Welfare Reform Bill

The Committee has decided to focus on a number of matters in the Welfare Reform Bill which it considers are capable of raising significant human rights issues. These relate to:

€ Whether the safeguards identified in the Committee's report on the Bill which became the Welfare Reform Act 2007 are operating effectively;

€ Whether changes to require ESA claimants to undertake specific work-related activities will be administered, without discrimination, and in a way which is compatible with the right to respect for private and family life and property rights (Article 8, Article 1, Protocol 1 and Article 14 ECHR);

€ Whether draft regulations will be made available in order to allow the Committee to commit the social security proposals in the Bill to an appropriate degree of scrutiny for compliance with Convention rights;

€ Whether powers in the Bill to contract out functions of the Secretary of State or others, and provision for direct payments, will provide adequate protection for individuals who might seek redress for breaches of their Convention rights under the HRA 1998;

€ Whether the proposals in the Bill which would introduce conditionality for benefits claimants who are, or may be, dependant on controlled drugs or alcohol, are compatible with the right to respect for private and family life, property rights and the right to enjoy those rights without discrimination;

€ Whether the proposals to enable CMEC to make administrative orders in respect of the suspension of the passports and driving licences of non-resident parents are compatible with the right to a fair hearing (Article 6 and the common law);

€ Whether the proposals to require joint registration of births strikes the appropriate balance between the rights of women to respect for their private and family life, the rights of unmarried fathers to be acknowledged on the official record of their child's birth and the right of any child to know the identity of its parents (Article 8 ECHR).

Further details of the Committee's concerns are contained in its letter of 27 February 2009 to the Minister, James Purnell MP (attached below).

Submissions of no more than 1,500 words on the human rights compatibility of this Bill on these three issues are requested by 15 March 2009.