HC Deb 26 June 1995 vol 262 cc585-615

.—(1) Regulations may make provision for requiring a claimant—

  1. (a) to attend at such place and at such time as the Secretary of State may specify; and
  2. (b) to provide information and such evidence as may be prescribed as to his circumstances, his availability for employment and the extent to which he is actively seeking employment.

(2) Regulations under subsection (1) may, in particular—

  1. (a) prescribe circumstances in which entitlement to a jobseeker's allowance is to cease in the case of a claimant who fails to comply with any regulations made under that subsection;
  2. (b) provide for entitlement to cease at such time (after he last attended in compliance with requirements of the kind mentioned in subsection (1)(a)) as may be determined in accordance with any such regulations;
  3. (c) provide for entitlement not to cease if the claimant shows, within a prescribed period of his failure to comply, that he - had good cause for that failure; and
  4. (d) prescribe—
  1. (i) matters which are, or are not, to be taken into account in determining whether a person has, or does not have, good cause for failing to comply with any such regulations; and
  2. (ii) circumstances in which a person is, or is not, to be regarded as having, or not having good cause for failing to comply with any such regulations.")

Read a Second time.

Mr. Ian McCartney (Makerfield)

I beg to move, as an amendment to the Lords amendment, amendment (a), in first proposed new clause, in subsection (2)(a), after 'prescribed;', insert— '(aa) may restrict his availability for employment in any week by refusing employment which may reasonably be expected to impair his future career prospects;'.

Madam Deputy Speaker

With this, it will be convenient to take the following: Amendment (b) to Lords amendment No. 6, in first proposed new clause, after subsection (2)(c) insert— '(cc) restrictions on the rate of remuneration of employment for which he is available;'. Lords amendments Nos. 8, 24, 29, 33, No. 36 and amendment (a) thereto, No. 39 and amendment (b) thereto, and No. 53.

Mr. Ian McCartney (Makerfield)

Amendment (a) is one of a range of amendments to clause 6 to which I shall allude. Hopefully, some of my hon. Friends will also be allowed to speak to amendment (a).

Within three hours of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition tabling amendment (a), the Prime Minister had resigned. Within 24 hours, the Foreign Secretary had announced his intention to retire, and the Secretary of State for Wales resigned today. There is no truth in the rumour that the Chief Secretary to the Treasury provided a smoking gun free of charge.

In what will become the Redwood amendment, we should like to know where the Minister stands. Planet Vulcan is in the ascendancy, eclipsing planet Portillo, and both are on collision course for planet—

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. I am having some difficulty in relating what the hon. Gentleman is saying to the matters which are under consideration, or which ought to be under consideration.

Mr. McCartney

I am trying to get the Minister in a relaxed mood.

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. The Chair is not interested in relaxing anybody. Please get to the main point.

Mr. McCartney

After the jokes that we heard about the jacuzzi, I thought that I was speaking in the spirit of the House. However, I do not wish to incur your wrath, Madam Deputy Speaker, as I do occasionally.

The amendment is about insecurity at work. Are the new clauses a Government apology? On Second Reading and in Committee, my hon. Friends and I made it clear that clause 6 was not only badly worded and draconian in its dealings with the unemployed, but was so wide ranging that its implementation could mean anything. Our amendments, many of which we moved in Committee, tried to elicit what was in the Government's mind, and also sought to improve the clause. We tried to ensure that, when it arrived in the other place, the principle of the Government's intention to attack the unemployed instead of unemloyment was understood.

The clause was unamended when it went to the other place. Labour, Liberal Democrat and Conservative Members of the other place, and Cross Benchers, decided that the Government were wrong about clause 6. Therefore, the Minister owes the House and the other place an apology for the Government's arrogance in failing to recognise the weight of evidence about the way that they proceeded on the issue.

At the heart of the matter is the Government's drive to open up the labour market and create even further work insecurity for many people. The amendment is designed to protect people who, through no fault of their own, become unemployed for short or long periods. As a result of the legislation and the interpretation placed on clause 6 by officers of the Government, those people will have no income early in their unemployment.

The Government have used temporary employment and other measures as arms of economic activity. Over the two years between autumn 1992 and autumn 1994, the net rise in jobs was entirely in non-permanent employment. Temporary employment grew by nearly 260,000 jobs, but total employment grew by fewer than 160,000. That means that permanent employment continued to fall.

In December 1994, the Department of Employment admitted to me that 587,000 people were in temporary jobs because they could not find permanent work. Some 43 per cent. of all temporary workers wish to have permanent employment. Temporary work, which is increasingly dominated by fixed-term contracts that allow employers to avoid employment rights—notably on dismissal and redundancy pay—is rife. Temporary workers are excluded from long-term benefits such as occupational pension schemes and training.

The number of people working part-time because they cannot find full-time work has increased by more than 60 per cent. in the past 10 years. There are now 850,000 involuntary part-timers in the British economy, representing about 14 per cent. of the total work force.

Miss Widdecombe

That is a very misleading figure. The percentage of those who are in part-time work but who would prefer to have full-time jobs has been steady over the past 10 years, at between 13 and 14 per cent. There has been no change in the proportion, and the increase of which the hon. Gentleman speaks is due purely to the increase in part-time workers and the growth of the work force as a whole. The hon. Gentleman is not being entirely fair.

4.45 pm
Mr. McCartney

The hon. Lady has got it wrong again. During this recession, 1.7 million full-time jobs were lost. People no longer have a choice in the labour market. All they are offered is part-time or temporary work or nothing, and the Bill will deliver even more people into that scenario. Their simple choice will be a loss of benefit or a loss of career, status or income if they do not accept part-time temporary employment.

That is a key factor in the Government's economic policy. The Minister does not like us saying that, because the Government have been rumbled by the public. That is why there is no feel-good factor in the economy. How could one feel good trying to pay rent or a mortgage or trying to develop a career in part-time employment? It cannot be done, and the Minister knows it.

Instead of trying to reduce inequality and insecurity in the labour force, the Minister has introduced a Bill to cut benefits by £400 million a year. She will take about 90,000 off the register altogether, and another 150,000 people will have their benefits reduced by between 20 and 70 per cent. The measures are supposed to develop and improve people's employment opportunities, but that is nonsense. That has been recognised, and it is why many of the Government's social and economic policies are a shambles. The Minister cannot glibly get away from that.

According to a labour force survey, in the winter of 1994–95, there were, believe it or not, 26,000 unemployed teachers and lecturers, and 14,000 unemployed nurses and midwives. There is a crisis in education and in the health service, but tens of thousands of doctors, nurses, midwives and teachers are on the dole. What does the Bill propose to do about those people? The Minister suggests that they should be denied benefit if, for example, they refuse to take jobs in burger bars. They may be offered other low-paid jobs, which would mean that they would have to work long hours to make ends meet.

In her perorations in Committee, the Minister did not outline her intentions. However, she said that the clause would be widely interpreted. People want to maintain the level of skills they had in their former employment, but the clause will undermine that possibility. After 13 weeks of unemployment benefit, such people will be forced into low-paid work or removed from the register, thereby being denied the right to income.

Miss Widdecombe

What new provisions against which the hon. Gentleman rants so wildly are being introduced? At the moment, it is not permissible for somebody to turn down a job merely on the basis of its nature or the level of pay. What is new? What is in the Bill that is not already in the system and has been working well for a long time?

Mr. McCartney

When the hon. Lady does not like what someone is saying, she describes it as a rant. She is getting boring. When someone shows a bit of passion because of an interest in people who are in difficult circumstances, the hon. Lady describes it as a rant.

Miss Widdecombe

The hon. Gentleman should answer the question.

Mr. McCartney

I will answer the question, but I am surprised that I have to answer it, after all the months that we have spent on this legislation. The Government propose to reduce the period during which unemployment benefit is paid, from 12 months to six months. Instead of having 12 months to get back into their career structure, people will have only six months.

In addition, however, the hon. Lady knows that, after 13 weeks, individuals will be asked whether they will accept another form of employment, and they will be offered part-time, temporary employment. If they do not accept it, after 13 weeks—not after 26 weeks—they will lose their right to benefit. That is the truth of the matter, and that is what the Bill is about.

The hon. Lady should be honest about it. That is what she is proposing, both in relation to its principle, and in terms of what she said in Committee. Clause 6 is about implementing that principle of undermining people's rights to benefit where they seek appropriate work in a labour market.

Miss Widdecombe

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that, under the present rules, even if a person is on contributory benefit—and has been on it for 12 months—and if, in the course of that time, he is offered a job, he is not allowed to turn it down merely on the basis of pay levels and nature of work? What will change?

Mr. McCartney

The hon. Lady is wriggling and wriggling and wriggling, but she cannot get away from the concept and principle of the Bill, by which she has reduced people's entitlement to unemployment benefit from 12 to six months, while at the same time increasing national insurance contributions. It is a matter, therefore, not only of paying more, but of getting less and being blamed for unemployment caused by the Government's crass economic policies.

I shall give hon. Lady another figure that she might not like and that I should like her to explain. Why is it that, leading up to the introduction of the Bill, benefit disqualifications have increased by a devastating 81 per cent? In 1991–92, referrals for benefit disqualification totalled 142,300, and disqualifications totalled 68,800—a disqualification rate of 48 per cent. However, in the run-up to this legislation, with the Government already putting in place, with the Benefits Agency and others, as part of their massaging of the unemployment figures, targets for the reduction of people who could have the right to benefit, the referral rate has increased dramatically, to 200,400.

