HL Deb 18 June 1973 vol 343 cc1113-33

7.1 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Mottistone.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD JESSEL in the Chair.]

Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.

LORD DIAMOND moved Amendment No. 1: After Clause 4 insert the following new clause:

Code of practice

". The Secretary of State shall, after consultation with such bodies as appear to him to be representative of the interests concerned, issue a code of practice describing the proper conduct of employment agencies and employment businesses."

The noble Lord said: I beg to move the first Amendment on the Marshalled List, and if it would be convenient to the Committee I think it would be helpful if we were to discuss Amendment No. 10, to Clause 14, at the same time, as the two go very much together. Indeed if there is to be no code of practice Amendment No. 10 will not have any effect. The first Amendment, which I now propose, suggests that the Secretary of State shall consult, in a way in which he is prepared to consult—and the words are taken from a similar undertaking to consult drawn from the Bill—and after consultation will issue a code of practice describing the proper conduct of employment agencies and employment businesses.

There are basically two reasons why I make this suggestion. The first is that there is a lot to be said in general terms for codes of practice. It is much better to be able to have, without too close statutory definition, indications of the kind of behaviour that sensible people running types of businesses ought to abide by than to have too much detail. Those who are responsible in the running of their businesses are found to take note of the guide-lines given in this way, and of course we have several precedents now for codes of practice which are functioning very well. The second reason is in relation to this particular Bill, just as it was a very happy suggestion in relation to a very important Bill, the Industrial Relations Bill, when that was going through your Lordships' House. This Bill is a good one, we hope. We are bound to say "we hope", because we do not know what is going to be provided. We believe that we have a good idea of what the Government might be persuaded to provide, but we do not know. The guts of this Bill are missing. It is a Bill which provides the Government with the power to make regulations, but the Government do not say what regulations they will make. They indicate the areas in which they will make regulations, and in so far as those areas are indicative they are acceptably indicative, but what the Government is going to do nobody knows. Really it is going too far to bring in just a simple enabling Bill of this kind; it is going too far in the process of delegated legislation —much too far.

I am in this difficulty, and your Lordships' House is in this difficulty: that we have already got a long way in the course of this Bill, and we are all anxious to give it a speedy release. Nevertheless, it would be, as a matter of compromise, very helpful if the Government were able to issue a code of practice at some convenient stage before the Bill became final. If it were possible to say that this stage would be before the Bill left your Lordships' House or left Parliament, that would be a very sensible and convenient arrangement. That, if your Lordships remember, is exactly what the Government were good enough to accept, on a suggestion from this side, in regard to the Industrial Relations Bill, and it proved very helpful indeed. Having regard to the time-scale, I do not think one can do that on this occasion.

Therefore—and I now turn to the second Amendment—it is right to fall back on the only other date available, namely, the date the Bill comes into effect. That one would regard as the final date for these purposes. So it seems to me sensible, both that there should be a code of practice and, secondly, that the code of practice should be issued sufficiently early before the Bill takes effect. The Bill takes effect in the usual way; it is provided in Clause 14(4): This Act shall come into force on such date as the Secretary of State may by order appoint,"— and there is a flexibility of date for different parts. That is fine. But I think a prior condition ought to be publication of a code of practice, and that it would be reasonable for six months to expire between publication of the code of practice and the coming into effect of the Act, so that those affected might be aware of what is expected of them.

I am aware that this is not a wholly satisfactory way of going about the process of having a code of practice. It would be far better if the Government were to say, "Here is the code of practice; this is what we propose in general terms. Let us have your views, and then we will deal with the finalising of the Bill in Parliament". Members of Parliament in both Houses would then know with fair precision what it was that was in the Government's mind. We cannot do that because of the time-table, and therefore I think the compromise I suggest is a reasonable one and would show that the Government had taken on board the point that it is going too far to exclude the whole of the guts of a Bill and leave it to delegated legislation, especially in today's circumstances, with the pressure on delegated legislation. Secondly, it is wiser on the whole to give people indications well in advance of how they should behave in business rather than get too many detailed restrictions. I therefore beg to move the first Amendment.


