.
(6) In this section "local authority" and "welfare services" have the same meaning as in section 86.

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(7) The Secretary of State may by order make such modifications of this section as he considers necessary or expedient in consequence of any provision corresponding to section 86 which is enacted by the Scottish Parliament.")

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I beg to move that the House to agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 350 and 351 and speak to the other amendments in the group.

This group of amendments deals with welfare services and will improve the implementation of the Government's commitment in Supporting People. We want Supporting People to enhance the quality of support services and to ensure that the right service is provided at the right time.

Amendment No. 350 requires the Secretary of State and the National Assembly to consult with local authorities, with people using the service and with service providers. Consultation is already an important part of the development of the Supporting People proposals on welfare services and we intend that such formal and informal consultation should continue in the future. That should provide some reassurance to all stakeholders concerned.

Amendment No. 351 allows transfer of information at the point of transition to the new programme. This is effectively a technical amendment but will allow support services to be maintained until a thorough review of the service or scheme has been undertaken. This will protect people who currently receive support services, for example, older people in sheltered housing about whom some concern was expressed at earlier stages of the Bill.

Clause 87 of the Bill provides that housing benefit and to some extent other benefits will cease paying for the vast majority of support services once Supporting People is implemented. Block grants will be paid to the provider rather than individual grants to the tenant. We want to make sure that the support charge payments that providers are receiving through the relevant benefits before 2003 continue under this scheme at least until the scheme is reviewed. It is, therefore, vital that the grant-making body responsible for distributing money knows which providers in a given area should receive a support service grant to cover the charges no longer covered by benefit.

The disclosure of this information allowed by Amendment No. 351 is in the best interest of claimants so that the provider does not start to charge them for services which are being funded out of the grant and to aid a seamless transition.

Amendment No. 352, to which the noble Baroness has an amendment, will protect the rights of benefit claimants from unlawful disclosure of information relating to a particular person. The other amendments in this group are consequential.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 350 and 351.--(Lord Whitty.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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COMMONS AMENDMENT

352After Clause 86, insert the following new clause--
UNAUTHORISED DISCLOSURE OF INFORMATION

(" .--(1) The persons to whom this section applies are--
(a) any person ("the recipient") to whom information is supplied by virtue of section (Disclosure of information),
(b) any person who is or has been a director, member of the committee of management, manager, secretary or other similar officer of the recipient, and
(c) any person who is or has been employed by the recipient.
(2) A person to whom this section applies is guilty of an offence if he discloses without lawful authority any information which is supplied by virtue of section (Disclosure of information) and which relates to a particular person.
(3) It is not an offence under this section--
(a) to disclose information in the form of a summary or collection of information so framed as not to enable information relating to any particular person to be ascertained from it, or
(b) to disclose information which has previously been disclosed to the public with lawful authority.
(4) It is a defence for a person charged with an offence under this section to prove that at the time of the alleged offence--
(a) he believed that he was making the disclosure in question with lawful authority and had no reasonable cause to believe otherwise, or
(b) he believed that the information in question had previously been disclosed to the public with lawful authority and had no reasonable cause to believe otherwise.
(5) A person guilty of an offence under this section is to be liable--
(a) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or a fine or both, or
(b) on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum or both.
(6) For the purposes of this section a disclosure is to be regarded as made with lawful authority if, and only if, it is made--
(a) in accordance with section (Disclosure of information)(4) or any other enactment,
(b) in accordance with an order of a court,
(c) for the purpose of instituting, or otherwise for the purposes of, any proceedings before a court or tribunal, or
(d) with the consent of the appropriate person (as defined in section 123(10) of the Social Security Administration Act 1992).
(7) The Secretary of State may by order make such modifications of this section as he considers necessary or expedient in consequence of any provision corresponding to section 86 which is enacted by the Scottish Parliament.")

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 352.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 352.--(Lord Whitty.)

MOTION MOVED ON CONSIDERATION OF COMMONS AMENDMENT NO. 352

352AClause 86, line 11, leave out ("a particular person") and insert ("any identifiable individual")

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 352A and speak also to Amendment

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No. 352B. In agreeing Amendment No. 351 your Lordships have added a new clause which allows information relating to the payment of certain benefits to be exchanged between various authorities. A further new clause creates an offence relating to the unauthorised disclosure of such information in a form that identifies "any particular person". The word "person" includes both an individual and legal entity such as a company, so the offence would not be limited to disclosures about identifiable benefit claimants or recipients, where the case for disclosure in the interests of privacy is clear. The offence could also be committed by revealing information about hotels, hostels and housing association accommodation communicated under the new clause added by Amendment No. 351.

It would be an offence to identify a hotel at which a housing benefit recipient lives if the information was obtained under that new clause but not if provided to the authority directly by the hostel. My amendments would restrict the offence to disclosures about identifiable individuals without criminalising disclosures that merely refer to organisations.

Moved, That Amendment No. 352A, as an amendment to Commons Amendment No. 352, be agreed to.--(Baroness Hamwee.)


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