HC Deb 23 March 1995 vol 257 cc504-48

'.—(1) Regulations may provide for the amount of an income-based jobseeker's allowance payable to any young person to whom this section applies to be reduced—

  1. (a) in such circumstances,
  2. (b) by such a percentage, and
  3. (c) for such a period,
as may be prescribed. (2) This section applies to any young person in respect of whom—
  1. (a) a direction is in force under section 13; and
  2. (b) either of the conditions mentioned in subsection (3) is satisfied.
(3) The conditions are that—
  1. (a) the young person was previously entitled to an income-based jobseeker' s allowance and that entitlement ceased by virtue of the revocation of a direction under section 13;
  2. (b) he has failed to complete a course of training and no certificate has been issued to him under subsection (4) with respect to that failure.
(4) Where a young person who has failed to complete a course of training—
  1. (a) claims that there was good cause for the failure, and
  2. (b) applies to the Secretary of State for a certificate under this subsection,
the Secretary of State shall, if he is satisfied that there was good cause for the failure, issue a certificate to that effect and give a copy of it to the young person.
(5) In this section—

Brought up, and read the First time.

4.19 pm
The Minister of State, Department of Employment (Miss Ann Widdecombe)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

The Government guarantee a suitable youth training place for every young person who wants one. We shall spend £676 million on youth training this year in England alone. That is a significant investment in the future of our young people and the nation's economy. It means, moreover, that there is no reason why young people need to be unemployed. We do not wish to encourage dependency on benefit at such an early age, and 16 and 17-year-olds are therefore generally not entitled to claim benefits; but we have always recognised that there must be exceptions, and those are provided for in the system.

First, young people in certain specified vulnerable groups, such as disabled young people, are allowed to claim income support. They will continue to be able to claim it after the introduction of the jobseeker's allowance. Secondly, young people in prescribed categories, such as those who have recently left local authority care, will be able to claim JSA for a period intended to allow them to overcome their temporary difficulties. That, too, continues the existing arrangements. Thirdly, young people who are waiting for a suitable youth training place will be able to claim JSA if they would otherwise suffer severe hardship. Again, that continues the existing arrangements.

Most young people are keen to better themselves and take their obligations seriously, but a minority persistently abuse the system. I set out the Government's policy intentions in Committee on 21 February, and also explained in Committee how we intended to deal with such abuses.

Young people wishing to claim JSA on severe hardship grounds must register with the careers service. As a result most will quickly be offered, and accept, suitable training under the YT guarantee. We recognise, however, that young people may not always be entirely clear about their vocational needs and aspirations: that is why young people receiving severe hardship payments who are in the guarantee group for the first time are allowed without penalty to turn down one offer of training or leave one training place early, for any reason whatever. But if they turn down two suitable youth training places, or leave two such places early without good cause—or a combination of the two—they will incur the penalty of a 40 per cent. reduction in the personal rate of JSA for two weeks. If they subsequently rejoin the guarantee group, a reduction will be applied on each occasion when they turn down a suitable training place, or leave one such place early—again, without good cause.

I believe that that represents a clear and fair system for young people, but such a system clearly requires safeguards. First, it will be the careers service that decides whether a youth training place is suitable for a young person. The careers service is bound by arrangements made under the Employment and Training Act 1973, as amended by the Trade Union Reform and Employment Rights Act 1993, to provide young people with impartial guidance.

The careers service will not offer a young person a training place unless it meets his or her needs, circumstances and abilities. It will take into account anything that might limit the type of training that the young person could accept, including the young person's preference and aptitude, the level of approved qualifications for which he or she is aiming and the duration, proximity and availability of the training.

Secondly, we are introducing a new system of internal review that will take place before a direction is revoked on the ground that the young person has refused a suitable youth training place. The young person will be given the opportunity to request a re-examination of his case by the Employment Service before a direction is revoked. The Employment Service will consider all the circumstances of the case carefully; if it finds in the young person's favour, the direction will not be revoked, and the young person will continue to receive JSA.

If the young person is in a training place but is not happy with his training, he can take a number of courses of action—he can raise the matter with his training provider, with the training and enterprise council or with the careers service. Again, the facts of the case will be looked into carefully and, if appropriate, it may be decided that the training is not suitable and the trainee will then be found another place.

However, if the young person leaves a training place early and feels that he has good cause for doing so, he will be able to put his side of the case to the Employment Service. The circumstances of the case will be re-examined and, where good cause is established, a certificate will be issued by the Secretary of State and a copy given to the young person. If he reapplies for severe hardship under JSA, he will receive the full amount. However, if he does not have a certificate when he applies for a new direction, he will receive the reduced amount for the prescribed period of two weeks. If, subsequently, he gets a certificate, he can apply for a review under section 25 of the Administration Act to get back the amount of reduction that has been taken.

People receiving JSA are required to be available for and actively seeking employment. I want to explain how that will apply to 16 to 17-year-olds who are receiving severe hardship payments. They will be required to be available for and actively seeking work, but we believe that the priority for young people should be training or jobs with training. Jobs without training attached come a poor second. That is why 16 to 17-year-olds will not have to accept a job that does not have a suitable training content. If, however, they have abused the system by turning down or leaving youth training early without good cause and have suffered the reduction in the amount of JSA that I have described, they will at the same time lose their right to refuse offers of work on the ground that they do not contain training.

I believe that, taken together, the Government's youth training guarantee, backed by the clear sanctions, safeguards and protections that I have described, represents a fair and balanced package of measures for young people. The new clause is designed to put that into effect. I hope that, after debate, the House will support it.

Mr. Ian McCartney (Makerfield)

Good afternoon, Madam Speaker. On behalf of the Opposition, I oppose the new clause. I want to set it in the context of the debates that took place on two occasions in Committee, when we set out clear and specific evidence of the Government's failure in provision for young unemployed people.

Before doing that, I point out that during our debates on the Bill yesterday some 7,300 people were made redundant throughout the United Kingdom—from Northern Foods, Midland bank, Dewhurst and GCHQ, covering the retail, banking and manufacturing sectors. It is equivalent to 1,050 jobs an hour, 18 jobs a minute or one job for every three seconds while hon. Members were debating the Government's JSA proposals. Put in that context, we can see just how inadequate the Bill is not only in ensuring that people have a right to benefit, but, more importantly, in ensuring the necessary access and assets to get people back into the labour market.

The new clause is not about getting young people back into meaningful work; it is not about modernising and improving access to benefit and services for young people; it is not about tackling the causes of young people's poverty; it is not about tackling inequality and social and economic deprivation among young people; it is not about social investment in beleaguered working-class communities, from which many of the young unemployed come; and it is not about challenging the social alienation of youths who have been affected by unemployment—instead, the Bill is a vicious attack on young people. There is no other way to describe it.

Without any prior notice, the Government announced that they intended to change the rules for 16 to 17-year-olds—one of the most economically and socially deprived groups in the United Kingdom. This is the second occasion in under a decade when the Government have singled out young unemployed people for vicious and callous treatment. That process was commenced in 1988 by the Prime Minister when he was Under-Secretary of State for Social Security. Against all advice from people, organisations who represented young people, and the Government's own independent authorities, the Government took action to deny young people the right of access to benefit and to support services. As a consequence, young people in their thousands were left destitute. It was a national scandal of which the Government have testimony today. Hundreds, if not thousands, of vulnerable young people are still left without resources.

4.30 pm

It was against that background that Labour Members tabled a new clause on what should be in the jobseeker's agreement. It is interesting to note that, once again, the Minister has not taken the opportunity to publish the jobseeker's agreement for young people. The Government new clause does not deal with what should be in the agreement. It is simply about the way in which the Government will have a method of removing the right of vulnerable 16 to 17-year-olds to hardship payments.

In Committee, the Government made no effort to give the Opposition or even Conservative Back-Bench Members copies of the young person's agreement. On the last day that the Bill is in this place, we are still in the dark about what is contained in that agreement. The Minister either would not or could not clarify the differences between the adult Jobseekers Bill and the young person's version. Why is that the case? Why is she so unable or unwilling to provide basic information about the young jobseeker's agreement? Is it perhaps because of the fact that the Government had no intention at the outset of the Bill's passage to give any clear idea of their policy on 16 and 17-year-olds?

The new clause is a catch-all, and a nasty and malicious attempt to reduce the rights of 16 and 17-year-olds and to condemn them to even greater depths of destitution and exploitation. That boot camp philosophy towards the young unemployed is similar to that outlined by the Home Secretary on other issues. Suffice to say that the young persons jobseeker's agreement will be more punitive than the current arrangements for hardship payments, as the Minister admitted in her short introduction to the new clause. What will she do about the 1,000 vulnerable teenagers who have been turned away each month by the Government's covert campaign to cut support to them?

My hon. Friend the Member for Wallsend (Mr. Byers) has asked parliamentary questions about the matter. Every month, 1,000 young people—vulnerable teenagers—are denied access to hardship payments. Those vulnerable young people are casualties not only of youth unemployment but of life—they have come out of care, are homeless or houseless, or have been physically or sexually abused. Each month, 1,000 of those people are still refused the right of access to hardship payments.

In the three summer months of last year, the latest period for which statistics are available, 6,190 teenagers who applied for hardship payments were turned away, an average of 476 refusals per week. Nine months earlier, before the rules were tightened, the refusal rate was only about 200 a week. Between 1989 and 1994, claims for severe hardship had risen from around 250 per week to 2,700 per week, a rise of more than 1,000 per cent. The reason for that increase was the Government's decision in 1988 to remove access to benefits and other help for young 16 to 17-year-olds. The Opposition and people who represent young people have said that that decision has led to a large increase in poverty and destitution among young people. The figures show that to be the case.

What did the Secretary of State for Employment, when he was Chief Secretary to the Treasury, do to deal with that growing problem? He was so alarmed about the increase in successful claims that he sent a specialist team to investigate the severe hardship payment unit in Glasgow. It was revealed in confidential documents that the view of the then Chief Secretary, who is now the Secretary of State for Employment responsible for the new clause, was that officers were being too generous to 16 and 17-year-olds, not that there was hardship or any vulnerable young people. He denied that there was hardship or that young people were vulnerable. His sole intention in the exercise was to reduce Government expenditure on vulnerable young people. As a consequence, when he moved from his Treasury job to his present post, he regarded it as a priority to tackle young people. The major reason that the new clause has been proposed is to reduce the overall sum spent on hardship payments for vulnerable teenagers. It is an extension of his role when he was a Treasury Minister.

Mr. Oliver Heald (Hertfordshire, North)

So that we can be clear about this, is the hon. Gentleman saying that the jobseeker's allowance should be available for all 16 to 17-year-olds or merely that all claims for hardship allowances should be allowed, whatever the circumstances?

Mr. McCartney

The hon. Gentleman will have to wait until I get further into my speech. We are discussing a specific aspect of hardship relevant to the new clause. If the hon. Gentleman supports the new clause, he should at least read it. I know that he supports the Government absolutely in any circumstances and tends to crawl to the Minister at every opportunity, but he should not fail to read the new clause.

Ms Angela Eagle (Wallasey)

Does my hon. Friend, like me, find it distasteful that Conservative Members seem to find this subject amusing and sit there laughing while he makes extremely important points about some of the most vulnerable teenagers?

Mr. McCartney

My hon. Friend is quite right, and it is merely a continuation of what happened in Committee, where Conservatives laughed through eight weeks of debate about the needs of young people. They laugh because they have no experience of the problems. It is not their children or grandchildren, nieces or nephews who will be affected by the changes; they are protected by privilege. They make sure that their children have access to training or education—they purchase it. This change in Government policy does not affect the children whom they come across, so they not only regard this as a joke and a jolly good wheeze, but are wholly uninterested in the needs of young people. If they were anything other than disinterested, they would not have made such a proposal. The new clause would never have got out of the locker from which it came.

It is interesting to note that in Committee not one Conservative Member was prepared to stand up and defend the interests of 16 to 17-year-olds. As I told the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, North (Mr. Heald) yesterday with reference to one of his interventions, he should be ashamed of himself.

If the Government training programme is so successful, why has there been such a dramatic increase in the number of claims for severe hardship payments? The truth is that training for 16 to 17-year-olds has failed dramatically because teenagers are still experiencing severe problems in relation to their access to, and the quality of, training and their access to employment opportunities following training.

Only 31 per cent. of young people were in work six months after leaving training, and 30 per cent. leave training without a qualification or a credit towards a qualification. The percentage of young people leaving training who get a qualification or a credit has hardly increased since 1990 and, even now, barely half of all leavers come out of the scheme with some form of qualification.

The Government are not dealing with the crisis in training, with the crisis in the quality of training or with the lack of full-time employment opportunities at the end of training. Instead of tackling those problems by introducing new measures in the Bill, they blame the victim. The language in which the Minister of State proposed the new clause was revealing—it was the language of blame. She used negative language about young people and how they view the Government's proposals and talked of the need for coercive tactics in dealing with young people. Those coercive tactics bear no relation to the plight of young people and their attitudes to work and training, which I shall come to in a moment.

The figures that I quoted say nothing about the quality of training provided. The trends are set against the decline of more traditional forms of structured training for young people. For example, the number of trainees and apprenticeships in manufacturing has declined by 60 per cent. since 1979 and 150,000 apprenticeships in engineering have been lost since the Government began deregulating the market. What other Government, in changing their labour force, in trying to develop new skills and new techniques, in promoting engineering as part of a drive for exports and in trying to improve the country's economic competitiveness, would allow 150,000 skilled training posts to be lost? No other Government would allow that. It is economic madness and, in response to the needs of young people to develop career opportunities, it is callous in the extreme.

