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Welfare Reform Bill

Volume 494: debated on Friday 19 June 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what safeguards will be put in place to ensure that the provisions of (a) clause 9 of and (b) Schedule 3 to the Welfare Reform Bill are compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. (275425)

[holding answer 14 May 2009]: Clause 9 of and schedule 3 to the Welfare Reform Bill confer a number of new regulation-making powers allowing for requirements to be imposed on people claiming jobseeker’ allowance or employment and support allowance who are dependent on drugs or who have a propensity to misuse drugs. The regulations will include a range of safeguards to ensure that the requirements are compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. The Government are considering including the following measures in particular:

before a benefit sanction is applied for failure to comply with a mandatory element of the policy, customers will have the opportunity to argue they had good cause for failing to comply with the new arrangements;

the content of rehabilitation plans will be agreed with the individuals concerned, including any drug treatment that will be undertaken;

the sharing of data with other organisations will be proportionate and administered in line with existing protocols; and

drug testing will be used in a proportionate way to help establish problematic drug use in cases of dispute.

The affirmative parliamentary procedure will apply to the regulations so, before they can come into force, they will have to be approved in draft by both Houses.