Disqualifications, however, are up to 162,400–81 per cent. of people now referred are disqualified because of the draconian interpretation of the legislation. I shall give examples of what the Minister does in terms of her Department's political direction and the consequences for everyone in the labour market, particularly people who find great difficulty in gaining employment.

I think that it was the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth) who said on Second Reading that, if the Government provided employment measures, jobseekers would look after themselves. That is a general paraphrase, but his analysis was correct. If the Government did not stand back, but became involved with both the public and private sectors in stimulating the economy and the development of a job strategy, people who seek employment would quickly and readily seek and gain employment in the labour market.

Even the Government's strategic surveys show that more than 80 per cent. of people seeking employment are absolutely desperate for employment, and will take almost any job at any price. The Bill is about driving them down even further, in cutting their rights to adequate training, employment levels and standards at work, including employment in terms of labour markets and the right to a minimum wage.

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. I remind the hon. Gentleman that we are considering not the whole Bill, but a group of amendments, including his own, which he is supposedly moving.

Mr. McCartney

I am moving my amendments. Clause 6 is at the heart of the Bill. As Conservative Members will know, it contains availability for work provisions and is wide-ranging because of the amendments in another place. Our amendments are on the Order Paper. They cover a range of issues relating to the clause, they have all been accepted by the Speaker as in order, and they are contained within the family of amendments relating to the clause. I said at the beginning that I intended to refer to the other amendments that were rightly on the Order Paper. That is what I am doing, and intend to continue to do, in making my points about the Bill.

Other fears have been expressed on the labour market system that will replace current computer systems in Employment Service job centres. It is feared that it will be used to refer more claimants for adjudication in relation to refusing vacancies, rather than to improve the matching of claimants to suitable jobs.

Currently, refusal of vacancies offered by the Employment Service carries a benefit sanction of up to six months, but with automatic hardship payments for those eligible for income support. Under the jobseeker's regime, those automatic hardship payments will cease, and all claimants will have to demonstrate hardship, with childless claimants banned from making an application in the first two weeks of sanction—for two weeks, they will be without any form of income.

The figures on the strategy, even before the Bill is passed, outline the savagery of the present arrangements. After the Minister intervened, I said that the levels of referrals and disqualifications were at record levels. Those record levels will increase dramatically with the passing of the Bill, and in particular clause 6.

It is true that, along with clause 6, the Government will utilise other connected measures to undermine and further restrict the capability of unemployed people to meet the requirements of the availability for work tests. It is astonishing that, when we should be freeing up the restrictions to make it easier for people to seek employment, the Government, through clause 6, will restrict people if they are unable to explain fully that efforts have been made to seek employment.

Under clause 6, they will not be encouraged to seek employment; they will be undermined and will run the risk of losing benefit. That will involve people studying part-time, those looking for employment, those doing both, people with disability, and carers. On a range of issues, the clause will undermine people, and for what? Simply to cut the training budget and the benefits already paid to those in employment.

I want to give an absolute example of what I am talking about, and why the Minister and her hon. Friends are increasingly treated with utter contempt outside this place. A constituent of mine visited me. some four weeks ago. He has living difficulties and special needs. He resides with his brother, who provides him with the support required to cope with day-to-day routine. Up to 1990, he was in regular employment, either in sheltered or semi-sheltered accommodation, or in the private sector doing unskilled work. Since then, he has been unable to find employment.

My constituent was invited to an interview. Despite his disabilities, there was no referral to a disability officer—he was given no right to be represented, but was brought in on his own for the interview. He was asked what his wishes were in respect of employment, and he answered honestly: he wished to work in a factory or a warehouse or to find some other form of manual occupation.

He was then asked what he meant by that, and how many hours he would like to work. He stated that he was prepared to work from 8 am until 4 pm on Monday to Friday, and from 8 am to 12 noon on Saturday—a total of 44 hours, six days a week. He said that there was no restriction on how much he should earn, but the hours were in relation to his own personal circumstances and the need for his brother to assist him to and from work. The Minister's Department has a record of sheltered accommodation.

After supplying the information, my constituent received a letter from the Employment Service threatening his entitlement to benefit. Naturally, that caused him concern. When he and his brother came to my advice centre, they were in a state of distress. I thought that there must have been an error—no more than that—and that it could not be true. My constituent had offered to work 44 hours a week, six days a week. He did not give a level of income—he would take whatever was provided to him.

The acting senior adjudication manager wrote to me. The letter states: Any person who claims unemployment benefit must be capable of and available for work. Fine.

However, if they … impose restrictions on the nature of the work they will accept, or the hours they will work, or the rate they will accept, or the locality of the employment, or any other conditions they are prepared to accept, they would not be entitled to unemployment benefit … unless they can show that they have reasonable prospects of finding work within the restrictions". The restrictions are: being willing to work 44 hours, six days a week, for any amount of money. My constituent did not ask for travelling time, or even for time off or lunch breaks—nothing. All he asked for was a reasonable time so that he could be assisted back home because of his disabilities.

The letter continued: The person who interviewed my constituent explained that employers who employ people for the types of work that he was looking for…mainly require greater flexibility in day time hours than those stated on the form and often require shift work. So six days, 44 hours, a week, are not enough any more.

The letter continued: In my constituent's case there is no evidence in the papers we have to show that the only reason he can work from 8 am to 4 pm Monday to Friday and 8 am to 12 noon on Saturday is because of his physical or mental condition. My constituent was refused benefit, he has lost all right to an income, and his elderly brother now has to look after him on his meagre income. Is that.really the way the employment market must operate? It is a consequence of the Minister's policies. That is the reality.

5 pm

Miss Widdecombe

Given the rather unsatisfactory state of affairs resulting from the facts as the hon. Gentleman has stated them, why did not he make me aware of the case? Will he now do so, and allow me to examine it?

Mr. McCartney

I shall certainly send the case to the hon. Lady. Is she now giving the commitment that, when hon. Members submit cases and questions to her, she will not refer them to the chief executive of the agency? Will she no longer say, "The chief executive will answer, because this is not my responsibility"?

She cannot have it both ways. She knows that, as a matter of course, she and her colleagues refer Members' complaints and cases back to the person to whom we originally complained. The hon. Lady cannot wriggle out of the embarrassment of her policies with the weak, limp excuse that I should have written to her. The case is a consequence of her policies.

Miss Widdecombe

I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his continuing generosity in giving way, if not for the generosity of his comments. As a courtesy to the hon. Gentleman, I offered to look carefully at the case. In the first instance, anything that refers to the way in which a particular case has been handled in a particular employment office would go to the Employment Service. However, that is not to say that a Minister would never become involved.

On the broader point, will the hon. Gentleman admit that he is making the case for the Bill? It specifies 40 hours general availability, and the jobseeker's agreement will set out the exact times that people can work. Agreements can be made about restrictions. I have already particularly quoted disability as a reason for a restriction. If the restriction is not acceptable, the case can go through a process of adjudication. Therefore, will the hon. Gentleman now admit that he is making the case for the Bill?

Mr. McCartney

To be perfectly frank, that is an absolutely silly comment. The current regulations are replicated in the Bill. The hon. Lady knows that the gentleman in my case already has current rights because of his disability. The problem is the Government's constant drive to undermine people's rights to benefit. Instead, they should be doing something about the high unemployment level. The Department is taking draconian action, even against the most vulnerable in the community who are seeking employment. It beggars belief that the hon. Lady should suggest that the case I have cited makes the case for the Bill.

The clause is all about continuing draconian measures and leaving people vulnerable to the possibility of losing their rights to benefit over a whole range of circumstances, including disability. The reason we raised the issue in Committee and again today is that the Minister has not even convinced the disability groups that the Bill's proposals will protect people with disabilities—especially the changes in incapacity benefit. Those changes, together with this clause, are a major attack on people with disabilities in the labour market.

I want to deal now with the question of restrictions and the rate of remuneration for employment. Our amendment in this respect goes to the heart of the Government's policies in the labour market. We know that the Government want the longest working hours in Europe—and they have achieved that, after 16 years. We know that the Government want the least holiday entitlement in Europe—they have achieved that after 16 years. We know that the Government want the poorest pensions in Europe—they have achieved that after 16 years. We know that they want the highest levels of insecurity in Europe—they have achieved that after 16 years. Finally, they want to impose the lowest pay in Europe. Britain's wage rates are still just above those of the new entrants to the European Union, but the Government plod on regardless.

The final piece of the Government's jigsaw to deregulate the labour market and introduce insecurity in the marketplace is their wish to drive down pay rates. As part of their strategy, they have removed the legal right of young people under 21 not to be paid paltry wages and salaries. They have abolished the wages councils and inspectorates that helped to protect millions of workers. As a result, in real terms the Government have driven down the wages of many people, among them the most vulnerable workers, in many sectors of the economy.

Mr. Jim Cunningham (Coventry, South-East)

I hope that my hon. Friend intends to comment on the latest developments in Government policy—to force people to take out insurance policies against unemployment.