Those appalling outcomes show that this Government's policy is clearly not working. The Government must tackle the twin problems of youth unemployment and lack of skills among young people. The Minister's solution is simply to force young people on to schemes and deny them benefit if they refuse to go on them because the schemes are poor, unsuitable or exploitative.

The hon. Lady has created a serious problem with what she has said to me in Committee and confirmed today. We are to have two classes of schemes and attitudes towards young people. Those who are lucky enough to have access to quality training and work opportunities will be given a guarantee that during that work experience, training and minimum standards will be maintained. But for those who, for various reasons, are unable to secure that quality training or access to employment opportunities, such standards will not be maintained.

The Government will force young people to take jobs that do not include any training or minimum standards whatever. What does that say to young people? What does that say about future investment in training for young people? If it is wrong to provide young people with jobs without training and minimum standards, it is wrong, full stop. The Government are therefore introducing a further measure of coercion with which to attack young people. They are not only reducing the right to hardship payments in 40 per cent. of cases, but they are attacking young people from a different angle. If young people have access to job opportunities, they cannot rely on the Department of Employment to protect them, in either quality of training or minimum standards.

That is perverse logic in anyone's language. It can serve only to encourage bad employers to operate outside the system and feel no obligation to provide training for our young people. Why should young people be given manual jobs with no skill element? Bad employers will simply need to sit and wait for the first opportunity that the Government take to throw young people out of the system. The first young people who are removed from the system will be automatically offered jobs by bad employers, who will not have to spend a penny on training or minimum standards and who will be outside the policing arrangements for dealing with and providing work for young people.

A similar argument arose yesterday about minimum pay. The Government are giving a green light once again for bad employers to exploit young workers through levels of pay, training and standards. What a set of options to offer young people.

Miss Widdecombe

The hon. Gentleman heard me say very clearly in the House yesterday that the Employment Service is not in the habit of and will not in the future be in the habit of offering people inappropriate vacancies. That applied to young people as well.

4.45 pm
Mr. McCartney

The hon. Lady has been somewhat disingenuous, to say the least. In Committee, we spent hours giving her evidence of case after case of such practices. She could not refute such cases because they were either pending appeal, had already been heard or had been provided by citizens advice bureaux, the Coalition for Young People, the Unemployment Unit, youth organisations and churches. We could go on for hours today, but the point was well made in Committee. Young people feel abused by the system. The system does not meet their needs when they inevitably complain and the trainer or the organisation that placed them in that vulnerable position is not dealt with. The young person is guilty until proved innocent. Only when young people prove themselves innocent are they entitled to some form of benefit. Little or no action is taken against the employer who was exploitative in the first place.

Ms Eagle

Does my hon. Friend recall some of the comments made by Conservative Members in Committee to the effect that, if training for young people were to consist of scrubbing floors, it would be acceptable because it would teach them discipline?

Mr. McCartney

A number of inane and disgraceful comments have been made as the Bill has progressed. It is interesting to note that the hon. Members who made them are not here. Perhaps the Government have made them take a vow of silence and stay away so that they do not embarrass the Government with their views on young people. The point was well made by my hon. Friend.

We have a dossier of Conservative Members' views on young people. On Second Reading, comments made by well-heeled, millionaire-type Tory Members of Parliament on young people who were seeking employment and could not get it were revealing. A range of views was expressed, and between now and the next election we intend to use them to the full. [Interruption.] Would the Whip, the hon. Member for Langbaurgh (Mr. Bates), like me to embarrass his hon. Friends? Perhaps he would, but I will not—[HON. MEMBERS: "Come on."] No. I have not gone soft, but I have not notified the hon. Members concerned that I intend to mention them in the Chamber. If the Minister would like to go and get them—I am sure that they are in the House—I would be more than happy to discuss their views on young people.

The point that I am trying to make—

Mr. Heald


Mr. McCartney

I shall give way in just a second.

The Government should be looking to the new options and training opportunities that they can provide to improve the system. The direct result of the Government new clause will be to halve the choice of training and opportunities for young people to look round and find a suitable scheme. The Minister confirmed that in her explanation of the new clause. The Government are reducing by 50 per cent. the chance of young people to come out of a scheme or a training opportunity when they find, having been placed in it for a range of reasons, that it is unsuitable.

Will any hardship payment or benefit be provided for young people who are waiting for a decision on an appeal? The Minister made some concession during her short introduction to the new clause when, for the first time, she referred to an internal review. I assume that that was introduced—it was not mentioned in Committee—to take account of what my hon. Friends and I said about the need to protect young people in the process of turning down an opportunity or coming out of a scheme in which they had already been placed. The hon. Lady did not say whether young people who are disallowed payments after that internal review will be given a formal opportunity for an appeal process. If they are given that opportunity, will they be allowed to claim some form of benefit until a decision is made?

How long will a claimant be given to consider a training offer? That is important, because it would be totally unacceptable if young people were told that, if they did not immediately accept a training position, action would be taken against them by the Department. A young person needs a period to reflect on the proposals put to him. How long will that period be? Will it be a day, two days, a week or a fortnight? Will the second offer of training be a different placement, as a matter of course? What I mean by that—

Miss Widdecombe

indicated assent.

Mr. McCartney

Then I shall not proceed with that question. It is important that people are not offered the same placement as they originally turned down.

Miss Widdecombe

I shall answer the question so as to get the facts on the record. The answer is that if someone has turned down a placement, the same placement will not be offered a second time.

Mr. McCartney

I thank the Minister; that is another improvement since the Committee stage.

Where training is unsuitable or of poor quality, it becomes a euphemism for exploitation, and a cheap job with poverty pay. Training is a pretence for young people in such positions. In many areas assessment has become a sham, because in truth there is none. Few or no resources go into checking what happens during the training process.

In Committee we gave the Minister ample evidence of that state of affairs, and it is now incumbent on the Government to say clearly what investment and what procedures will be attached to the regulations under the new clause to ensure that young people are protected in their placements, and that a regular check is made on the quality of provision. Young people could then have confidence that they had an independent person to turn to if difficulties arose. Without such independence, they will continue to be left in dangerous circumstances.

We must also ensure that schemes are tailored to meet individual needs and requirements. The Minister suggested earlier that the Government might be moving in that direction. She said that there would be checks on trainers, and that the review procedures would be examined. Will that include ensuring that part and parcel of a young person's jobseeker's agreement will be total control by the young person over the final decision? I shall explain what I mean by that in a minute.

It is important that as the Government introduce the new arrangements they ensure that young people feel that they are part of the process and not simply a cog in the Government's wheel. The agreement should be made between two equal partners. When the Committee was to discuss the jobseeker's agreement per se, we tabled many amendments, which the Government rejected, to ensure that the balance of power between the Department's officers and the claimant would be equal, and that both parties would find the eventual agreement positive in terms of the individual's needs.

For the outcome to be successful for young people, they must feel from the outset that the agreement is as important to them and for their development as it is to the Department as a tool and a weapon for refusing them access to the benefits system. It is therefore vital that the Minister sets out clear and specific arrangements whereby young people can with some confidence enter discussions and negotiations on their agreement. I do not see why she cannot do that today. If it cannot be done at all, the agreement will not be worth the paper that it is written on, but will be seen as just another coercive document to be used against the young person.

Those of us who have teenage children, or whose children have already been through that difficult period in their lives, will know that teenagers react more positively if they are dealt with on the basis of an equal partnership. Growing up is difficult enough in the teenage years, but it is even more difficult if people are out of work and feel alienated, and the person sitting opposite them seems totally unsympathetic to their position. Even worse, that person has the power to determine major aspects of the young people's lives, including eligibility for housing and access to income, training and employment. That is an uncomfortable position for anyone, let alone a vulnerable 16 or 17-year-old.

Department of Employment services must be seen not simply as a policing arrangement for young people, but as a positive aid to help to meet their needs. Rather than moving the goalposts towards assisting young people, the Government, both in Committee and now, by tabling the new clause, have done the opposite. They have moved the goalposts towards an indifferent approach that will alienate young people further and will, in a coercive way, undermine their abilities and their rights of access to the Department's services and to income, where they would have been eligible for income.

The new clause does not deal with the causes of distress and financial hardship for young people; it merely attempts to deal with the symptoms. The Government have chosen to ignore the real issues facing youngsters in the 1990s, who are the victims of the Government's economic failures.

There are three things to say about the new clause. First, it allows for a continuation of the exploitation of young people. Secondly, it does not protect minimum standards or guarantee quality training and education. Thirdly, it reduces choice for young people at a time when they should have more choice and more opportunities.

Why have the Government not used the opportunity to deal with the high failure rate, and with the number of people who do not complete the course and thus do not have appropriate qualifications? That is the real issue, and that is the damning indictment of the Government. For many young people, the current training programme has not worked. Yet rather than deal with those problems, the Government have decided to attack young people instead.

The Government have a poor record in dealing with young people, most of whom are desperate for work, training or a mixture of the two. If they sign the young jobseeker's agreement in good faith and then find that it is detrimental to their well-being, what will the Government do to ensure that sanctions are not taken against them, and that the Department acts on behalf of young people rather than on behalf of the people exploiting or attempting to exploit them?

The agreement will remove current safeguards against low-paid employment and benefit disqualification, and reduce young people's rights. Current Employment Service guidance states clearly that although advisers should ask claimants to sign, people should not be pressed to do so against their will. But now we know that the new agreement will do precisely that. Without a signature in advance on the agreement, young people's access to training and to a range of Department of Employment services will be reduced or ended.

The young person's JSA is to be used to increase pressure on young people who are especially vulnerable to take up low-paid work, with or without relevant training. The Minister confirmed that again today, because she said that the Government will pressurise young people to take up opportunities where there is no training element. That is totally unacceptable.

Miss Widdecombe

At present there is no safeguard at all for a young person who wants to turn down a job on the ground that it does not contain training. We have now announced that in the future, unless someone has already turned down two training offers, he or she will be able to turn down a job on that ground. Only after someone has abused the system and either turned down or walked out of two training opportunities shall we revert to the present system, so we have improved the position for young people. Will the hon. Gentleman welcome that?

Mr. McCartney

The hon. Lady has not improved the position; she has created a further two-tier system, as she has again admitted. She uses the word "abuse", describing the young person as abusing the system, whereas we are talking about young people being abused and seeking assistance from the Department to have the exploitation stopped. At that point, when young people approach the Department, under the Minister's new proposals they will run the risk of losing their right to benefit.

The Minister's explanation went even further, because she said that if a young person wanted to get back into the system, any right to protection would have been forfeited. The hon. Lady is quite prepared to place young people in vulnerable positions, either because of the exploitative level of pay involved or because of the fact that there is no training element. She is offering skivvy jobs, with low pay and low levels of attainment. The Government's economic policies are undermining the rights of young people.

Young people have suffered particularly under the Government's policies. More than one in three 16 to 17-year-olds are paid less than £1.50 an hour. Almost half are paid less than the national insurance threshold of £57 per week, and the Government's proposals will force even more young people into skivvy pay and exploitation. Eight out of 10 jobs for 16-year-olds and almost seven out of 10 for 17-year-olds pay less than £2 per hour.

5 pm

Since 1990, hourly pay rates have fallen in real terms by 15 per cent. for 16-year-olds and 11 per cent. for 17-year-olds. The reason is that the Government withdrew the legal rights of protection for young people under 21 from exploitation by employers. The Government were the first in a century to remove the legal right of young people not to be paid exploitative rates of pay. Within a few years of that legal right being removed, young people's pay has fallen further. That is the Government's policy.

The Minister stated in Committee how the labour market conditions for young people who are entitled to severe hardship payments will be assessed. I want her to tell me what labour market conditions will have to be satisfied by 16 to 17-year-olds in order for them to qualify for hardship payments. Can she define what the market conditions will be? Will the conditions be more about satisfying her Department than about satisfying the needs of young people? There seems to be a dilemma for a young person who does not want to fall foul of the new clause. If a young person does not agree with the Department of Employment's view about labour market conditions, a range of sanctions will be introduced against the young person, irrespective of his needs.

If we are serious about dealing with the needs of 16 and 17-year-olds, we must ensure that the conditions will assist them in relation to the labour market and will not assist the Government in their ideological drive to lower wages and reduce working conditions in the marketplace.

Miss Widdecombe

The Government want higher wages.

Mr. McCartney

The Minister knows that that is not the case, despite what she says from a sedentary position.

The Minister is the same hon. Lady who, yesterday, gleefully denied people on benefit the right to a minimum level of pay if they come off benefit to go into work. She is prepared to allow people to work for £1 an hour, or thereabouts. If they do not take such jobs, they could—under the jobseeker's agreement—lose their right to benefit after 13 weeks. What the Minister hates is that the public are beginning to realise what the consequences of the legislation will be for them, their families and their young children.

The Minister fails to accept evidence that has been provided to the Department with regard to 16 to 17-year-olds. Almost half those claiming severe hardship payments had no money when they claimed and were totally destitute. That situation has arisen since 1988, and was precisely predicted at that time. If the Government remove from young and vulnerable people their access to income, they will be left destitute.

