My Lords, I move this Motion on behalf of my noble and learned friend Lord Williams of Mostyn.
The purpose of the draft Housing Support Services (Northern Ireland) Order 2002 is to confer on the Northern Ireland Housing Executive the function of securing the provision of housing support services to individuals with particular needs, and to empower the Northern Ireland Housing Executive to pay grants to eligible persons towards expenditure incurred by them in providing certain housing support services.
The order amends Section 129 of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits (Northern Ireland) Act 1992 to exclude payments in respect of such services when determining entitlement to housing benefit. The provisions mirror the measures contained in the Local Government Act 2000—Section 2 and Sections 92 to 96—and the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001—Section 91.
If any noble Lords have detailed questions, I shall of course be delighted to answer them. The proposals broadly mirror arrangements proposed for Great Britain, which were subjected to widespread documentation through the document, Towards Supporting People. They were also debated in the Northern Ireland Assembly and scrutinised by the Social Development Committee. Of course, they include the full provisions relating to the disclosure and unauthorised disclosure of information of information necessary to comply with data protection legislation. There is also provision to amend Section 129 of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits (Northern Ireland) Act 1992 to exclude payments in respect of housing support services when determining entitlement to housing benefit. I beg to move.
My Lords, I shall be brief. I begin by echoing the sentiments of other noble Lords, especially the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, in asking for more time to be debate Northern Ireland issues. It is a matter of deep regret that we are today discussing these three Northern Ireland orders; they should be dealt with back home in Belfast. Speaking as an Ulster Unionist, I can only underline once again how keen is my party that we return to normal business in Northern Ireland. However, let me repeat that that can and will happen only when the republican movement has moved to carry out the necessary act of completion so desired by the vast majority of people in the Province.
The Housing Support Services (Northern Ireland) Order 2002 has been introduced to replace the Housing Support Services Bill, which was welcomed by all parties in the Northern Ireland Assembly. As such, I am more than happy to welcome the legislation in its new form. The one area of concern raised during the Bill's passage through the Assembly was funding—especially whether sufficient money had been set aside to provide for the potential growth of needs. Can the Minister give an assurance that the order before us includes sufficient far-sightedness to ensure that the Government, or the Northern Ireland Executive, if it is to be restored, avoids a funding crisis further down the line?
My Lords, I join the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, and other noble Lords in their congratulations. I can only stress to noble Lords that when the Order Paper was printed, every expectation was that the first order on the agenda would take a quarter of an hour and Northern Ireland would have its appropriate time. We have certainly not in any way sought to curtail debate.
I hope that it reassures the noble Lord, Lord Rogan, if I tell him that officials from the Department for Social Development are in contact with their counterparts in the Department of Finance and Personnel and have been involved in discussions with the Treasury to ensure that the supporting people budget is adequately funded. If noble Lords want on reflection to ask further questions, I hope that they will write to me.