Mr. McCartney

My hon. Friend is right—the Government believe that the market can resolve anything and everything. Of course, the vast majority of unemployed people cannot afford insurance. The Government are also trying to force people to take out mortgage insurance policies. They want to opt out—

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is going wide of the matter that is being considered. I suggest that he continues with the main thrust of his argument.

Mr. McCartney

I apologise, Madam Deputy Speaker. I am too soft with hon. Members, and allow them to take me down highways and byways. I shall try to be a little tougher with interventions.

After 16 years of Tory government, the bottom tenth of the population is 17 per cent. worse off in absolute terms than when the Conservative party took office. The proportion of households living in poverty has tripled, from 7 to 24 per cent. since the late 1970s. Some 300,000 people earn less than £1.50 an hour. At least 1.3 million people earn less than £2.50 an hour. Women are badly hit by low pay, with almost 700,000 of them earning less than £2.50 an hour.

In every region of Britain where unemployment is high, there is low pay—whether it be Yorkshire, Humberside, the north, London, the east or the west midlands, the eastern region or the south-west of England. High unemployment goes hand in hand and side by side with low pay.

We now know that, between 1984 and 1994, there has been an increase of more than 1 million people holding down two—sometimes even three—part-time or temporary jobs just to make ends meet. A further 4.5 million people earn so little that they live on or below the poverty line. That is the reality, after 16 years of the Tory Government's economic miracle.

Young people are also badly hit. One in three earn less than the national insurance threshold of £57 a week. Eight out of 10 jobs for 16-year-olds, and seven out of 10 for 17-year-olds, now pay less than £2 an hour. Since 1990, hourly pay rates have fallen in real terms by 15 per cent. for 16-year-olds and by 11 per cent. for 17-year-olds. Low pay is not an accident; it is a central feature of Tory economic policy. It is a central feature of the Bill. The Government, through the Bill, will drive down wages even -further.

I want to refer to the hypocrisy of the Government and their absolute audacity in saying on the one hand that they want to introduce a minimum wage, while on the other giving support to people like Iain Valiance, the chairman of British Telecom, who earns £383 an hour—more than the 1.3 million to whom I referred earn in four weeks; and to Cedric Brown—good old Cedric—the chief executive of British Gas, who earns £9,838.50 per week, what those 1.3 million people earn in two years.

Lord Young, the former Tory Cabinet Minister who is chairman of Cable and Wireless, attacked teachers for their greed earlier this year. Lord Young earns more in one month than those 1. 3 million people earn in a decade. Lord Younger, another former Tory Cabinet Minister—

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman again, but I must remind him that, although this group of amendments is reasonably wide, it is certainly not wide enough to include extended references such as the hon. Gentleman is making.

Mr. McCartney

The heart of the Bill and the jobseeker's agreement is that people will be required to indicate before they get benefit what level of pay they will work for. The Government will take measures in respect of those at the lowest level of income to ensure that those people work for £1 an hour or less. Those at the upper level—those who earn more in a month than millions of people earn in a decade—suffer no restrictions on their incomes, and are in fact encouraged.

That is why it is important to highlight not just the hypocrisy of the measure, but the social injustice and unfairness of it. The British people will be outraged if the Bill goes through tonight without an appropriate debate about how the Government defend the rights of fat cats while undermining the rights of the low paid.

The Secretary of State for Employment, whom I have renamed the Secretary of State for greed and privilege, is a vociferous opponent of the amendment, which is a precursor to a minimum wage. The right hon. Gentleman earns £1,304.21 a week; more than 15 million Britons earn in a month. The Government have no shame at all when it comes to this issue.

Mr. Thomas Graham (Renfrew, West and Inverclyde)

My hon. Friend may not be aware that a lemonade factory in my constituency is paying folk who have worked in the place for 20 years £1.90 an hour. There is a sweetie factory not far from my home which nearly pays its workers in sweeties—they are paid £2 an hour. One woman—a top confectioner with about 30 years' experience—went to work at the factory and was told that she was to be given a short-term contract. After that contract was finished, she was to be given £2.50 an hour. It is mind-boggling that, the Government are allowing our folk to be paid in sweeties.

Mr. McCartney

My hon. Friend is right. The Bill will provide unscrupulous employers with a large number of unemployed people from local labour markets who can be paid on or below benefit levels. There is no minimum level in respect of the right to refuse employment measure under the legislation, which means that the Secretary of State is telling unscrupulous employers that they can offer through his Department a range of jobs—full-time, part-time or temporary, it does not matter—with pay on or below the level of benefit. The Department will secure a number of people from the ranks of the unemployed to take those jobs. That is deeply anti-competitive, as well as unfair.

What about the local employers in the labour market who pay decent wages, train people and have proper standards? They will be undermined by the proposal, which is about not just social unfairness and injustice but economic strategy. The Bill shows us why we need to invest in people and in the research and development of goods and services. People should not compete for skivvy pay in skivvy jobs and insecurity at work. That is the difference between the Opposition and the Minister.

Ms Eagle

Does my hon. Friend agree that paying people such low wages undermines the national insurance system, as so many people earn under the threshold and will not pay into the system? Not only does the Bill undermine the national insurance system by means-testing benefit for the first time: it completely destabilises the system, because so many people will simply not earn enough to make contributions.

Mr. McCartney

My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and that is a part of the long-term strategy of the Government. The Bill is essentially an enabling piece of legislation—

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. I remind the hon. Gentleman—not for the first time—that we are considering not the whole Bill, but a group of amendments.

5.15 pm
Mr. McCartney

My hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Ms Eagle) was making a point about the £57 national insurance contribution threshold. Under the clause with which the amendment deals, individuals who refuse to take up employment at or below—sometimes significantly below—the benefit level will lose their right to benefit. That is the point that my hon. Friend was making.

The scheme will result in a net loss to the Exchequer from national insurance, which the Government want to make up by private insurance schemes. That is why I said that the Bill forms part of a wider agenda to rid ourselves of the whole principle of contributory benefits and replace them with private sector insurance.

Is it not astonishing that someone who gets over the first hurdle and says that he will work for wages on or below the benefit level is not given the key to opportunity or success, or a guarantee of employment or a training scheme? Not at all. If they are 18 to 24 years old, they are guaranteed that they will immediately lose 20 per cent. of their current benefit. For co-operating with the Government and agreeing to accept wages below £2 or £1 an hour, that person is fined £499.

An 18 to 24-year-old who has a partner working full-time and who agrees to accept all the restrictions placed on him by the Government is not congratulated or thanked—not a bit of it. He loses £1,457, or 60 per cent. of his income. For simply agreeing to participate in the jobseeker's measures, those who already have the lowest incomes and who are living in absolute poverty have a 60 per cent. cut in their income.

How do the Government expect these families to live? How-can they possibly live on the same level of income for a year that Sir Iain Valiance receives in just over an hour? It is astonishing that the Government believe that people in Britain will accept such purgatory as we come to the millennium.

Those who are aged 25 and over and who are working full-time will lose 50 per cent. of their benefit. Those of a similar age who have £8,000 savings—those who have done what the Government asked them to do, and who have tried to save when they worked, and to get redundancy if they lost their jobs—lose 70 per cent. of their income. That is scandalous.

For all those reasons, I ask my right hon. and hon. Friends to support the amendment. If Conservative Members are serious about ridding this country of inequality and insecurity, and about investing to create employment and success while not taxing for failure, they should also support the amendment.

Mr. Alan Howarth (Stratford-on-Avon)

New clause 6—which Lords amendment No.6 incorporates—is the core of the Bill. A range of highly contentious propositions in the Bill are found there.

I am concerned that the requirement that a jobseeker should be available for any employment may have some miserable consequences, and I take it that the amendment to which the hon. Member for Makerfield (Mr. McCartney) has just spoken has been tabled with that thought very much in mind.

I fear that the requirement to be available for any employment will lead to more poverty in work. I would be grateful if my hon. Friend the Minister would clarify to the House—perhaps other hon. Members know the answer—whether it is the Government's policy that the jobseeker should be required to accept jobs that pay below the income support or jobseeker's allowance rate. If that is the case, there will be some very worrying implications, and it will certainly lead to much destitution and suffering. My hon. Friend may wish to respond to that point when she winds up.

If that were to be the Government's policy, it would also lead to a deterioration in the quality of our economy. We would be moving towards a low-pay, low-skill and low-productivity economy. Such a strategy would carry with it mounting costs in terms of social security, health expenditure and expenditure on law and order—the very escalation in public expenditure which my right hon. and hon. Friends wish to avert.

Some of our most modern and, indeed, best-known employers will be all too ready to exploit the absence of any floor to pay. We hear, for example, of the phenomenon which is, I believe, known as reservism, whereby a person is taken on—employed—by, for example, a retailer, but has to wait by the telephone for the moment at which he or, more commonly, she may be required. Such people have to be available for 40 hours, but they are expected to work for only 15 hours. The particular difficulty is that it becomes impossible for those employees to put together a portfolio of earnings that is sufficient to keep.them in decency and dignity.

Miss Widdecombe

I am becoming increasingly puzzled by references by the Opposition and now by my hon. Friend to changes in the law. There is currently no floor underneath somebody's right to refuse a job. If we do not have adverse effects at the moment, why, if there is no change, does my hon. Friend believe that there will be substantial adverse effects in the future?

Mr. Howarth

I would have hoped that my right hon. and hon. Friends would have taken advantage of this legislative opportunity to ensure positively that the eventualities that I apprehend do not occur.