One third of those young people had been thrown out of the family home, or had been living with relatives and friends who could no longer support them. One in 10 had been in care. Some 22 per cent. had been physically or sexually abused. Severe hardship claims have risen 20-fold between 1988 and 1994 because of the Government's callous proposals. Some 45 per cent. of all claimants have slept rough.

What an image for Great Britain in 1995. What an image of what we are doing to a generation of young people. Who would have believed that we would approach the turn of the century with a Government whose policies after 16 years deny young people who have been physically or sexually abused access to income? One in 10 young people who have been in care are being denied access to income, and 45 per cent. of 16 to 17-year-olds who need severe hardship payments are homeless and sleeping rough. What a crisis for our young people. What is the Government's response? It is a clause that denies young people further access to income and responsibility in terms of employment.

The Government have ignored not just that survey. The Coalition for Young People carried out a survey, which was presented to the Minister, of how young people view the activities of her Department. It is interesting to note that the vast majority of young people said that the Department of Employment had been unhelpful to them in its advice and assistance. A majority of young people felt that the Department was not on their side, and that the Department's staff were acting as police officers rather than as advocates on their behalf. A large proportion of young people did not, in the end, claim severe hardship payments because of the complexities that were put before them by the Employment Service and by benefit officers.

That is a damning indictment of how the Government view their relationship with young people. Given that background, it is no wonder that so many people are afraid of the new clause, which is one of a family of measures that are attacking young people. In a survey about young people's attitudes to the Benefits Agency, young people said that they felt intimidated, and that even when benefit was granted, they were made to feel that they had been done a favour. They complained that they were not listened to, and were often flatly refused permission to apply or seek advice.

That illustrates the need for young people to have an independent advocacy service, and the Minister has again failed to address that matter in relation to the jobseeker's agreement. At 16 or 17 years of age, many young people are not articulate and cannot speak up for themselves.

The Minister knows that the vast majority of the 16 to 17-year-olds with whom the Department will have to deal are young people who have been abused in one form or another. They will have come out of care, and may be suffering social stress because of the physical or sexual abuse that they had to endure. Many of them will be young people with perceived needs, but they may be unable to articulate those needs. It is those young people—the very young people whose interests we are supposed to be here to protect, enhance and promote—who will be undermined and who will lose out in the system that the Minister is proposing.

Mr. Gary Streeter (Plymouth, Sutton)

The hon. Gentleman will agree that the vast majority of young people are keen to get work, and to take on appropriate training. Therefore, new clause 6 will apply to very few young people. Does he agree that there is a small minority of young people who are workshy, who do not want to go on training courses and who would prefer to sit at home and receive taxpayers' money? If the hon. Gentleman does not like new clause 6, how would the Labour party ensure that that small minority of young people who are idle were given incentives to do something with their lives?

Mr. McCartney

If the hon. Gentleman had been here for the beginning of the debate, he would have heard me praising young people for their attempts to get work and to promote themselves.

It is completely untrue that lots of young people want to live off taxpayers' money. Tory Members such as the hon. Gentleman, who have a great deal of bile and negative attitudes towards unemployed young people, try to promote that fallacy, but it is not the case.

Mr. Streeter

What would Labour do?

Mr. McCartney

I shall come to that, if the hon. Gentleman will let me answer. The clause deals with young people who go to the Department or to their training provider and ask to be released from their training because of exploitation, or because the scheme is inappropriate to their needs due to disability or other factors. They may ask to be removed because they feel that the scheme proposed for them will not fulfil their needs.

The hon. Gentleman was present when I gave eloquent testimony to the number of cases in which young people had legitimately sought an alternative scheme. When the Minister introduced the jobseeker's scheme, she said that she had been disappointed about the low outcomes. She has that problem because the schemes do not work for the vast majority of young people but, instead of dealing with the problem of poor schemes, the Government have decided to tackle the young people. The hon. Gentleman knows that that is so.

Miss Widdecombe

If the schemes are so appalling, how come 78 per cent. of those who complete them have a positive outcome, and how come the recent youth cohort survey shows that 78 per cent. of trainees rated their training as either excellent or good and only 5 per cent. rated it as poor? Ask the young people themselves, and they say that those schemes are good.

Mr. McCartney

The Minister severely doctors the figures. Like many other figures that the Department provides, the cohort of young people is not taken as a whole. The figures represent a percentage of those who completed training and do not reflect the total number who started or sought training. They are therefore highly selective. The real figure that the Minister should have quoted is that, on average, 50 per cent. of young people do not find success through the training schemes.

When the Minister introduced the young jobseeker's agreement in Committee, she expressed disappointment about the outcomes. That is on the record.

Miss Widdecombe

I expressed disappointment not about the outcomes, which are extremely good for those who complete their courses, but about the number who fail to complete. Before the hon. Gentleman tosses around figures of 50 per cent. failing to complete, will he acknowledge that one third of those people fail to complete only because they go into a job or a different sort of training scheme?

Mr. McCartney

Again, the Minister wriggles. She brought forward the proposal in Committee because the Government were unhappy about the outcomes. At that time, we challenged her for attacking the symptom rather than the cause. The cause is the fact that substantial numbers of young people are exploited through those schemes. The outcomes for them are far from perfect, because of either a lack of qualifications or a lack of job opportunity at the end of the course.

The Minister should have introduced proposals under the new clause to tackle those problems instead of introducing further draconian measures that undermine the needs of a specific group of young people with special needs and aspirations and, as the Government did in 1988, attacking 16 to 17-year-olds. This Government are good at attacking the vulnerable, and the proposal will affect another group of young people.

In Committee, the Government gave no sign of what the jobseeker's agreement for young people will include. My hon. Friends and I therefore tabled a new clause to try to get the Government to elucidate on the agreement. Is it not a scandal that the Bill is about to leave the House before the Government have published their proposals? They talk about parliamentary accountability, yet before publishing their proposals they pass a clause that undermines young people if they do not sign an agreement that the Government are not even prepared to bring to the House for scrutiny.

The Minister should clarify her intentions on a range of issues. For example, will the jobseeker's agreement deal with provisional help for housing needs? What is the outcome of the Government's survey on the needs of young people in terms of training and employment opportunities? The overwhelming majority of 16 to 17-year-olds are tied up with their housing needs. Those who are houseless or living in poor housing conditions invariably cannot or do not finish training schemes. Their housing needs are so overwhelming that they affect their capability of accepting training places or entering full-time employment.

5.15 pm
Miss Widdecombe

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that young people who are on benefit because, for example, they do not live at home and have good cause not to live at home, will get assistance through housing benefit and council tax benefit, in some cases up to 100 per cent? Will he acknowledge that that is a comprehensive package? To take advantage of it, a young person must simply abide by the rules that we set.

Mr. McCartney

Once again, the Minister's comments have a sting in the tail. She described all those safety nets and then spoiled it all by saying that a young person must have the right key to open the door. She admitted that all those safety nets will be withdrawn from young people if they fall out with her Department in respect of this agreement. Moreover, she has not said why her Department is still refusing 1,000 young people a month, who are currently homeless, houseless or coming out of care, access to hardship payments.

Miss Widdecombe

I answered the hon. Gentleman's specific point about young people coming out of care in my speech, which I should have thought was short enough for him to have taken it all in. I said, that for eight weeks, their position on JSA is protected and that, after that, they can establish severe hardship and remain on JSA. That was made extremely clear. Who are those young people who come out of care and somehow do not get a single penny?

Mr. McCartney

Again, the Minister attempts to paint a rosy picture. Those 1,000 young people a month exist. It is a Government figure—the Department's refusal rate. The issue is their inability to be accepted for hardship payments. They must be accepted before they can have access to those passported benefits. The Government are leaving thousands of young people in potential destitution, which the clause will exacerbate.

There is one question which I thought the Minister would answer this afternoon and which I raised in Committee. We pressed her on ensuring that young people had access to transport costs for training courses, and she said that it should be simply a matter for the training and enterprise councils, as trainers. That is not an acceptable answer. If she accepts that it is a reasonable proposition that young people should have that assistance, she should at least be prepared to ensure equality of access to the provision. Why should a young person in my area, for example, have access to it while a young person on exactly the same scheme in a borough down the road does not? It is either right to give access to transport costs or it is not. Given that the Minister has accepted the principle that it is right, she should ensure equality of access for young people, irrespective of where they live or where the scheme is held.

Through this proposal, the Government have sunk to a new low. During the Bill's passage over the past eight weeks, they have made numerous proposals that undermine the rights of the unemployed, including the loss of benefit after six instead of 12 months and cuts in people's benefit. The proposal before us, however, beats them all. By denying many young people, including those who have been sexually and physically abused, access to rights, the proposal will lead them to destitution. That is unacceptable under any circumstances.

Absolutely no one could defend the proposal. It shows how out of touch the Government have become with reality—with what is happening outside the House. They are out of touch with the public's perceptions and feelings about the way in which we want to invest in young people, not damage them as a result of the failure of Government policies. It is a mean and nasty proposal, which my colleagues and I will vigorously oppose in the Lobby tonight.

Ms Lynne

I shall be fairly brief. I want to tackle the detail of new clause 6 and obtain clarification about some of its wording.

Subsection (1)(a) appears to give wider powers to vary circumstances when benefit could be reduced than are provided for in subsection (3), which is confusing to someone who has just begun to consider the clause in detail. I wish to know what other circumstances the Government have in mind in which benefit could be reduced.

Mr. Richard Spring (Bury St. Edmunds)

It is gratifying to hear some comments from the Liberal Benches. It would be of great interest to us to know why, in view of the hon. Lady's interest and her comments, no attempt was made by the Liberals to participate in the Committee proceedings.

Ms Lynne

If the hon. Gentleman had been in the House yesterday—it appears that he was not, at least for the majority of the debate—he would have heard my remarks on that subject. I was on the Committee that considered the Disability Discrimination Bill, which was just along the Corridor, and I was unable to attend both Committees. I would not have been allowed to serve on both Committees. However, I should be grateful if the hon. Gentleman would realise that those of us who were not in Committee do have a right to question things. That is why we have Report stage. If he would not mind, I should like to make progress with some detailed questions about new clause 6.

Subsection (2)(b) allows either of two conditions to trigger the section, not both. Read with subsection (3)(a), that appears pointless because, if the direction is made under clause 13, and that has been revoked already, surely a young person will not be in receipt of anything anyway, and how is it possible to reduce nothing? I think that the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Spring) will find that that is so, but I should be grateful if the Minister would give me some guidance on that.

Miss Widdecombe

If a direction is revoked, the individual concerned, as now—it follows the same rules, although there is slightly different terminology—may make an immediate application for a new direction. That direction will be granted, provided that severe hardship is established. The question under consideration of revocation, therefore, refers to the former direction.

I am sure that the hon. Lady understands that, at present, someone who turns down a second offer theoretically leaves the guarantee group but can in fact be re-admitted immediately. Those provisions continue that.

Ms Lynne

Is the Minister saying that, if someone refuses the second offer, they are not entitld to benefit and they will be denied it?

Miss Widdecombe

If someone refuses a second offer, or leaves a scheme without good cause, the direction will be revoked. I suppose that the person could choose to wander away, but it is most unlikely. They would apply for a new direction. They would obtain that new direction, but for the first two weeks of it they would suffer the sanction. If subsequently it was decided that they had good cause and they obtained a Secretary of State's certificate, the amount of the reduction would be reinstated.

Ms Lynne

I am grateful to the Minister.

Perhaps I may now discuss certificates. Under subsection (3)(b), what will be the procedure for the issue of certificates? Subsection (4) mentions "good cause", and the Minister said that the Employment Service would decide. Would that be in consultation with the careers service?

Miss Widdecombe

As I said in my short introductory speech, the careers service will decide whether a course is suitable. It is important to understand that a person does not have to walk off a scheme and then ask, "Please may I have that scheme ruled unsuitable?" A person who is already on a scheme can apply to the careers service, saying that the scheme is not suitable. If it is then found not to be suitable, it will be as though that young person had not received the offer.

Ms Lynne

That is as a result of the Employment Service and the careers service consulting together. I am grateful for that.

Will a young person apply for a certificate before leaving the training service or can they apply retrospectively? Perhaps the Minister would prefer to answer when she replies to the debate, because otherwise she will be bobbing up and down.

Miss Widdecombe

I am bobbing up and down because the hon. Member for Makerfield (Mr. McCartney) has a habit of taking up an awful lot of time. Therefore, I am trying to take every possible opportunity to answer the questions. The individual concerned—

Mr. McCartney

The hon. Lady chose to speak for a short time instead of half an hour.

Miss Widdecombe

If I had done that, no one else would have had a go.

The individual concerned will have a choice. He or she can either apply while on the scheme—in which case, if it was agreed, they would not suffer any sanction—or, having left the scheme, can claim good cause at that stage.

Ms Lynne

I am sorry to go through the new clause in such detail, but we need clarification of specific issues.

I wish to know what constitutes "good cause" in subsection (4). Will it be prescribed in regulations, as it is currently for over 18-year-olds, or will it be included in good cause provisions prescribed under clause 15 of the Bill? Perhaps the Minister would answer that later.

What should constitute good cause? Might something that damages the health of a young person be good cause? I believe that it should be. Might poor treatment by the employer or trainer, such as the wrong type of directions, the wrong way of issuing directions, a rude method of approaching that young person—[Interruption.] I assume that that would be debatable for a good cause, from what the Minister is saying from a sedentary position.

The Minister has discussed the inadequate training element—when a course does not increase skills. I assume that that would constitute a good cause if it could be proved that the training course had no skill incentive and that it provided no improvement when the young person emerged at the end.