It gives me great pleasure to support my noble friend on the Front Bench. But may I say that I should not like us to do anything to damage the chances of the passage of this Bill. I think Mr. Kenneth Lewis and others who have worked over the years should be congratulated. I know the work that Member has done. They are to be congratulated on getting this Employment Agencies Bill to this stage. This is an excellent opportunity, as my noble friend has said, and I believe, of getting what I would call a code of practice.

I gather there is an Amendment to Clause 5 that proposes substituting the word "shall" for the word "may". I am sure my noble friend and others will point out that the drive is taken out of Clause 5 by the phraseology. Here I think is a constructive chance of doing something. It is often forgotten how quickly people move in this age of rapid movement—the mobility of people in the changing of jobs. There is a place for employment agencies. Of the 3,000-odd I am not going to denigrate the whole bunch; there are some 400 or 500 at the very least doing a first class job of work, and others which must be nearly as good. But they deal in merchandise, and their merchandise is people. Consequently, one has to see that there is a specific covering of human rights. The Institute of Employment Consultants and the Federation of Personnel Services should have been consulted and brought together about this code of practice—they may already have been consulted, and I stand to be corrected. They have vast experience in this field.

I do not want to raise a hare, like the cheapest of sensational journalism, but I belong to a firm that employs many people, and has all types of people of all nationalities and colours in it. Because of its chemical nature, we must have highly qualified doctors of philsophy in biochemistry, but right through the gamut many coloured people have been employed and these agencies have been used. We have to depend on the professional honesty of the agencies—we have to trust their honour, as we do in the professions—and I want to make sure that only the best people can establish these agencies. Consequently, this is where I see the need for a code of practice wide enough to cover the Race Relations Act, so that we can feel sure that a person who has exactly the same qualifications and ability will get a job irrespective of race, religion, or colour, and that nobody is left at the back of the queue. I do not want to belabour this point. I simply want to say wholeheartedly that I support my noble friend.

I think there is still a place for consultation with the Institute of Employment Consultants, with the Federation of Personnel Services, and perhaps with the Race Relations Board, in establishing such a code of practice to do what my noble friend envisages. I should like the Minister to reply to this. If I went on speaking longer I should only be reiterating axiomatic points. It is a pleasure to support my noble friend in the Amendment which he so ably moved.

7.12 p.m.


My noble friend Lord Mottistone will be dealing with some of these points in a minute, but since the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, and his noble friend Lord Davies of Leek made mention of the Government's part it might be helpful if I came in at this point. As I explained at the Second Reading of the Bill, the purpose was to extend the existing licensing arrangements to the whole country and to lay down a pattern of behaviour with which all employment agencies and businesses must comply. If the noble Lord reads my speech, or rereads it, he will see that to some extent patterns of behaviour are suggested by it. I think that in that desire the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, and I are in complete accord.

I would certainly go along with the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, in stressing the need for consultation with the interested parties—"the best people", as the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, said—before legally establishing what the code of behaviour should be. In fact, as the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, may have noticed, Clause 12 makes specific provision for just such consultation. I think that is as far as I can go in harmony with noble Lords opposite, though I hope that they will agree with me when I say that the major purpose of the Bill is to secure the protection of those who use employment agencies and businesses by securing what, in the Bill itself, is called their "proper conduct". The one is completely dependent on the other, and it is the Government's intention, should my noble friend's Bill become law, to move directly to this fundamental problem. We see no purpose in a code of practice as a separate document other than to delay the final implementation of the regulations which will be made under Clause 5.

