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.

Alert me about debates like this

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 did not feel that you were threatening me with sanctions, Mr. O'Hara. I thought that you simply made it clear that, if necessary, the Committee

would sit beyond 7 pm and into the night. Indeed, you made that very clear at the beginning of this afternoon's proceedings. Much as I would like to speak for longer, because the provisions require that, I will not, given what you have said. I apologise to right hon. and hon. Members if they think that I have not yet run up the white flag. There is a job to be done, and I will do it, although probably with slightly fewer words than might have been my intention an hour or two ago.

I have concerns about new clause 7, which is fundamental to the way in which the process will work. It relates to the whole Bill and talks about all the different ways in which regulations made under the Act will be developed. Let us consider the new clause to which it relates, which we have passed. New clause 4(1) refers to a ''prescribed order'' and ''prescribed proceedings''. Subsection (2) refers to a ''prescribed party''.

New clause 7 will give the prescriptions, and those details are fundamental. One worries about which orders will be involved in civil proceedings, which orders will be prescribed, and about the parties that will be prescribed. Who will be able to apply to the courts for declarations when the provision is enacted?

The Minister would be doing the Committee a service if he spelled out some of his initial thinking. Will someone affected by the antisocial behaviour be the prescribed party, and if so, how will that be defined? Or will it be a local authority, the police or the local social services authority? No doubt we will have that debate on another occasion, assuming that new clause 7 is accepted.

It would help us on Report if the Minister could give his initial thinking now, as some hon. Members may be concerned if he has it in mind to prescribe almost anyone who can take this action. That could result in a range of problems and false allegations clogging up the system. It is important that the regulations under new clause 7 are specific and carefully thought through. To know the Government's initial thinking would help me to decide whether I will support new clause 7.

I tabled two amendments to new clause 7. Amendment (a) would remove subsection (5), which says that where the regulations relate only to administrative issues, there need not be an instrument

''subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.''

I regret that. I think that I am right, but the right hon. Member for Birkenhead wants to intervene. Have I made a mistake?