New clause 6 - Administration

Part of Housing Benefit (Withholding of Payment) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:45 pm on 11 July 2002.

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Photo of Edward Davey Edward Davey Shadow Spokesperson (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister), Shadow Minister (Olympics and London), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Olympics and London), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister) 4:45, 11 July 2002

I am grateful for the chance to debate that point a little further. I accept that some of the people that we are talking about do not recognise the boundaries of local authorities, and that it would be necessary for local authorities to co-operate. However, I am not convinced that the best approach is for the Secretary of State to keep the register for the whole United Kingdom. There are arguments for keeping things local, even in this regard. The people in the local authority, who obviously have their own housing department and relationships with housing associations, are aware of those whom we are discussing. Perhaps it would be best if they held the register and shared it with neighbouring authorities.

The right hon. Gentleman is right to say that our constituencies provide examples of people moving across boundaries, but whether they move across the country in the way that he suggests, and whether a central register is required, I am not so sure. Whether the whole system should be based on that, or whether there should be some additional element, but the main register kept locally, is the point of debate. There are genuinely two options. I wish that the Government had not taken their approach.

Section 170 of the Social Security Administration Act 1992, which new clause 6 will alter, concerns the social security advisory committee and the industrial injuries advisory council. Those bodies were set up to advise the Government. I am pleased with what the Government have done in that regard, because it ensures that other expert people may give them advice. Will that advice be published, so that we can see what those bodies think of the system and how it operates? Their published opinions would be welcome.

I hope that I am being brief, Mr. O'Hara, and that right hon. and hon. Members accept that. I shall move on to new clause 7.