The hon. Member for Makerfield (Mr. McCartney) spoke about homeless people. I am concerned about the effect on the completion of training of homeless young people being unable to obtain accommodation. More support and understanding should be given to a young homeless person in the completion of a training course, because if one is homeless it is extremely difficult to turn up on time or to do many things within a training course. Some young people need to visit a probation officer or to attend youth service appointments. I hope that those will be included in the good cause element. I assume that they will be, but I need clarification as we are debating a new clause.

I wish to mention various other matters, especially about homeless people, who have very special needs. I fear that, as a result of the implementation of the new clause, more young people would become homeless and more 16 to 17-year-olds would suffer severe hardship. Invariably, they obtain severe hardship grant because they cannot afford to pay for food and other essentials. If they are cut off from that benefit, they will be in a very difficult position.

I know that the Minister has explained all the reasons, but a small number of people will be cut off. I am extremely worried about them—worried about where they will go, where they will end up and whether they will end up turning to crime.

Miss Widdecombe

Under the clause which deals with training, they would not be cut off from benefit unless they decided not to apply and to re-enter the system. They would suffer a reduction in the personal rate of their benefit. That would not affect any other income-related benefit, such as housing benefit, that they might be receiving.

Ms Lynne

I understand that, and I am grateful.

I wish that the Government would take on board the idea of restoring benefit to all 16 to 17-year-olds, with proper training. Some of the training packages today are very good; some are extremely good, but some are poor. Instead of pushing youngsters into poor training that is often inadequate, with no job at the end of it, I wish that the Government would reconsider restoring benefit for all 16 and 17-year-olds. The new clause seems to want to make it more difficult for young people instead of trying to get them back into the job market. I shall therefore vote against new clause 6.

Mr. Oliver Heald (Hertfordshire, North)

I shall comment on one or two of the points made by the hon.

Member for Makerfield (Mr. McCartney) in his 50 minutes of understated analysis. I asked a question in an intervention after the first 10 minutes of his speech. In the light of his observations about 16 to 18-year-olds and their financial circumstances and his assertion that not all claims for hardship were granted, I asked whether he was saying that the jobseeker's allowance should be available for all 16 to 18-year-olds or that all claims for hardship should be automatically allowed. The hon. Gentleman promised me that he would come to that, but 40 minutes later I have no more information than at the beginning of his speech. He has failed to answer the question.

5.30 pm

When I made that intervention the hon. Member for Wallasey (Ms Eagle) said that it was monstrous for me to laugh when the hon. Member for Makerfield said that he would give his reasons later. I laughed because that was so characteristic of the hon. Gentleman. When an intervention is made and a question asked of him, we receive another 40 minutes of his speech, but the question is never fully answered.

It is right to pay tribute to the hon. Member for Rochdale (Ms Lynne). At least she is prepared to say that she would extend the jobseeker's allowance to 16 to 18-year-olds. Of course, it is then incumbent on her to say how she would pay for that in the unlikely event of the Liberal party coming to power. It is a great pity that we did not have the benefit of her observations in Committee. I do not think that she is the only Liberal Member; there must be others who could have served on the Committee.

Ms Lynne

We will be giving a fully costed programme before the general election, as we did before the last general election, when we had a menu with prices, and we will have the same again. The hon. Member for Hertfordshire, North (Mr. Heald) will be able to read it to see how we shall pay for the restoration of benefit to 16 and 17-year-olds.

Mr. Heald

It is reassuring to know that that ammunition will be available to us when the general election campaign begins.

Ms Eagle

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Heald

I shall continue, if I may.

On the subject of completing courses, all members of the Committee agreed that it was important that young people should obtain something worth while from their training. The point being made by my hon. Friends in Committee was not that young people should spend their training time scrubbing floors, but that they should be encouraged to complete their training courses. The proof of the pudding is in the eating; those who complete training courses, obtain successful outcomes. As my hon. Friend the Minister of State said, 78 per cent. of those who complete their courses achieve a successful outcome. The battle is not to provide excuses for young people, but to ensure that more young people complete their training courses.

Mr. Richard Burden (Birmingham, Northfield)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Heald

No, I shall continue for a minute or two.

The difference between Conservative and Opposition members of the Committee was that we were able to field some members of the Committee with practical experience as employers—people who had employed hundreds and, in one case, thousands of employees. They said that most young people—the vast majority—are hard workers who want to learn, but a small number are not prepared to work or train. My hon. Friends' advice was that a firmer and more structured approach should be adopted towards such young people, who should be encouraged to complete their courses.

Mr. Streeter

Does my hon. Friend agree that the only conclusion that we can draw from the speeches of Opposition Members is that they would impose no sanctions on young people who do not wish to train and do not choose to spend their time productively? The Opposition would allow them to sit at home, idle, at the taxpayer's expense.

Mr. Heald

Only yesterday we heard from the right hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) that we should be looking for a responsible society. How is it responsible to tell young people that if they do not meet their obligations to the taxpayer they will still receive the money? How is it responsible to tell young people that if they make a hardship claim, but are not prepared to train, it makes no difference and they will still receive the money? What sort of message is the Labour party giving to young people? They are saying that it is a something-for-nothing society where one does not need to train or work, but can get something for nothing. What sort of society is that?

I know that the hon. Member for Makerfield would not deliberately seek to mislead us, but why did he say that young people receiving benefits for hardship would have housing difficulties, when housing benefit is passported from the allowance? Their council tax is paid. It is not as though young people who are living in hardship are not being catered for. The purpose of clause 13 is to deal with people who are under 18 and suffering from severe hardship.

The purpose of new clause 6 is not to deprive young people of the allowance completely, even when they have failed to complete training courses time and again. The Government make provision for young people in many ways, not just through the jobseeker's allowance. They do so through the general national vocational qualification initiatives and the modern apprenticeship scheme. The Government introduced those initiatives for the sole purpose of helping young people.

In his diatribe about unemployment, which is a serious problem, the hon. Member for Makerfield did not mention the fact that in the past year unemployment has fallen by 400,000 and there are 263,000 more full-time jobs. When he spoke of apprenticeships he did not mention the aspect of the 1960s that I remember. My recollection of the 1960s is that the trade unions were the first to want to scrap apprenticeships so that they could push up wages. In the 1960s the trade unions wanted a higher platform for the differentials. We have all learnt a lesson and, after all the years of Conservative government, the Trades Union Congress has learnt a bit of sense and strongly supports the modern apprenticeship scheme. I welcome that, as must all hon. Members.

Mr. Burden

Will the hon. Gentleman give the House any evidence for his statement about the attitude of trade unions to apprenticeships in the 1960s?

Mr. Heald

If the hon. Gentleman wants, he can discuss the subject with my hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Dr. Spink), who was an apprentice in the 1960s and can tell the hon. Gentleman about it. I cannot expand on that subject for too long because this is a short debate—[Interruption.] I have one or two further points that I hope to make—[Interruption.]

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes)

Order. There are too many conversations taking place and too many interruptions.

Mr. Heald

Thank you very much, Madam Deputy Speaker.

The hon. Member for Makerfield mentioned independent advocacy as though the Department of Employment should be treated as an enemy or an authority that did not have the interests of young people at heart. He spoke of the Department as though it were not prepared to listen to young people, take on board their concerns and be advocates for them.

I have been to numerous modern jobcentres as a member of the Select Committee on Employment. I very much regret the fact that the hon. Member for Wallasey joined the Committee a little too late to make some of those visits. Those centres had open plan offices with staff trained to take seriously the concerns of young people. It was not as the hon. Member for Makerfield described it. The staff are keen to offer advice and guidance. Mistakes may be made and the hon. Gentleman may be able to pick out occasional cases, but the staff as a whole should not be pilloried by the hon. Gentleman. The staff make a serious effort to help young people and to be sensitive and understanding.

The jobseeker's allowance is not currently extended to 16 to 18-year-olds. I hope that the hon. Member for Makerfield will, for once, be prepared to tell us the Labour party's policy on that. Is he saying that it should be extended to 16 to 18-year-olds? I notice that he does not intervene. Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that each and every claim for hardship allowance should be allowed, regardless of the circumstances? That is the logic of his argument; but perhaps he would like to intervene to confirm it.

Mr. McCartney

It is not a public school debate and the hon. Gentleman should take it seriously. No young person should be left vulnerable and destitute; under the Government's policies, 1,000 young people per month are left in that position. New clause 6 will make the situation worse. It is the Government's proposal and the hon. Gentleman should either defend or oppose it. The Government are trying to undermine the rights of 16 and 17-year-olds and we will continue to defend them. If he would like to give us a general election, we will test our policies for young people against those of the Government.

Mr. Heald

The hon. Member for Makerfield flatters me: that decision is not up to me. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for at least attempting to reply to my questions, although once again there were no real answers.

I am happy to support new clause 6 because it will help those who have not helped themselves. In that spirit, I believe that all hon. Members will recognise that there is a place for a reduced payment, even among those who have not been prepared to assume the responsibilities involved with accepting taxpayers' money.

Ms Eagle

The hon. Gentleman talks about the responsibilities of those who take the taxpayers' money. Does he think that there are similar responsibilities on employers who deliberately pay low wages in the knowledge that they will be topped up with taxpayers' money? Do employers have responsibilities in that regard?

Mr. Heald

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for confirming that she believes that the Government should abolish family credit. I smiled at her remarks; perhaps she might like to smile occasionally. I said yesterday that I do not believe that the new Labour party will present that policy at the next general election. I would be jolly pleased if it did.

New clause 6 will assist young people. It is incumbent on a responsible Opposition to propose their own policies and it is sad that Labour Members have not been prepared to engage in constructive debate.

Mr. Keith Hill (Streatham)

The latest figures from the Department of Employment's own labour force survey show that in the summer of last year the unemployment rate for 16 and 17-year-olds in mainland Britain stood at 23.8 per cent. That general figure disguises considerable regional variations. In London, part of which I have the honour to represent in Parliament, the rate was the highest in the country—an enormous 38 per cent.We know from other sources that at a more local level unemployment among that age group is higher still: in some wards in my Streatham constituency it is as high as 60 per cent. and it is worrying to note that those are the wards with the highest concentrations of so-called ethnic minorities.

The labour force survey figures show the reality of unemployment among young people and expose the total inadequacy of the Government's reliance on the claimant count as an indicator of unemployment. In summer 1994 the Government's official figure for youth unemployment was 17,000 whereas the total figure was 180,000—10.5 times greater than the official count. Some 90 per cent. of young people aged 16 and 17 years had no form of income in the summer of last year—the highest figure recorded since 1988, when the Conservative Government abolished the general entitlement to benefit for that age group.

The tiny figure of 17,000 claimants receiving severe hardship or bridging allowance illustrates the extreme difficulties that young people face in securing any form of benefit. Many thousands of young people fall outside the youth training guarantee, making nonsense of the Government's official claim that no 16 or 17-year-olds are unemployed and that a benefit safety net is therefore unnecessary. The truth is that life is already very tough indeed for large numbers of young people and the provisions in new clause 6 are likely to make it even tougher.

Opposition Members have repeatedly expressed our concerns about the considerable new powers for arbitrary judgment that the Bill will confer on Employment Service officials. The most obvious of those is the discretion that the Bill allows for judgment about the behaviour and appearance of claimants.

5.45 pm

The provision for benefit sanctions if a young person leaves a training programme "without good cause" raises further anxieties. What constitutes "good cause" and who makes that decision? What assistance will young people receive in plotting their way through the rules minefield described by the Minister in her opening speech? How long will young people be made scapegoats because of the obvious inadequacy of training provision?

Accounts of weaknesses in the youth training provision are legion. I will relate just three cases supplied by the Coalition on Young People and Social Security. A youth housing association and hostel provider in Gloucester stated: In the last 12 months none of our residents has secured a job at the end"—

of a training scheme placement— and probably 95 per cent. are on placements that were not indicated as a choice".

A National Children's Home project in Scotland reported: Three young people on YT at present on occasion have been sent home at 9.30 after arriving at 9.00 and being told there is nothing for them to do. No incentive is given to attend and little commitment to training is shown by the trainers. The young person is not in a position to leave as Income Support would not automatically be paid".

The youth housing association and hostel provider in Gloucester continued: One resident has not found a placement and just goes in to the office for training. He is often sent home after a morning, and feels it is a waste of time".

It is not surprising, therefore, that the outturn in terms of job placements is both limited and highly variable. Even for those who have completed their job training, on average only one in three finds employment and the figure can be as low as one in five. The latter figure applies to the East London training and enterprise council. Of course, they are lucky to have a TEC in east London; we have lost our TEC in south London and the Government have made no effort to replace that essential service in an area of massive deprivation.

It is also not surprising that there is a great deal of scepticism about the programmes and that many young people simply abandon them in disgust. Are we to conclude that the Government wish to coerce young people into attendance at often worthless courses by means of the threat of benefit sanctions as set out in the new clause? The Government have created mass unemployment among young people and they have responded to that crisis with a totally inadequate training provision.

Mr. Heald

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. How would he compare the situation in the UK with that in France or Spain, where youth unemployment is far higher although those Governments have pursued the policies that he advocates?

Mr. Hill

We have heard that argument many times before. The reality is that we would be comparing different situations with different historical bases.

Mr. Burden

On Tuesday 7 February the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, North (Mr. Heald) made exactly the same point in Committee. I asked him how he knew those unemployment rates as the Government officially do not count the figures for people between 16 and 18. He replied that he would be happy to provide me with further information when he had researched the matter further. I wonder whether he has done so.

Mr. Hill

While we are talking about figures that we do know, I must confess that during the two months of our deliberations on the matter I was waiting for the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, North (Mr. Heald) to intervene on me, as he has intervened on other Opposition Members, to talk about the Government's remarkable success in reducing unemployment in my constituency. As he has not done that, I will put it on record that unemployment in Streatham is 16.7 per cent.—twice the national average—and male unemployment is 22.5 per cent. In the three years since the last general election, the unemployment rate in Streatham has risen by 10 per cent. and since 1990 it has risen by 100 per cent. So there can be no rejoicing about a reduction of unemployment in Streatham. On the contrary, I make a rock solid prediction that new Labour will bury old Tory at the next general election with an electoral avalanche because of old Tory's appalling performance on unemployment in Streatham and in south London generally.

In conclusion, the young want meaningful training at work. They are the victims of the Government's failure and they will be further victimised as a result of new clause 6. That is why we oppose it.

Mr. Burden

Yesterday I questioned the legality of the Bill under article 4 of the European convention on human rights because, under menace of penalty, the Bill seeks to force people into jobs, irrespective of the level of remuneration being totally unreasonable.

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. Before the hon. Gentleman goes too far, I remind him that we are dealing with one new clause and his remarks must relate to it.

Mr. Burden

I was about to say that new clause 6 falls foul of precisely the same problem. Again, under menace of penalty, it is trying to force young people into something that they do not wish to do and which would be unreasonable.

Hon. Members on both sides of the House have acknowledged that new clause 6 affects only a limited number of young people. The main reason for that, as my hon. Friends have pointed out, is that the Government have ruled out the vast majority of young people from access to benefits.

When Conservative Members glibly talk about the alleged levels of youth unemployment in Britain compared with other countries they should get their facts right or at least be consistent with their own Ministers. I repeat what I said in Committee. My hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Withington (Mr. Bradley) asked the Under-Secretary of State for Social Security what the cost would be of restoring income support for 16 and 17-year-olds. The Minister's reply was that he did not know. He said: The information is not available."—[Official Report, 3 February 1995; Vol. 253, c. 878.] The Government do not know how much it would cost to reinstate income support. The only conclusion we can draw from that is that they do not know how many unemployed young people there are between the ages of 16 and 18. Estimates of youth unemployment in Britain have been given which have yet to be disproved by Conservative Members. My hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Hill) gave the figure according to the International Labour Organisation: about 180,000.

A large number of young people are excluded from benefit, but a small number of young people could possibly receive benefit in particular circumstances—lone parents, people with disabilities, and those who qualify for severe hardship payments.We should be clear about the severe hardship payments that Conservative Members want to remove. We are talking about the princely sum of £27.50 for those who live at home and £36.15 for those who live away from home. I have yet to find anyone with no income who is not in severe hardship, but according to Conservative Members the young person apparently has to prove severe hardship. That is matter of great concern to young people.

A recent report by the Coalition on Young People and Social Security draws attention to the real problems of access to the severe hardship allowance. A selection of reasons was given by young people for failure to complete claims. I will read out a few examples: He did not complete his claim because the jargon used was too difficult, and he felt they were talking over his head … Claimants often get confused. They are intimidated by the procedures … One young man became annoyed at the lack of direct, clear, concise information and despaired at the procedures … One of our clients was appalled by the 'hassles' involved in making a claim. Enquiries were made into his relationship with his male flatmate who was working. If the DSS could prove they were a couple, no benefit would be payable. They weren't a couple, but he was very angry. I wonder why that has occurred. Conservative Members accuse us of blaming the staff of the Employment Service and the Benefits Agency, but we have never said any such thing; it seems that the procedures and the cultures of the organisation, imposed from the highest level, are at fault.

When the Minister replies to the debate, will she clarify one point? It has been drawn to my attention—I hope that it is wrong—that the guidance procedures and, indeed, the blueprint issued to Employment Service officers implementing the jobseeker's allowance severe hardship provisions actually states that it has to be the young person who requests and applies for a severe hardship payment, and that it is not the role of a member of staff interviewing young unemployed people and finding out about their circumstances to suggest that they may qualify for severe hardship payment. I hope that the Minister will clarify that. It has certainly been put to me there are procedures which suggest that it has to be the young person who asks and it cannot be a member of staff who offers advice. If that is true, it is a real problem. Those are the people who are threatened by the new clause, along with lone parents and people with disabilities.

The hon. Member for Hertfordshire, North (Mr. Heald) said that we were on the wrong track when we discussed the number of young people who did not achieve qualifications. I shall say something about that in a moment. First, I want to take up his point that 70 per cent. of young people complete their training courses.

Mr. Heald

I said that 70 per cent. achieve qualifications.

Mr. Burden

The hon. Gentleman said that 70 per cent. emerge with qualifications. I am grateful for that intervention as without it my point would have had no force whatever. There is another way of looking at that statistic: it means that 30 per cent. of young people who complete training courses do not emerge with qualifications. That is a high and worrying statistic and it might have been more constructive if Conservative Members had tried to do something about that statistic, instead of penalising young people who fall foul of the system.

Some 30 per cent. of people who complete training courses do not get a qualification. In total, about 50 per cent. do not end up with a qualification either because they drop out or because they fail to achieve a qualification. Conservative Members say that that is a problem for the young people themselves, but Labour Members disagree with that analysis and we are not alone in doing so.

Studies have suggested that the United Kingdom's performance in vocational training is much worse than that in Germany, producing 50 per cent. fewer people with qualifications, particularly at the lower technical levels. That information was from the Centre for Economic Performance. Literacy and numeracy is cited as a problem for United Kingdom employers and is particularly acute among young people, according to the British Chamber of Commerce. The introduction of non-vocational qualifications has not been smooth and the system is still facing teething troubles, being considered "inappropriate" for unemployed school leavers. That comes from the National Institute Economic Review 1994. In 1993, Professor Smithers from Manchester university, an expert in the field, described the introduction of national vocational qualifications as

a disaster of epic proportions". There are major problems with the quality of training provided in Britain. Rather than do something about that, however, the Government prefer to attack young people. The Government's response is to say, "Hang in there—don't worry about the quality of the training because if you give it up you risk losing benefit."

6 pm

I was pleased to hear the Minister of State say today that there would be a review. If a young person said that training was inappropriate or unsuitable, procedures would be instituted for a review. I was also pleased that, in answer to the hon. Member for Rochdale (Ms Lynne), the Minister gave examples of what might be good cause for dropping out from a course, including conditions at the workplace, such as health considerations, and so on.

I want to test whether Conservative Members are as free thinking as they claim. Because of the problems of training provision, particularly with regard to conditions in training situations for many young people, many trade unions take their responsibilities to trainees very seriously. They make a major effort to represent trainees in the workplace and to improve their conditions, and they do a good job.When the Minister replies, will she say whether the refusal of an employer to recognise a trade union at a workplace in which a trainee was operating, even if the request for trade union representation was supported by a majority of employees and wished for by the trainee who was a member of it, would or could be good cause for dropping out of a training course?

The Government seem to recognise that some things would constitute good cause for giving up a particular training course that was not of good quality. What worries me about that is that if the Government are prepared to institute such procedures and if they are as reliable as the Government say that they are, why, when Opposition Members sought to introduce an amendment in Committee to ensure that training is of a minimum acceptable quality, did every Conservative Member who was present on that day vote against it? It was rejected by 10 votes to nine.

That was the one time in Committee that we could have inserted into the Bill a provision specifying that there should at least be a bottom line with minimum quality conditions for training. The amendment was not prescriptive. It did not set out conditions which had to be met. It simply said that minimum conditions should be prescribed for training. That could be dealt with by way of regulations. Conservative Members love regulations. The Bill is littered with powers for Ministers to specify this or that by way of regulation. Yet when it came to an amendment saying that there should be an obligation on the Government to lay down minimum conditions for quality of training, the Government refused to accept it and they were backed up in that refusal by every Conservative Member who was present that day.

I hope that what the Minister is saying is right. I hope that the reviews do work. Given the Government's performance in Committee and the sort of arguments that Conservative Members have put forward today, however, I am sceptical about that and young people will be fairly sceptical about it, too. They know that that same Government wiped them out from the unemployment statistics, removed a large majority of them from any access to benefit at all and, when they had the chance to lay down proper training provisions, did not do so. And the same Government have turned a blind eye to all the evidence that they have received from bodies such as the Coalition on Young People and Social Security, Youth Aid and the citizens advice bureaux on the operation of the severe hardship provisions and the lack of quality training in Britain.

All those groups have provided ample evidence of the real problems facing young people today. Despite all that evidence, however, the Government have failed on Report to insert any provision in the Bill to improve the quality of training. All that they have chosen to insert is a measure which will penalise young people. Faced with that, I am pretty sceptical about the Government's motives and I am convinced that young people outside will be as well.

Mr. Streeter

This is also the Government who have enabled more young people than ever before in the history of this nation to take part in higher and further education and to further their own lives. This is the Government who have done more in the past two years than any Government in history to bring unemployment down and to create jobs for young people.

It is no wonder that members of the Standing Committee that considered the Bill do not understand the labour market. They do not understand that young people want meaningful jobs. Not one of them has had any experience of the private sector or of job creation. Before they came into the House, all of them languished in the public sector.

I support new clause 6. I understand that the Labour party opposes it, but Labour Members should tell us what sanctions the Labour party would incorporate in its proposals for the small minority of young people who prefer to sit at home, who do not want to get a job or to go on to higher or further education, who want to leave school but are not prepared to go on reasonable training courses, in order to ensure that they have the incentive to take training for their own benefit.

I visit many schools in my constituency, Madam Deputy Speaker, as do you. Most young people are super. They are highly motivated. They know that they want to train for their own benefit and they are committed to their careers. But we have to accept that a small minority of young people drift through life between the ages of 16 and 18. I was concerned recently to learn about some of the messages of despair and hopelessness sent out by some modern day pop groups. We have heard recently of the suicide of Kurt Cobain and one or two other music leaders of this generation.

What kind of example is it to say to young people, as the Labour party appears to be saying in its opposition to new clause 6, that it is all right to stay at home, to remain idle and to take taxpayers' money while doing nothing with their lives—

Ms Eagle

Before the hon. Gentleman gets too much into the hit parade and grunge, will he explain why the Bill treats all those who are unemployed as if they are part of the minority who are work shy about whom he is talking? Is that a fair attitude to take to the entire pool of the unemployed?

Mr. Streeter

I am delighted to reply to that intervention. Young people who are motivated to train, to obtain jobs or to stay on in higher and further education can survive blissfully under these provisions. These provisions are intended for the small minority who do not wish to better their own lives. Anyone who is keen to motivate himself and take up reasonable training need not worry in the slightest about the proposals. That is the one thing that Labour Members do not understand. They cannot tell us how they would deal with the minority of people who prefer to remain idle at home wasting their lives at taxpayers' expense.

Mr. Spring

Does my hon. Friend agree that this is an important principle? The Opposition say that this is a vicious attack on young people. They claim to be the defender of young people. Establishing that is an absolute principle in their opposition to the Bill. Is it not immoral that the Labour party gives absolutely no indication of what it would do in the circumstances to put the matter right?

Mr. Streeter

My hon. Friend is absolutely right and makes a valuable point. I would go further: the Labour party will not even tell us today—in the unlikely event of it getting into Government—whether it would repeal the measures in the proposed legislation with which it strongly disagrees. Much rhetoric has floated across the Chamber, but Labour Members do not have the guts to tell us tonight whether they would repeal the measures set out in the Bill.

It is important that we encourage our young people to make the best of their lives. They are our seed corn. We should invest in their lives for the sake of the nation and for their own sake. The Labour party has offered nothing tonight to help young people in this country but has continued to undermine them.

I strongly support the new clause and this measure.

Mr. McCartney

On behalf of the Opposition, I shall take a few moments of the House's time before the Minister replies for the Government.

I thank all my hon. Friends for the excellent contributions that they made following the devastating attacks by the Government in Committee. As in Committee, the Government have shown no concern for the position of young people. They have shown extreme callousness in dealing with these matters and an inability even to understand the extent of the problems faced by many vulnerable young people as a consequence of unemployment and displacement in their lives.

My hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Hill) made a professional and clinical exposure of Government failures in housing and employment.

My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Burden) highlighted the shambolic nature of the Government's knowledge of unemployed young people.

The hon. Member for Hertfordshire, North (Mr. Heald) has come to be known by Opposition Members as an absolute jobseeker—for a position on the Government Front Bench. One cannot think of any occasion when the hon. Gentleman has not been a supporter of the Government. Even when they fly in the face of overwhelming evidence, he is there. He is one of the faithful going down with the ship. In his contribution, he tried to equate the needs of young people in the 1990s with some spurious attack on trade unions in the 1960s. I speak as someone who was lucky enough in the 1960s to be able to have training in the private sector. I lived and worked in the private sector. It is interesting for children of the 1960s to remember that, when we left school on the Friday, we could start work on the Monday. In fact, over Saturday and Sunday I remember that I had two choices of apprenticeships: I could have been either an apprentice seamen or an electrician in the colliery.

I decided to be an apprentice at sea. In the intervening period after leaving school, I trained as a seaman at the National Sea Training college at Gravesend. I had another job during that summer period—at a proper rate of pay, because it was a trade union-organised place. That was in 1967—a wonderful year as I remember, with flower power and all the rest of it.

Today's young people are the first generation not to be guaranteed a training or job opportunity when they leave school. They are the first generation of people who are unable to be certain that they will advance in social and economic terms, unlike their parents or grandparents. That is the Government's responsibility. The hon. Member for Hertfordshire, North said that the measure was necessary to stop abuse, yet he gave no evidence, not a single case. How many cases have there been? What is the cost of the abuse? Ministers, with all the panoply of the civil service and two of the largest Government Departments—the Department of Employment and the Department of Social Security—could not give us a single instance of abuse with regard to 16 and 17-year-olds. Not a single penny has been misused, yet they propose to undermine the rights of 16 and 17-year-olds.

As for the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. Streeter), not only was he patronising and full of cliches, but he continued where he left off in the Bill. He reminded me of something that Mae West once said: "His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork." Until tonight, I did not realise who she was speaking about. It is obviously the hon. Gentleman. He is the man who said that young people were living blissfully on £27.50. The hon. Gentleman, each and every lunchtime or evening, will spend more on a meal than we expect young people to live on for a week. That is the reality. He said that they should be looking for meaningful jobs.

The Government have destroyed 3 million full-time jobs in the past 16 years. There have been two recessions in the lifetime of the Government. Some 40 per cent. of manufacturing industry has closed; 150,000 apprenticeships have been lost; and sackings in privatised industry have so far cost the taxpayer £1 billion in unemployment benefit—and the hon. Gentleman talks about meaningful jobs. After 16 years of Tory Government, he talked about the drug culture undermining young people. Thatcherite policies have led us to the crime and drug culture, denying opportunities to thousands of our young people.

6.15 pm
Ms Rachel Squire (Dunfermline, West)

Does my hon. Friend agree that the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. Streeter) has been directly responsible for encouraging the Government to cut 10,000 jobs from the Rosyth area by constantly calling for defence cuts to be made in Scotland and not in his part of England? That shows me that he is not, in fact, in favour of a United Kingdom but just wants everything centred on Plymouth.

Mr. McCartney

The hon. Gentleman shows callous disregard to anyone seeking employment.

The Minister herself has revealed again today not only callous indifference to the situation but the Government's sanctimonious view of the "deserving" and "undeserving" poor. For every year in which the Conservative Government have continued, there have been more and more "undeserving" poor. It is all an excuse to exclude people from the system. So far this year, benefit disqualifications have doubled to 113,000 because of inadequate job searches. It is interesting to note that the Economic and Social Research Council said that the problem is one not of a lack of commitment or keenness by young people but of insufficient jobs in training places being provided by the Government. That is the truth. The problem is simply that the Government do not care after 16 years about the future of our young people. For that reason, the Government will go down at the next election, and deservedly so, and we will have a Labour Government, who will invest in and have a commitment to all our young people.

Miss Widdecombe

The worth of the new clause is proved by the utter feebleness of the debate from Opposition Front Benchers. First, they started by talking about 7,900 jobs that have been lost. Will they tell us, please, about the 1.9 million jobs into which people were placed last year? Will they tell us how many jobs have been created per new day? No, they want to talk only about lost jobs. They want only to depress people, to trade on people's misery, for political advantage. We can always tell how well things are going by how glum and dismal the Opposition look.

The hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Hill) said that youth unemployment was about 20 per cent. Let us look at the very labour force survey that he used. Let us look at the International Labour Organisation definition of unemployment. It includes, as he will know if he studies the survey more closely, many people who are in full-time education. If he looks at the latest figures for autumn 1994 in the same survey, he will see that only 8 per cent.—I repeat, 8 per cent.—of 16 and 17-year-olds were not in education, in jobs or in training. Furthermore, he tried to depress his constituents by saying that the Government, after the South Thames TEC had gone into liquidation, were making no effort to replace it or to cover the provision that it had made. He knows that that is not accurate. Indeed, were I not constrained by parliamentary tradition I might use a word other than "not accurate".

The hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Burden) asked whether it was true that guidance had been issued saying that officers of the Benefits Agency or the Department of Employment may not raise the issue of whether a young person should apply for benefit. I am pleased to confirm that no such guidance has been issued, nor will it be. At present, some severe hardship payments are dealt with by the Benefits Agency. The agency has specialised staff to help young people to make their claims, and the careers service is under a contractual obligation to endeavour to identify potential benefit claimants and then refer them to the appropriate agency. The reverse of the hon. Gentleman's suggestion is true; once again, an attempt to frighten the vulnerable simply will not work.

The hon. Member for Northfield also asked whether it would count as "good cause" if a young person turned down a training place because the employer involved did not recognise a trade union. That is most unlikely to constitute good cause. If a trade dispute were in progress, we should probably take into account exactly the same considerations as we apply to adults in a different clause.

The hon. Member for Makerfield said that our youth cohort study was based on a selective sample. In fact, it was based on responses to postal questionnaires from between 15,000 and 20,000 16 and 17-year-olds. Moreover, it was conducted on behalf of the Department of Employment and the Department for Education by Social and Community Planning Research. Is the hon. Gentleman impugning that body? If he is, he will have to refute—

Mr. McCartney


Miss Widdecombe

I shall give way in a minute.

Mr. McCartney


Miss Widdecombe

I shall give way in a minute.

Mr. McCartney


Miss Widdecombe

I shall give way in a minute! Sit down.

Mr. McCartney


Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Member knows full well that if the Minister, or any other hon. Member, does not give way he must resume his seat.

Miss Widdecombe

I am most grateful to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for containing this disorderly behaviour. I was merely saying to the hon. Member for Makerfield that if he wished to impugn the veracity of the research of the body to which I referred, he would be impugning a good deal that he often prays in aid. I shall now give way to him.

Mr. McCartney

Those whose veracity I am impugning are the hon. Lady and other Ministers. The fact is that, as Mr. Maples said, no one believes what they say any more.

Miss Widdecombe

If that is all that the hon. Gentleman can say, it is clear that what he has said about our cohort survey has been utterly defeated. Moreover, the fact that he was forced to struggle in that way says something about the hopeless quality of the Opposition—a hopeless quality that we have observed throughout the debate.

The hon. Gentleman told us that some young people could not make the seriousness of their position understood. He did not tell us that there were specially trained officers to assess all applications by 16 and 17-year-olds—officers attached to every branch of the Benefits Agency, who will be attached to jobcentres under the new rules. It is simply not true that, as the hon. Gentleman claimed, young people leaving care are denied benefit and left on the streets; it is not true that, as he told us, housing is not taken into account; it is not true that, as he told us so many times, we force people on to inadequate training schemes.

Let us be clear about this. I repeat what I said earlier: 78 per cent. of trainees who complete their training go on to jobs, further education or training. That cannot be poor quality. The YT programme provides quality training to NVQ2 level, and 71 per cent. of trainees who complete their planned training in England and Wales obtain qualifications. Those are the facts, together with the fact that I have just mentioned: the cohort study showed that 78 per cent. of respondents considered their training either excellent or good.

Young people themselves reject the Opposition's claim that training is inadequate. The Opposition's own ILO survey, to which the Trades Union Congress is so attached, rejects their claim that more young people are unemployed than we say. We have lower than average youth unemployment.

The fact is that, in two hours—of which the hon. Member for Makerfield took nearly an hour—the Opposition have established not a single fact that would cause any rational person to reject the new clause. I urge the House to support it.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 268, Noes 230.

Division No. 113] [6.24 pm
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Banks, Robert (Harrogate)
Aitken, Rt Hon Jonathan Bates, Michael
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) Batiste, Spencer
Allason, Rupert (Torbay) Bellingham, Henry
Amess, David Bendall, Vivian
Arbuthnot, James Beresford, Sir Paul
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv) Booth, Hartley
Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E) Boswell, Tim
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Bottomley, Peter (Eltham)
Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset) Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia
Banks, Matthew (Southport) Bowden, Sir Andrew
Bowis, John Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes Grylls, Sir Michael
Brandreth, Gyles Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Brazier, Julian Hague, William
Bright, Sir Graham Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archibald
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Hampson, Dr Keith
Brown, M (Brigg & Cl'thorpes) Hanley, Rt Hon Jeremy
Browning, Mrs Angela Hannam, Sir John
Bruce, Ian (Dorset) Harris, David
Budgen, Nicholas Haselhurst, Alan
Burns, Simon Hawkins, Nick
Burt, Alistair Hawksley, Warren
Butler, Peter Hayes, Jerry
Carlisle, John (Luton North) Heald, Oliver
Carlisle, Sir Kenneth (Lincoln) Heathcoat-Amory, David
Carrington, Matthew Hendry, Charles
Carttiss, Michael Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence
Chapman, Sydney Hill, James (Southampton Test)
Churchill, Mr Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham)
Clappison, James Horam, John
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Hordem, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ru'clif) Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Coe, Sebastian Hughes, Robert G (Harrow W)
Congdon, David Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)
Conway, Derek Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st) Hunter, Andrew
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Jack, Michael
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Cormack, Sir Patrick Jenkin, Bernard
Couchman, James Jessel, Toby
Cran, James Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon) Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Davies, Quentin (Stamford) Jones, Robert B (W Hertfdshr)
Day, Stephen Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Deva, Nirj Joseph Key, Robert
Devlin, Tim King, Rt Hon Tom
Dicks, Terry Kirkhope, Timothy
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen Knapman, Roger
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)
Dover, Den Knight, Greg (Derby N)
Duncan, Alan Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n)
Duncan-Smith, Iain Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Dunn, Bob Lamont, Rt Hon Norman
Durant, Sir Anthony Lawrence, Sir Ivan
Dykes, Hugh Legg, Barry
Eggar, Rt Hon Tim Leigh, Edward
Elletson, Harold Lennox-Boyd, Sir Mark
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield) Lidington, David
Evans, Roger (Monmouth) Lightbown, David
Evennett, David Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Faber, David Lord, Michael
Fabricant, Michael Luff, Peter
Fenner, Dame Peggy Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Fishburn, Dudley MacKay, Andrew
Forman, Nigel Maclean, David
Forsyth, Rt Hon Michael (Stirling) McLoughlin, Patrick
Forth, Eric McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick
Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley) Madel, Sir David
French, Douglas Maitland, Lady Olga
Fry, Sir Peter Malone, Gerald
Gale, Roger Mans, Keith
Gallie, Phil Marlow, Tony
Gardiner, Sir George Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Gill, Christopher Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Gillan, Cheryl Mates, Michael
Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair Mawhinney, Rt Hon Dr Brian
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Merchant, Piers
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Mills, Iain
Gorst, Sir John Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Grant, Sir A (SW Cambs) Mitchell, Sir David (NW Hants)
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) Moate, Sir Roger
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Monro, Sir Hector
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Spink, Dr Robert
Nelson, Anthony Spring, Richard
Neubert, Sir Michael Sproat, Iain
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)
Nicholls, Patrick Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Stephen, Michael
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Stewart, Allan
Norris, Steve Streeter, Gary
Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley Sumberg, David
Oppenheim, Phillip Sweeney, Walter
Ottaway, Richard Tapsell, Sir Peter
Page, Richard Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Paice, James Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Patnick, Sir Irvine Temple-Morris, Peter
Patten, Rt Hon John Thomason, Roy
Pawsey, James Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Thornton, Sir Malcolm
Pickles, Eric Townend, John (Bridlington)
Porter, Barry (Wirral S) Townsend, Cyril D (Bexl'yh'th)
Porter, David (Waveney) Tracey, Richard
Portillo, Rt Hon Michael Tredinnick, David
Powell, William (Corby) Trend, Michael
Rathbone, Tim Trotter, Neville
Renton, Rt Hon Tim Twinn, Dr Ian
Richards, Rod Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Riddick, Graham Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm Walden, George
Robathan, Andrew Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn Ward, John
Robinson, Mark (Somerton) Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne) Waterson, Nigel
Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent) Watts, John
Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela Wells, Bowen
Ryder, Rt Hon Richard Whitney, Ray
Sackville, Tom Whittingdale, John
Sainsbury, Rt Hon Sir Timothy Widdecombe, Ann
Scott, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Wiggin, Sir Jerry
Shaw, David (Dover) Wilkinson, John
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey) Wilshire, David
Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'fld)
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge) Wolfson, Mark
Shersby, Michael Wood, Timothy
Sims, Roger Yeo, Tim
Skeet, Sir Trevor Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Soames, Nicholas Tellers for the Ayes:
Spencer, Sir Derek Dr. Liam Fox and
Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset) Mr. David Willetts.
Abbott, Ms Diane Brown, N (N'c'tle upon Tyne E)
Adams, Mrs Irene Burden, Richard
Ainger, Nick Byers, Stephen
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Caborn, Richard
Allen, Graham Callaghan, Jim
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Armstrong, Hilary Campbell-Savours, D N
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Canavan, Dennis
Ashton, Joe Cann, Jamie
Austin-Walker, John Carlile, Alexander (Montgomery)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Chidgey, David
Barnes, Harry Chisholm, Malcolm
Barron, Kevin Church, Judith
Battle, John Clapham, Michael
Bayley, Hugh Clark, Dr David (South Shields)
Beckett, Rt Hon Margaret Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)
Bell, Stuart Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Clelland, David
Benton, Joe Clwyd, Mrs Ann
Berry, Roger Coffey, Ann
Blair, Rt Hon Tony Cohen, Harry
Blunkett, David Connarty, Michael
Boateng, Paul Corbett, Robin
Bradley, Keith Corston, Jean
Bray, Dr Jeremy Cousins, Jim
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE) Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Dafis, Cynog Llwyd, Elfyn
Dalyell, Tam Loyden, Eddie
Darling, Alistair Lynne, Ms Liz
Davidson, Ian McAllion, John
Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral) McAvoy, Thomas
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) McCartney, Ian
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Macdonald, Calum
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l) McFall, John
Denham, John McKelvey, William
Dixon, Don Mackinlay, Andrew
Donohoe, Brian H McMaster, Gordon
Dowd, Jim McNamara, Kevin
Dunnachie, Jimmy Madden, Max
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Maddock, Diana
Eagle, Ms Angela Mandelson, Peter
Eastham, Ken Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Enright, Derek Martlew, Eric
Etherington, Bill Maxton, John
Evans, John (St Helens N) Meacher, Michael
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Meale, Alan
Fisher, Mark Michael, Alun
Flynn, Paul Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Foster, Rt Hon Derek Milburn, Alan
Foulkes, George Miller, Andrew
Fraser, John Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)
Fyfe, Maria Moonie, Dr Lewis
Galbraith, Sam Morgan, Rhodri
Galloway, George Morley, Elliot
Gapes, Mike Morris, Rt Hon Alfred (Wy'nshawe)
Garrett, John Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Gerrard, Neil Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon)
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Mowlam, Marjorie
Godman, Dr Norman A Mudie, George
Godsiff, Roger Mullin, Chris
Gordon, Mildred Murphy, Paul
Graham, Thomas O'Brien, Mike (N W'kshire)
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham) O'Hara, Edward
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) Olner, Bill
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) O'Neill, Martin
Grocott, Bruce Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Gunnell, John Patchett, Terry
Hall, Mike Pearson, Ian
Hanson, David Pickthall, Colin
Harman, Ms Harriet Pike, Peter L
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Pope, Greg
Henderson, Doug Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Heppell, John Prentice, Bridget (Lew'm E)
Hill, Keith (Streatham) Prentice, Gordon
Hinchliffe, David Prescott, Rt Hon John
Hoey, Kate Primarolo, Dawn
Hogg, Norman (Cumbernauld) Purchase, Ken
Hoon, Geoffrey Quin, Ms Joyce
Howarth, George (Knowsley North) Radice, Giles
Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd) Randall, Stuart
Hoyle, Doug Raynsford, Nick
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N) Redmond, Martin
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Reid, Dr John
Hughes, Roy (Newport E) Rendel, David
Hutton, John Robinson, Geoffrey (Co'try NW)
Ingram, Adam Roche, Mrs Barbara
Jackson, Glenda (H'stead) Rooker, Jeff
Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H) Rooney, Terry
Jamieson, David Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side) Ruddock, Joan
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW) Sedgemore, Brian
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham) Sheerman, Barry
Jowell, Tessa Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Kennedy, Charles (Ross,C&S) Short, Clare
Kennedy, Jane Simpson, Alan
Khabra, Piara S Skinner, Dennis
Kilfoyle, Peter Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Lewis, Terry Smith, Chris (Isl'ton S & F'sbury)
Litherland, Robert Smyth, The Reverend Martin
Livingstone, Ken Soley, Clive
Spearing, Nigel Turner, Dennis
Spellar, John Vaz, Keith
Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W) Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Steel, Rt Hon Sir David Watson, Mike
Steinberg, Gerry Welsh, Andrew
Stevenson, George Wicks, Malcolm
Stott, Roger Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
Strang, Dr. Gavin Wise, Audrey
Straw, Jack Worthington, Tony
Sutcliffe, Gerry Wray, Jimmy
Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury) Wright, Dr Tony
Taylor, Rt Hon John D (Strgfd) Young, David (Bolton SE)
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck) Tellers for the Noes:
Tipping, Paddy Mr. John Owen Jones and
Touhig, Don Mr. John Cummings.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