In this day and age I take Lord Diamond's point about delegated legislation and about the severe pressures on delegated legislation, but the fact is that the regulations will themselves be a "code of practice" (even if I have to put that phrase in inverted commas) and they will be subject to Negative Resolution Procedure, or the noble Lord can table a Prayer against them. It is our firm intention to use the powers of that clause to protect the interests of all clients of agencies where it can be shown that their interests are in need of protection. We shall achieve this by specifying in the regulations the manner in which agencies must behave in the different circumstances that might occur. In this context, may I say that we shall certainly look at the race question, as the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, raised it. Nevertheless, a separate code of practice would, in our opinion, make no further real effective contribution to dealing with the problems faced by clients of employment agencies; that is to say, no contribution that is not already presupposed by the Bill.


I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, will not press his Amendment. Both he and the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, expressed their wish to see this Bill made law. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, was kind enough to congratulate my honourable friend in another place who started the Bill on its way. It is a fact that the previous Bill initiated in another place some three or four years ago failed because it went into too much detail. There were other reasons but one of the reasons was that it went into too much detail.

The noble Lord, Lord Diamond, said that the "guts" were missing. I rather suspect, apart from saying that there is much to be said for codes of practice, that the main feature of his argument was that the "guts" were missing. This is a matter of interpretation, but if your Lordships look at Clause 5 of the Bill I would suggest that the "guts" are there. Perhaps what is missing are the sinews. If you put in the sinews, whether it be in a code of practice or into the Bill, as was found by Parliament when this was tried earlier you are likely to get arguments about which sinew should be right and which sinew should be wrong.

I quite understand the wish of the noble Lorld, Lord Diamond, to encourage the practice of a code of practice, and I entirely agree with him here. However, I would suggest that the Industrial Relations Act, when it was a Bill, was much more important than this in the sense that it dealt with far more people, and perhaps it was right that it deserved to have a code of practice to go with it, in the same way that the Highway Code is a code of practice with which we are all accustomed. But in a Bill of this nature, I would suggest that much of what would be in a code of practice is in Clause 5. If one is interested in getting the Bill through, it would be dangerous to press into it some other document in order to try to achieve that extra refinement which, in the way of code of practice, we might find ourselves trying to do. I would beg the noble Lord to think again, and I wonder whether in this case he cannot accept that Clause 5 goes as far as is reasonable towards meeting what he wants.


A I mentioned on Second Reading, I have the honour to be a very honorary Fellow of the Institute of Employment Consultants, to which the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, referred. The Institute is desperately interested in the formation of a code of ethics, and was so interested long before this Bill was considered, debated, introduced, or anything else. I should like to say to the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, that the industry, as represented by the Institute of Employment Consultants, has the point which he raised in mind— I do not wish to deal with the wider points that my noble friend in charge of the Bill has mentioned—and nothing that he has said would be contrary to its feeling.

7.20 p.m.


I think that the tabling of the Amendment has given rise to a useful discussion on which I could perhaps make a comment or two. First of all, I take it from what the noble Earl has said that the general principle of the code of practice has been taken on board, and we might therefore be in agreement as to how that is to be dealt with if we had a different timetable. The noble Earl referred to the protection of Parliament in the form of Prayers. I hereby declare myself to be Parliament's watchdog to complain every time I hear anybody talk about Prayers ever again. I do that because I have been privileged to sit on a Committee for a very long time—we are now in our second year—dealing with the situation which arises out of the impossibility of the other place dealing with Prayers.

If Parliament has reached the stage which has arisen, when it cannot carry out its protection of the individual, then it is up to us, at the time we are enacting legislation giving power to the Executive to legislate in the place of Parliament, to be aware of what we are doing and to go slower on it than we have been going. Therefore I am not, I believe, wasting Parliament's time in drawing attention to the fact that it is no longer any use when either House cannot deal with a Prayer, saying, "Parliament enacted this and therefore Parliament knew what it was doing". It is up to us to take real note of what Parliament is doing at the time it is giving the Executive the right to legislate in place of Parliament, without the final protection that Parliament always thought it had when it passed the legislation. So that having delivered myself of that sermon, for which I apologise, I would only say to the noble Earl that Prayers—I will not say that they are a dirty word, because that would be quite wrong—are not a complete passport for future legislation.

The noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, said, in short, that he hoped I would not press this Amendment. I think what he was saying was that he hoped I would not spend too much time on this Bill. I have to say to him that I am as aware of the timetable as he is, and as aware and appreciative of the honourable gentleman in another place who has spent a great deal of time on this Bill. I have read the report of every word he has said, and I am sure that that is more than he has done with regard to every word that I have said—at least, I hope that it is. May I add that I am also aware that we are now in another House, and that it is up to this House to carry out its duty as well, and I hope to draw a reasonable balance between the two. The noble Lord went on to say that he did not accept my criticism about the lack of guts. I am not a doctor, and I do not know how well a body would function if the guts were there and the sinews were missing, as opposed to the sinews being there and the guts missing.

At all events, we all know the point that is being made, because the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, made it perfectly. He said that the trouble about putting details in a Bill is that if you put in what Parliament is proposing there might be argument. Of course, the last thing anybody wants is that there should be argument in Parliament; I mean, Parliament is not there for argument. According to the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, Parliament is there to get a blank enabling Bill and to say, "You cannot argue about this, because you do not know what the Government will do"; to pass it on to the Government, who will then pass it on, as we all know, to their very able advisers, the Civil Service, who produce the regulations which no Minister has time to read in detail, and if anybody wants to pray against regulations and is sufficiently interested to put down a Prayer in another place it is not heard. So the noble Lord will not think me undemocratic if I say that, perhaps, there is something to be said for Parliament knowing what the Government are about to do, and even having an argument about it.

But I shall put the noble Lord's anxieties at rest immediately. My purpose in raising these Amendments is to get the matter discussed. I am aware of the timetable; I am aware that, on the whole, the Bill is a good Bill. The noble Earl has made it quite clear that he has taken the major points on board. Having said that, to show what a good democrat I am, having raised these points I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 4 agreed to.

Clause 5 [General regulations]:

7.26 p.m.

Loan DIAMOND: moved AmendIment No. 2: Page 5, line 24, leave out ("may") and insert ("shall").

The noble Lord said: This is a very regular Amendment and every one of us who has been in this business for some little time will have come across it on many occasions. The reason why I think it not inappropriate to put it down on this occasion is the reason to which I referred earlier; namely, that this is drawn as a purely enabling Bill, and insult is added to injury by the Government's not even undertaking to make regulations. There is no clause other than Clause 5 which really tells one how these establishments will be controlled, what it is that they are expected to do, and this is the whole purpose of having the Bill. You do not have a Bill merely to say that people shall apply for and receive licences. You have a Bill so that having been enabled to get hold of the individuals and to know which ones you are looking at and inquiring into, you are able to satisfy yourself on behalf of the community at large that they are behaving in a reasonable way, as you expect them to do and as the community has decided through Parliament they ought to behave. But this Bill does not even go so far as that.

I shall not delay the Committee unduly. That is the reason for suggesting that on this occasion, although the flexibility of the word "may" is well understood, when this is the essential clause of the Bill and there is no indication of what it is the Government are going to say or how they are going to clothe these bones with flesh—if I may be medical once more—there ought to be a firm undertaking on the part of the Government to introduce regulations. I therefore propose the insertion of the word "shall" instead of the word "may"'. I beg to move.


Once again I want to support my noble friend, and I shall be brief. As someone who spent 13 years on the Statutory Instruments Committee, and who could see modern legislation in its overwhelming influence being cluttered up with regulations and Prayers— never mind what attitude we may take toward the European Economic Community; we are going to try to make it work one day—I consider that it is the duty of Parliament to look at new sets of regulations. Consequently, although it may have sounded Cassandra-like, my noble friend—if I may say so without being patronising, which I do not intend for a moment—at least rang the bell, that this House and another place must eventually spend a long time working out how we can deal with all these massive regulations.

