My honourable Friend the Minister of State for Employment (Alok Sharma MP) has made the following Written Statement.
I am today laying a proposed draft Remedial Order to amend the Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) Act 2013.
The proposed draft Remedial Order ensures the right to a fair hearing for a small group of job seekers who had a live appeal against a sanction decision made under the Jobseeker’s Allowance (Employment, Skills and Enterprise Schemes) Regulations 2011 (“the ESE Regulations”) when the 2013 Act came into force. It enables the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to change this sanction decision and refund the amount withheld, without those affected individuals having to continue with their appeal.
In 2013, the courts ruled that the Jobseeker’s Allowance (Employment, Skills and Enterprise Schemes) Regulations 2011 that underpinned a range of programmes of support to help people into work did not describe the individual schemes in enough detail, and that our referral letters did not say enough about the activities required. The 2013 Act reinstated the original policy intent of these Regulations. This ensured that job seekers who had failed to take all reasonable steps to increase their chances of finding work between 2011 and 2013 did not unfairly obtain advantage over claimants who complied with the benefit conditionality requirements.
The Court of Appeal has since ruled that the 2013 Act is effective.
The 2013 Act did not prevent people from appealing if they felt they had a good reason for not participating in one of the employment schemes, but it meant their appeal would be unsuccessful if it related to their compliance with the 2011 Regulations or the referral notification letters they received. The Court of Appeal has ruled that the Act has prevented claimants who had an appeal for failing to comply with the 2011 Regulations still in the Tribunal system on 26 March 2013 from having a fair hearing. For this small, specific group, the Court found that the Act is incompatible with Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The proposed draft Remedial Order addresses the Court of Appeal’s decision but does not affect the continuing validity of the 2013 Act.
I am using the non-urgent Remedial Order process to allow time for Parliamentary scrutiny. The next 60 sitting days, are a consultation period for members of both Houses to send me any views. The Order will also be scrutinised by the Joint Committee on Human Rights, and they will write a report. I will consider all representations I receive on the proposed draft Order, and the Committee’s report. Once I have done so, I will revert to both Houses with a draft of the Remedial Order for consideration for a further 60 days.
This statement has also been made in the House of Commons