HC Deb 26 April 1989 vol 151 cc975-1003 4.53 pm
Mrs. Margaret Beckett (Derby, South)

I beg to move amendment No. 1, in page 5, line 1, leave out clause 7.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments : No. 109, page 5, line 5 at end insert— '(2A) A claimant may show that he is actually seeking employment under subsection (1) above if he is working in a voluntary capacity in order to further skills and experience for future employment.'. No. 14, in page 5, line 28 at end insert— '(2C) if on a day for which benefit might fall to be payable, a person is a volunteer, then the Benefit Officer shall regard the voluntary work undertaken as evidence tending to show that the person is available for and actively seeking work. (2D) A person shall be deemed to be available for and actively seeking work if that person provides continuous care and support as a volunteer to another person under an agreement with

  1. (a) the other person;
  2. (b) a public authority; or
  3. (c) a voluntary organisation.
(2E) For the purposes of (2D) above, "voluntary organisation" means a body which is not a public body but whose activities are carried on otherwise than for profit.'.

Mrs. Beckett

The amendment seeks to delete Clause 7. I propose to confine my remarks to our amendment and not to discuss the other two with which it is grouped—not because I do not sympathise with the motives of those who tabled the other amendments, but because they cover issues that we discussed in Committee and I want to talk about clause 7 as a whole rather than seek to amend it.

The amendment seeks to delete the clause because it is not merely objectionable and profoundly damaging: it is unnecessary. It paves the way for the infliction of considerable and direct distress which we believe will follow the passage of this legislation. That distress will be caused and exacerbated by the fact that the proposals in the clause are rooted in the collective gut instinct of the Government and their Back Benchers that the unemployed are responsible for their unemployment—that they caused it, that they could end it fairly easily if only they really tried, and that their unemployment, rather than being a symbol of society failing them, is a symbol somehow of their success at exploiting others.

That gut instinct in Conservative Members has triumphantly survived all the evidence to the contrary and even the most glaring and obvious gulf between the number of people seeking work and the number of jobs available to them. Today, some Conservative Members may well go through the form—I expect that the Minister will—of denying that in their heart of hearts they think that all the unemployed are workshy, but even those who make that denial drift with amazing speed away from the formal assurances that only a tiny minority need the spur of the Bill towards discussing that tiny minority as if they constituted all the unemployed. I do not recall the Secretary of State for Social Security or the Secretary of State for Employment stressing in their speeches trailing this legislation at the Conservative party conference that only a tiny minority might be abusing the system.

I should make it crystal clear, so that no one will have any excuse for asking spurious questions, that my hon. Friends and I believe that people who have to be available for work—and who do not suffer from some disabling illness or whose family responsibilities do not keep them away from work—and who are drawing benefit should be looking for work. That is what the law says; it has stood unamended for 60 years; we have always supported it, and we do today.

We do not accept, however, that the law needs to be substantially amended and tightened as the clause suggests. We differ from some Conservative Members, because although we accept the framework of the law as it stands we are concerned about the way in which it may be exploited in its day-to-day administration to harry people off the unemployment register with no serious attempt being made to address the fact that they cannot find suitable work. Nevertheless, our amendment deals with the framework of the law, not with the use that is being made of it.

If the Government's argument is that the law is being broken or exploited, the answer is to enforce it and to use the remedies provided in it—which, heaven knows, are savage enough—not to introduce new and unneeded concepts.

Although we believe that the present law can potentially be misused, we are quite certain that the use —never mind the misuse—of the new law that the Government propose has enormous potential for causing untold misery and humiliation for those who are or become unemployed.

There cannot be the slightest doubt that this clause offers the opportunity for such humiliation. We believe that it might happen even if it is unintended. In the best possible case, if an unemployed person is looking for work and that work is available and not difficult to find, irritation and perhaps even distress will be caused because the provision will be unnecessary. It will be seen as a bureaucratic nuisance—an interference and a diversion from the serious business of finding another job. For those for whom the prospects of the search for work are not a matter of minor disturbance but of major difficulty, the clause will have a more seriously damaging effect. It requires that the unemployed person should provide on a week-to-week basis an account of all the steps he has taken in each week to look for work. That was made quite clear in Committee. It will not be enough to apply for, say, 17 jobs in one week and to do nothing in the following week. The whole point of the clause is that the search should be a continuing one, not that it should be averaged out over a period.

The Minister of State even made it explicit in Committee that an unemployed person who has the opportunity to benefit from a family holiday—perhaps arranged by one of the charitable organisations—will not be excused from continuing his job search in that week or weeks, and that failure on return from holiday to convince the local office that the job search had continued, could lead to the withdrawal of all rights of benefit.

Ms. Clare Short (Birmingham, Ladywood)

I am sure my hon. Friend also remembers that the Minister said that anyone attending a funeral away from his home would be expected to prove that he was actively seeking work while attending the funeral.

Mrs. Beckett

My hon. Friend is right to remind us that the Minister could not agree that even such circumstances should exclude people from job search.

What primarily concerns us is the harm that this unnecessary proposal may inflict particularly on three groups— those who are, for whatever reason, long-term unemployed; those who suffer from a sickness or disability which is not only distressing in itself, but handicaps their search for work; and the young homeless, who will have special difficulty combining the search for work with the search for a roof over their heads and who, for that reason, may be particularly unacceptable to employers.

In these debates Conservative Back Benchers have tended to raise a series of ridiculous objections which we have had to knock down. We recognise that the technique of keeping and discussing a log of job search activity and methods may have some value for some people, whose main problem is not the lack of available work or an inherent mismatch between their skills and capacity and the jobs on offer, but some hitherto unrecognised defect in the methods and approach of job search. No doubt those are the kind of people who are helped by a job club.

But Ministers know perfectly well that many assiduous attenders and participants at job clubs do not find work because the difficulties that they face cannot be resolved just by correcting their search techniques and are entirely outside their power to resolve—difficulties such as there just not being enough jobs or their not being offered the jobs that there are.

5 pm

Those are the people for whom being compelled to keep a log, to reveal its contents, to discuss it—no matter how sympathetic the hearer—means, by definition, a compulsion to chart, record, justify, explain and apologise for failure. That must be so, by definition, because the people who succeed will not have to do it any more.

The Government know, as we know, that not just hundreds but hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, will be charting failure, because, in spite of anecdotal evidence about jobs here or there or somebody whose friend had a job on offer for which no one applied, the overwhelming evidence is that, on the Government's own figures, there remain at least 2 million to 3 million people for whom there is no work. Even if the number of vacancies and unemployed people could ever be brought to match, they will never match in terms of skills, abilities and capacity.

We ask the Government just this once to think again; to use their imagination. By the law of averages, some Conservative Members must have some. The long-term unemployed already live—in many cases with great difficulty—with the fact that our society regards them as failures. They already live with the fact—most with great difficulty—that many of their fellow citizens tacitly or openly blame them for their condition, especially those who have never been unemployed and imagine that it is easy to do something about.

The people who care for the mental health and stability of the unemployed have long sought to advise them not to give up, not to drop out, but to do their best to adjust to their circumstances in ways that allow them to maintain their self-confidence and their self-regard because, apart from anything else, that is likely to increase their chance of finding a job in the circumstances in the town in which they find themselves or in one where they can realistically look for work. Under clause 7 they will be forced up against their defects or their lack of success, but in any event their failure, week after week after week.

That will also apply to the already more evidently vulnerable—the army of those with some disability whom the Department's doctors in their wisdom have ruled to be fit for light work, sometimes in the face of strenuous opposition from the person's own general practitioner. Some are already being caused distress by being put through the restart process because often there is no light work available and even more often, employers are unwilling to hire them for that light work if it exists. Like others now required to be available for work, in future those people, too, will have to prove what steps they have taken every week, week in, week out, on holiday or not on holiday, to search for that light work.

Let me remind the House that for all those affected by this legislation, the fact that they have to be available for work does not necessarily mean that they are getting any money. They may be signing on only to maintain their pension credits. Some may have worked for 30 or 35 years but still not have enough credits to satisfy the long period of contributions or credits required to qualify for a full pension. If they are ruled not to be actively seeking work, they will lose those credits and perhaps their right to a full pension, even though they may have spent what most of us would consider a full working life in employment arid become injured or sick or made redundant towards the end of that working life. Are even this Government prepared to make that group jump through hoops to satisfy the prejudice of the ignorant and the comfortable who tend to call the unemployed "these people"?

What I have described is the law as it will be unless the House carries the amendment. The Minister says that matters will not be as bad as that in practice, not because that is not what the law says but because it will be sympathetically administered. It might be, and then again it might not be. Recent social security legislation is riddled with examples of cases where Ministers have assured us that in practice there will not be any problem, but that turns out not to be quite the case.

