New clause 6 - Administration

Part of Housing Benefit (Withholding of Payment) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 5:00 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) 5:00, 11 July 2002

I understand that amendment (a) to new clause 6 was not selected, so I am not talking to it.

Amendment (a) to new clause 7 would delete subsection (5). I believe that the right hon. Gentleman is now with us. As I said, many problems with the operation of housing benefit that would arise under the Bill come from administration. The House spends too little time considering administration. I know that we have plenty of other things to do, but the administration of housing benefit, more than any other benefit, is the one that causes the problems. Time after time in my twice-weekly advice sessions, I see people with administrative problems with housing benefit, yet the House does not take decisions on administration. One might question whether we would take better decisions on it, but if we examine the sort of decisions taken on administration at the moment, we would reach the conclusion that we could do a better job than the current process allows. I therefore recommend my amendment (a).

Amendment (b) would ensure that the Government would consult widely before issuing any regulations under new clause 7. I am tempted to have another consultation debate, but that really would try your patience, Mr. O'Hara, and that of other members of the Committee. Hon. Members understand the sort of people that the Secretary of State should consult. I recommend my amendment to the Minister. I know that Ministers do not like to have a statutory duty to consult before issuing regulations, as they say that they adopt best practice in any case. However, given the nature of benefit sanctions, it would be appropriate for the Secretary of State to consult those people. I hope that the Minister will take my amendments in the spirit in which they are meant.