HL Deb 11 March 1983 vol 440 cc433-57

11.34 a.m.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be read a second time. As I am sure your Lordships are aware, the purpose of this little Bill is to recognise the exhortation of the Secretary of State for Employment in another place that the unemployed should make every endeavour to find, and should travel to look for, work; he used the expression that, like their fathers, they should "get on their bikes". I believe he made that exhortation because of research that has been done, and I do not think he said it frivolously. If he did, this Bill would deserve to be treated in a frivolous manner. I think he knows the problems facing the unemployed—our fellow countrymen, robbed of the ability to earn a living—as their numbers have grown by tens of thousands month in and month out.

For the first time since the war, a Government face a situation of there being less jobs towards the end of their period in office than there were when they came in. The result is that the unemployed really have to search for jobs. The purpose of the Bill is to make a contribution to those who are endeavouring to seek gainful employment so as to keep themselves and their families in a reasonable and dignified way, and to escape that awful and frightful feeling of having to say, "I am on the dole". Whatever Parliament can do to assist to remove that anguish from the breasts of over 3 million unemployed, it should do.

There is a particularly gruesome situation about what is happening to the unemployed; unemployment is running through generations in the same family. For many of those who are now unemployed, the first time it happened to them was when they were young men, like myself, in the mid-'thirties. In 1936 there was massive unemployment, particularly among the 16 and 17 year-olds. Three or four years later—I ask the House to acknowledge this—many of them were to contribute to a magnificent endeavour when the British Expeditionary Force was driven out of Europe at Dunkirk.

We now have the situation that quite a number of them who were at Dunkirk as young men and who had known no gainful employment until they were called, and responded, in the defence of their country, are now back on the dole. No Member of this or the other Chamber can feel in any way happy at that situation, and it behoves us to make any contribution we can to try to reduce the numbers unemployed.

Men aged, say, 62 to 64 who have lost their jobs are, as I say, back in the situation they faced in the mid and late 'thirties. There is the even more agonising situation that in some instances, so are there sons and daughters. Therefore, when we use the phrase "the unemployed", while the nation I hope understands the agony and frustration they and their families face as a result of that unemployment, we must realise that it is not merely a question of what we are losing economically—because many of them are skilled and professional men, in addition to the vital labourers—but of what is happening within their families. I can remember the times when we used our bikes in Wales—at least where I lived. We used our bikes to go downhill, but we had to push them back uphill, if we did not get the job, or even if we got it.

Today many unemployed people, in particular in the large urban areas, are prepared urgently and earnestly to seek work. Consider the unemployed man who, in looking for work, has to undertake a journey in, say, the greater Glasgow area, or Birmingham, or the Greater Manchester area, or London. He might be a former docker, living in Greenford. I know all about this kind of thing. I have seen the rows in my family when my father went to the docks and did not get a job. When he got home my mother said, "You were a fool. Why didn't you go to the so-and-so pit? They started half a dozen men there". Then there was a row, with all of us children sitting silently. All of this was happening to us, in the heart of the British Empire, because of a useless, inefficient Government. Yet, three or four years later, we responded to the call. I sincerely hope that the young men on the dole today will not have to do that, but they should not be neglected simply because they have not had to respond to the call.

As I have already stated, under a DHSS scheme the disabled unemployed receive assistance. But I believe that the able-bodied unemployed need assistance, too. I was giving your Lordships an example involving a docker. I do not mean it in any cruel way, but there are some people whose standard of living is such that they are so naïve about the realities of life that they cannot understand that at the moment when a man loses his job he looks again at the rate demand and the rent book, and he wonders whether he can keep the TV. I am becoming sick and tired of all the talk about unemployed Britions coasting all over the country in their posh cars. Why insult the unemployed?—because that is what that kind of argument does, and it has been deprecated.

Consider a man living on £30 a week in, say, Greenford, Hayes, or Southall. He is a docker, an extraordinarily skilled man. Each day he hears that there might be a start somewhere in one of our great London docks, or perhaps in Southampton, Cardiff, Swansea, or Glasgow. Off he goes, and the journey there and back makes a hole in £6 or £7; and that £6 or £7 is vital to the unemployed man who has a family. Such a situation brings about a new despair. Has he the right to spend the money to go to look for work, or should he keep it to help bring up his family?

The Bill was born out of an idea by the Greater Manchester City Council, which undertook massive research into the problem. To gain the views of the unemployed the council used the national opinion polls, and I shall tell your Lordships why it used those polls. Notwithstanding all the things that the political parties argue about nowadays, month in and month out, the national opinion polls show that the question that concerns our nation above all else is unemployment. So we must treat seriously this little Bill this morning in your Lordships' House.

In examining its researches, the Greater Manchester City Council discovered the frustration experienced by a man or woman, young or middle aged, biting his or her nails, wondering whether it is worth spending a fiver because there is a possibility of a job; and then perhaps deciding that it is not worth the risk. For them the cost of living is too tight, every halfpenny must be looked at; and that surely must be a bad thing.

