House of Lords Press Release
Embargo: January 2009
Contact: Laura Llewelyn 020 7219 6640


On Tuesday 3 February 2009, the House of Lords Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee will take evidence from Kitty Ussher, MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

On 15 December, DWP laid the Social Security (Housing Costs Special Arrangements) (Amendment and Modification) Regulations 2008 (SI 2008/3195). The Regulations make several changes to the rules on payment of mortgage interest to benefit claimants:

  • they reduce the waiting period before full housing costs (including help with mortgage interest) can be met;
  • they increase the capital limit up to which interest on qualifying loans can be paid to £200,000; and
  • for some jobseeker's allowance claimants, they introduce a 104 week limit on payment of mortgage interest and interest on other qualifying loans.

DWP carried out no formal consultation on the Regulations and brought them into force in the first week of January. The Department have said that, because of rising unemployment and increasing household repossessions, the matter is sufficiently urgent that it would be "inexpedient" to consult the Social Security Advisory Committee about the proposals before bringing them into effect.

The Merits Committee has previously criticised the DWP for failing to provide Parliament with adequate information about statutory instruments changing benefit rules. The Committee have invited the Minister to explain the effect of the regulations in more detail, and to ask why the Department appears not to have taken account of those earlier criticisms in presenting the latest Regulations to Parliament.

The evidence session will take place at 3:45pm on Tuesday 3 February in Committee Room 3A of the House of Lords.

Notes to Editors

  1. The evidence session is open to the public; journalists wishing to attend should access Parliament via St Stephen's Entrance where they will be directed towards the Committee Corridor. Please arrive in plenty of time to allow for security screening.
  2. The House of Lords Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee (the Merits Committee) was established in 2003 and began work in April 2004. Its task is to examine each statutory instrument presented to the House and to draw attention to any which deal with matters of significant public policy interest or show defects in certain areas. The Committee's Reports are intended to inform the scrutiny process of the House of Lords, without seeking to determine what view the House will finally take of individual instruments.
  3. In recent months, the Merits Committee has drawn a number of DWP statutory instruments to the special attention of the House, including:

4. The current members of the Merits Committee are:
Lord Filkin (Chairman)
Baroness Butler-Sloss
Lord Crisp
Baroness Deech
Viscount Eccles
Lord Hart of Chilton
Lord James of Blackheath
Lord Lucas
Baroness Maddock
Lord Rosser
Baroness Thomas of Winchester

5. Further information about the Committee's work can be found at: