Tuesday, 09 February 2016

Lords abandon new bid for statutory welfare review

A renewed attempt to get an independent review of the impact of the government’s welfare reforms enshrined in law has been abandoned.

Labour peer Baroness Hayter moved an amendment to the Legal Aid Bill last night that would have forced a review of the benefit changes after one year, but withdrew the demand after receiving reassurances from the government.

A similar attempt to get the commitment to a review written into the Welfare Reform Bill was also withdrawn last week during the final debate on that bill.

The Welfare Reform Bill introduces a range of measures designed to cut the cost of benefits, while the Legal Aid Bill will limit the types of housing cases that qualify for legal aid to those involving homelessness or the imminent loss of a home, or disrepair that poses a serious risk to life.

During the debate on the Legal Aid Bill in the House of Lords last night Baroness Hayter argued limiting legal aid would make it ‘impossible’ for some tenants to navigate the new benefits system, and that a review would flag up any problems.

‘It is a way of looking at the interplay of these two changes to our system: the enormous Welfare Reform Bill and all its changes with, potentially, the lack of advice for exactly those who need to manoeuvre their way through that system,’ she said.

Justice minister Lord McNally said such a review was ‘unnecessary’ and would be a ‘broad and cumbersome exercise that would be highly unlikely to offer any real benefit given’.

He did commit to a ‘post-implementation review’ of the legislation, and Baroness Hayter agreed to withdraw the amendment.

The Lords did vote on other amendments, and the government was defeated on moves that would have made it harder to qualify for legal aid by proving an individual has been subject to domestic violence.

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