Nevertheless—and those of us who have had long years of experience in Parliamentary affairs know that this "may" and "shall" debate comes up time and time again—here I consider it absolutely important that we should substitute the words as asked for in line 24: leave out "may" and insert "shall". The entire clause gives the Secretary of State power to make regulations prescribing qualifications for persons carrying on agencies and businesses, regulations for a business where the staff turnover is terrific. I am told that it is not uncommon in this agency business that a period of one year with one agency is considered a period of long service. In these circumstances the types of agencies need to be looked at fairly regularly and this insight into the agencies should not be neglected. Consequently, without cluttering up with too rigid a system of inspection I believe that it is absolutely necessary for Parliament to be precise about instituting regulations; and thus it is that I support the more incisive language, "shall" instead of "may", in the Amendment that my noble friend has moved.


I am sure your Lordships are aware that this identical Amendment was raised in another place, and the honourable friends of the noble Lords opposite accepted the arguments that although (and I think we should all agree here) there is something more positive about "shall", the consequential effect of that on any Government—it has nothing to do with Party or anything like that—can be legally very doubtful. If you write in "shall" here, as I understand it, it means that the Secretary of State has to hunt around and make quite certain—the responsibility is on his shoulders—that he has covered every type of agency, some of which may have established themselves without his even being aware of them. I am sure that that is something which noble Lords would feel is undesirable, but the fact of the matter is that when one is arguing against "may" and for "shall" one is really saying, "I do not trust the Government to do the right thing".

One of the points made earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, was that there must be consultation with bodies which are concerned in this matter, and as my noble friend Lord Gowrie said, in Clause 12(2) this consultation is allowed. That clause gives the Government the ability to consult with people who know the trade and who will be able to help them to ensure that they cover all the agencies which they should cover. I suggest to noble Lords, therefore, that this attempt to put into the Bill what the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, quite rightly said is a matter which is raised time and again in Parliament in relation to other Bills because it is a good thing to get it in, will in fact probably have the effect of destroying the Bill. I would ask noble Lords, therefore, to consider whether they want to use this Bill as a means for getting across another point.

Before I sit down, might I say to the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, that he was doing me an injustice in saying that I was concerned only about the time factor. What I am concerned about is getting this Bill through Parliament. As both he and the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, have said— not to mention noble Lords on this side of the House—this is an important Bill which we want to get through. It is a relatively simple Bill, and trying to use it only as a vehicle for those purposes for which it is being used I suggest does not do the Bill the honour it deserves.


I found that speech a little less than fully persuasive. A number of arguments were used: first, that if you have the word "shall" then you are committed to covering and finding out every type of agency. I could not accept that, because in the opening words you can easily limit the type of agency to which the regulations should apply. You can limit the agencies as much as you like; you can even limit them by discretion if you want to. If you therefore limit the extent to which the agencies are to be affected you are perfectly free to take on the responsibility, the undertaking, the statutory compulsion to make regulations for those agencies which you know about and accept should be regulated. I give way to the noble Lord.


Might I suggest to the noble Lord that every extra bit of identification of agencies requires extra definition which gets beyond the scone of being written into the Bill.


I have listened carefully to what the noble Lord has said and I do not accept that the skilled draftsmen who serve Parliament are unable to define the extent of the application of the Bill in the way that he suggests. So I till come back to the fact that my main answer to that argument is that all this could be provided for quite separately, without affecting the main issue of whether the Secretary of State should, in a Bill which is otherwise void of detailed proposals, accept the responsibility of making regulations.

The noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, also said that there would be need for consultation and that this clause would enable consultation to take place. There are two answers to that: consultation, as noble Lords know, has always taken place; secondly, there is nothing in the insertion of "shall" instead of "may" to prevent consultation from taking place. Consultation would normally take place and there is particular provision in the Bill that it shall take place. Then the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, said that we ought to trust the Government to do the right thing. That is the noble Lord's philosophy, as he is beginning to make clear, and it is not a philosophy which sits easily on anybody occupying the Opposition Front Bench.

My responsibility is to trust the Government as far as I can throw them—and I do not propose to throw them any distance at all. My Parliamentary responsibility to your Lordships' House and to the people is to listen carefully to the Government's argument, to find out what the Government propose and to discuss with the Government whether it is a sensible thing to do or not—but not to give the Government carte blanche and say, "Trust the Government". I never expected that trust during the six years in which I had some minor responsibility, and if I had I should have been in great difficulty. If I had gone along to the other place and said, "Do not ask me about £20,000 million a year; trust me; I am an honest man", it would rot have taken me very far, I am afraid. So the argument about trusting the Government is one that does not fall on very receptive ears on the Opposition Front Bench. I think we have to do our duty here in seeing that the Government conduct themselves aright. I now turn to the noble Earl and say that we are not satisfied about the absence of an undertaking to regulate these agencies and businesses, the power for which is taken in this Bill. I wonder whether the noble Earl can say anything helpful to prevent our taking this matter further.


I am in an awkward position. I hardly believe that where my noble friend has failed to persuade the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, I shall succeed any better, and I certainly do not intend to put his statement about trusting the Government as far as he can throw them to any sort of test. I support the view expressed by my noble friend that we should retain some flexibility in this matter. Therefore it seems to me that the most useful thing I can do at the moment is to try to persuade the noble Lord, as he is not, as it were, prepared to take it on a matter of trust, that there is firm evidence to show that we shall produce the kind of regulations of which he would approve— and I take the point he made in the earlier debate about delegated legislation, as I have said, although I was of course referring to the noble Lord's position as a Member of this House when I said that he could pray against any regulation.

I should like to assure the Committee chat it is our intention to produce regulations under this Bill—we are, as I said earlier, self-propelling, if you like, in this way—and to produce them as soon as possible. I cannot commit myself at this stage to saying exactly when, but as was indicated in another place I hope to see this Bill become effective—I think we all would— about the time the new licensing authorities come into existence. I promised I would quickly put a little flesh on the bones, as the noble Lord said, of the regulations. So far as they themselves are concerned, I know that the London boroughs have recently studied the requirements in this field and their work should form a useful basis for regulations controlling employment agencies. Some of these, for instance, deal with the placing of women overseas, and it is certainly intended that these should be made. It is then but a short step to extend those re-requirements to the placing of au pairs overseas—a group which has been without legal protection up to the present time.

There are many abuses in this field; we talked about them in some detail on Second Reading. There is the question of inducing employees to leave their present employer. This applies both in the secretarial field and also possibly in the world known as the world of headhunting. I believe it also goes on where au pairs are concerned, and it is intended to make regulations covering this type of activity in all these businesses. Regulations for the safeguarding of the earnings of an entertainer deposited with his agent will certainly be produced. We also intend to look at the controls which should be applied to those agencies which deal with haulage drivers. I hope this is giving the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, a little chapter and verse of a trustable intention in this respect. But when considering employment businesses I can see no reason why they should not be held responsible for ensuring that the staff that they supply to others meet with any statutory requirements; for example, that a driver is qualified to drive the type of vehicle in question. As the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, told us—


If I may interrupt the noble Earl at that point, it will save my interrupting him later on. I was glad to hear what he just said about requiring agencies to satisfy themselves in regard to certain statutory requirements. Would this cover the state of the National Insurance card? I am told that there are times when an applicant is advised to go to a particular firm through the agency to apply for a particular job, and the National Insurance card, to put it shortly, is not in order. Is it part of the Government's thinking that they will require employment agencies reasonably to satisfy themselves that the insurance card is sufficiently in order to enable their applicant to be employed?


