HC Deb 17 April 2002 vol 383 cc999-1000W
Mr. Clifton-Brown

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans he has to amend the Housing Benefits (General) Regulations 1987. [37302]

Malcolm Wicks

Work has already begun on consolidating the housing benefit regulations and we plan to lay consolidated regulations before the House as soon as practicable.

Technical amendments will also be made to reflect changes to other benefits. These include: Consequential changes that support the introduction of the loss of benefit provisions (known as Two Strikes) as contained in the Fraud Act 2001 and the Loss of Benefit Regulations 2001. Two Strikes is designed to be a deterrent against continued abuse of the benefit system by introducing a benefit sanction for those convicted separately of two benefit offences; housing benefit and council tax benefit are both covered by the Two Strikes provisions. The phased introduction from April 2002 of provisions under the Fraud Act 2001, including the powers for authorised officers from DWP and local authorities to require information from prescribed organisations such as banks and building societies. The information-gathering powers are covered by a statutory Code of Practice, which has been subject to a three-month public consultation and has been laid before both Houses of Parliament. With the introduction of the pension credit, we are making changes to remove the need to re-claim HB every year for pensioners aged 65 and over. For those over 65, we will be making awards for five years. The HB income threshold will also be raised by the maximum amount of the pension credit savings reward, to an expected level of £113.80 for single pensioners in 2003 and we will treat pensioners' capital more generously.

In addition, the following amendments are also planned: Amendments to the regulations governing the eligibility of child care cost in the calculation of housing benefit; Amendments to bring the income related benefit provisions for war widowers' pensions in line with those for war widows; and Annual uprating student disregards and student rent deduction.

These proposed changes have been considered by local authority representatives in the Housing Benefit Regulation Scrutiny Group.

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