Clause 2

Part of Welfare Reform Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:15 pm on 24th February 2009.

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Photo of Tony McNulty Tony McNulty Minister of State (Employment and Welfare Reform; Minister for London), Department for Work and Pensions 4:15 pm, 24th February 2009

I would not necessarily include new clause 5 in what I am about to say, but, in essence, we are being asked to provide for things that are already provided for. We already have provisions to ensure that a person’s health is always considered, so there is no need for that to be prescribed in the Bill. We say clearly that a person’s circumstances have to be taken fully into account, and I am at a loss to know what definition of “person’s circumstances” would preclude a consideration of either physical or mental health.

It is important that the array of conditions is taken into account. However, I caution the hon. Member for Rochdale about—I hesitate to use the phrase “undue specificity” again—specifying what he requests in the Bill. People might feel good if they get those words into the Bill, but they would not do the individuals on whom the policy is focused any favours. Allowing the flexibility for a broad range of definitions of people’s circumstances to be put in regulations will afford the greatest possible breadth of definition. I am comfortable with the Bill as it stands, because we want that flexibility in regulation, not least because regulations can be adjusted far more easily than primary legislation. If we went down the road of undue specificity and put too much in the Bill, but later found that we had left something out, we would have to wait for another legislative vehicle before we could alter the primary legislation.

Paul Rowenindicated dissent.