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 Paul Rowen Paul Rowen Shadow Work and Pensions Minister 4:15 pm, 24th February 2009

In saying that we are trying to over-specify, the Minister has not understood the problem. The Bill gives jobcentre staff huge powers, but does not specify the limits of those powers. We might get regulations that set some limits, but, if experience is anything to go by, much will be left to discretion. The amendments do not seek to prescribe the definition of mental health, a person’s circumstances in relation to mental illness, or the circumstances that might involve them having to leave employment. They say merely that those things should be accepted as just causes under the Bill. I make no apologies for tabling such amendments. In our view, recognising such things in the Bill would be a vital protection for vulnerable people.

We are not saying that the amendments would define everything—they would not. I fully accept that regulations will specify the circumstances under which mental illness will be accepted as a just cause, but it is dangerous not to include such provisions in the Bill.