Manchester City Council then decided that further examination of the situation was required. The council did not rush into it. The council realised that, human nature being what it is, it had to take full cognisance of the possibility, even among the unemployed, of a tiny minority cheating and committing fraud. So the council wanted to see how to deal with this problem, too. It found the answer quite easily. Under the Manchester City Council scheme, the unemployed person does not receive the full fare, but a percentage of it—and only after the pro forma has been filled in by the employer who has interviewed the applicant. The employer must sign the form, which must be returned to the council offices, and there is a part refund of the money that the unemployed man expended in his endeavour to seek gainful employment.

Time will not allow me to go through all the detail, but for a few moments I should like to adumbrate what has been done. The Manchester Council has asked the Greater Manchester Transport Executive to devise a scheme to provide reduced fares for the unemployed on public transport. So though initially there is bound to be a subsidy from the rates, the money is paid back, and part of the cost is paid by the unemployed man himself. If only a third of them become gainfully employed, consider the relief that that will provide for the individuals, as well as the fact that they will no longer be drawing dole. In one exercise it was shown that such a situation could almost improve the financial position, rather than detract from it. I beg your Lordships to bear that point in mind.

So as to make sure that it had covered every possible eventuality, the Greater Manchester City Council undertook interviews, asking general questions about job seeking. Incidentally, the council interviewed 971 people. The council wanted to know how far did an applicant live from where a particular job was advertised as being available, and it was found that the distances ranged from four miles to 24 miles. People who volunteered to give the information were asked, "How did you get here today?" and 36 per cent. of them said, "We walked"; 38 per cent. had gone by bus; 13 had had lifts; 4 per cent. had travelled by bicycle, and 1 per cent. by train. Those people were prepared to go and help by giving the information. I think that that is marvellous; I really do. It shows the guts of the British that 900 unemployed Mancunians were quite prepared to put their hands in their pockets in order to go to their city hall to co-operate in an inquiry into how the rest of their colleagues might receive a few shillings to help them to go to look for jobs. We must take cognisance of that.

I hope that we shall dismiss feeble arguments that we have already discussed this question—for six minutes. Are we to tell the unemployed, "Your case was examined in this great Chamber for half a dozen minutes"? I fear that the unemployed would not be at all enamoured of this Chamber if they were to be told that.

I should like to point out that the scheme to which I have referred was completely supported by all the political parties on that great council. There was total unanimity, and it is my hope that there will be total unanimity in this House as well. That I believe is a fundamental point. The council inquired of the same number of people how long they had been unemployed, and then, how many jobs they had applied for in that time. People gave various replies according to the number of jobs that they had sought in a year. Some of them had gone after as many as 40 or 50 jobs. I repeat, my Lords, unemployed men had gone after 40 or 50 jobs, and the average cost would have been about £4 or £5 a time. These are the realities of the situation.

Then they asked more questions, and ultimately they devised a scheme. Because of what happened at Bromley and what happened with the Law Lords of this House, the Manchester City Council, in their all-party endeavour, decided that they must act responsibly and see to it that counsel was engaged to make certain that they were acting within the law. I believe that the Greater Manchester City Council is to be complimented on its thoroughness. All the members of all the parties of that council are to be complimented on their thoroughness and are to be complimented on the sincerity of their endeavour.

While the law specifically allows local authorities to grant travel concessions to the elderly, blind and other disabled people, no such power is conferred to help the unemployed. I want to concede straight away that if we passed this Bill the scheme would not be mandatory. I have enough confidence in my fellow Britons who sit on similar councils in Scotland and South Wales as well as those of Manchester to believe that when they see how this scheme works they will want to know something about it and they will start implementing it.

When one weighs it up, what an admirable way to start a piece of legislation! What the Greater Manchester City Council have done is this. They have said "Let us not only be pioneers but let us have a pilot scheme. Let us find out the things which are wrong initially and then improve on it". That is an admirable way of working. All this work and endeavour, the moral and economic issues involved, cannot be indulged in unless Parliament give Greater Manchester City Council the right to act in this way.

I have said that there are in that area of Manchester alone 170,000 unemployed men and women. That is a very large number. It is a good pilot scheme. It is vital for us to know that it had absolute all-party support. It was a genuine response to the Secretary of State, Mr. Tebbit, and his advice for the unemployed to get out and look for work. He will agree that, rather than simply paying out the dole for doing nothing, we should give the unemployed another couple of bob to go searching around to find the work which he believed at the time was available. It will not solve the problem of unemployment. But people have been deterred—and quite rightly the Secretary of State wondered about this—by the cost of the quest. This scheme does away with that argument, and I think that the Secretary of State will agree with it.

Employers in the Greater Manchester area also agree. Not one employer has raised an objection against this idea. Not one of those employers has said that this is a bad scheme. They can see the wisdom and the goodness that is in it. I believe that this House ought to do the same thing. The Greater Manchester City Council have an admirable pilot plan. I know that one can argue and say that it is only the people in Manchester who are going to get a help in the first place. That is perfectly true. But when they have been running the scheme a while, and if it is a success—as I am sure it will, be although they may want to make changes—they will be able to help all the other local authorities that may wish to join in. If we pass this little Bill it in no way makes the scheme mandatory. It is a challenge and it is such a good thing that others who examine it who are not coerced and told, "You have to do it", will say, "For the unemployed among us we shall want to do it". And what is wrong with that unless you have a built-in complete disregard for Great Britain's unemployed?