Order for Third Reading read.

6.37 pm
Miss Widdecombe

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

I dearly wish that, during the proceedings on the Bill, both in Committee and in the House, the shadow Chancellor had been present because, in their opposition to the Bill, Labour Members fell back on their usual recourse—to promise, to oppose and to table amendments that would cost money. Let us consider what they asked us to do, and then ask them whether they would undertake to do it.

Labour Members wanted to change our rates of contribution, at a cost of £30 million. They wanted to reintroduce an age limit of 55, at a cost of £40 million. They wanted to carry back adult dependant increases, at a cost of £10 million. They wanted a disregard for earnings, at a cost of £15 million in jobseeker's allowance, £50 million in housing benefit and £10 million in council tax benefit—

Mr. Kevin Barron (Rother Valley)


Miss Widdecombe

It would have been rubbish if we had accepted the amendments.

Labour Members wanted to remove the waiting days for income-based JSA, at a cost of £40 million. They wanted to extend further education guided learning hours to 21 a week, at a cost of £40 million. They opposed savings of £180 million. That is the Labour party at its unreconstructed worst. Its answer to everything is, "Spend, spend, spend." When we ask whether the Labour party will do the spending, suddenly it has no policies. It opposes what we are doing, but has nothing to put in its place. At least the hon. Member for Rochdale (Ms Lynne) is honest. [Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse)

Order. Will the House quieten down a bit? I remind the Minister that speeches must deal with the Bill.

Miss Widdecombe

Indeed, Mr. Deputy Speaker, all the provisions that we have introduced are in the Bill. The Labour party opposes them. The proposals that it would like to include would cost all those millions of pounds.

I was congratulating the hon. Member for Rochdale on her honesty. She made a pledge that an incoming Liberal Government would restore the contribution from six months to 12 months. She made other pledges to restore benefit for 16 to 17-year-olds. The only trouble is that there will never be a Liberal Government. Oh, the joys of irresponsibility, of being able to promise everything, and of knowing that one will never be called on to deliver a thing.

The Bill provides for many winners, whom we never heard about. We did not hear the Opposition congratulate us on providing for 150,000 winners through the back-to-work bonus, for 120,000 winners through the national insurance contribution holiday, for 2,000 winners through the employment on trial scheme, for 50,000 winners through the £10 couples disregard, for 10,000 winners through national insurance credits for all work under 16 hours, and for even more winners through the 24-hour work rule. No, no, no—we heard nothing from Opposition Members about all those winners, but my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth) welcomed them.

The Bill provides a proper system whereby an agreement exists between the taxpayer and the person who takes benefits that the taxpayer pays for.

Mr. Alan Howarth

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Miss Widdecombe

I had not realised that my hon. Friend was trying to intervene. There was so much racket coming from the Opposition.

Mr. Howarth

Of course I welcome the winners, as my hon. Friend describes them, and any advantages for unemployed people that emerge from the Bill. She catalogued a series of additional costs that might be incurred, which add up to some hundreds of millions of pounds. Will she confirm that, in consequence of the national insurance contributions increase that has been placed on employees, the Government will raise an extra £2.2 billion? Does she look forward to a world of benefit cuts and boot camps?

Miss Widdecombe

I have made no such proposals for such a dismal world. My hon. Friend refers to the amounts raised in national insurance contributions, but he knows that the fund must be kept in balance and that we spend today what we collect today. He knows that it is a "pay as you go" fund, and that any Government must keep the fund in balance. He should welcome the prudence of the Government, who actually keep it in balance.

I am looking forward not to a world, as my hon. Friend described it, of benefit cuts, but to a world of focused and targeted benefits for people in need. That is the sort of world we want to see, and that is proposed in the Bill. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for welcoming the winners, which is a jolly sight more than the Opposition have done. I urge the House to support this entirely prudent, just and caring measure.

6.42 pm
Mr. Keith Bradley (Manchester, Withington)

Time is short, so I shall not indulge in the illogical rantings and ravings of the Minister. From the start, and throughout the passage of the Bill, the Labour party set out to scrutinise the legislation line by line. I should like to commend my hon. Friends on the diligence with which they have undertaken that operation.

I thank all the organisations throughout the country—citizens advice bureaux, disability groups, the Church Action on Poverty group, trade union groups, unemployment groups, and low-pay groups—that have expressed fear and concern about the measures. Without their help, we could not have scrutinised the Bill and represented people's needs as effectively as we did in Committee. It is sad, however, that, throughout our deliberations, the Government stubbornly refused to change any policy of substance, except to the detriment of the unemployed, especially the young unemployed. They will push the Bill through the House tonight.

At the beginning of Committee stage, I said that Opposition Members would show that the main purpose of the legislation was to cut public expenditure, through the Government's continuing reductions in the social security budget and through reducing the amount of money available to unemployed people. Our deliberations have cruelly exposed that purpose.

The Bill is part of an on-going process that the Government have undertaken, as we all know from the Social Security (Incapacity for Work) Act 1994. We know that one cannot take £1.5 billion out of the social security budget without inflicting harm and misery on sick and disabled people. That will be the result of that Act.

The Bill, which contains provisions on what is ironically called the jobseeker's allowance, does not create a single job. Instead, it inflicts further hardship on people without a job. Let us remember that the jobseeker's allowance is about undermining the contributory benefit system by cutting benefits from 12 to six months, and about forcing people on to means-tested benefit after a mere six months.

As the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth) rightly said, that is being done at a time when national insurance contributions have increased from 9 to 10 per cent., resulting in a reported extra £2.2 billion for the Treasury. That is what we have—pay more and get less from the Government. That means more means-testing. It will especially affect people with savings, people who have lost their jobs and have redundancy payments, and people who have lost their jobs and have personal or industrial injury payments. They will be forced to use those benefits six months earlier and to have means-tested benefits. They will be forced into the poverty trap. Those are the consequences of the legislation.

In our deliberations on the Bill, we made much of the plight of the disabled—we make no apology for that. I predict that the chaos and hardship that will arise from incapacity benefit when it is introduced on 13 April, and the interface that that will have with the Bill when it is enacted in 1996, will result in a major scandal. It will be similar to the Child Support Agency, scandal, but it will cause extra misery and hardship for sick and disabled people.

Crucially, we have continually highlighted the fact that the Government expect people to take a job at whatever level of pay the Government believe is right. There is no lower level of pay. The Government are prepared to let people accept pay almost without an hourly rate. That is the real effect of the legislation. That is why we will continue to fight it in Parliament. That is why, after the next election, so many Conservative Members will be seeking jobs, and that is why we will vote against the Bill tonight.

6.37 pm
Ms Lynne

The Bill widens inequality in society. It will debar some people from receiving benefit, reduce benefit for others, and do nothing to alleviate the poverty trap. In the worst case scenario, it could cause more homelessness, more poverty and more despair. Why have the Government introduced it? It is to save the Treasury money. I am not against that, but it should not be done at the expense of some of the most vulnerable people in society.

The unemployed are vulnerable. They feel that they are already at the bottom of the heap. They feel degraded and have low self-esteem. What do the Government do about that? They introduce the Jobseekers Bill and, more important, the jobseeker's agreement, supposedly to help people back into work. That builds on the restart scheme and on the humiliation that some people suffer when they go for restart interviews, especially older people who are interviewed by a young interviewer who ends up lecturing them about what they should do.

Now we have the jobseeker's agreement. They can now lecture them about their appearance. I know that most of those interviewers will be good, but human nature dictates that some people will abuse that power. Whatever people have earned in the past, they will be forced to take a job after 13 weeks, no matter what pay is being offered. If they do not do so, they will end up with no money, which means more humiliation or even worse.

Surely the Government cannot want that, or perhaps they do not know what it is like to be unemployed. Perhaps no Conservative Member has ever been unemployed or realised the sense of failure that it causes. All people should be treated with dignity and respect, whatever their circumstances.

We need proper training for the staff who conduct the jobseekers' interviews. I asked on Second Reading and in a written question, how much money will be provided for training? We were told £71 million, but is that for overall training or just for disablement employment advisers? More money needs to be spent on training staff if the jobseeker's agreement is to work at all.

We have already debated the shortcomings of the new arrangements for the 16 to 18-year-olds, but what about the 18 to 25-year-olds? I have never seen any sense in 18 to 25-year-olds on income support getting less than anyone else. How can a married couple, both aged 24 and with children, be expected to live on less than someone aged 25?

Some people in those circumstances will have paid national insurance contributions for eight years, from the ages of 16 to 24. They are entitled to something in return, but the Government are reducing their benefit to £36.15. I do not think that any Conservative or Opposition Member could manage on that sum. Extra hardship will be caused to all those 18 to 25-year-olds, regardless of whether they paid national insurance contributions. If they did pay, they are entitled to something in return.

The Government estimate that 250,000 people will be worse off and 90,000 will not qualify for means-tested benefit under the Bill, but what about the unemployed with savings? Those who have savings of more than £8,000 will receive nothing after six months, and those who have savings of between £3,000 and £8,000 will have their benefit reduced after six months. If someone is unemployed and has a working partner, that person will receive no jobseeker's allowance after six months.

Women will be the hardest hit, because they are more likely to have a partner in work. The cut from 12 to six months' contributory benefit is an absolute disgrace, and should be reversed.

Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington)

The hon. Lady should vote Labour.

Ms Lynne

No, because the Labour party has refused to say whether it would reverse the cut from 12 to six months.

We debated on Report how disabled people will be disadvantaged. When the 220,000 people have come off incapacity benefit, they will go to the employment exchange or to the Employment Service, which will find it extremely difficult to cope. The Minister did not give a satisfactory reply to my questions yesterday on that subject. Even after our debates, no one is convinced by the Government's arguments.

The Bill is a step in the wrong direction. We need proper back-to-work packages, proper training, proper incentives and, above all, proper jobs. We do not need this draconian measure, which is designed not to help the unemployed but to penalise them, even though the majority are unemployed through no fault of their own.

6.52 pm
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Social Security (Mr. Roger Evans)

The objectives of the Bill, which I commend to the House, are to improve the operations of the labour market, to create jobs, to promote enterprise, to introduce a modern, streamlined system for delivering benefits, and to target revenues better.

Mr. McCartney

And to save money.

Mr. Evans

Yes, and to save money. The Opposition have talked about nothing but savage cuts, but the Bill should be considered in context as part of the Government's wider programme of job promotion. [Laughter.] Yes, the savings under the Bill when it is up and running will be £270 million a year, but the Budget package of £700 million-worth of incentives is the other side of the coin.

I shall not weary the House at this hour with details of the gainers under this bundle of measures, which my hon. Friend the Minister of State has clearly—[Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The House must settle down.

Mr. McCartney

On a point of Order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Did the Minister say a "bundle" of measures or a "bungle" of measures?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

That is not a point of order for the Chair, as the hon. Gentleman knows full well.

Mr. Evans

I remind the hon. Gentleman of the back-to-work bonus of 150,000 gainers, the housing benefit run-on which will help people back into work, and the introduction of the child care disregard in family credit, but I end with this point: the national insurance contributions holiday, which will benefit 120,000 people.

The national insurance contributions holiday was the one proposal that members of Labour's Front Bench welcomed. They not only accepted the principle but tabled amendments Nos. 3 and 4 to clause 23 to increase the number of beneficiaries from about120,000 to about 500,000. They had no doubt that that would be the effect of their proposals. They had no need of empirical studies as to the effect of that course on the labour market, but were satisfied by their own theoretical analysis, which happens to be right.

If one lowers the cost to employers of employing labour, there is an incentive to employ more people but the converse of that principle, which inexorably follows in logic, is that, if one increases the cost to employers of employing labour, they can afford to employ fewer people.

Mr. Alan Howarth

Will my hon. Friend acknowledge that there is an extremely important distinction to be made between reducing the overhead costs of employing labour and cutting pay?

Mr. Evans

For the purposes of work incentives, there is no distinction whatsoever—it comes out of the bottom line. If one has the same amount to spend on one's work force and is made to give them more of it, one can afford to employ fewer people.

There is therefore a bizarre contradiction at the heart of Labour's objections to the Bill. The Labour party supports the national insurance contributions holiday but, at the same time, promotes the minimum wage. We heard that the minimum wage is, in effect, going to be the minimum prescribed sum for which anyone is allowed to work. We shall see the abolition of family credit, in effect, but Labour will not tell us what the minimum wage will be.

Labour's critique of this part of the Bill, rather like its critique of the whole Bill, has been nothing but empty rhetoric and deception, a morally and intellectually bankrupt analysis with no coherence. Let us be clear that the Labour party's approach will simply create more unemployment.

I commend the Bill to the House.

Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time:—

The House divided: Ayes 269, Noes 239.

Division No. 114] [6.58 pm
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Brown, M (Brigg & Cl'thorpes)
Aitken, Rt Hon Jonathan Browning, Mrs Angela
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) Bruce, Ian (Dorset)
Allason, Rupert (Torbay) Budgen, Nicholas
Amess, David Burns, Simon
Arbuthnot, James Burt, Alistair
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv) Butler, Peter
Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E) Carlisle, John (Luton North)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Carlisle, Sir Kenneth (Lincoln)
Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset) Carrington, Matthew
Banks, Matthew (Southport) Carttiss, Michael
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Cash, William
Batiste, Spencer Channon, Rt Hon Paul
Bellingham, Henry Churchill, Mr
Bendall, Vivian Clappison, James
Beresford, Sir Paul Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Booth, Hartley Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ru'clif)
Boswell, Tim Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham) Coe, Sebastian
Bowden, Sir Andrew Congdon, David
Bowis, John Conway, Derek
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st)
Brandreth, Gyles Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Brazier, Julian Cope, Rt Hon Sir John
Bright, Sir Graham Cormack, Sir Patrick
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Couchman, James
Cran, James Jessel, Toby
Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon) Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Davies, Quentin (Stamford) Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Day, Stephen Jones, Robert B (W Hertfdshr)
Deva, Nirj Joseph Jopling, Rt Ron Michael
Devlin, Tim Key, Robert
Dicks, Terry King, Rt Hon Tom
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen Kirkhope, Timothy
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Knapman, Roger
Dover, Den Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)
Duncan, Alan Knight, Greg (Derby N)
Duncan-Smith, Iain Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n)
Dunn, Bob Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Durant, Sir Anthony Lamont, Rt Hon Norman
Dykes, Hugh Lawrence, Sir Ivan
Eggar, Rt Hon Tim Legg, Barry
Elletson, Harold Leigh, Edward
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter Lennox-Boyd, Sir Mark
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield) Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Evans, Roger (Monmouth) Lidington, David
Evennett, David Lightbown, David
Faber, David Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Fabricant, Michael Lord, Michael
Fenner, Dame Peggy Luff, Peter
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Fishburn, Dudley MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Forman, Nigel MacKay, Andrew
Forsyth, Rt Hon Michael (Stirling) Maclean, David
Forth, Eric McLoughlin, Patrick
Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring) McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick
Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley) Madel, Sir David
French, Douglas Maitland, Lady Olga
Fry, Sir Peter Malone, Gerald
Gale, Roger Mans, Keith
Gallie, Phil Marlow, Tony
Gardiner, Sir George Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Gill, Christopher Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Gillan, Cheryl Mates, Michael
Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair Mawhinney, Rt Hon Dr Brian
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Merchant, Piers
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Mills, Iain
Gorst, Sir John Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Grant, Sir A (SW Cambs) Mitchell, Sir David (NW Hants)
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) Moate, Sir Roger
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Monro, Sir Hector
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N) Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Grylls, Sir Michael Nelson, Anthony
Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn Neubert, Sir Michael
Hague, William Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archibald Nicholls, Patrick
Hampson, Dr Keith Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Hanley, Rt Hon Jeremy Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Hannam, Sir John Norris, Steve
Harris, David Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley
Haselhurst, Alan Oppenheim, Phillip
Hawkins, Nick Ottaway, Richard
Hawksley, Warren Page, Richard
Hayes, Jerry Paice, James
Heald, Oliver Patnick, Sir Irvine
Heathcoat-Amory, David Patten, Rt Hon John
Hendry, Charles Pawsey, James
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence Pickles, Eric
Hill, James (Southampton Test) Porter, Barry (Wirral S)
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham) Porter, David (Waveney)
Horam, John Portillo, Rt Hon Michael
Hordern, Rt Hon Sir Peter Powell, William (Corby)
Howard, Rt Hon Michael Rathbone, Tim
Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford) Renton, Rt Hon Tim
Hughes, Robert G (Harrow W) Richards, Rod
Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W) Riddick, Graham
Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne) Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm
Hunter, Andrew Robathan, Andrew
Jack, Michael Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn
Jackson, Robert (Wantage) Robinson, Mark (Somerton)
Jenkin, Bernard Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Ross, William (E Londonderry) Thomason, Roy
Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent) Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela Thornton, Sir Malcolm
Ryder, Rt Hon Richard Townend, John (Bridlington)
Sackville, Tom Townsend, Cyril D (Bexl'yh'th)
Sainsbury, Rt Hon Sir Timothy Tracey, Richard
Scott, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Tredinnick, David
Shaw, David (Dover) Trend, Michael
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey) Trotter, Neville
Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian Twinn, Dr Ian
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge) Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Shersby, Michael Walden, George
Sims, Roger Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Skeet, Sir Trevor Ward, John
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Smyth, The Reverend Martin Waterson, Nigel
Soames, Nicholas Watts, John
Spencer, Sir Derek Wells, Bowen
Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset) Whitney, Ray
Spink, Dr Robert Whittingdale, John
Spring, Richard Widdecombe, Ann
Sproat, Iain Wiggin, Sir Jerry
Squire, Robin (Hornchurch) Willetts, David
Wilshire, David
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Stephen, Michael Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)
Stewart, Allan Wolfson, Mark
Streeter, Gary Wood, Timothy
Sumberg, David Yeo, Tim
Sweeney, Walter Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Ian (Esher) Tellers for the Ayes:
Taylor, John M (Solihull) Mr. Michael Bates and
Temple-Morris, Peter Mr. Sydney Chapman.
Abbott, Ms Diane Church, Judith
Adams, Mrs Irene Clapham, Michael
Ainger, Nick Clark, Dr David (South Shields)
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)
Allen, Graham Clelland, David
Alton, David Clwyd, Mrs Ann
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Coffey, Ann
Armstrong, Hilary Cohen, Harry
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Connarty, Michael
Ashton, Joe Corbett, Robin
Austin-Walker, John Corbyn, Jeremy
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Corston, Jean
Barnes, Harry Cousins, Jim
Barron, Kevin Cummings, John
Battle, John Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)
Bayley, Hugh Dafis, Cynog
Beckett, Rt Hon Margaret Dalyell, Tam
Bell, Stuart Darling, Alistair
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Davidson, Ian
Bermingham, Gerald Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral)
Berry, Roger Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Blair, Rt Hon Tony Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)
Blunkett, David Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l)
Boateng, Paul Denham, John
Bradley, Keith Dixon, Don
Bray, Dr Jeremy Donohoe, Brian H
Brown, N (N'c'tle upon Tyne E) Dowd, Jim
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Dunnachie, Jimmy
Burden, Richard Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Byers, Stephen Eagle, Ms Angela
Caborn, Richard Eastham, Ken
Callaghan, Jim Enright, Derek
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Etherington, Bill
Campbell-Savours, D N Evans, John (St Helens N)
Canavan, Dennis Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Cann, Jamie Fisher, Mark
Carlile, Alexander (Montgomery) Flynn, Paul
Chidgey, David Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Chisholm, Malcolm Foulkes, George
Fraser, John Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side)
Fyfe, Maria Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Galbraith, Sam Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW)
Galloway, George Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Gapes, Mike Jowell, Tessa
Garrett, John Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
George, Bruce Keen, Alan
Gerrard, Neil Kennedy, Charles (Ross,C&S)
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn)
Godman, Dr Norman A Khabra, Piara S
Godsiff, Roger Kilfoyle, Peter
Golding, Mrs Llin Lewis, Terry
Gordon, Mildred Litherland, Robert
Graham, Thomas Livingstone, Ken
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham) Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) Llwyd, Elfyn
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Loyden, Eddie
Grocott, Bruce Lynne, Ms Liz
Gunnell, John McAllion, John
Hall, Mike McAvoy, Thomas
Hanson, David McCartney, Ian
Harman, Ms Harriet Macdonald, Calum
Harvey, Nick McFall, John
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy McKelvey, William
Henderson, Doug Mackinlay, Andrew
Heppell, John McMaster, Gordon
Hill, Keith (Streatham) McNamara, Kevin
Hinchliffe, David Madden, Max
Hoey, Kate Maddock, Diana
Hogg, Norman (Cumbernauld) Mandelson, Peter
Hoon, Geoffrey Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A) Martlew, Eric
Howarth, George (Knowsley North) Maxton, John
Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd) Meacher, Michael
Hoyle, Doug Meale, Alan
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N) Michael, Alun
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Hughes, Roy (Newport E) Milburn, Alan
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Miller, Andrew
Hutton, John Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)
Ingram, Adam Moonie, Dr Lewis
Jackson, Glenda (H'stead) Morgan, Rhodri
Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H) Morley, Elliot
Jamieson, David Morris, Rt Hon Alfred (Wy'nshawe)
Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley) Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon) Short, Clare
Mowlam, Marjorie Simpson, Alan
Mudie, George Skinner, Dennis
Mullin, Chris Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Murphy, Paul Smith, Chris (Isl'ton S & F'sbury)
O'Brien, Mike (N W'kshire) Soley, Clive
O'Hara, Edward Spearing, Nigel
Olner, Bill Spellar, John
O'Neill, Martin Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W)
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Steel, Rt Hon Sir David
Patchett, Terry Steinberg, Gerry
Pearson, Ian Stevenson, George
Pickthall, Colin Stott, Roger
Pike, Peter L Strang, Dr. Gavin
Pope, Greg Straw, Jack
Powell, Ray (Ogmore) Sutcliffe, Gerry
Prentice, Bridget (Lew'm E) Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle) Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Prescott, Rt Hon John Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Primarolo, Dawn Tipping, Paddy
Purchase, Ken Touhig, Don
Quin, Ms Joyce Turner, Dennis
Radice, Giles Vaz, Keith
Radice, Giles Vaz, Keith
Randall, Stuart Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Raynsford, Nick Watson, Mike
Redmond, Martin Welsh, Andrew
Reid, Dr John Wicks, Malcolm
Rendel, David Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
Robinson, Geoffrey (Co'try NW) Wise, Audrey
Roche, Mrs Barbara Worthington, Tony
Rooker, Jeff Wray, Jimmy
Rooney, Terry Wright, Dr Tony
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W) Young, David (Bolton SE)
Ruddock, Joan
Sedgemore, Brian Tellers for the Noes:
Sheerman, Barry Mr. Eric Clarke and
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert Mr. Joe Benton.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill read the Third time, and passed.

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