Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) Bill — Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:58 pm on 21st March 2013.

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Photo of Lord Freud Lord Freud The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions 4:58 pm, 21st March 2013

As noble Lords know, we are seeking leave to appeal to the Supreme Court to test that specific matter. I will shortly come on to the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, about why we have fast-tracked. However, we have explored all the avenues and have not taken a decision to fast-track lightly. We have looked at other measures to prevent this course of action but none provides a sufficient guarantee. People have been concerned about the four-week period. We have also spent a significant period discussing, through the usual channels, agreement to expedite this legislation.

Let me make clear why the retrospective legislation is necessary. The Government respect the general principle that Parliament should not legislate to reverse the effects of court judgments on past cases unless the situation is exceptional. However, it is entirely proper to enact such legislation if there is compelling reason to do so. Perhaps I may spell out the three reasons which make this an exceptional case. First, there is significant money involved-£130 million-in very difficult, austere times. Secondly, the money would go to a group of people who neither expect nor deserve to obtain a windfall payment. These claimants knew exactly what was required of them. They failed to participate without good cause and were rightly sanctioned. Thirdly, this case is most unusual in terms of social security legislation.