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

The hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but that is a matter of fact, unless he wants a social security Bill every year, regardless of the circumstances, with all that would mean for what we are trying to do to reform and simplify this area. Things should be as straightforward as possible. There is broad consensus among Committee members about the need for flexibility, but we cannot have flexibility while we are trying to define such things in the Bill.

I accept the comments made by the hon. Member for Glasgow, East about mental illness, and I accept what others have said about having due regard to people’s experiences of domestic violence, or their need to help members of their family, and the barriers that such circumstances might present to work-related activities or any part of the journey. There are, quite deliberately, a host of personal circumstances that can and should be taken into account, but we do future users no favours by over-defining things.

I am glad that the hon. Member for Forest of Dean has recognised that we have doubled the Access to Work moneys. He will know that we are piloting flexibility around Access to Work—in London, in the first instance. I agree with my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary that it is one of our best-kept secrets, but going down the road of new clause 5 would be a tad impractical simply because it would be impossible to determine what reasonable adjustments someone might need until one knew what job they were going to do, so there is almost a circular deficiency to the argument. Do I accept that there should be some greater flexibility regarding Access to Work? Yes, I do, and we will look with interest at what the London pilot comes up with. For such a potentially vulnerable group, we should, in all practical circumstances, do what works. New clause 5 might create extra bureaucracy and add significant costs, so while the idea and sentiment behind it are certainly worth exploring, I would not put it in the Bill. I shall therefore rather tediously—I might change the record once or twice at a later stage—ask hon. Members not to press their amendments.