It is my guess that it would be in the Government's thinking that they should. Whether they would be required to do so is a question of which I should have to have a little notice. If I may consider the noble Lord's invervention as such notice, I will certainly follow it up and let him know. In sum, the position here is that we believe that, far from needing to compel the Secretary of State to make regulations —and I take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, that the "may" and "shall" argument is almost as old as our discussions themselves—he will most certainly be making a considerable number of them under the permissive powers at present in the Bill. I therefore find the emphasis of the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, though eloquently expressed, a little contradictory, perhaps, to his earlier speech. I therefore hope, in the light of these assurances which I have tried to thresh out a little, that the noble Lord will be at any rate somewhat more content, and that he will not press his Amendment to a Division.


I am most grateful to the noble Earl for what he has said. He has put forward the best possible argument I can think of for substituting "shall" for "may". He has given all the things which the Government intend to do, and I cannot see why they do not undertake in the Bill that they will do them. However, I am well aware of the fact that there is an occupational disease which affects all Governments in refusing to allow a Bill to state what they intend to do, and there may be something more in this than meets the eye at the moment. Therefore, having regard to the noble Earl's very genuine endeavour to be more forthcoming than has previously been the case, I seek your Lordships' leave to withdraw this Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

7.47 p.m.

LORD DIAMOND moved Amendment No. 3: Page 6, line 4, after ("education") insert ("and in particular limiting such services in respect of such persons to the securing of temporary engagements only").

The noble Lord said: This is a matter of considerable substance and importance, and I should have thought it was an Amendment which the noble Earl could well accept as being wholly in line with Government thinking in regard to the major Bill which is at the moment before your Lordships' House. At the moment the regulating powers—and they are only powers—refer to: regulating the provision of services by persons carrying on such agencies and businesses in respect of persons who are under the age of eighteen years or are undergoing full-time education". Those young persons are persons who are unaware of the various alternatives which the employment world is able to offer them, and very often unconcerned with their own long-term interests as opposed to their short-term interests. It is for this reason that the Government wisely established the Youth Employment Service, and under other legislation before your Lordships' House are moving, not entirely but considerably, towards encouraging young persons to seek advice as well as employment opportunities as opposed to seeking employment opportunities only.

Now these young people, we know, tend very often (I do not know the exact figures, but very often) to follow the jobs or professions of their parents, their fathers. Why?—because it is one of the few things that they know about. Or they will go on entirely unreliable information about job prospects and so on, and they will seek the kind of employment which is entirely unsuited for them and unsuited for their long-term interests. So far as the person under the age of 18 is concerned—and I would draw your Lordships' attention to the fact that it is not under 21 but under 18; and that age is not very old—or the person undergoing full-time education and therefore not having had the opportunity of being in the employment world and knowing the various openings, the Bill at present deals with those young persons and I should have thought that your Lordships generally would feel that it is more important that their long-term interests should be borne in mind than their immediate short-term interests and job opportunities.

We are concerned here with agencies that have no responsibility whatever for the long-term interests of these young people; they are solely concerned to fill gaps—and very often clamant gaps—so that frequently therefore there is pressure on them to find people who will fill the gaps in this way without giving any thought at all to anything other than the simple job of making a recommendation, securing an appointment and getting the commission. I do not think that that is good enough. As your Lordships know (because the noble Earl made this clear to us on Second Reading) we are more or less alone in the European Community in allowing agencies to go as far as this; so that we are certainly not making any radical advance if we limit the agencies, as this Amendment seeks to limit them, in respect of young people. Their future comes first and not the immediate commission of the agency. I beg to move.


While I very much appreciate the point which the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, made perhaps I could start by asking him a question. Is it his intention that the Amendment will provide services for securing temporary engagements only? Is it his intention to encourage these young people who, as he said were the ones starting off in life, to go for temporary employment and not for permanent employment?


It is my fault. In the interests of saving time. I omitted to explain that. That is not the intention. The intention of the Amendment is that the powers which the Government are taking should include the power to make regulations preventing agencies from dealing with young persons of this kind, except to the extent of assisting such persons to fill temporary engagements; because it is the normal experience that university students, for example during holiday time, want a fortnight's work or four weeks' work with the Post Office. That is a bad example; but I see no reason why the agencies should be excluded from providing such very short-term employment or from having the power to fill temporary gaps. It is no part of the long-term education of young people in jobs and job opportunities.


