Welfare Reform Bill — Clause 69 — Ending of discretionary payments — 15 Jun 2011 at 15:00
The majority of MPs voted not to require details of a replacement scheme (with published eligibility criteria) for providing emergency help from the benefits system, before abolishing discretionary payments out of the Social Fund.
Discretionary payments were used to provide funds to people who could not afford to buy household items such as beds and cookers. During the debate it was noted that the Welfare Reform Bill included various provisions, including "payments on account" which would replace the current discretionary payments.
During debate MP Karen Buck (Labour, Westminster North), who proposed the rejected amendment, explained her motivation:
- I am deeply concerned that the Government propose to remove the discretionary element of the social fund without giving us a great deal more clarity about how the poorest and most vulnerable will be protected, about the adequacy of the replacement system, about the protection of vulnerable people without a local connection
Minister Maria Miller MP (Basingstoke, Conservative) argued the existing provisions in the bill were sufficient saying:
- the national scheme of payments on account and the local provision, as delivered by local authorities and the devolved Administrations, will provide well-considered replacements for the discretionary social fund, and will make sure that we are supporting more effectively than is currently the case the vulnerable individuals we have discussed today.
Karen Buck MP's rejected amendment stated:
- page 52, line 22, leave out subsection (1) and insert—
- ‘(1) Section 138(1)(b) of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992 (discretionary payments out of Social Fund) may be repealed, if the Secretary of State—
- (a) publishes a detailed proposal for a replacement scheme, or schemes, based on wide consultation with relevant stakeholders;
- (b) ensures that such a scheme, or schemes, will provide financial protection for applicants in an emergency or crisis, with the eligibility criteria for applicants specified in regulations;
- (c) demonstrates the feasibility of such a scheme, or schemes, through a pilot or pathfinder process; and
- (d) demonstrates how an independent appeals mechanism will be implemented.’.
- (1) Section 138(1)(b) of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992 (discretionary payments out of social fund) is repealed.
An impact assessment on the abolition of elements of the discretionary Social Fund and replacement with new local welfare assistance was produced in October 2011 (a few months after this vote in June 2011). The assessment stated further work would be required on the policy before its costs could be calculated.
-  Parliament's webpage on the Welfare Reform Bill (now the Welfare Reform Act)
-  Section 98 Welfare Reform Bill as introduced 17 February 2011 - Payments on Account
-  Karen Buck MP (Labour, Westminster North), House of Commons, 15 June 2011
-  Maria Miller MP (Basingstoke, Conservative), House of Commons, 15 June 2011
-  Official Record, House of Commons, 15 June 2011
-  Clause 69 of the Welfare Reform Bill as introduced 17 February 2011
-  Welfare Reform Bill as introduced 17 February 2011
-  Impact Assessment on Abolition of elements of the discretionary Social Fund and replacement with new local welfare assistance
Votes by party, red entries are votes against the majority for that party.
What are Boths? An MP can vote both aye and no in the same division. The boths page explains this.
What is Turnout? This is measured against the total membership of the party at the time of the vote.
|Party||Majority (No)||Minority (Aye)||Both||Turnout|
|Con||261 (+1 tell)||0||0||85.6%|
|Lab||0||220 (+2 tell)||0||86.4%|
|LDem||39 (+1 tell)||0||0||70.2%|