New clause 7 - Regulations

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

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'(1) Subject to subsection (6), in this Act ''prescribed'' means prescribed, or of a description prescribed, by regulations made by the Secretary of State.

(2) Any power to make regulations under this Act is exercisable by statutory instrument.

(3) Subsections (4) to (7) of section 189 of the Social Security Administration Act 1992 (c.5) (supplemental and incidental provision) apply in relation to the powers to make regulations conferred by this Act as they apply in relation to the powers to make regulations conferred by that Act.

(4) Subject to subsection (5), a statutory instrument containing regulations under this Act may not be made unless a draft of it has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.

(5) Subsection (4) does not apply in the case of an instrument containing regulations under section (administration) only.

Such an instrument is subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.

(6) In the application of section (administration) in relation to any court in Scotland, ''prescribed'' means—

(a) in relation to declarations under section (anti-social behaviour declarations: criminal proceedings), prescribed by the High Court of Justiciary by Act of Adjournal, and

(b) in relation to declarations under section (anti-social behaviour declarations: civil proceedings), prescribed by the Court of Session by Act of Sederunt.

(7) The power of the Court of Session by Act of Sederunt to regulate the procedure and practice in civil proceedings in the sheriff court includes power to regulate—

(a) the manner in which the court must notify the Secretary of State of the fact that it has made, quashed or set aside a declaration under this Act, or varied the date or dates specified in such a declaration under section (anti-social behaviour declarations: criminal proceedings)(4) or (anti-social behaviour declarations: civil proceedings)(4), and

(b) the information which the court must give to the Secretary of State.

(8) Subsections (4) and (5) do not apply to Acts of Adjournal and Acts of Sederunt.'.—[Malcolm Wicks.]

Brought up, and read the First and Second time.

Amendment proposed to the proposed new clause: (b), in line 36, at end add—

'(9) Before making any regulations under this section the Secretary of State shall consult—

(a) organisations representing tenants,

(b) organisations representing landlords,

(c) organisations representing persons living in fuel poverty, and

(d) other such persons as he deems appropriate.'.—[Mr. Edward Davey.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 1, Noes 10.

Division number 13 Adults Abused in Childhood — New clause 7 - Regulations

Aye: 1 MP

No: 10 MPs

Aye: A-Z by last name

No: A-Z by last name

Question accordingly negatived.

Clause added to the Bill.

Photo of Malcolm Wicks Malcolm Wicks Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Work and Pensions

I beg to move amendment No. 9, in line 1, leave out

'Secretary of State to withhold'

and insert 'withholding of'.

There is little to say about the amendment, but that is only my opinion. It simply amends the Bill's long title to clarify that the Secretary of State would not be responsible for withholding housing benefit. Local authorities administer housing benefit so they would take the decision to withhold, although the decision would be triggered by notification by the Department for Work and Pensions. I commend the amendment to the Committee.

Photo of Greg Knight Greg Knight Conservative, East Yorkshire

I support the amendment, but I thought that it might be appropriate to put on record my appreciation of your fair, good-natured, impartial and extremely patient chairmanship, Mr. O'Hara. If you have erred in our proceedings, you have erred in favour of the minority, which is how things should be. In this Committee, there has not been a silent minority but a rather verbose minority. After reflecting on the behaviour and words of the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton, his party's policy on antisocial behaviour is crystal clear and simple: Liberal Democrats are clearly the yob's best friend.

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)

Just for the record, I think that the right hon. Gentleman's comments ill become him.

Amendment agreed to.

Question proposed, That the Chairman do report the Bill, as amended, to the House.

Photo of James Clappison James Clappison Shadow Spokesperson (Treasury)

May I associate myself with the sentiments expressed by my right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire (Mr. Knight)? You have been a model Chairman, Mr. O'Hara, and it has been a great pleasure for us all to serve under you. You have given all points of view a fair hearing, as well as reflecting the interests of others, if I may put it that way.

Photo of Frank Field Frank Field Labour, Birkenhead 5:15, 11 July 2002

May I add my thanks to you, Mr. O'Hara, for the way in which you have steered our deliberations over two sittings? The Bill has benefited greatly from that, as it has from its rewriting. I am grateful for the modesty of my hon. Friend the Minister that he did not put his name in the Bill's title, given how it has been transformed by our proceedings today.

Temperatures have risen during our debates, but it is worth putting on the record the fact that the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton has been very brave. Our constituents will pay increasing attention to where we stand on the issues with which the Bill deals. The private behaviour of some individuals makes it impossible for others to live a civilised existence, and the will of the country in that respect is clear. I am sure that in the lead-up to and during the next election more and more of our electors will want to know where we stand on the new politics of behaviour. In the past, they were not interested in how we voted on such matters, but I think that their interest will grow. While it is a part of good parliamentary democracy that there are minorities, we will increasingly be held to account for what we say here.

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)

May I say that I am particularly grateful to you, Mr. O'Hara, for the patience with which you heard me and for your guidance? Although you will not be surprised to hear that I did not necessarily agree with some of your rulings, and that I would have liked to have spent more time debating some important issues, I feel that you have treated me fairly and I am grateful. I would not want anyone to think otherwise.