Would the noble Lord not agree that the majority of young people covered by the clause as it stands are not at university and are out in the wide world, and that most of the young people between school-leaving age and 18 are in employ? However they got there is another matter at this moment of time. Therefore, in providing for temporary employment for the relatively few, this surely would not be the intent, I should have thought, of the noble Lord. There is another group of people with needs to be considered. They are the child actors and child models. Your Lordships may feel that it it quite wrong that there should be such people; although I personally do not feel so. I can see that there might be views on this. But this is not the subject of this Bill. The Bill is concerned with the behaviour of agencies and not with the behaviour of employers. It would be for a separate form of legislation to remove the child actor. So long as we have the child actor we need to have subject to the Bill (or hopefully this Act) the agencies which deal with his interests. I would suggest to the noble Lord that those sort of people are better served if the agencies which will be dealing with them are brought within the terms of the regulations envisaged in the Bill.


I am grateful to the noble Lord. He would help me if he were to tell me what is going to be provided under paragraph (g). It says that the Secretary of State is to have power to regulate the provision of services in respect of these young persons. What kind of regulations are they to be? What are the Government going to do? If the Government are to do everything that I should like them to do, there is no need for me to waste the time of your Lordships any longer; but there is nothing in the Bill which gives the slightest indication beyond saying they have the power to regulate. I do not know whether we are dealing with child actors or with university students. It is blank. That is one of the defects of this non-legislation. The Committee are being asked to approve something but are not told what it is all about.


I appreciate the noble Lord's point. It is the point he was making in a previous Amendment which I think we dealt with. I would suggest that in this particular case his Amendment will have all sorts of effects which will militate against the well-being of certain sorts of people. That is all I was trying to point out. The question of whether the kind of regulations envisaged should be made more explicit is another issue; but the important thing is that the matter of regulations is in the Bill at all. As the noble Lord will be aware, in another place it was introduced in Committee in order to make sure that the Government made some provision for the under-18s and for people undergoing full-time education. This was a step forward on the Bill as drafted before it was handled in another place. In another place it got as far as, at that time, they thought was reasonable.


There was progress made in another place. If the noble Lord will forgive me saying so, we are now in this place. Our job is to make further progress in this place. It may have been reasonable in the other place. I am not here to take part in the death of the House of Lords; I am here to see that we discuss matters and give them reasonable attention. With respect, I am not to be put off by the noble Lord telling me that the other place have satisfied themselves. That is very interesting; but your Lordships have been good enough to allow me to address you in this place. I think that this House has a duty to perform. What I am asking is this: What does the noble Lord think the Government are going to do? I will ask the Government. What does the Government representative think the Government are going to do about all these important tasks for young persons? A short reply would be adequate.


I do not think that there is the slightest chance of the House of Lords suffering any kind of diminution in its powers with the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, there to bat for it. The short answer I will give is that it is too early for me to say what form the regulations to protect the interests of young people might take; but the reason why it is too early is that we are finding out what regulations we need to take. If the noble Lord will accept that assurance, in spite of his earlier remarks about trusting Governments generally while in Opposition, I could perhaps leave it there. We are going to be engaged in very close consultations with careers services, employment services, local authorities and the like as he will know from my remarks on Second Reading. With that assurance I hope that the noble Lord will consider withdrawing his Amendment.


I hope that the noble Earl did not take my remark about not trusting Governments as not trusting Government Ministers. Of course I have every trust in the noble Earl, and what he has said has been very helpful. I have every hope that he will be able to complete his negotiations before the next stage in the progress of the Bill, and then we shall be able to see how far he has got. In view of that, I think it would be right and timely for me now to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


I beg to move, That the House do now resume.

Moved according and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.