The effect of amendment No. 43 is to commence the amendments to sections 29, 33 and 53 of the Social Security Act 1986 which are to be made by schedule 4 to the Bill.
Amendment No. 44 has three effects. It provides for payments from the social fund in Northern Ireland and recoverable overpayments of housing benefit and other social security benefits made in Northern Ireland to be recovered by the Secretary of State from prescribed benefits in Great Britain. In the case of the social fund payments, that power is also extended to enable the Secretary of State to recover an award for a partner of the recipient and from a liable relative. The principal reason for making the power retrospective to 6 April 1987 is to apply it to amounts recovered since that date in respect to overpayments arising in Northern Ireland.
The need for the amendment arose in order to prescribe for the recovery of social fund loans made in this country when the applicant moves to Northern Ireland. The existing powers in section 33 of the 1986 Act were inadequate for the purpose, and that obviously gave rise to some doubt about the powers contained in sections 29 and 53 which provide for the recovery of housing benefit and social security overpayments. That is the reason for the proposed amendments.
I do not propose to detain the House, but I am sure that the Minister would be disappointed if, at some stage, we did not take the opportunity to point out that one of the reasons why we have the Bill is that the Government are still correcting the legislation.
When we consider the amendments that the Government are now seeking to move, it is clear that they are substantial and I believe I am right in saying that they were tabled as late as Monday of this week. That should go on record so that when the Minister explains to us that of course they understand what the law is doing, that they have got the wording right and that we are mistaken in our observations to suggest otherwise, that can be placed in context.
Amendment agreed to.