Clause 2

Part of Welfare Reform Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 5:00 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 5:00 pm, 24th February 2009

I understand the confusion. The Committee will know that these laws are written in something approximating English, but not quite English—we have to allow for appropriate distinctions. The hon. Gentleman is right to suggest that proposed new section 2G(7) provides that anything done or omitted to be done by an authorised person, or an employee of that authorised person, is to be treated as if done by the  Secretary of State. It is terribly clumsy, but we still have to afford the Secretary of State the right to sue those who contract out for breach of contract, or any other aspect of contract law. The clumsy way of doing that is to say in subsection (7) that all of what can and should be done is actually the Secretary of State’s duty, and rightly and properly so, save for those contracted out subsequently and passed on to a contractor to do on behalf of the Secretary of State. That is terribly clumsy, but I think the import of them is to have the Secretary of State fully responsible for what are clearly his duties under a raft of previous social security legislation. Where, as in the two instances that the hon. Gentleman has alighted upon, there is a clear contractual obligation on a third party—where duties have been contracted out—there must still be scope for the Secretary of State, notwithstanding what subsection (7) says about his duties, to afford the proper contractual relationship with that other body in what is the normal contracting practice.

It is saying that here is the sum of the Secretary of State’s responsibilities and the Bill makes provision for part of that to be contracted out. We must reinvent and rebuild under contractual law the ability of the Secretary of State and the Government to sue or challenge, at the very least, the outside contractor for those elements that have been contracted out subsequently. Even the explanation is clumsy, which I understand, but the interplay between subsections (7) and (8) is important.