Consideration of availability for employment necessitates consideration of the policies and regulations on study and training. We need to upgrade our labour force—in the words of Disraeli, to elevate the condition of the people. I fear that the Bill fails to take the opportunity that it might to do that. The Labour party's amendment (a) is also germane to education and training.

The proposed new clause, the subject of the Lords amendment, requires a jobseeker to be immediately available for work. My right hon. and hon. Friends have given some considerable attention to the relationship between study and benefits under the jobseeker's allowance. I fear, however, that they may have missed the opportunity for a thorough-going reform of this area of policy. That is what is needed, because we must make up our minds that we are going to invest in our nation's skills and in the intellectual quality of our labour force. Today's labour market requires literacy, numeracy, ever-greater degrees of intellectual sophistication and, of course, a capacity to handle with ease information technology, as well as personal confidence and adaptability. All that argues for higher and higher levels of education and training.

Long-term unemployment is certainly concentrated among those who have few or no qualifications. I, like Opposition Members, fear that our society may be polarising, essentially between those who have fared well in the education system and those who have not. A Tory Government cannot wish to promote such polarisation.

I put it to my right hon. and hon. Friends that it will cost the taxpayer more in the long term if we fail to invest in education and training. Even from the point of view of the Treasury, that must make sense. I recognise, of course, that there are difficulties in using the jobseeker's allowance as a means of subsistence for students in a range of circumstances. The job of Ministers, however, is to overcome the difficulties to achieve the purposes that, we are all agreed, are desirable. We need much more flexibility built into the system. We need bridges at least between the system of grants for education, the system of funding for training that comes from the Department of Employment and the benefits system. I cannot see that we are using the opportunity of policy-making in the Bill to achieve that kind of constructive integration.

My right hon. and hon. Friends may fear that, if we invested, through whatever system, more extensively in education and training, there would be a terrible visitation by the financial markets because the Government would be found guilty by the markets of letting public expenditure rip. I strongly suspect that international investors would prefer to invest in an economy that was upgrading its skills and intellectual capacity than in an economy that was devaluing them. I have been puzzled, therefore, by the decision to cut the training budget and by the rumour which is now circulating that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment has offered the Chief Secretary to the Treasury a further cut in his Department's budget in this year's public expenditure negotiations.

Come what may, we must extend to all improved education and training opportunities. We must extend them to the low-paid, to people working in small businesses, to people doing part-time work and to people who have hitherto been poorly educated. Nowadays, we are not bad at providing better opportunities for those who are already relatively successful and advantaged, but we must ensure that these opportunities are extended throughout our society and our labour force.

I hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends will not be too preoccupied with the few who may "study" as a device to avoid work. The huge majority of the unemployed want to be able to work and they want to be able to work in better jobs.

I know that my hon. Friend the Minister envisages that, as a result of the changes that she has introduced, including the change from a 21-hour to a 16-hour rule, no fewer people will have the opportunity for study while they are unemployed than at present. We should, however, be trying to bring to many more people that kind of opportunity. It is getting easier for us to do so, if we want to, because of the development of modular courses and because of the new technologies, such as cable, that people are able to access to learn. We can now break out of some of the old rigidities in our approach and find new ways in which to make education and training a positive outcome, in the jargon, in terms of the Department's policies.

It is now quite safe to ignore the whole question of hours of study and to ignore the distinction, which is becoming increasingly blurred, between full-time and part-time study. We need the jobseeker's agreement to take sensible account of the studies and the upgrading of skills on which unemployed people embark and we need, of course, the colleges, the further and higher education institutions, to be flexible in helping people to continue to study once they are back in work.

The hon. Member for Makerfield spoke about the "permitted period" when considering career prospects and skills. It seems to me that the existing 13-week permitted period, which the Government intend to carry forward in the new system, in which a jobseeker is allowed, without forfeit, to look for a job that matches his skills and experience, is too short. It seems to me prodigal and destructive that, after only 13 weeks, we should set aside the accumulated skills and experience that someone has built up over, perhaps, quite a long working life.

I now turn to some of the exemptions that occur under the proposed new clause and, in particular, under proposed subsection (2)(b). I welcome the Government's recognition that in certain circumstances, the physical or mental condition of a jobseeker ought to entitle that person to some exemption from the full rigours of the requirement to be available for work.

We need clarification and one of our problems is that we do not have the regulations under the Bill before us, so it is difficult to judge what the policy may mean in precise terms. We understand that the Government expect 190,000 people to appeal against a decision to refuse them incapacity benefit. It might take about 26 weeks for appeals to be heard, during which time they have an option to sign on, but being to some extent disabled they might find it difficult to fulfil the requirements to be available for and actively seeking work, or to claim income support, but only at 80 per cent.

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The Minister in another place, Lord Mackay, said that, rather than changing the rules, one must act with sensitivity in each case, which is an attractive idea but would be a break with precedent, judging by the history of what has occurred with invalidity benefit and people appealing against refusal. They have not always found officials in jobcentres as sensitive as my noble Friend would wish. If I can catch the attention of my hon. Friend the Minister for a moment, I would be grateful if she could tell us clearly in her reply whether an appeal against refusal of incapacity benefit would prejudice a claim for jobseeker's allowance.

New clause 6 also touches on the delicate question of behaviour and appearance. While I recognise the Government's valid concern that some people who claim the benefit and pretend to be looking for work will present themselves so offensively that no right-minded employer would take them on, we may be exaggerating the danger and giving Employment Service officials a licence for officiousness. So I have a third request of my hon. Friend the Minister.

Will she undertake that officials will not deprive any jobseeker of benefit because they find their behaviour objectionable on the grounds of religious practice or sexuality, or on grounds of appearance—for example, the length of their hair? May I have an assurance from my hon. Friend that in no circumstances will it be tolerable for officials to deprive people of benefit on such subjective and prejudiced grounds? I am sure that that is the Government's intention, but it would be helpful to have it on the record.

The Bill's provisions allow much scope for officiousness and for a martinetish or even bullying approach on the part of officials. The huge majority would not conduct themselves in such a way, but the requirements on attendance, for example, lend themselves to that danger.

The new clause also provides for penalties. The legislation already involves penalties on a much broader scale. People who are unemployed for a year will find that they lose between 20 per cent. and 70 per cent. of the benefit that they would have had under the old system. As has been said, people will lose contributory benefit after six months instead of 12 and will find themselves in the poverty trap that much earlier. There is some anxiety about the adult dependant's allowance disappearing from contributory benefit and about the lower rate of benefit for the under-25s being transferred from income support to contributory benefit.

Penalties already exist in a certain sense, but there will be penalties in another. They may be draconian and could be administered somewhat arbitrarily. If, for example, a single person under 25 is penalised and finds herself on only 60 per cent. of the jobseeker's allowance, it will amount to only £22.10 a week, which is awfully little to live on. If an official thinks that a single person—or a childless couple—is insufficiently energetic in the search for work, he may even refuse a hardship payment. Even someone who has contributed to national insurance might be without income on the mere doubt of an employment officer. That does not seem to be the highest state of the welfare state.

I hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends will think carefully about the application of penalties to people in the 50-plus and certainly the 55-plus age group. At the moment, that age group is expected to be active in the search for work, but for all too many people in the group the jobs are not there and it would be cruel to require such people to go on that dismal merry-go-round.

I am less optimistic than I might be about how the system will work in practice because of the annual performance agreement with the Employment Service and the target set for officials to challenge a certain proportion of claims to benefit.

As my hon. Friend the Minister knows well, I dislike the substance of the Bill. The little that it will do to promote employment or to save money does not redeem it. It sets aside the national insurance contract—[Interruption.] It is nice of the Whip, my hon. Friend the Member for Langbaurgh (Mr. Bates), to sit beside me and keep me company, but I have a little more to say and must detain the House for a few more minutes. I hope that he will not mind too much. I appreciate the fact that other hon. Members want to speak and I know that that is his concern.

It is even more astonishing that contributory benefits should be reduced in a year when contributions have risen. The Government have altered the terms of that contract and have introduced an agreement of a different kind in the Bill—the jobseeker's agreement. I have never heard, however, of an agreement or a contract that falls to be arbitrated by one of the parties to it and under which one party may impose penalties. In such circumstances, to talk of a jobseeker's agreement is an abuse of language in an abuse of power.

If the substance of the Bill is objectionable, so too is the manner of the enactment. We are indebted to the admirable House of Lords Select Committee—the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee—and to members of that unreformed and unelected House for amendments Nos. 36 and 39, which deal with the regulation-making powers. Members of the House of Lords have proved more vigilant in the defence of the liberties of the people than the people's elected House of Commons, and it is by no means the first time.

The power of the Select Committee's arguments in its reports was such that the Government bowed to their Lordships' insistence that clause 6 be re-committed. I appreciate and welcome the fact that the Government agreed to rewrite it, to fill out the definitions and to make regulations under it subject to the affirmative procedure. That is as well, because clause 6 still provides large powers to make regulations to control the practical implications of the requirements to be available for work and actively to seek it.

As the Minister in another place, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, acknowledged, the Bill is a skeleton Bill. Paragraph 16 of the memorandum from the Departments of Employment and Social Security to the House of Lords Select Committee stated: The Bill has 87 subsections and 17 paragraphs of Schedule 1 which contain powers to create delegated legislation. The Bill would effectively give the Government carte blanche to determine policy as they will.

