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

I am doing my best to explain the reason why this is exceptional. I did not explain it in detail at the outset, so I am really grateful for the opportunity, reinforced by the noble Lord, to explain the exception.

The third reason why this is exceptional is to do with the nature of social security legislation. In almost all cases regarding social security decisions, the decisions of a court or tribunal are only prospective in nature. That is because the most common way in which to challenge a social security decision, including the underlying regulations, is to bring an appeal to the First-tier Tribunal. If that happens, the normal route is followed and the decision of the tribunal will not have a retrospective effect because of Section 27 of the Social Security Act 1998. It is only because there is an anomaly in the text of Section 27 that it does not apply to judicial review cases. That is something that I suspect that this Government will come back to, to clear up. It is clear from Section 27 that Parliament recognised that wholesale retrospective disruption of the social security system was not desirable. That is even more true in a case like this, when the beneficiaries of that disruption are not deserving of the windfall that they would otherwise receive. That is why this is exceptional.

I turn to the reason why we need to fast-track the Bill. I want to respond to the rather witty way in which the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, put his view that there was no urgency by explaining to him and other noble Lords that we have applied for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court. If we are not given that permission to go ahead-and that could come out any day-we immediately become liable to pay back the sanction money of £130 million. That is why there is particular urgency and that is why we are fast-tracking this legislation. We need to provide certainty to taxpayers that we will not spend this money in this way, unnecessarily. The department will endeavour to process the stockpile cases in a robust, transparent and efficient manner. While there is clearly a trade-off between robustness and speed, we will aim to do that as practically as possible.