But in this case the problem is that the rigidity is in the law. It is on the face of the Bill. The Bill says that the test, abolished as long ago as 1930 because of its harshness and injustice, should be applied every week on a week by week basis.

Now that unemployment benefit is paid in arrears, those ruled not to be actively seeking work will lose their benefit for the two weeks at the end of which the judgment is being made. The chances must be extremely high that they will not be able to satisfy whoever has ruled them not to be actively seeking work that they are now actively seeking work for at least another two weeks. The chances are high that anyone who falls foul of the test will lost all right to benefit and possibly all source of income for, at the minimum, a month.

The clause is savage in its potential, it will be savage in its effects and it will lead inexorably to harassment and persecution of some whose only fault is that they cannot get work. I beg hon. Members on both sides of the House to vote for the amendment and for the removal of the clause.

Mr. John Hannam (Exeter)

I shall not follow the line taken by the hon. Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett) in calling for the removal of clause 7. I want to speak to amendment No. 14 in my name and the names of right hon. and hon. Members of the all-party disablement group. The amendment seeks to take account of the special situation facing people who work as volunteers in our society.

We talk a lot these days about care in the community policies and we are all anxious that the Government should soon bring forward their decisions on the Griffiths report, the report of the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys and the Disabled Persons (Services, Consultation and Representation) Act 1986. But regardless of those factors, we have to recognise that during recent years of high unemployment the Government have actively encouraged unemployed people to become active citizens through community care work.

The voluntary organisations on which we rely for a great deal of our social provision have become heavily involved in using unemployed volunteers in community care. Organisations such as the Spastics Society, Age Concern, MIND and Mencap run everything from local befriending schemes to specialist day centres with volunteers who are expected and trained to develop close relations with those for whom they care and to develop a special trust with the persons cared for.

There are some 370 volunteer bureaux in the United Kingdom, recruiting about 110,000 new volunteers every year. Their average age is 29, and about 60 per cent. are women. Between one quarter and one third of the population take part in some kind of regular voluntary work.

Unemployed people are a significant proportion of volunteers and among the most active and energetic. They are used in all the caring professions from advice work through citizens advice bureaux, housing aid centres and law centres through to community care agencies, working with elderly people, people with disabilities, mental illness and mental handicap and homeless people and ex-offenders.

Hospitals, homes for children and old people, conservation work and many worthwhile environmental projects make up a pattern for which Britain is unique. They rely largely on voluntary help.

At present, under the existing system, volunteers face a number of difficulties in claiming benefits to which they are entitled, and because benefit officers have a great deal of discretion in deciding on the position of a volunteer, there are many inconsistencies of practice across the country. My amendment has the backing of all the voluntary organisations and seeks to provide the necessary clarity and uniformity of practice.

Clause 7 provides that unemployed persons will have to show that they are actively seeking work, and I do not dissent from that principle. But if the clause is not amended there may be serious problems for a great many volunteers. Benefit officers may, in many cases, conclude from the fact that a person is volunteering that he is not actively seeking work—a misunderstanding which has been common under the present system. Volunteers who are actively seeking work, but whose voluntary work involves caring for people with whom they must build up trust and commitment, surely cannot be expected to break off that trust and commitment within 24 hours. They must be given longer notice, both to protect the disabled or other persons being looked after, and to give sufficient time for the various local authority and voluntary organisations to arrange for other volunteers to come forward to ensure continuous care.

Disabled people form a strong and supportive personal relationship with their volunteer carers. These are mutually beneficial. Crucially, these personal elements of care depend on a relationship of trust, care and familiarity, built up over a period. If a volunteer is forced to break off that relationship at 24 hours' notice, emotional and practical difficulties for the disabled person will be created. The voluntary caring organisations—the Spastics Society, Mencap and so on—will not have sufficient time to arrange cover by another carer. Our amendment would ensure that this special relationship was protected from the effects of benefit requirements designed to address a totally different problem.

It would also ensure that the special position of volunteers and volunteering was recognised, within the benefit system, as an important way into the job market. Volunteering is an important form of training by which skills are acquired and a person made more employable. Many people who have taken on volunteer roles have moved on into professional caring jobs, having gained the necessary skills in their volunteering relationships with disabled and other people.

I believe that my hon. Friend the Minister for Social Security is right in his promotion of community care and active citizenship, but it would be sad indeed if one of the unintended consequences of this legislation were the disruption of the supporting relationships built up in the community. That would, of course, be another push to the already spiralling residential care budget.

There are precedents for recognising the contribution of volunteering. Social security regulations of 1983 allow those involved in emergency services to be counted as actively seeking work. The proposed subsections (2C) and (2D) in amendment No. 14 simply seek to extend this recognition to an equaly important area of volunteering, where people are similarly concerned with the life and death of others unable to assist themselves. The proposed subsection (2C) states: if on a day for which benefit might fall to be payable, a person is a volunteer, then the Benefit Officer shall regard the voluntary work undertaken as evidence tending to show that the person is available for and actively seeking work. I do not believe that I am going against the grain of Government policy with this amendment. Indeed, I believe that I am correcting an oversight. I know that my hon. Friend values the work of the internationally and nationally respcted organisations that have asked for it, and I hope, therefore, that he will give us some encouragement when he replies.

Mr. Archy Kirkwood (Roxburgh and Berwickshire)

I listened very carefully to the excellent speech of the hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Hannam). The thrust of his amendment certainly does not go against the grain of Government policy. Similarly, amendment No. 109, which is part of this group, seeks to move with the grain of Government policy. Its purpose is to allow claimants to show that they are seeking employment under subsection (1) if they are working in a voluntary capacity in order to further skills and experience for future employment. That seemed to be the nub of the argument by the hon. Member for Exeter, and it is the thrust of the brief remarks that I want to make.

Related matters were given some consideration in the Standing Committee. I wonder whether the Minister of State has had time to give further consideration to, and to develop, Government thinking in this direction. Problems could be solved, and benefits accrue, from these amendments. I certainly support the purpose of amendment No. 1—the lead amendment in this group—for reasons that I made clear on Second Reading and in Committee. The thrust of clauses 7, 8 and 9 is wrong-headed, and I remain unconvinced that they are necessary at all. However, I accept that the Government have set their face against any attempt to withdraw those clauses, so the best course that the House can adopt is to seek to amend them positively. The amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Exeter and the amendment in my name both seek to do that in a constructive way.

5.15 pm

The new provisions will certainly have an effect on voluntary organisations and charitable organisations, which do very good work—a point that is of crucial importance. But perhaps even more important is the effect of the new legislation on the people who will be unable to continue to claim unemployment benefit, people who in the past were doing voluntary work. I am particularly concerned about people with disabilities. They are in a "Catch 22" situation. Although attempts are being made to encourage employers to take on quotas of people with disabilities, those people are in a very difficult situation in the employment market.

Many disabled people can make a very positive contribution to society as a whole in terms of the organisations with which they work as volunteers, but they also benefit in terms of the personal development that they can achieve and the confidence that they can re-establish by serving in a useful capacity with organisations such as we in our constituencies know so well. Such people are in a vicious circle. Voluntary work gives disabled people an opportunity to acquire office skills, computer skills, and so on. It gives confidence and provides material for a practical curriculum vitae that can be shown to prospective employers. Paying unemployment benefit to volunteers like that constitutes an investment, and is not a subsidy for any sort of easy life.

The only other point that I want to make is that the long-term unemployed, too, could be helped very substantially if the Government were to accept these amendments. Anybody who has been unemployed for a long time loses confidence. That is clear to any hon. Member who has constituents in this situation. The air of defeat with which some people come to see me actually depresses me. If such people could be provided with constructive and helpful positions as volunteers while claiming unemployment benefit, they could be kept much more mentally alert. Very often they would be in the right place at the right time when job opportunities came along. Their voluntary work would show future employers that they were determined to get out and about and to try to improve their situation. It would keep their skills ticking over, and make possible the development of new skills if old ones had atrophied.

For all these reasons, the scheme that is proposed in these amendments, which seek to mitigate the effect of the new regime, are commendable. The opportunities are easily to hand to set up such as system. I am led to believe that the voluntary bureaux have worked out what I am fairly satisfied is a reasonably workable scheme. The Minister of State must not hide behind the difficulties of bureaucracy. That argument will not wash at all. The opportunity is readily to hand. There is no reason for resisting these amendments—certainly not on ideological or political grounds. They would provide substantial benefit to a significant number of people, and would go a long way to mitigating some of the disastrous effects that I suspect clauses 7, 8 and 9 may have if they are introduced unamended. I support the amendments in my name and in the name of the hon. Member for Exeter, and I hope that the Minister will give them very careful consideration.

