Minister speaks to Merits Committee

03 February 2009

The House of Lords Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee takes evidence from Kitty Ussher MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), from 3.45pm.

On 15 December, the 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.

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