I will not make a long speech opposing the Bill. I simply say that I believe that the right hon. Member

for Birkenhead, whom I have long respected for his innovative thinking, will come to regret the legislation. Presumably he will think that it is effective, but he will see that other measures are needed to tackle antisocial behaviour. I will not labour that point.

I am strongly in favour of a panoply of measures, unlike the right hon. Member for East Yorkshire, who wanted to sloganise in the Committee. The Liberal Democrats are strongly in favour of tough action on antisocial behaviour, and I sought to explain that. I simply believe that the measure will be counter-productive, and that has been the thrust of my argument. I fear that if the Bill is enacted, we will see more antisocial behaviour, not less.

Photo of George Howarth George Howarth Labour, Knowsley North and Sefton East

I associate myself with the various congratulations to you, Mr. O'Hara, on your chairing of these proceedings. I have more reason than any other member of the Committee to know that those skills have been developed over many years. With your indulgence, I will share a little secret about your patience.

In the early 1980s—my right hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead will also remember this—when we were going through some political convulsions in our part of the world, I was often filled with wonder at how you managed to keep your calm through some very difficult meetings. At the end of one such meeting with the Militant Tendency, you explained that you had kept calm by translating ''Oh my darling Clementine'' into Latin. I hesitate to think what translations you have been making during our proceedings today.

Photo of Edward O'Hara Edward O'Hara Labour, Knowsley South

It was actually, ''Oh dear, what can the matter be?''

Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous Conservative, South West Bedfordshire

As a Back-Bench Committee member, I, too, put on record my thanks for your chairmanship, Mr. O'Hara. I want also to express my frustration at being unable to express some of my views because of the way in which the debate developed. I believe that many Committee members would have liked to have contributed, but held back, and I want to put that on the record.

Photo of Vernon Coaker Vernon Coaker Labour, Gedling

I join in the general congratulations to you, Mr. O'Hara, and associate myself with the remarks of the hon. Member for South-West Bedfordshire. Many of us had points that we would have liked to make throughout the day. We have been discussing one of the most important issues facing my constituents and others throughout the country. It is something on which we must all put our heads together.

I just want to make one final point to my hon. Friend the Minister. We have discussed the Bill's title, which notes the permission to withhold payment of housing benefit. There is a plethora of measures to deal with antisocial behaviour, and I hope that when the Bill finally gets on to the statute book, it will be properly used. Many of our constituents feel that although many measures are available to the police and local councils, few are used, and the consequence

of those measures not being used is that their lives are made a misery.

Photo of Malcolm Wicks Malcolm Wicks Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Work and Pensions

In adding my sincere thanks to those of my colleagues for the way in which you enabled us to get through the business, Mr. O'Hara, I must say that I sympathise with hon. Members on both sides of the Committee who have not had the opportunity to speak on behalf of their constituents. That has been a real concern today. You have been very fair to our Liberal Democrat colleague. It was Voltaire who once said of someone:

''I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.''

I do not feel quite so inclined towards the hon. Gentleman after such long proceedings, but I might be braver and more generous tomorrow.

I recently went to a test cricket match—sadly, England lost to India. I was intrigued by the scoreboard, which showed both the runs required per over and the actual run rate. There was a great discrepancy between the two today, but we managed to catch up remarkably quickly, thanks to your wise chairmanship, Mr. O'Hara. We are all genuinely grateful for the way in which you handled today's events.

Photo of Edward O'Hara Edward O'Hara Labour, Knowsley South

I shall have the last word from the Chair and perform the necessary duty of expressing my appreciation to the Committee members for their demeanour. Although there was general feeling of frustration at several points, I appreciated their control and, when control was lost, the disciplined way in which the frustration was expressed. It was appreciated and helped me in chairing the Committee. I express my thanks to all concerned for their assistance to me in conducting what was not the easiest business.

I thank also those on my left. I shall name three clerks: Mr. Lloyd, who has been invaluable by my side for most of our proceedings, Mr. Cranmer, who has helped on other occasions, and Mr. Poyser, who has come in at the back of the Room. We owe a great debt to him for laying the procedural minefield that we have managed to negotiate. It was not an easy job, and I thank him for that. I thank also the Hansard reporters, who have coped with not the easiest of tasks, and the attendants, who have not had the most difficult job of keeping things in order, but they would have helped if we had needed them. I am sure that they anticipated that the frustration would break out into direct action.

I also thank those on my right. They are traditionally seen but not heard, but on this occasion they had a particular role: I was very grateful on several occasions to be able to borrow their highlighter to help me to identify key points and keep us in order.

The hon. Member for Knowsley, North and Sefton, East has now left the Room, but he referred to my propensity to quote Latin. I did not intend to, but I made several remarks in Latin. I was musing. I often turn to Juvenal for the apposite quotation. He said,

''Quis tulerit gracchos de seditione querentes.''

I shall explain that: the brothers Gracchi were tribunes of the people in ancient Rome. They were noted for

direct action. Juvenal was saying, ''Who takes any notice of the Gracchi if they complain about action that was out of order?''

That theme has underlined much of the Committee's debates. We have reached the end of a Bill that deals with a delicate subject. I appreciate the principles of the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton, but I was pleased to hear him say that, although I had to rein him in on occasions, I did my

best to give him the full opportunity to express his views. With those words of appreciation, I shall perform my last duty to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill, as amended, to be reported.

Committee rose at twenty-six minutes past Five o'clock.