Mr. John Marshall (Hendon, South)

The hon. Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett) painted a picture of the economy in London that one does not recognise. She talked about the shortage of job opportunities. Just before coming to the House, I went out and bought a copy of the Evening Standard. I counted a total of 15 pages of job opportunity advertisements.

Ms. Short

Does that mean that there is a job for everybody?

Mr. Marshall

It means that, if one considers the number of registered unemployed and the number of job vacancies notified to jobcentres in London, and if one then applies the usual quotient, it becomes clear that there are many jobs available in London for those registered as unemployed. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short) knows that a large number of jobs, particularly in the south-east, are not even notified to jobcentres because of the difficulty of filling them. For every vacancy notified to a London jobcentre there are probably three or four more waiting to be filled. One can say that in London there are about 100,000 vacancies available for people to fill.

Mr. John Battle (Leeds, West)

In the borough of Croydon, which includes the constituency of the Secretary of State for Social Security, there were in January 8,000 unemployed chasing 1,000 vacancies. Will the hon. Gentleman explain how all those people can obtain employment when there are insufficient jobs available? That pattern does not match the hon. Gentleman's suggestion, even in London.

Mr. Marshall

There is a strict convention. Mr. Deputy Speaker, that right hon. and hon. Members do not speak about the constituencies of other right hon. and hon.. Members. I am sure that Mr. Speaker would not expect me to talk about his constituency.

Mr. Battle

He probably has the same problem in his constituency.

Mr. Marshall

The hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Battle) refers to 1,000 vacancies notified to Croydon jobcentres, but he knows full well that for every notified vacancy, there are three or four unnotified jobs available. The hon. Gentleman knows also that London is a travel-to-work area, so that people living in Croydon do not have to work in Croydon but can work somewhere else. Because of London's wide travel-to-work area, a whole host of jobs are available to Croydon residents—both in Croydon itself and outside it.

When I visited the Golders Green jobcentre in my constituency, I was told that about 800 vacancies were on offer, but great difficulty was experienced in filling many of them—mainly because people are unwilling to accept them because the salaries offered do not compare favourably with unemployment benefit, However, some people do those jobs at those salaries, and they pay taxes. Why should they pay taxes to provide unemployment benefit to people who refuse to undertake those same jobs? Opposition Members do not understand the anger that the situation creates among those in work.

Ms. Short

I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman really understands what he has just said. He claims that some people refuse jobs because they would be financially worse off by comparison with the unemployment benefit they receive. He is saying, then, that people should accept jobs that will give them a lower income than they have from unemployment benefit. Does he really mean that? Are there to be no minimum employment standards in this country?

Mr. Marshall

If the hon. Lady listens to my remarks, or if she reads them in Hansard tomorrow, she will learn that, not for the first time, she has distorted the remarks of a Conservative Member. No one is saying that people should receive less income in work than they might receive in benefits. We introduced family credit to ensure that families in work are not worse off than families out of work. The hon. Lady seeks to distort our true intentions. Our belief is that it is wrong that people who refuse work should automatically receive unemployment benefit, which is a view taken by the vast majority of the British people.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

I support all the amendments in the first group because they would allow the useful development of people undertaking voluntary work. Many Conservative Members, including the Minister, want to see more of that because they support voluntary effort in society. That is why a Conservative Member has tabled an amendment. I hope that the Minister accepts that voluntary work should be taken as evidence of a person's determination to seek employment.

I support the wholesale opposition of my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett) to the noxious new clause giving the Secretary of State power to introduce regulations. When the Department introduces regulations, they are generally of an oppressive and complicated nature, hurt the poorest most and erode the civil liberties of those in the worst position in society.

I am not in favour of the Minister for Social Security having any additional regulating powers. All the cuts implemented after 11 April 1988 were introduced by regulatory powers. Large chunks of oppressive legislation afflicting the poorest of the poor were introduced by the Minister with minimal parliamentary scrutiny. I do not think that he is a fit or proper person to legislate for anyone. I am not in favour of him. I recall the years when he pretended to be a liberal in the Tory party, and how he sacrificed those pretensions to crawl after the Prime Minister for position.

Mr. Simon Burns (Chelmsford)

The hon. Gentleman should withdraw that remark.

Mr. Cryer

I shall certainly not withdraw one dot or comma of what I have just said. The Minister is a particular object of my contempt for taking the position of being on the wet side of the Tory party but then, like a number of Tory party wets, caving in at the flick of an eyebrow by the Prime Minister. If anyone wants me to make the position absolutely clear, I shall be delighted to do so.

Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax)

It will come as no surprise to my hon. Friend that I entirely agree with his remarks. During the progress of the Bill last year which took away benefits from many young people, I pleaded with the Minister for a special dispensation for groups which he now admits are in dire need and sinking into homelessness and despair, but the Minister could not give a guarantee then that he would help them. I agree with every word that my hon. Friend has said about the Minister for Social Security.

Mr. Cryer

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who has detailed knowledge of the exchanges that took place in Committee on that occasion.

The regulating powers available to the House are far from satisfactory. I am concerned about giving more time to primary legislation on the Floor of the House. If the Government were to withdraw the water privatisation Bill, for example, the House would have an opportunity to deal with more primary legislation, which is what it should be.

The availability for work test is an example of tried and tested legislation which has stood the test of time. When stories of benefits abuse arise, they are published mostly in the tabloid press and have little substance. I recall a press campaign during the last Labour Government's period of office, when they were accused of being soft on the unemployed and allowing benefits abuse. The evidence produced—which was supported, of course, by The Sun —was found to be almost wholly without substance. Of about 700 cases investigated, often arising from anonymous reports about neighbours, only four were found to have genuine substance, and were in any event already being investigated by the DHSS.

5.30 pm

One of the Government's faults is that they cannot leave anything alone. Because of their doctrinaire beliefs, they have to tamper with everything, and that doctrinaire belief is generally about attacking those who are most vulnerable. Labour Members accept the approach to availability for work that civil servants are used to administering. People applying for benefits also understand it. But now the position is to be changed and civil servants and applicants will have to make a new assessment of the position. New difficulties will be created, and any judgment to be made will be on the side of the Government, with the result that more people will be refused unemployment benefit. Guidelines will be issued by the Minister to supplement the delegated powers and will almost certainly instruct civil servants, in cases where a judgment has to be made, to decide against the applicant.

In discussions that I have had while canvassing over the years, people of previous generations have told me that they do not want to go back to the practices of the 1920s and 1930s, when the means test humiliated people genuinely seeking work. Labour Members canvassing in the last two elections often heard it said that the Prime Minister was taking us back to the 1920s and 1930s. Some of us thought that people who had had a hard time during the inter-war period might have been feeling that the situation in recent times was a rehash of the earlier experience and might perhaps be exaggerating slightly, but we were wrong because the Prime Minister is clearly taking us back to the 1920s and 1930s, when people were subjected to harrowing scrutiny and humiliation. That will be the effect on society of clause 7 of the Bill. That provision is a further attack on the unemployed.

The Government claim that the number of unemployed is falling, although it has not yet fallen to the number in 1979 when the Conservatives came to office. Conservative Members are always making comparisons with the situation under the Labour Government, but they have a long way to go to achieve an unemployment level as low as in 1979. It would be interesting to hear when the Government expect that figure to be reached. In the meantime, the unemployed are suffering under the legislation affecting them. Provisions protecting people against unfair dismissal have been diminished. The rights of an employer have been enhanced so that a person who is dismissed faces the possibility of an extended period without unemployment benefit. Industrial tribunals relating to unfair dismissals have had their jurisdiction removed or diminished.

All this is part of a general pattern to attack the unemployed. I have no doubt that, like all Labour Members, Members representing smaller parties have constituents who tell them that many of the jobs advertised are for skilled engineers and the like, so a person who has been a labourer all his life is unlikely to get one. People genuinely seeking work often despair at not being able to find a job. One of my own offspring applied for several jobs over a period of many weeks and was in despair when he was unsuccessful. Although it was for a relatively short period that he was unable to find a job—fortunately, he subsequently found a position—he showed the despair that people feel at the continued indifference of many employers to applications for work.

It will be difficult to clarify what is involved in a test of whether a person is actively seeking work. It will be extremely difficult to verify people's intentions. Will they have to show that they have written letters seeking employment? Will it thus be incumbent on them to make sure that they keep a carbon copy or take a photocopy of all their applications? Will they have to produce bus tickets to show that they visited places of employment to apply for jobs? If their application is refused, will they have to get a letter to that effect so as to continue receiving unemployment benefit?

Because of the great sea of legislation which already exists, people face the task of filling in a large number of forms in scrupulous detail to satisfy the Minister's civil servants and obtain benefits—a situation rather different from what people in the City seem to be able to get away with in relation to share applications, and so on. It is difficult to determine how much evidence people will need to produce under clause 7 in support of their applications for benefit. This will impose yet another burden on ordinary people who have already been rejected inasmuch as they are unemployed.

Recently I had an interview with a man who was made redundant two years ago. As he was 58 years old, he wondered what hope he had of getting a job. The Minister may say that changes are afoot which will mean older people being called back to work, but that does not apply now. In Bradford, the Tory-controlled council is actually creating redundancies by sacking people and forcing them on to the dole. Indeed, one of the Government's proud boasts is about the way in which they have got rid of civil servants. A further instance of unemployment being created is the closure of the shipyard at Wearside. The Government have no proud record of creating and sustaining jobs in the public sector, but rather the reverse.

Unemployment is still a serious social problem, with 2 million people on the dole. Many thousands of people have been put out of work by the reduction in manufacturing activity—a total of 2 million since 1979. Under this Government all those people still walking the stones have a shadow over their shoulders of yet more bureaucratic interference and form-filling. They will have to produce more proof of their efforts to find work and satisfy more civil servants to obtain unemployment benefit.

If the Minister wishes to redeem himself in my eyes and those of other Labour Members, he must accept at least one of the amendments—preferably amendment No. 1—to show that he has some sympathy for the unemployed. He needs to show that he accepts their collective word when they tell him that they are genuinely seeking work because 99.9 per cent. of those people are desperately looking for work, want work, and are critical of a Government who seem unable to produce an economy that will provide it.

Mr. Burns

I hope that the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) will forgive me if I do not take up the points he made, except to say that I do not believe the Bill, including clause 7, is an attack on the unemployed. If the amendment to clause 7, which is the centre of the Bill, were passed, it would completely emasculate the authority of the legislation by withdrawing from it the requirement actively to seek work in order to receive unemployment benefit. I see no reason why there should not be a clause requiring people actively to seek work in order to qualify for the benefit.

I agree with the hon. Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett) that only a small minority in this country claim the benefit, are not working, do not want to work and would try to duck any job one gave them. However, we must not blow this fact up out of all proportion. The vast majority of people who are out of work want to work and are looking for jobs. The news that the unemployment figures are falling is certainly welcome, but it does not alter the fact that many people desperately want work.

I believe, however, that it is the duty of Government, of whatever party, to ensure that the money paid to people who are out of work goes to those who really want to work but cannot find a job, rather than to the small minority who have no intention of working and are on the benefits register simply because they see it as an easier alternative.

The hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Battle) sighs; but there are such cases. I am sure that, when they were canvassing for the last general election, hon. Members heard the odd person—not loads of people of course—say, "Why should I work? I get x pounds a week in benefit, and if I were working I would probably not get as much as that." The Government have a duty to protect the taxpayer—and those in work—against such people. There is no reason whatever for an able-bodied person enjoying good health not to seek a job.

At present, just under 2 million people are unemployed, and there are between 600,000 and 700,000 vacancies. In Chelmsford, my constituency, 1,841 people are out of work and there are more than 700 vacancies. I believe that some of those vacancies could and should be filled. Companies in my constituency, such as Marconi Communications and the English Electric Valve Company, find it very difficult to get people to work for them. That is not because they are bad employers; they are certainly not that. It is because some people who are out of work could be working.

Mr. Battle

Would the hon. Gentleman care to tell us what house prices and rents are like in his constituency, near those factories? Might not the fact that people do not take up such job opportunities have something to do with the fact that they cannot afford to move their families from the north to the south?

Mr. Burns

The hon. Gentlemen has a very valid point. The Housing Act, when it is in full operation, will help to create a right to let, and will build up the rented accommodation market. [Interruption.] I should be grateful if, having asked a question, the hon. Gentleman would listen to the reply before catcalling. I was not saying that people should come down from the north, because what he says is absolutely right: people do not want to come down to Chelmsford to work, particularly those in the north who are on lower incomes, because of the level of house prices. I was making the point that people already living in Chelmsford could take up work in companies that are suffering from a serious labour shortage.

A report published last year on the London labour market provides compelling evidence that thousands of jobs are available in the Greater London area for those who are out of work in that area, but they are not being taken up. I believe that clause 7 will encourage more people to take up such jobs. People who are genuinely and actively seeking work should have no worries, because they are already doing what the Bill, when enacted, will ensure that everyone does. If they are unsuccessful in their attempts to find jobs, they will receive the benefit to which they are entitled.

I shall oppose amendment No. I and support the Government. Bringing into benefit regulations a provision requiring that a person is actively seeking work is, in my view, long overdue.

Mr. Bill Michie (Sheffield, Heeley)

I should like to discuss the whole clause rather than the amendments, which are clearly of some importance and value.

I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, south (Mrs Beckett) that the clause paves the way for more and more misery to be inflicted on people who are already experiencing poverty, dilemma and much else. It will make such people responsible for their own dilemma. Those of us who represent areas of high unemployment know very well that most, if not all, of those who are out of work are out of work not because of their own actions but because of the Government's economic strategy—a strategy designed not just to put people out of work, but to destroy the strength of the trade union movement and make it subject to the will of Government. That is all part of the Tory philosophy, and has been for some time.

5.45 pm
Mr. Burns

How can the hon. Gentleman blame the Government for all the people who are still out of work in Dundee as a result of the Transport and General Workers Union fiasco?

Mr. Michie

I do not wish to educate the hon. Gentleman. If he knew anything about industrial strategy and trade union politics, he would also know that it is necessary to plan for the future rather than living for the day. Protection of jobs and of the union is essential to the future of working people—although that, of course, is not something that the hon. Gentleman wishes to see.

Instead of using so much valuable time in trying to find a way to save a few bob at the expense of the poor, the Government should use legislation and powers to create real jobs and stop hounding people who are not unemployed for their own ends. Many of those people will be permanently on trial, week after week, as my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South has already pointed out. We are returning to the bad old days; in fact, things are worse. We put a stop to this kind of legislation years ago because it was too harsh, but we now see that the present Government's legislation is harder than some of the bad laws that were scrapped a long time ago.

In most cases, the difficulties experienced by claimants actively seeking work will not be a good enough reason to qualify for benefit. It will be difficult for a claimant to prove that he could not make it for one reason or another, and he could lose at least a month's benefit. Moreover, people with disabilities which are not always recognised will find it hard to prove that they are actively seeking work, if suitable work is available.

The same applies to those who are caring for the sick or the disabled. One of the amendments makes the point that the more someone tries to help others the more likely he is to jeopardise his chance of drawing benefit. I should have thought that that would be entirely against the Government's philosophy, but perhaps nothing is sacred in today's Tory-rotten world.

The people whom the Government intend to penalise are not lazy; most are helping others in a voluntary capacity—working hard for nothing at all. The fact is that suitable jobs are not there, despite what the Government say. Work opportunities in many areas are very scarce. Someone could have a full-time job applying for jobs that do not exist. I wonder whether a full-time job trying to find that elusive post of real consequence and of a reasonable standard would qualify a person for benefit.

The Government do not seem to understand the plight of many unemployed people. In many cases, there may not be a job opportunity in the area. That may not seem much of a problem to hon. Members on £24,000 a year plus expenses, who can get into a taxi whenever they like. Sometimes, apparently, they get on to tube trains and talk to members of the proletariat, but they do not do that very often. Hon. Members can all travel first-class on the train.

However, we are talking about unemployed people who do not have the money to apply for jobs in other areas. What will happen if a single parent sees a poorly paid job four or five miles away? Can she afford to take it? Can she afford the hours away from her family or sick relative? Should she apply for the job knowing very well that she cannot take it, but if she does not apply for the job will she be penalised? We asked those questions time and again in Committee.

The Minister for Social Security (Mr. Nicholas Scott)

We discussed the matter in Committee, and the hon. Gentleman must know that a lone parent with children under 16 is not required to be actively seeking work. [Interruption.]

Mr. Michie

I did not catch that comical note.

Mr. Scott

I said that the hon. Gentleman must understand that a lone parent with children under 16 is exempted from that provision precisely because she is a lone parent.

Mr. Michie

I take the Minister's point.

Mrs. Beckett

In view of the Secretary of State's remarks about single parents being dependent on the State, when the Minister replies to the debate, will he tell us how long that happy circumstance might obtain? It is clear from my hon. Friend's remarks that many single parents wish to seek work and are trying to be active in the labour market but face these difficulties.

Mr. Michie

We discussed in Committee problems such as travelling to work and expenses, and I made that point that a four-mile journey in London is very different from a four-mile journey in Yorkshire or Derbyshire. The rules will apply throughout the country and will not change because people live in different areas, so, while I accept the Minister's point, I hope that he will realise that the Government have provided no help whatsoever for those people.

The Government have fallen for their own propaganda that there are plenty of jobs. The hon. Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall) does not appear to understand the implications of the Bill. Because of the scrapping of the wages councils and protection against low pay, ultimately people will have to apply for extremely low-paid jobs and face the dilemma that they cannot afford to take the jobs but will be penalised by the DSS if they do not apply for them. The Government gave us no comfort in Committee to the effect that they would take that into consideration.

Mr. John Marshall

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that those who might take the jobs to which he has referred would all he eligible for family credit, which would increase their incomes significantly?

Mr. Michie

I did not realise that the Government were so generous. I have written to the Minister about one or two cases of family credit, and I look forward to receiving his reply.

We have received no assurance that people who cannot afford to apply for jobs in certain areas will receive any help. I am afraid that the Government will have to come back in a year's time. They will not apologise for having made a mistake, but they will have the brilliant idea of helping some of those people to move.

Mr. Battle

Perhaps my hon. Friend should ask the Minister to apologise now. I am sure that the Minister would not want inadvertently to mislead the House. If a single person is claiming income support, the availability for work test will not apply, but if someone is claiming unemployment benefit, the test will apply. That should be made clear. I would not like the impression that the Minister was misleading the House to go further than the Chamber.

Mr. Michie

I am sure that the Minister will put the record straight somewhere at the end of his winding-up speech if he has enough time.

The people that we are trying to defend are the victims of a rotten system. They are unemployed through no fault of their own, yet they will carry the burden of guilt and will continually have to prove their innocence week after week. They are not scroungers or lazy, but simply finding it difficult to find work, but many of them will not have the opportunity to prove their case.

Clause 7 is a very bad clause designed by a powerful Government to bash the most vulnerable people. It is time that the Government used time and legislation to help those people instead of bashing them. They could start by scrapping clause 7, and if they want to be unnaturally generous to people in need, they should scrap the entire Bill.

Mr. Andrew Rowe (Mid-Kent)

I apologise to the House for not being present at the beginning of the debate as I was unavoidably detained.

I have an interest in clause 7 because I am a trustee of Community Service Volunteers and have been interested in the voluntary sector for a long time. It is clear that the Minister understands that the nature of unemployment varies considerably from person to person. Even in places such as my constituency, where there is no shortage of employment, a substantial proportion of those who are unemployed are psychologically incapable of taking a job, or even applying satisfactorily for employment. One of the most helpful ways of enabling those people to recover confidence and social skills is giving them the opportunity to work as a part-time or full-time volunteer with a voluntary organisation which is skilled and experienced at bringing the best out of such young people.

One example is the information bubble in Waterloo station which is manned by volunteers who have been given the job by Community Service Volunteers. Their task is relatively simple but becomes increasingly complex as the volunteers provide information about a wide variety of events in London, train timetables and so on, and t gives many people who have become socially isolated the chance to recover their self-confidence. Many of those young people have gone on to find perfectly satisfactory employment. The people who carry out that task vary enormously between people with advanced degrees to those who can barely read and write but are taught the job and manage to cope very satisfactorily.

Those people volunteer for two reasons—because they want company and support and because they know that such work is a way back into the employment market. I believe that they should be deemed to be actively seeking work because they are preparing themselves for work, and because the organisation for which they are working is perfectly willing to be quizzed about the people it employs in a voluntary capacity. That is particularly important, because some of those people could easily obtain a job as a street sweeper or another pretty solitary activity in many parts of the country. But that could exacerbate the psychological isolation which those people—who are usually, but not always, young people—experience and render them unemployable in the medium and long term because eventually they will crack up and be unable to continue.

It is essential that amendment No. 14, or a similar amendment, be accepted. The Under-Secretary of State for Employment, my hon. Friend the Member for Teignbridge (Mr. Nicholls) has already said that he sees no serious difficulty in creating a system whereby the voluntary organisation set aside one day or half a day a week during which the individual would be expected to apply for jobs. It would be wrong for people engaged in voluntary activity under the auspices of a properly organised and caring organisation to be deemed not to be seeking work.

6 pm

Ms. Short

My hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett) said that we were now getting to the guts of the Bill and the reason why it was introduced. That point was confirmed by the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Burns). This is not a social security Bill, but an employment Bill. Its origins are in the Department of Employment and it seeks to further the Government's strategy of reorganising our labour market, which they have been working out for a considerable- time. That reorganisation involves positively encouraging low-paid employment in our economy and lowering the protections and security in employment of workers. It has been, sadly and disastrously for many people and for the efficiency of the economy, an enormously successful strategy.

We now have 2 million more low-paid workers than in 1979 and, disgracefully and shockingly, 49 per cent. of people in employment are now low paid on the measure set down by the Council of Europe, which is the equivalent of £132 for a full working week. Clause 7 is intended to take that process further and to force more people to take even lower-paid and worse employment. Amendment No. 1 seeks to delete clause 7, but it is impossible to understand the purpose of clause 7 without considering clause 9.

Clause 7 will require those who become unemployed to prove, on a weekly basis, that they are actively seeking work. If they do not, they will be threatened with the loss of benefit for six months. Clause 9 removes any minimum conditions about the jobs offered, so people will be forced to take the jobs that remain vacant in jobcentres—in areas of high and low unemployment—because the pay and conditions are so disgraceful. People will be forced into those jobs. As employers realise that, the unemployed will be used as a battering ram to erode standards of employment. That is clearly the long-term strategy of the Government and the Bill will make the position much worse.

The hon. Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall) did not intend, I am sure, to mislead the House, but he was wrong when he said that it was not the purpose of Conservatives to force people to take jobs that pay less than their benefits. The Opposition moved an amendment on that in Committee, but it was turned down by the Government and the hon. Gentleman did not vote for it; he supported the Government. Let everyone be clear that under the Bill, people will be forced to accept employment that pays less than the level of benefit to which they are currently entitled. That is what the hon. Gentleman voted for in Committee, but he may have forgotten.

We know that the Conservative Whips do not allow Conservative Members to contribute in Committee, but that does not mean that the hon. Member for Chelmsford might not have learnt a little from the debate. He said that, in Chelmsford, there were 700 vacancies and 1,800 people unemployed. Obviously, he has not learnt what we tried to explain to him—that vacancies do not wait for ever for the unemployed to fill them. There is an enormous turnover. If the hon. Gentleman goes back to the jobcentre, he will find that of those 700 vacancies, most have been there for a short time and that the overwhelming majority have been taken by people already in employment who are seeking improved conditions.

The chances are enormously high that many of the 1,800 people cannot apply for the 700 vacancies because they do not have the necessary skills. If there are highly skilled job vacancies that cannot be filled in Chelmsford, that is the fault of local employers for not supplying adequate training so that the jobs can be filled.

Mr. Burns

The two companies that I mentioned in Committee are bending over backwards to take on unskilled workers and are more than prepared to train them, so that they can learn the necessary skills. They realise that it is difficult to find skilled workers in the area. English Electric Valve had over 200 vacancies last year that it could not fill. As a good employer, it is more than prepared to train unskilled people to fill jobs, yet it still has difficulty in filling them.

Ms. Short

The next time I visit Chelmsford, I shall call into the jobcentre. As the hon. Gentleman may know, I attend to these matters in some detail. I visit jobcentres and study the labour market. Chelmsford is not an island. Unless it is quite different from the rest of the country, the description of the likely employment market I have given will apply to Chelmsford.

To hear Conservative Members speak, one would think that we did not already have benefit conditions that have been enormously tightened in recent years. People have to be available for work to obtain unemployment benefit, and the tests are rigorously applied. As a result of the Government's strategy which I have already explained, and because of the prejudices among Conservative Members, many new provisions have been introduced in recent years. When people first become unemployed they have to fill in a questionnaire of 22 questions as part of the availability for work test. Under the restart scheme, the unemployed are called in every six months and receive a letter saying that their benefits will be stopped unless they come for an interview. Before that interview, they have to fill in a questionnaire of 17 questions. Many of the unemployed take places in job clubs or on one-week restart courses after going through that frightening process.

Research shows that the majority of the unemployed believed that the schemes were compulsory and that if they had not accepted places on them, they would have lost their benefits. The unemployed are harassed now and are frightened into schemes that lead them nowhere. The unemployed want jobs and we all want them to have jobs and good training, but the Government are so obsessed with reorganising the labour market and cutting wages that the schemes seek to lower wage expectations rather than give skills that enhance the employability of the individual and the competitiveness of our economy.

The only purpose of this change is that matters should become worse and the conditions tougher. Anyone who is close to unemployed people who go through the restart scheme knows how much fear there is already. In Committee, we gave many examples of people who were frightened and harassed by the process, including examples of many older workers who had worked from 14 to 50-odd and had been laid off in the great recession induced by the Tory Government when they came to power in 1979. They are harassed under the restart scheme and will be humiliated under the processes in the Bill.

I am especially concerned about unemployed people who seek to study under the 21-hour rule. People who do that are worthy of great admiration. They have the experience of being unemployed and of having to manage on little money, but they have the motivation to find a place at college and to take courses that enhance their employability and learning. The Government have already wiped out that opportunity for 16 and 17-year-olds. About 30,000 of them used to use the opportunity to acquire 0 and A-levels. I know constituents who went on to become graduates through that difficult route. Now about 300,000 older workers will be affected. I do not know the precise figures, because one cannot obtain them from the Department of Employment.

In Committee, the Minister said that he was sympathetic to that point. I pushed him for an assurance and he asked me not to push him further. I shall push him now because we want an assurance. It will be intolerable if people who seek to study while on benefits are prevented from doing so and forced into schemes such as employment training, which lead them into crass employment experiences and not into decent prospects of a job and enhanced employability. It is no good the Minister saying that social security does not exist so that people can be educated and trained. Employment training, the Government's main scheme for unemployed people, consists of people training while on social security benefits. I sincerely hope that the Minister will give us serious assurances that the regulations will explicitly provide that people who are studying under the 21-hour rule are allowed to continue to study despite the tighter regulations that are being introduced.

I add my support to the amendments that have been tabled to protect voluntary workers. The Bill presents a real danger that people who do voluntary work will be found not to he actively seeking work and that they will be penalised and lose their benefit because they sought to help their community when they were unemployed.

Taking up voluntary work can be an enormously successful strategy for getting a job. When people go to agencies in areas of high unemployment to seek advice about how they might get employment, they are constantly advised to look for voluntary work in the area in which they are interested because that will give them confidence and experience and when openings occur, they will get jobs. Many people have found employment in that way. If the Minister does not make some such provision, not only will much of the care that is provided to our communities be destroyed, but a valuable route into employment will also be destroyed.

This is a foul Bill and clauses 7 and 9 are an outrage. They will mean that lots of our people will be harassed and humiliated as happened in the 1930s. That is not an exaggeration because the parallels are close. The Bill will also mean that more and more of our people will be low paid. Low pay is not only bad for individuals—it is no use the Government talking about family credit, because only those with dependent children are eligible for family credit and many people without dependent children could be forced into a job that pays less than their benefit—but is enormously bad for the economy. It leads to a high turnover of labour, low investment and poor training. Britain will have no future as an economy that rests on low pay. However, more and more the Government's strategy is to restructure our economy in that way. That is bad for individuals and the future of the economy. Clauses 7 and 9 will make everything much worse for a lot of people.

The Chancellor and the Government talk about inducing a recession in our economy to deal with the problem of inflation and they hope that we will have a soft rather than a hard landing. That means that there will be another—and inevitable—increase in unemployment. Harsher conditions will be imposed, when it is inevitable that unemployment will start to increase again. I am afraid that that is the future we face.

Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarfon)

I apologise to colleagues for having missed a quarter of an hour in i:he middle of the debate when I was in Committee upstairs, however, I am glad, even at this late stage, to be involved in the debates on this Social Security Bill, because I was involved with the preceeding two Bills and I was sorry to miss the Committee stage of this Bill.

I want to address my remarks not only to amendment No. 14 which has been tabled in my name, which was spoken to by the hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Hannam) and which is supported by the all-party disablement group, but also to the basic amendment, amendment No. I, which was tabled by the hon. Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett). I support both, if that is not mutually exclusive.

I refer first to the position of volunteers. I have close contacts with the Spastics Society and with Mencap and am very much aware of the important role played by volunteers in such disablement groups. We must ensure that in its final form the Bill cannot be interpreted—much is open to interpretation—by people who do not fully appreciate that significance in such a way as to reduce the number of volunteers available or to lean on them to move in other directions.

The hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short) spoke of the enriching experience of being a volunteer and of the help that it gives in finding other work. Both those points are true. When the Minister replies to the points that have been made about volunteers, I hope that he will give an assurance not just that they ca .n continue to be volunteers but that they will have to show that they are still actively looking for work because that could be a "Catch 22" for volunteers. If one is actively looking for work, that cuts across one's voluntary work, which would not be a satisfactory outcome. It would be better to have the wording suggested in amendments Nos. 109 or 14 to try to overcome that.

6.15 pm

I accept that amendment No. 14 may need to be tightened and that we may need definitions of the voluntary organisations. I can see difficulties, in that people might be able to create a voluntary organisation and one person might be able to become a voluntary organisation and "employ" an unemployed person as a volunteer. Given that the wording may need to be tightened, I hope that the Government will not rest their case just on the fact that, of course, people can continue to be volunteers but they must also show that they are actively looking for work because that would not be anything like satisfactory.

I turn now to clause 7. The area that I represent is extremely scattered. There are 93 villages in my constituency and some people may live 15 or 20 miles from their unemployment benefit office. If the expectation is that people will go to the office regularly to show that they are actively involved in seeking work, significant costs could arise. Indeed, trying to go to interviews or to knock on doors asking for a job also involves costs. People may live 10 miles from their nearest possible employer, there may well be no bus service and transport could be difficult. Many unemployed people will not have cars of their own because of their financial circumstances.

The question then arises, is writing a letter enough? It may be—I do not know. Other hon. Members who are present may also have received the letter that I received the other day from a young person in a hostel in Grimsby. It had clearly been written to more than one Member of Parliament and I know that another colleague has received the same letter. It was a one-liner, asking, "Have you got a job for me?" One's first instinct was, "What on earth does this guy think he is doing?" The second instinct, of course, was to give priority to that letter above a lot of others and to give a fairly substantive answer to explain why one does not. However, I wonder whether a one-line letter like that meets the requirements. If that is the case and we are to have an industry of turning out, cyclostyle, "Have you got a job for me?" letters, all that we are requiring to meet the provisions of the Bill is the cost of a stamp per week to show that one is seeking work.

That raises another problem, to which hon. Members have already referred, about employers' reactions. There is nothing more dismal or soul-destroying for somebody who takes the trouble to write a letter—not just a one-liner, but a substantive letter trying to get a job—than not even to receive an acknowledgement from the employer. I know that that happens far too often. If we are to tighten the system in the way that the Government want, there is a tremendous responsibility on employers to reply in substance to every letter they get. That should be the other side of the coin of these provisions. When people take the trouble to write such letters, a reply should be sent to them which can then be shown to any authorities that may want to see the evidence.

I welcome the part of the Government's provisions that will remove the disbarment of seasonal workers from receiving unemployment benefit after their third year of seasonal work. Where those rules are introduced, I hope that such workers will not be hit by the impossibility of finding work out of season or of finding even a job opportunity to which they could apply out of season. Unemployment in the Lleyn peninsula in my constituency reaches a high of 25 per cent. in winter but can come down to 10 per cent. in mid-summer. The difficulty is that people will need to prove, in mid-winter, that they are actively looking for work—that is, at the very time that no work is available. Therefore, we must ensure that we are not just changing the excuse for not paying unemployment benefit to those people who most certainly would like to work if work is available.

The hon. Member for Ladywood referred to the level of pay. There is a danger that people will be forced into working at low levels of pay. That danger could be significant. The other side of the coin to the tightening of the rules should be a move towards a national minimum wage policy. If people are driven to take work at a low level of remuneration because otherwise they would lose their benefit, vulnerable people may be exploited.

It seems clear from the evidence available to me that those who will have the greatest difficulty in showing that they are actively seeking work are those in the 50-plus group who have got into an almighty unemployment rut through no fault of their own, but because they have been caught by the recession, by structural changes that have taken place in industry and by the decline of many older industries; young people who do not have experience of life and who do not know how to go about obtaining work; and disabled people. For those three categories of people I am fearful about the effect of the Bill.

Inevitably, there will always be some who are working the system for their own benefit, but the overwhelming majority of people are not doing that. There are now possibly more people working the system than were doing so 10 or 15 years ago; they are in the habit of being unemployed because of unemployment—they are in a vicious spiral—and I favour any policy that helps them get back into work. But such help must mean the provision of dignified work, with people being helped and trained for work and not having the threat of being without a livelihood if they do not obey the letter of what is, as it stands, a rather unclear law.

I do not suppose that the Government will accept the amendment and delete clause 7, although I should support it if it were taken to a Division. I hope that between now and the Bill appearing in another place they will give careful thought to the points that hon. Members have made. I hope also that, when the Minister replies tonight, he will answer the questions that we have asked and will deal with the points that have been made about amendment No. 14 concerning volunteers, an issue of significance to many organisations.

Mr. Scott

It was common ground in Committee that unemployed people should have to seek employment rather than adopt a totally passive state. The case made at that stage by some hon. Members was that the present availability rules were sufficient to achieve that common goal and that the use of the phrase "actively seeking work" was unnecessary. I believe that the case is proved in the opposite direction.

We know—my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall) spelled this out—that more jobs are becoming available. But present legislation does not make it clear that unemployed claimants must go after those jobs. Some assert that it does, but I believe that the commissioners' decisions add up to a substantive case that it does not. People are required to be available for work, and that will remain the situation under the 1975 Act.

The decision of the commissioner in R(U)5/80, which was often quoted in Committee, says that availability must be more than a simple passive state—a claimant must take some active step to draw attention to his availability. As I said in Committee, a series of decisions since then by the commissioners—authoritative decisions, although unreported—have made it clear that when someone declares that he is available for employment and backs that up by taking some simple step, such as attending a jobcentre, that is enough.

The case that arose in Committee was of a person who simply turned up at a jobcentre, did not leave any name, address or contact and was judged to have done enough under the existing arrangements. A claimant today would not have to do more than that; he would not have to examine openings, look in the newspapers, inquire of friends or contact employers to satisfy the availability for work condition.

Ms. Short

I am sure that the Minister does not wish to misrepresent the position. The present position is that if a person's availability is called into question, he must prove that he is actively seeking work and produce evidence to that effect.

Mr. Scott

It can be judged—even if a person has not taken those steps—that having been available, he can continue to he entitled to benefit. The commissioners have decided that. They have decided that those who have been available in the most passive way are entitled to continue to receive benefit. It is common ground, particularly when unemployment is falling rapidly and more jobs are being created, that we should be motivating, encouraging and persuading people to take advantage of the country's increased prosperity.

The clause is not a vehicle for harassing unemployed people. It is a way of encouraging them to get back into work. As I said in Committee, repeating what I said on Second Reading, only a tiny minority of the unemployed could be described as workshy or trying to work the system. As we know—as the hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley) said today and as the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) said more than once in Committee —there is a minority of that sort. But the rest of unemployed people, particularly in an improving unemployment situation, need encouragement to seek out the increasing number of vacancies that are becoming available. So I do not resile from the broad thrust of what we are trying to do in the clause.

I promised in Committee to look sympathetically at the question of holidays. I have now agreed with the Secretary of State for Employment that in regulations we shall have power to deem that for up to two weeks in any 12-month period a holiday can be taken, and people will be deemed to be actively seeking work during those two weeks. I hope that that will be accepted as a sensible solution to that issue.

The hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short) again returned to the point she raised in Committee about people attending funerals and not being able to satisfy the condition of actively seeking work during the day or two they were away. As we have changed the test from being a daily test of availability to a weekly test of actively seeking work, there is no reason why somebody should not attend—as it might be in the hon. Lady's case, across the water—for a few days, and for the rest of the week be able to take sufficient steps to show that he or she was actively seeking work.

The hon. Lady also raised the question of studying, and my remarks on that will, in a sense, have an impact on my comments about volunteering. I accept that if someone is taking a course of study, that person is, simply by doing that, helping to improve his or her eventual possibility of getting back into employment. That should be taken into account, but I do not believe that simply because a person is engaged in part-time study, he or she should be exempt from any requirement to take steps actively to seek work. The fact that a person is studying should be part of the pattern that is taken into account when a judgment is made about the totality of the effort that is being made to get back into employment.

In Committee we discussed the sort of steps we would expect people to take to show that they were actively seeking work—following up advertisements in newspapers and visiting employers and so on. The steps that they would take would, of course, vary according to the type of employment that they were seeking.

There are some types of employment where turning up on the site and offering one's services would be appropriate. There are others where a properly prepared CV, sent to a number of employers, would be more appropriate to show that one was actively seeking work. Our intention is that the system should respond in a flexible and sympathetic way to the differing needs of people in showing whether they are seeking work.

In essence—this will sound familiar to those who were members of the Committee—there is a contract between the state and unemployed people. As a Government, we should be trying to run the economy in such a way that more jobs are created. If people are unemployed through no fault of their own, they should, for the relevant period, be entitled to unemployment benefit.

There should be a state service providing advice about vacancies and guidance to people on how they can get back into work. But the other side of that contract—which is that people should be prepared to take active steps to find their way back into employment—should not be ignored. That is the essence of the contract, and in my view it is sensible and proper.

I am keen on people using their time to study, and I am also keen that individuals should make good use of their time when they are unemployed, and there can be few things more beneficial than caring or otherwise using one's time in a voluntary capacity. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe), I have had close contact in the past with Community Service Volunteers and I know that the work done by volunteers is immensely valuable to society in general. Those in voluntary work are improving their prospects of gaining employment in the longer run, and that is what clause 7 is all about.

I hope that I can persuade the House that the amendments, which are well intentioned and with which I have sympathy, are not necessary, as we already intend to make special provision for the treatment of voluntary work. The hon. Member for Caernarfon recognised that there are technical defects in both amendments. I shall not rest my case simply on the technical defects. I am anxious to persuade my hon. Friends and other hon. Members who put their names to the amendments that I recognise that some charitable organisations depend heavily on the use of unemployed people as volunteers. The work that they do is commendable, important and of benefit to the individuals as well as to society, but I do not believe that the fact that they are doing voluntary work should mean that they should be exempted from the need to take steps actively to get themselves back into paid employment. That would be wrong.

6.30 pm
Mr. Rowe

I want to be absolutely clear. If someone wishes to start a career in residential work, looking after the elderly, and if he is told that he should work first for six months as a volunteer, is my hon. Friend saying that that would still not be regarded as seeking work?

Mr. Scott

I cannot accept that the purpose of unemployment benefit is to provide for and sustain such activity. The purpose of unemployment benefit is to insulate people who are unemployed through no fault of their own. I will provide in regulations that when a decision is taken about whether someone is actively seeking work, the fact that the person is engaged in voluntary work should be one factor to be weighed in the balance. But, just as anyone doing voluntary work at present has to be available for work to qualify for unemployment benefit, that person will have to take steps —in most cases fewer steps than someone not doing voluntary work—to show that he has been actively seeking work.

I do not believe that it would be impossible for people to take additional steps, such as writing letters in the evening, telephoning employers and so on, to satisfy the system that they are still actively seeking work while carrying out voluntary activities. I shall make sure that that is provided for in regulations so that the adjudicating authorities can take proper account of it. That is the right balance. The very fact that it will be accounted for specifically in regulations means that it will be impossible for adjudicating officers not to take account of it. In those circumstances I hope that those who put their names to the amendments will agree not to press them. As I have said, they are in any case, technically not accurate. If they are pressed, I shall have to ask the House to reject them.

As was clear in Committee, there is a fundamental division between the two sides of the House on clause 7. I do not think that further argument will resolve that division. I suspect that the only way to resolve it will be in the Lobby.

Mrs. Beckett

It has been an interesting debate. We remain of the view that the clause is as unnecessary as it is harsh. The issues raised on the various amendments about, for example, the impact of the clause on the possibility of study or voluntary work, show how harsh it might be. I welcome the fact that the Minister and the Secretary of State for Employment have agreed that if a person takes two weeks' holiday he can be deemed to be actively seeking work in that period, but it shows paradoxically how tight the provision is when that has to be accounted for specifically in the legislation.

We have concentrated primarily on the provisions of the law rather than on its administration. In a sense the Minister sought to justify the law by saying that its administration can be flexible and sympathetic. That is possible. Equally it is possible that the reverse will be the case. The law itself is draconian. The clause will place enormous discretion in the hands of fairly junior officers who may use the denial of the right to benefit to penalise people who come before them if they judge differently from the Minister, in general terms, the value or the justice of people being able to study or to do voluntary work while unemployed.

What the Minister said to his hon. Friends about the value of voluntary work was revealing. It is generally recognised in the House and outside that people who have no choice about joblessness have tried to turn that joblessness to good use by taking such opportunities as arise to study, to do voluntary work and so on, in the hope usually of improving their capacity later to find work. The message from the Minister to his hon. Friends about their amendment on voluntary work is in effect that that permission, as it were, is being withdrawn. The Minister said that he will cover that position in regulations, but the thrust of what the Government are saying is that the recognition of the powerlessness of many jobless people is being withdrawn and that they should spend their time, however fruitlessly, with however little point and to whatever effect, just looking for work. That is why we wish to delete clause 7.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 187, Noes 306.

Division No. 177] [6.36 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'I)
Armstrong, Hilary Dixon, Don
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Dobson, Frank
Ashton, Joe Doran, Frank
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Duffy, A. E. P.
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Dunnachie, Jimmy
Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich) Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth
Battle, John Eadie, Alexander
Beckett, Margaret Eastham, Ken
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Evans, John (St Helens N)
Bermingham, Gerald Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)
Bidwell, Sydney Fatchett, Derek
Blair, Tony Faulds, Andrew
Blunkett, David Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Boyes, Roland Flannery, Martin
Bradley, Keith Flynn, Paul
Bray, Dr Jeremy Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E) Foster, Derek
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Foulkes, George
Buchan, Norman Fraser, John
Buckley, George J. Fyfe, Maria
Caborn, Richard Galloway, George
Callaghan, Jim Garrett, John (Norwich South)
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Garrett, Ted (Wallsend)
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley) George, Bruce
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Godman, Dr Norman A.
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g) Golding, Mrs Llin
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Gordon, Mildred
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Gould, Bryan
Clay, Bob Graham, Thomas
Cohen, Harry Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Corbett, Robin Grocott, Bruce
Corbyn, Jeremy Hardy, Peter
Cousins, Jim Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Crowther, Stan Healey, Rt Hon Denis
Cryer, Bob Henderson, Doug
Cummings, John Hinchliffe, David
Cunliffe, Lawrence Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Cunningham, Dr John Home Robertson, John
Dalyell, Tam Hood, Jimmy
Darling, Alistair Howells, Geraint
Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd) Parry, Robert
Hoyle, Doug Patchett, Terry
Hughes, John (Coventry NE) Pendry, Tom
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Pike, Peter L.
Hughes, Roy (Newport E) Prescott, John
Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S) Quin, Ms Joyce
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Radice, Giles
Illsley, Eric Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn
Ingram, Adam Reid, Dr John
Janner, Greville Richardson, Jo
Jones, leuan (Ynys Môn) Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W) Robertson, George
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Rogers, Allan
Kennedy, Charles Rooker, Jeff
Kilfedder, James Ross, William (Londonderry E)
Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil Ruddock, Joan
Kirkwood, Archy Salmond, Alex
Lamond, James Sedgemore, Brian
Leighton, Ron Sheerman, Barry
Lewis, Terry Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Livingstone, Ken Short, Clare
Livsey, Richard Sillars, Jim
Lofthouse, Geoffrey Skinner, Dennis
Loyden, Eddie Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
McAIMon, John Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)
McAvoy, Thomas Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Macdonald, Calum A. Spearing, Nigel
McKay, Allen (Barnsley West) Steel, Rt Hon David
McKelvey, William Steinberg, Gerry
McLeish, Henry Stott, Roger
Maclennan, Robert Strang, Gavin
Madden, Max Straw, Jack
Mahon, Mrs Alice Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Mallon, Seamus Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Marek, Dr John Turner, Dennis
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Vaz, Keith
Martlew, Eric Wall, Pat
Maxton, John Wallace, James
Meacher, Michael Walley, Joan
Meale, Alan Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Michael, Alun Wareing, Robert N.
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute) Wigley, Dafydd
Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby) Winnick, David
Moonie, Dr Lewis Wise, Mrs Audrey
Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe) Worthington, Tony
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Wray, Jimmy
Mullin, Chris Young, David (Bolton SE)
Murphy, Paul
Nellist, Dave Tellers for the Ayes:
O'Brien, William Mr. Frank Haynes and
O'Neill, Martin Mr. Ray Powell.
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Adley, Robert Bonsor, Sir Nicholas
Aitken, Jonathan Boscawen, Hon Robert
Alexander, Richard Boswell, Tim
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Bottomley, Mrs Virginia
Allason, Rupert Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)
Amess, David Bowis, John
Amos, Alan Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove) Brandon-Bravo, Martin
Ashby, David Brazier, Julian
Aspinwall, Jack Bright, Graham
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)
Baldry, Tony Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)
Batiste, Spencer Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Buck, Sir Antony
Bellingham, Henry Budgen, Nicholas
Bendall, Vivian Burns, Simon
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Burt, Alistair
Benyon, W. Butcher, John
Bevan, David Gilroy Butler, Chris
Biffen, Rt Hon John Butterfill, John
Blackburn, Dr John G. Carlisle, John, (Luton N)
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Body, Sir Richard Carrington, Matthew
Carttiss, Michael Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Cash, William Hill, James
Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda Hind, Kenneth
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Holt, Richard
Chapman, Sydney Hordern, Sir Peter
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Howard, Michael
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Colvin, Michael Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)
Conway, Derek Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest) Hunt, David (Wirral W)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Cope, Rt Hon John Hunter, Andrew
Cormack, Patrick Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Couchman, James Irvine, Michael
Cran, James Irving, Charles
Critchley, Julian Jack, Michael
Currie, Mrs Edwina Janman, Tim
Curry, David Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g) Jones, Robert B (Herts W)
Davis, David (Boothferry) Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Day, Stephen Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Devlin, Tim Key, Robert
Dickens, Geoffrey King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Dicks, Terry King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Dorrell, Stephen Kirkhope, Timothy
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Knapman, Roger
Dover, Den Knight, Greg (Derby North)
Dunn, Bob Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)
Durant, Tony Knowles, Michael
Dykes, Hugh Knox, David
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd) Lamont, Rt Hon Norman
Evennett, David Latham, Michael
Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas Lawrence, Ivan
Fallon, Michael Lee, John (Pendle)
Favell, Tony Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Fenner, Dame Peggy Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey Lilley, Peter
Fishburn, John Dudley Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)
Fookes, Dame Janet Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Forman, Nigel Lord, Michael
Forth, Eric Luce, Rt Hon Richard
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman McCrindle, Robert
Fox, Sir Marcus Macfarlane, Sir Neil
Franks, Cecil MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)
Freeman, Roger Maclean, David
French, Douglas McLoughlin, Patrick
Fry, Peter McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael
Gill, Christopher McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian Madel, David
Glyn, Dr Alan Major, Rt Hon John
Goodlad, Alastair Mans, Keith
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Maples, John
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Marland, Paul
Gorst, John Marlow, Tony
Gow, Ian Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW) Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Maude, Hon Francis
Gregory, Conal Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Grist, Ian Mellor, David
Ground, Patrick Meyer, Sir Anthony
Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn Miller, Sir Hal
Hague, William Mills, Iain
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Miscampbell, Norman
Hampson, Dr Keith Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Hanley, Jeremy Mitchell, Sir David
Hannam, John Moate, Roger
Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr') Monro, Sir Hector
Harg reaves, Ken (Hyndburn) Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Harris, David Moore, Rt Hon John
Haselhurst, Alan Morrison, Sir Charles
Hawkins, Christopher Morrison, Rt Hon P (Chester)
Hayes, Jerry Moss, Malcolm
Hayward, Robert Moynihan, Hon Colin
Heathcoat-Amory, David Mudd, David
Heddle, John Neale, Gerrard
Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE) Nelson, Anthony
Neubert, Michael Stanbrook, Ivor
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Nicholls, Patrick Steen, Anthony
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Stern, Michael
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Stevens, Lewis
Norris, Steve Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Oppenheim, Phillip Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Page, Richard Sumberg, David
Paice, James Summerson, Hugo
Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil Tapsell, Sir Peter
Patnick, Irvine Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Patten, Chris (Bath) Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Patten, John (Oxford W) Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Pawsey, James Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret
Porter, Barry (Wirral S) Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Porter, David (Waveney) Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Portillo, Michael Thornton, Malcolm
Powell, William (Corby) Thurnham, Peter
Price, Sir David Townend, John (Bridlington)
Raffan, Keith Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Raison, Rt Hon Timothy Tracey, Richard
Redwood, John Tredinnick, David
Renton, Tim Trippier, David
Rhodes James, Robert Trotter, Neville
Riddick, Graham Twinn, Dr Ian
Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas Waddington, Rt Hon David
Ridsdale, Sir Julian Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm Walden, George
Roberts, Wyn (Conwy) Waller, Gary
Roe, Mrs Marion Walters, Sir Dennis
Rost, Peter Ward, John
Rowe, Andrew Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Ryder, Richard Warren, Kenneth
Sackville, Hon Tom Watts, John
Sainsbury, Hon Tim Wheeler, John
Scott, Nicholas Whitney, Ray
Shaw, David (Dover) Widdecombe, Ann
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey) Wiggin, Jerry
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb') Wilshire, David
Shelton, Sir William Wolfson, Mark
Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW) Wood, Timothy
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge) Woodcock, Mike
Sims, Roger Yeo, Tim
Skeet, Sir Trevor Young, Sir George (Acton)
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Soames, Hon Nicholas Tellers for the Noes:
Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W) Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones and
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs) Mr. David Lightbown.

Question accordingly negatived.

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