HL Deb 19 November 1991 vol 532 cc821-2

3.2 p.m.

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Mackay of Clashfern)

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

This is the first of three Bills in my name on the Order Paper. If I may, I shall speak to all three together, and then move the other two formally.

The Bills between them represent the first consolidation of all the statute law on social security. It is a very considerable achievement and I should like to ex press my appreciation—and I trust also that of the House—to the Law Commission and the Scottish Law Commission and to the draftsman for their outstanding work in completing this difficult and important exercise.

The Social Security Administration Bill is concerned, as its name implies, with the administration of the social security system. It deals with matters such as the payments of benefit, adjudication, enforcement and uprating. The Social Security Contributions and Benefits Bill deals with the contributions on which certain social security benefits depend, and also with the various benefits themselves. It covers a wide range of benefits from unemployment and sickness to child benefit and the Christmas bonus to pensioners. The Social Security (Consequential Provisions) Bill contains repeals and consequential and transitional provisions arising out of the other two Bills.

The Law Commission and the Scottish Law Commission have, in accordance with usual practice, issued a report on the consolidation in which they make a number of recommendations for minor amendments that are necessary in order to produce a satisfactory consolidation.

The first two Bills, if your Lordships give them a Second Reading, will go to the Joint Committee in the ordinary course. The third Bill, the Social Security (Consequential Provisions) Bill, is an essential part of the consolidation but is riot, strictly speaking, a consolidation Bill. Therefore, if your Lordships give it a Second Reading, I shall in due course move a Motion that it should be referred to the Joint Committee. The rules of the House require that it be referred to the Joint Committee specifically as it is not, strictly speaking, a consolidation Bill. I beg to move that the first of the three Bills be now read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(The Lord Chancellor.)

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, all noble Lords will agree that one of the most useful legislative functions that Parliament performs through this House is that of the consolidation of legislation. In the rather difficult field of social security it is so necessary that practitioners, those who are due to benefit and organisations which look after those who are recipients of social benefit should, where possible, be able to turn to one Act of Parliament and see the whole of the law applicable to their field.

From this side of the House I echo all that the noble and learned Lord has said about our indebtedness to the Law Commission, the Scottish Law Commission, the parliamentary draftsman and, as usual, in so far as it has anything to do with the matter, the patient committee of both Houses on consolidation measures. It is not the most interesting of occupations that noble Lords can ever indulge in but it is nevertheless a most useful one. In those circumstances I believe that the noble and learned Lord will take back to those concerned our grateful thanks.

Lord Strabolgi

My Lords, as a member of the Joint Committee, perhaps I may say how much my noble friend's comments are appreciated. On the other hand, I should point out that it is not a committee of your Lordships' House. It is a Joint Committee, and we sit with Members of another place.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, as one who was responsible for social security administration for longer than any other Minister, perhaps I may say what a wonderful job has been done in consolidating the immensely complicated law on these subjects. It will be of real help to those who have to administer the system to have the law consolidated in this way. I should like respectfully to express my great admiration of my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor for the guidance he gave to this process, as well as of the draftsman and others who have done an extremely good job in consolidating the law. It will be of the greatest assistance to those charged with responsibility for administering this vital public service.

The Lord Chancellor

My Lords, I thank the noble Lords, Lord Mishcon and Lord Strabolgi, and my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter for their remarks. The Joint Committee is indeed a Joint Committee with Members of another place. I join in thanking the committee for the work that it will do on this consolidation.

On Question, Bill read a second time, and referred to the Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills.