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New Clause 3 - Oversight committee

Part of Mesothelioma Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:30 pm on 12th December 2013.

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Photo of Mike Penning Mike Penning The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions 3:30 pm, 12th December 2013

We have gone through nearly two whole sitting days in Committee. Sadly, right at the end of our deliberations, I am going to have to say that I do not see the requirement for new clause 3. The main reason is that we have sought extensive opinions from stakeholders on the proposed oversight body and the representation on that body. We think that representation should be as open and expansive as possible. As a trade unionist, I personally feel that unions should be represented on the body—I am not necessarily saying that all unions should be represented, but some trade union representation is important.

We have done some work on this matter. The proposed body will monitor the performance of the scheme. It will conduct blind case checks—it is very important that there are checks on how things are being done—and will produce reports for the DWP, either for me as the Minister responsible or for Lord Freud if the responsibility goes back to him.

The feedback from stakeholders has been enormously positive. We think that we can put details about the body in the contract that the DWP will issue for the scheme administrator, so it could be fitted within that. That is what we are looking at now. It is not definitive yet, but we think that we will be able to do that. I certainly think that the oversight committee is extremely important, and it will happen; Lord Freud gave that commitment in the other place, and I reiterate that commitment today. I hope that the shadow Minister will take that in good faith. We will do everything that we can to make it as open and independent as possible, so that people from the representative bodies and stakeholders have an opportunity to be heard, and so that the body does the job that it should do of holding the scheme to account and reporting back.