Is it right for Parliament to delegate law-making powers so extensively? Under most sections of the Bill, regulations will still be approved under the negative resolution procedure, even after these amendments. In effect, that means on the nod. Whatever the Government want will be approved by Parliament automatically, unless it is one of the few pieces of secondary legislation that is prayed against.

This is not trivial legislation, nor should our responsibility in the House be taken lightly. Clause 6, which deals with the requirement to be available for work and seek work actively, is but one important section of the Bill. Clause 4 creates the power to set the amount of the jobseeker's allowance. The Select Committee suggested that the decision on that should be by affirmative resolution, but the amendment was not made. The Government's memorandum argues that that is in accordance with precedent under social security legislation, but that does not seem to be a convincing case for the negative resolution procedure. The affirmative resolution procedure takes more of our time and it runs against the spirit of the times to allow that. The Jopling reforms—more timetabling of debates and fewer late sittings—are seductive and are supposed to present us as a more modern and businesslike assembly, but our job is to scrutinise the Executive's policies and hold them to account.

The regulation-making powers under clause 16 might also have been amended here so that they would be under the affirmative procedure. This clause creates the most draconian powers for adjudication officers to impose benefit sanctions on those whom they regard as recalcitrant, who may have broken benefit rules or left employment voluntarily. The penalties can be extremely severe: officials have the power to impose disqualification from the jobseeker's allowance for up to 26 weeks. The very language of the memorandum, describing such action as "misdeeds", should alert us to the need to keep control of the use of such powers. The memorandum acknowledges that the use of regulations to prescribe periods of sanction is an innovation, which is all the more reason for Parliament to act cautiously in conferring such powers.

What we have, however, is a proposal not only that the Government should have an untrammelled power to promulgate regulations, but that those regulations should give huge discretion to employment and adjudication officers. If such powers are to be granted by Parliament at all, they should be granted only by affirmative resolution and be renewable rather than indefinite.

Ms Eagle

I am enjoying the hon. Gentleman's speech and agree with almost all of it. Does he agree that local members of the Employment Service want nothing to do with those arbitrary powers? I have the impression that they, too, feel uncomfortable with them and realise that the Bill places them in a difficult position. They want to help people in a positive way to get back to work rather than to police them, which is what those clauses suggest they should do.

Mr. Howarth

I am sure that the hon. Lady is right. Decent officials will approach those powers with diffidence and wish to use their powers as constructively and benignly as they can. But I fear that, if officials are invested with ill-defined and arbitrary powers, including powers to impose severe sanctions, some may slide, almost subconsciously, into using those powers to excess. As a law-making body, it is our responsibility adequately to define the powers which servants of the state are entitled to use.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment recently spoke forcefully of the need for the British people to take the decisions which affect their daily lives in the Parliament which they elect". He was referring, of course, to our claims of parliamentary sovereignty against the predatory institutions of the European Union. In the same speech he suggested that the Conservative party had a unique capacity to respond to that need. If a Conservative Government introduce legislation on this model and we, as Members of the United Kingdom Parliament, are so effete as to hand over law-making powers wholesale to the Executive, we abuse the institution that we profess to cherish.

There has been a vast increase in secondary legislation, particularly in the past 10 years. In the 15 years from 1970–85, an average of 2,000 statutory instruments were made each year. Since 1985, the number has risen steadily from 2,080 in that year to 3,334 in 1994.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Morris)

Order. [Interruption.] Order. The hon. Gentleman must be hard of hearing this afternoon. We are not here to review the number of statutory instruments that have been made. I assure him that I know better than anybody how many there have been. We are dealing with amendment No. 6 and I should be grateful if the hon. Gentleman would return to it.

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Mr. Howarth

Indeed, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I understand that you speak with feeling.

Mr. Ian McCartney

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I seek clarification. The hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth) is speaking to one of our amendments, which deals precisely with regulation and how the House should deal with it. Amendments Nos. 36(a) and 39(a) are grouped on the Order Paper with new clause 6. I hope that that is helpful.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for telling me what the amendments are about. I hope that he will do me the courtesy of recognising that I read the amendments before coming to the Chamber. I repeat my complaint: we are not here to review the total number of statutory instruments in this Parliament. I hope that that line of argument will be desisted from.

Mr. Howarth

Indeed, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I am about to move on. My hon. Friend the Whip will be pleased to know that I am about to draw my observations to a close. Amendments Nos. 36 and 39 are in this group and deal specifically with secondary legislation and the use of the affirmative or negative resolution procedure.

All secondary legislation is unamendable, and the vast majority is not even considered by the House. No wonder my right hon. Friends are against constitutional change, when our present constitution and the directions in which political energies run enable them to legislate whatever they will. We have seen a rolling back not of the frontiers of the state but of parliamentary accountability. Against that background, I tabled the Human Rights Bill, which was passed in another place. It would provide some protection for those who may be threatened by this Bill, particularly through article 4(2). However, that debate is for another day.

The Bill creates large and potentially dangerous new powers for the state, bearing particularly on those who are most defenceless: the unemployed. It behoves us as Members of Parliament to champion those who most need champions. We do it in our surgeries and we should do it here.

I find both the substance and the manner of this legislation profoundly unacceptable. Today's proceedings do not provide another opportunity to vote against the principles of the Bill but, while we secure limited improvements in the Lords amendments—we should thank the other place for them—we should reflect deeply on the progressive abdication by the House of Commons of our constitutional role of holding the Executive to account.

Mr. Ted Rowlands (Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney)

Last time I followed the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth), I had to admit that it was a pleasure and a privilege. It is getting a bit boring because this is the second time I have followed him and again I have to say that I agree with much of what he said. He is a lone voice—I wish that he were a chorus—on the Conservative Back Benches in trying to persuade Ministers to reconsider their legislation.

Interestingly, in the Minister's interventions, both in the hon. Gentleman's speech and in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Makerfield (Mr. McCartney), her defence was that the Bill did nothing new but was simply enforcing existing practices and regulations. That defence was made by the noble Lord Mackay in another place and subsequently led to this new clause. Of the original clause 6, he said: Our intention was merely to provide for a more direct route through regulations rather than through the indirect route of treating or deeming people available or not available which legislation has until now employed."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 11 May 1995; Vol. 564, c. 200.] The concern of my constituents and of many Opposition Members is that that direct route will lead to a loss of benefit, and that the purpose of the Bill is to deprive more people of their benefits. The direct route means a more rigorous application of the principles enshrined in previous legislation and regulations, the application of which has bedevilled the House, not only in this day and age, but in previous ages.

The Minister was right in one fundamental respect: there is nothing new in what is proposed. The concept of the terms "available for employment" and "actively seeking employment" is not new to our legislation. It has a long and rather inglorious legislative pedigree. It started in 1921. I read with fascination, in preparing for the debate, the arguments of the 1920s—from 1921 to 1930. Arguments were made during that time which were identical to those that have worried and created queasiness in the other place.

That is why the Lords made the Government change new clause 6. They were worried about the way in which those words would be interpreted, applied and, more importantly, enforced by officials on the ground. The hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon argued that point very effectively.

I come from and represent a group of communities with long-standing, vivid and bitter memories of the early application of the active availability for employment and seeking work qualification for benefit. A generation of people in my constituency can remember being called before courts of referees, insurance officers and local employment committees to prove in detail the efforts that they had made to obtain work at a time when 65 per cent. of the people in those communities were out of work.

I say to the Minister, the reason why we treat the Bill with suspicion—I am not convinced by what she and other Ministers have said that the Bill and the clause are not designed to enforce much more rigorously the application of the actively seeking work regulations and so on—is that we already have a long history and memory of the experiences of a whole generation, and we are witnessing in 1995 an eery re-application of those arguments and principles to the extent that they were applied in 1925.

I have read through the earlier legislation, the debates and arguments and the application. The chairman of the court of referees for Rhymney in 1929 said, of the application of legislation very similar to that which is before us, that its task was to go into the state of the applicant's mind". I believe that much of the jobseeker's agreement and the questionnaires are designed to try to do exactly the same thing: they seek to discover the state of the applicant's mind and his attitude towards employment and work.

Curiously, in the 1920s and 1930s the legislation led first to mass-scale coaching by the trade union movement to help people get through those questionnaires. I wonder whether in the 1990s we shall have a curious repetition of behaviour and administrative practices that we believed had long gone.

Shall we have citizens advice bureaux and individual members of trade unions advising people how to fill in those questionnaires, how to cope with the new jobseeker's agreement and how to ensure that they are not caught out in the interrogations by the new officials in applying the new regulations, or applying the old regulations in a specific way? I have a horrible feeling that in some ways we are being dragged back to the 1920s and 1930s rather than carried into the next century in terms of legislation and regulations and their application.

I have a sneaking feeling that in part the aim of the Bill and of the provisions in the clause is similar to the aim of the legislation of the 1920s. The legislation of the 1920s was not—and I do not believe that the Bill is—designed to help people into employment, to take a positive view. I believe that behind it is a cost-cutting exercise, aimed at reducing the number of those able to claim benefit. It has been accompanied by a savage cut in unemployment benefit, anyway. They have gone hand in hand.

The House may be interested to know that, curiously, the original words devised in the legislation—making it necessary to prove that one was seeking employment—were really designed to make fewer women eligible for unemployment insurance benefit. After the first world war, as a result of working in munitions factories during that war, a large number of women were entitled to unemployment insurance benefit. Because the numbers were increasing, much of the legislation in the 1920s and 1930s was designed to take away from women the right to claim unemployment insurance benefit. Moreover, it succeeded and 250,000 women lost their rights as a result of that legislation.

I wonder whether there will be an eery repetition in the 1990s, at the tail end of the century, in the application of the new regulations, in the new attitude and in the new conditions of availability for work or the active seeking of employment. I wonder how the legislation will be applied to women and their rights to unemployment benefit. I wonder whether, 70 years later, we shall witness, in a new style, the attitudes and approaches that the communities that I represent still vividly remember being experienced by the generation of most of the old-age pensioners in my constituency. We therefore have every right to suspect the weasly words and the pretence that the Bill and the new clause do nothing new.

I will tell you another thing that the Bill does, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We should not bring in that type of Bill at this moment, in a labour market which, in the communities that I represent, I have never known to be so disoriented and to have so many difficulties and problems.

The concept of "actively seeking employment" and the ruling out of the idea that one should seek employment suitable to one's skills or one's experience is meaningless in the context of the community in my constituency, which has lost all its mining jobs, which has experienced a severe shrinking of the number of jobs in manufacturing, and where training opportunities have been thrown into disarray. Not only has there been destruction of apprenticeship schemes of the kind and character that made post-war Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney a skilled community, but people do not know what skills they need now.

There is a genuine question as to what kind of skills and training required to meet the needs of a local or a national economy at the end of the century. Yet apparently those are the tests that will be applied to decide whether a person will continue to be entitled to a jobseeker's allowance and whether he is meeting his requirements under his jobseeker's agreement. We do not want to be dragged back and we certainly do not want the enforced application of rules and regulations of that kind in a fluid and difficult labour market of the kind and character represented by Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney.

As the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon argued very effectively, to those people may well be added hundreds, if not thousands, even in my local community, of people in their mid-fifties losing their invalidity benefit, not qualifying for the new incapacity benefit and being driven back into the labour market. I would like the Minister to say when she replies whether, as I assume will be the case, a person in that category, having found that he or she does not qualify under the new incapacity benefit and loses their existing invalidity benefit, in order to gain any form of benefit at all from the age of 54 up to the age of 58 will have to write out a new jobseeker's agreement. Will he or she be expected to sign on some dotted line as to what efforts he or she—often having been out of the labour market for two to three years—has made to find work so as to be able to collect some form of benefit?

We have a right to question Ministers whether it is right to introduce that specific measure, at this moment, against the background of the labour market and against the background of the demotivated younger generation that, I am sorry to say, exists in my region. The parents of those young people were made redundant when they believed that they had secure jobs, and they feel angry and disaffected about work, jobs, employment and training. Sadly, youngsters entering the labour market in Merthyr and Rhymney feel the same.

Great changes have occurred in our community. I took the trouble to check the local vacancies at the Merthyr jobcentre. There are about 457 vacancies. The mixture of jobs available is interesting. It is certainly very different from what once would have been available in a community such as mine. I suppose that those vacancies reveal the new diverse economy that Ministers are so happy to describe.

Just over a quarter of the vacancies are for jobs in factories, engineering or fitting—the sort of well-known occupations in which the middle-aged generation in my community have experience and skills. The rest of the vacancies are for interesting jobs such as chefs, or in office work, service work and, of course, as security guards—a growing employment sector. I have already told hon. Members about the vacancy for a security job which paid £1.80 an hour and where applicants were told they had to "bring your own dog". If one did not have a suitable dog, would that be a justifiable reason for not accepting such employment?

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Such are the stupidities and the bizarre situations that the Bill and new clause throw up. We therefore have every reason to question whether the mechanistic approach taken by the Bill, and prescribed in some detail in the new clause—it will be prescribed in much more detail in the jobseeker's questionnaire—is the right way to provide jobs and opportunities for our people, who have, in many cases, been out of work for so long. I doubt that. I doubt the motives behind the Bill and I do not think that it offers a positive view about employment. I believe that it is born out of the nasty, mean-minded spirit which has characterised so much of the Government's legislation. For that reason, I shall certainly vote against the Lords amendment.

Ms Liz Lynne (Rochdale)

It is frustrating to have to confine myself to one group of amendments, but I will do my best.

The Bill is not very different from the one which left this House: even though people in the other place tried to change it, the results are minor and I do not believe that they are enough. The Bill should be scrapped, but we cannot debate that proposition now.

The Bill attacks the unemployed and its implementation is likely to be extremely costly. The Government have not provided a proper breakdown of the figures, but have merely offered a blanket figure of the costs involved. I should like to know how much it will cost to implement the jobseeker's agreement and I should be grateful if the Minister would give that answer when she replies to the debate.

The group of amendments relate to how the expressions "availability for employment" and "actively seeking employment", are defined. In the original Bill those expressions were to be given such meaning as may be prescribed. I know that there should be a balance between flexibility and parliamentary control, but some issues concern the disentitlement of groups of people to social security benefit. Those issues are far too important to be consigned merely by regulation.

I know that it was pressure from the Lords Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee that persuaded the Government to change their mind on some issues and to alter clause 6 in particular. Everyone is aware of the need for flexibility in legislation. We know that it should be possible for it to adapt and that its implementation should not be subject to rigid stipulation. It is clear that the Government have departed from that precedent with clause 6. As a result, the Government's intentions have been exposed. We now know what they mean by "actively seeking employment" and "availability for employment". I do not like what they mean, but at least that meaning is now out in the open.

I should like to know how the Bill will work in practice. Many hon. Members have already said that people will be forced to take jobs for which they are not suitably qualified. Will someone who has been a labourer for a long time be forced to take a job in an office and vice versa? I am afraid that that will happen, because nothing is said about someone having the right qualifications and expertise for a job.

The changes contain some positive aspects. I am glad that the regulations governing a person's availability for employment and their active seeking of it will only be introduced subject to affirmative resolution. I am glad that the Government have finally relented on that matter. At least that gives the House the opportunity to challenge any changes to the regulations that the Government of the day might want to introduce.

I welcome that opportunity for proper scrutiny. That is one of the few things that I can welcome, however, because the jobseeker's agreement will cause a lot of pain and frustration to a lot of people. A number of people now in receipt of unemployment benefit will not be entitled to receive the jobseeker's allowance. I greatly fear for those people.

I hope that the Government will change their mind about the Bill, but I do not believe that is likely. At least they have moved slightly on the terms of clause 6, but they have not gone far enough.

Mr. Graham

The Bill represents one of the most pathetic plans that the Government have ever come up with. When one considers how the level of unemployment has gone up in the 16 years that they have been in power, their proposals are mind-boggling. Given that length of time, one would think that the Government would have come up with something to get folk back to work.

In my constituency I have seen an enormous growth in part-time work and short-term contracts—in some cases jobs with no contracts. The Government's proposals are therefore absolutely mind-boggling.

I have no hesitation in supporting the Labour amendments to the clause, because they are sensible. If the Government had any common sense, they would follow their Prime Minister and resign from leadership of the country. I hope that a real change comes with the general election.

I have listened to many, many debates in the House; some I have enjoyed, some I did not like. I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed the speech of the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth). I was delighted to hear something from the Conservative Benches that showed a bit of compassion and feeling for the unemployed and for their rights to get back into the job market.

I genuinely agree with his sentiments about training. It is nonsense to make training compulsory. I remember a story I heard when I was an apprentice about service men who were captured during the war in Italy and Germany. They made sure that their work was gerry-built so that it would collapse. That story shows that people could not force other folk to build stuff which was meant to defeat them.

The Minister should think about what I am saying: one cannot force folk to take training. Those people will do what I did when I was schoolboy, when I sat in class and went asleep. I used to leave at 4 o'clock, glad to go home to get my tea. Is that what we asking the unemployed to face? Those folk should get the training they need, which will benefit the country. That training should not mean a lecturer speaking to a crowd of folk who do not want to be there.

There is no doubt that the unemployed want training and education in order to enter the job market. They will do anything to get into it. A young man came to see me recently. He had been ill and was on invalidity benefit. He told me how people from social security were now trying to drive him into work. He said that, if he was fit, he would be working, but he said that he had been told he should be working first as a checker, or as an express driver on a motor cycle.

That is unbelievable. The folk working in social security do not know about the world they live in. Such are the folk who will try to implement the Government's policies in our constituencies—they live in cloud cuckoo land. They do not realise that certain jobs are not on offer in my constituency.

Mr. Jim Cunningham

Does my hon. Friend agree that, under the jobseeker's agreement, skilled engineers made redundant from some major factories might be forced into taking jobs as shelf stackers or taxi drivers?

Mr. Graham

I agree with my hon. Friend. I could go on and on, but there is no doubt that in my constituency there are thousands of folk working in jobs they are not happy with. However, they are working desperately for the funds they need to give them a life.

The Government have had 16 years, and those 16 years have been abysmal for millions of people. Young folk have seen other nations such as Germany, France and Italy all doing better. They see that our kids are at the bottom of the pit in respect of education, training and opportunities. However, the Government still want the jobseeker's allowance and the jobseeker's agreement.

Listen to what they are telling folk who have been unemployed for years and, indeed, some folk who have not been unemployed for that long. It is rubbish. They say that people must write to, telephone, and visit employers every week, contact the jobcentre so many times a week, ask family, friends and people for whom they have worked before, look at the newspapers and trade papers. Claimants are expected to name the papers and specify how often they will look at them. They must register with employment agencies and contact them every week.

The Minister and the people who compiled that list must live on the moon; they certainly do not live in this world. Friends of mine who are looking for work do nearly every one of those things, but it takes money—money that the Government are not prepared to put into the hands of the unemployed—to telephone, contact folk, buy newspapers, or write letters. Have the Government made that plain to folk? Have they made such money available? Never in a million years. It is all a Treasury-driven exercise to save money. It is not to help the unemployed.

I have a challenge for the Minister. Tomorrow morning, she and I can sit down in my office with a telephone and the yellow telephone book and telephone employers. She can be a wee lassie of 18 or 19 and I will be a guy of 51. I challenge her to see how many firms will talk to us. Come on Minister—try it. We will sit down and write letters to all these folk. For fun, we will telephone my friends. The Minister may not realise that half my friends are unemployed anyway because of her Government's failure. People are expected to contact the jobcentre every week, but the jobcentres are sick and tired of telling folk that they cannot get them jobs.

Let us be honest: the Government will never do anything for the unemployed. They have been driving wages down and at the end of the day it is the taxpayers who will have to pay to keep folk living. I know a woman who works for £2 an hour in a sweet factory. Is that right? The Minister can smile all she likes—she probably enjoys the sweeties—but that woman does not need sweets: she needs money to buy groceries, pay the rent and provide some of the comforts that we in the House have no problem in getting.

My hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands) spoke earlier about a man with a dog. They tell me that all the security guards are trying to borrow the dog to keep themselves in their jobs. However, I know that people work for £2, £1.50 or £1.69 per hour. They are also forced to work hours that God never gave man the energy for. They work 12, 14, and 16 hours a day, every day. If they do not do it, they are fired. If they go back to the dole, they are told, "Ah, no. You had a job but you chucked it because you couldn't do it. On your bike." They will get no money from the dole. I say in all sincerity that I pray for a general election.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

In all sincerity, perhaps the hon. Gentleman could come back to the amendment.

Mr. Graham

I am most grateful for your direction, Mr. Deputy Speaker. In all sincerity, I believe that I have been speaking about the amendment all along. I have spoken about the unnecessary compulsory training. We need training that folk want to do and that will give them the energy and enthusiasm to get back into the job market. I agree with the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon. We also want folk to have decent pay that will allow them to go the shops. We all enjoy walking down to the shops buying things and ensuring that we have a good quality of life. That is what life is about. Unfortunately, the Government have denied that to millions of people by their crazy economic policy.

I have kept very well to the amendment but I will finish on this note. The other day when we heard in my constituency about the changes taking place to the leadership of the Tory party, I thought that it was interesting. The question of who will be the leader of the Tory party and Prime Minister concerns our folk in the constituencies. Folk will wonder who is going to lead the Tory party. At the end of the day, that person will lead the country as Prime Minister until the next general election.

A woman on the plane today asked me why the Government cannot have a general election to settle the issue and ensure that the unemployed have their rights—

Mr. Deputy Speaker


6.15 pm
Ms Rachel Squire (Dunfermline, West)

As always, it is a real pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew, West and Inverclyde (Mr. Graham). There have been many first-class speeches on both sides of the House. I realise that the time available to speak on these amendments is limited.

I, too, want to touch on how clause 6 is about giving the unemployed a blunt ultimatum to accept any job, however low paid, or come off benefit and become destitute. The amendments, clause 6 and the Bill as a whole will mean that people will not only have to prove, according to whatever conditions the Government decide on, that they are actively seeking employment but that they have to sign an agreement. If they do not comply with whatever the Minister and the Government determine, they will be removed from benefit.

The occasional comments of Ministers during the debate have been to the effect that people have no need to worry if they are genuinely seeking work. The reality is that the jobs are not there for people to find; people cannot find a decent income and life style for themselves and their families. The Government have been constantly determined to fiddle the way the unemployment figures are calculated so as to be able to claim there has been a reduction in unemployment because of their policies. The method of calculation has changed 27 times since 1979.

Another point, Mr. Deputy Chairman, is that money is being used not to create genuine jobs for people to find but to subsidise the ever lower wages being paid by many employers out there in the marketplace. It is reckoned by the Inland Revenue that in 1994, taxpayers topped up low wages with £2.4 billion of benefits. I am sure that Opposition Members would rather see that money being used to provide decently paid jobs. The Government are taking us back to the days of the workhouse and workfare. We now have the biggest gap between the highest and lowest paid than at any time since 1886. I only wish that we could confine the Government and the Bill to a museum or, perhaps even more appropriately, a chamber of horrors.

I was going to cite some examples of low pay in my constituency where people are already being offered £1.50 an hour and are expected to support a family on that. I clearly do not have the time for that, Mr. Deputy Chairman—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. This afternoon, I am Mr. Deputy Speaker. On other occasions I am the Chairman, but never Mr. Deputy Chairman.

Ms Squire

I apologise, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

I have run out of time, so I conclude by quoting J. K. Galbraith's comment that the conspicuously wealthy turn up urging the character-building value of privation for the poor but they never urge that character-building value on themselves. We have no doubt that that reflects the Government's attitude towards the unemployed. The only people on whom I wish privation are the Conservatives, with the exception of the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth), who made an excellent speech.

Miss Widdecombe

The way in which the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Ms Squire) concluded her speech by wishing Conservative Members ill characterises Labour's debate, if one can dignify the Opposition's contributions as "debate".

During our debate on this group of amendments, we heard no welcome from the Opposition for how we responded to their concerns by redrawing clause 6 or defining in broad terms the phrases "availability" and "actively seeking". Instead, they raised old canard after old canard about the Bill in general. I am sure, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that you would not wish me to be led down their tempting path of debating the Bill as a whole, but I hope that you will allow me to respond to some of the specific points that they raised.

The hon. Member for Renfrew, West and Inverclyde (Mr. Graham) told us that he went to sleep in class—I think that he has been asleep ever since, and certainly through all our debates on the Bill. Almost every issue he raised had already been covered. He said that the Government had done nothing to help the unemployed, but omitted to mention workstart, worktrial, job clubs and the 1.5 million opportunities, and even omitted the measures included in the Bill.

Mr. Graham

The Minister has not mentioned remotivation. How can the Government remotivate folk when they cannot even motivate themselves?

Miss Widdecombe

All that I can say to an Opposition who have been jobseeking for 21 years without success, who have endured the sanctions of the electorate time after time, who are well past their permitted period and who have already rolled higgledy-piggledy down the slope that we allow after the permitted period, is that we need no lessons on motivation from them.

The Opposition have consistently suggested that the Bill introduces new measures. They suggested that we have introduced a measure under which there will be no floor in the rates of pay that people must accept, but they consistently overlooked the fact that that is already the case. As ever, they have tried to deceive the electorate—although they have not succeeded in deceiving the House—into believing that the Bill introduces new draconian measures which will be applied unreasonably. We have heard myth after myth and consistent claims that new measures are being introduced in the Bill whereas they have, in fact, been a feature of employment law for years and have not resulted in the horrors suggested by the Opposition.

Mr. Richard Burden (Birmingham, Northfield)

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Miss Widdecombe

I have no time, and that is entirely due to the verbosity of members of the Opposition Front Bench and the excessive eloquence of my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth). Had I more time, I should be delighted to give way to the hon. Gentleman and to demolish whatever nonsense he was about to put before me.

The Bill is the epitome of tailoring for unemployed people. It will meet each individual's needs and will allow restrictions and special circumstances to be taken into account in a way that the Opposition should welcome. The Opposition's amendments can be summed up in one simple phrase: spend, spend, spend. They want to let people spend as long as they like on benefit while specifying unrealistic rates of pay and unrealistic job requirements. That is a summary of the Opposition's suggestions. Almost every amendment that they tabled in Committee came with a huge bill. We shall make certain that the electorate understand that.

I recommend to the House that it firmly reject the amendments. In doing so, it will reaffirm its confidence in the Bill and, at the same time, its complete contempt for the Opposition's ineffectiveness.

Mr. McCartney

The Minister spoke about the quality of debate, but I have never heard such a rant. Is there a doctor in the House? I know that she is in a difficult position deciding which John to support, but the Bill is not about keeping the Prime Minister in his job or replacing him. It should have been about measures to increase employment opportunities, to take millions of people off the dole and to do something about fairness at work for the 1.3 million who are earning £2.50 an hour or less. It should have been about putting money back into training instead of cutting the training budget. Because the Bill does none of those things, we shall vote against the Government. Let us hope that this will see the beginning of the end for this corrupt, sleazy and out-of-date Government.

Question put, That amendment (a) to the Lords amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 226, Noes 254.

Division No. 176] [6.27 pm
Adams, Mrs Irene Dixon, Don
Ainger, Nick Dobson, Frank
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Donohoe, Brian H
Allen, Graham Dowd, Jim
Armstrong, Hilary Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Eagle, Ms Angela
Austin-Walker, John Eastham, Ken
Barnes, Harry Etherington, Bill
Barron, Kevin Evans, John (St Helens N)
Battle, John Fatchett, Derek
Beckett, Rt Hon Margaret Faulds, Andrew
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Bennett, Andrew F Fisher, Mark
Benton, Joe Flynn, Paul
Bermingham, Gerald Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Berry, Roger Foulkes, George
Betts, Clive Fraser, John
Blair, Rt Hon Tony Fyfe, Maria
Boateng, Paul Gapes, Mike
Bradley, Keith Garrett, John
Bray, Dr Jeremy George, Bruce
Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E) Gerrard, Neil
Brown, N (N'c'tle upon Tyne E) Godman, Dr Norman A
Burden, Richard Godsiff, Roger
Byers, Stephen Golding, Mrs Llin
Caborn, Richard Gordon, Mildred
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Graham, Thomas
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Campbell-Savours, D N Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Canavan, Dennis Grocott, Bruce
Cann, Jamie Gunnell, John
Carlile, Alexander (Montgomery) Hain, Peter
Chidgey, David Hanson, David
Chisholm, Malcolm Harman, Ms Harriet
Church, Judith Harvey, Nick
Clapham, Michael Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Clark, Dr David (South Shields) Henderson, Doug
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian) Heppell, John
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Hill, Keith (Streatham)
Clelland, David Hinchliffe, David
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Hoey, Kate
Coffey, Ann Hogg, Norman (Cumbernauld)
Cohen, Harry Home Robertson, John
Connarty, Michael Hoon, Geoffrey
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Howarth, George (Knowsley North)
Corbett, Robin Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Corbyn, Jeremy Hoyle, Doug
Corston, Jean Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Cousins, Jim Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE) Hutton, John
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr John Illsley, Eric
Dafis, Cynog Ingram, Adam
Dalyell, Tam Jackson, Glenda (H'stead)
Davidson, Ian Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)
Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral) Jamieson, David
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Janner, Greville
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)
Denham, John Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW)
Dewar, Donald Jowell, Tessa
Keen, Alan Prentice, Bridget (Lew'm E)
Kennedy, Jane (L'pool Br'dg'n) Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Khabra, Piara S Prescott Rt Hon John
Kilfoyle, Peter Primarolo, Dawn
Kirkwood, Archy Purchase, Ken
Lestor, Joan (Eccles) Quin, Ms Joyce
Lewis, Terry Radice, Giles
Liddell, Mrs Helen Randall, Stuart
Livingstone, Ken Reid, Dr John
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Rendel, David
Lynne, Ms Liz Robertson, George (Hamilton)
McAllion, John Robinson, Geoffrey (Co'try NW)
McCartney, Ian Rooker, Jeff
McFall, John Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
McKelvey, William Rowlands, Ted
Mackinlay, Andrew Ruddock, Joan
McLeish, Henry Sedgemore, Brian
Maclennan, Robert Sheerman, Barry
McMaster, Gordon Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
MacShane, Denis Shore, Rt Hon Peter
McWilliam, John Short, Clare
Madden, Max Simpson, Alan
Maddock, Diana Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Mahon, Alice Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Mandelson, Peter Spearing, Nigel
Marek, Dr John Spellar, John
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S) Steel, Rt Hon Sir David
Martlew, Eric Steinberg, Gerry
Meacher, Michael Stevenson, George
Meale, Alan Strang, Dr. Gavin
Michael, Alun Straw, Jack
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Sutcliffe, Gerry
Milburn, Alan Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Miller, Andrew Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Morgan, Rhodri Timms, Stephen
Morley, Elliot Tipping, Paddy
Morris, Rt Hon Alfred
Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley) Touhig, Don
Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon) Turner, Dennis
Mudie, George Vaz, Keith
Mullin, Chris Walker, Rt Hon Sir Harold
Murphy, Paul Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
O'Brien, Mike (N W'kshire) Wareing, Robert N
Watson, Mike
O'Brien, William (Normanton) Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
O'Hara, Edward Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
Olner, Bill Wilson, Brian
O'Neill, Martin Wright, Dr Tony
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Young, David (Bolton SE)
Pearson, Ian
Pendry, Tom Tellers for the Ayes:
Pike, Peter L Mr. Jon Owen Jones and
Powell, Ray (Ogmore) Mrs. Barbara Roche.
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Bonsor, Sir Nicholas
Aitken, Rt Hon Jonathan Booth, Hartley
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) Boswell, Tim
Allason, Rupert (Torbay) Bottomley, Peter (Eltham)
Amess, David Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia
Ancram, Michael Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes
Arbuthnot, James Brandreth, Gyles
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Brazier, Julian
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv) Bright, Sir Graham
Ashby, David Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Atkins, Rt Hon Robert Brown, M (Brigg & Cl'thorpes)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Browning, Mrs Angela
Baldry, Tony Bruce, Ian (Dorset)
Banks, Matthew (Southport) Budgen, Nicholas
Bates, Michael Burt, Alistair
Batiste, Spencer Butler, Peter
Bellingham, Henry Butterfill, John
Bendall, Vivian Carlisle, John (Luton North)
Beresford, Sir Paul Carlisle, Sir Kenneth (Lincoln)
Biffen, Rt Hon John Carrington, Matthew
Cash, William Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Churchill, Mr Hughes, Robert G (Harrow W)
Clappison, James Jack, Michael
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Jenkin, Bernard
Coe, Sebastian Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Colvin, Michael Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Congdon, David Jones, Robert B (W Hertfdshr)
Conway, Derek Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Key, Robert
Cormack, Sir Patrick Kirkhope, Timothy
Couchman, James Knapman, Roger
Cran, James Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)
Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire) Knight, Greg (Derby N)
Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon) Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n)
Davies, Quentin (Stamford) Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Day, Stephen Lang, Rt Hon Ian
Deva, Nirj Joseph Lawrence, Sir Ivan
Devlin, Tim Legg, Barry
Dicks, Terry Lennox-Boyd, Sir Mark
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Dover, Den Lidington, David
Duncan, Alan Lightbown, David
Duncan-Smith, Iain Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Dunn, Bob Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Dykes, Hugh Lord, Michael
Eggar, Rt Hon Tim Luff, Peter
Elletson, Harold Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield) MacKay, Andrew
Evans, Jonathan (Brecon) Maclean, Rt Hon David
Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley) McLoughlin, Patrick
Evans, Roger (Monmouth) McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick
Evennett, David Madel, Sir David
Faber, David Maitland, Lady Olga
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Malone, Gerald
Fishburn, Dudley Mans, Keith
Forman, Nigel Marland, Paul
Forth, Eric Marlow, Tony
Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring) Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley) Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Freeman, Rt Hon Roger Mawhinney, Rt Hon Dr Brian
French, Douglas Mellor, Rt Hon David
Gale, Roger Merchant, Piers
Gallie, Phil Mills, Iain
Gardiner, Sir George Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Garel-Jones, Rt Hon Tristan Mitchell, Sir David (NW Hants)
Gill, Christopher Moate, Sir Roger
Gillan, Cheryl Monro, Sir Hector
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Needham, Rt Hon Richard
Grant Sir A (SW Cambs) Neubert, Sir Michael
Greenway, Harry (Eating N) Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Nicholls, Patrick
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N) Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Hague, William Norris, Steve
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archibald Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley
Hampson, Dr Keith Oppenheim, Phillip
Hanley, Rt Hon Jeremy Ottaway, Richard
Hannam, Sir John Page, Richard
Hargreaves, Andrew Patnick, Sir Irvine
Harris, David Patten, Rt Hon John
Haselhurst, Sir Alan Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Hawkins, Nick Pawsey, James
Hawksley, Warren Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Heald, Oliver Pickles, Eric
Heath, Rt Hon Sir Edward Porter, Barry (Wirral S)
Heathcoat-Amory, David Porter, David (Waveney)
Hendry, Charles Portillo, Rt Hon Michael
Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence Powell, William (Corby)
Hill, James (Southampton Test) Redwood, Rt Hon John
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham) Renton, Rt Hon Tim
Hordern, Rt Hon Sir Peter Richards, Rod
Riddick, Graham Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Robathan, Andrew Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)
Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn Thomason, Roy
Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S) Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Robinson, Mark (Somerton) Thornton, Sir Malcolm
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne) Thumham, Peter
Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent) Townsend, Cyril D (Bexl'fy'th)
Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela Tracey, Richard
Sackville, Tom Tredinnick, David
Scott, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Trend, Michael
Shaw, David (Dover) Twinn, Dr Ian
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge) Walden, George
Shersby, Sir Michael Waller, Gary
Sims, Roger Ward, John
Soames, Nicholas Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Spencer, Sir Derek Waterson, Nigel
Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset) Watts, John
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs) Wells, Bowen
Spink, Dr Robert Whitney, Ray
Spring, Richard Whittingdale, John
Sproat, Iain Widdecombe, Ann
Squire, Robin (Hornchurch) Wiggin, Sir Jerry
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John Wilkinson, John
Steen, Anthony Willetts, David
Stephen, Michael Wood, Timothy
Stem, Michael Yeo, Tim
Stewart, Allan Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Streeter, Gary
Sumberg, David Tellers for the Noes:
Sykes, John Mr. Sydney Chapman and
Tapsell, Sir Peter Mr. Simon Burns.

Question accordingly negatived.

Lords amendments Nos. 6 to 41 agreed to.

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