What this little Bill does is not merely, so to speak, putting our hands on our hearts; we are all concerned about the problems of the unemployed. This Bill makes a little contribution to show that concern in a practical way. I commend this Bill in the interests of our fellow countrymen—and we are talking about our fellow countrymen who are in the most unfortunate situation of all. These are the unemployed Britons who have had their pursuit of happiness nullified by the ogre of unemployment. I am of the firm belief that this Bill will make a small but essential contribution to making a reality of those wonderful words for the unemployed man or woman, "I have found a job!"

That can transform a family. It is remarkable that when a man gets back to work he is not merely earning his living but it raises his own morale and the morale of his family and relatives. Therefore I believe that this Bill is good for them and for their families. Also, it is good for Great Britain that we in this House should show such concern. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(Lord Molloy.)

11.57 a.m.

Lord Nugent of Guildford rose to move, as an amendment to the Motion that the Bill be now read a second time, to leave out "now" and at the end to insert "this day six months".

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the amendment standing in my name on the Order Paper. We all recognise the merits of the Bill which has been moved with such deep feeling for the unemployed by the noble Lord, Lord Molloy. We all recognise wherever we sit that the present scale of unemployment is the major problem in our country today. Much more difficult is to find the best way of curing this huge problem with all its individual tragedies. Let me leave no one in any doubt that my personal feelings—and I am sure everybody's feelings—are entirely with the noble Lord in his objective.

My objections to the Bill are entirely procedural. The Bill is virtually the same as Amendment No. 67 to the Transport Bill which we debated last Thursday. The noble Lord, Lord Underhill, moved the amendment and explained its purposes although not at the same length, detail and scale as the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, has just done. But after the debate, in which several noble Lords took part—incidentally, not the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, but he could have done so had he wished—my noble friend Lord Bellwin replied for the Government, explaining the various existing measures by which the DHSS and the MSC assist travel for this purpose. The assistance is fairly comprehensive. It is mainly in connection with seeking jobs, with taking training and with the initial phase of travelling to it when a man or a woman has been fortunate enough to get a new job. The assistance also goes beyond that in some categories. I am sure that from the Front Bench my noble friend Lord Lucas will explain these provisions in detail, and therefore I shall not take the time of the House in doing so. At the end of the debate, although the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, had not secured all of his objectives, he recognised that he had achieved a good deal, and he said so. Accordingly, he withdrew his amendment to consider further whether he wished to return to the attack on Report stage.

So this matter is still currently under consideration within the ambit of the Transport Bill. This means that the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, in moving his Private Member's Bill today is asking the House to consider exactly the same point as the House considered on the Committee stage of the Transport Bill last week. Whatever the subject—even one which is felt about as deeply as this and is as cogently deployed by the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, even in these circumstances—repetition of business is really a misuse of the time of the House.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for allowing me to intervene. I have to point out to the House that I could have had this Second Reading debate before the Transport Bill got here. I was asked to delay it by the Government Whips' Office and I co-operated. For co-operation, should I receive punishment? What sort of behaviour is that in your Lordships' House?

Lord Denham

My Lords, if my noble friend will forgive me, I must say that the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, is right and that the Government Whips' Office was most grateful for his co-operation on this matter. But I think the fact remains that the issue was discussed and at the moment has been withdrawn for consideration by the Government; so that what my noble friend says also is right.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede

My Lords, I think it would be useful if one pointed out at this stage that the Transport Bill was brought forward from the Commons on 2nd February and the Bill of my noble friend Lord Molloy was ordered to be printed on 10th November. It has been available for Second Reading as from a fortnight after 10th November. I think one should also say that one knows that the Government are determined to get the Transport Bill through without amendment. Therefore, for my noble friend Lord Molloy to proceed with his Bill at this stage is the only way that this matter can be properly considered.

Lord Nugent of Guildford

My Lords, after that interesting interlude between the "usual channels" who do not usually fire off at each other in the House, I would only add that we are all well aware of what happens to Private Members' Bills. Many of us have moved them from time to time. We get the best consideration from whichever side forms the Government, but one has to accept at the end of the day that Private Members' business, however important it is, has to take second place to Government business. This means that from time to time one must give way and have one's business postponed. I realise that the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, in this particular case has had to put up with this two or three times. I have a great deal of sympathy for him. I have had some experience of Private Members' Bills myself. But the fact is that two wrongs do not make a right. If he has been unlucky in being asked to postpone business, it still does not justify his asking the House to repeat business which has been debated already, in which he could have taken part but in which he did not; and which is still to be debated on the Report stage. It really does not make sense to conduct business like that.

The fact is that while each of us has a responsibility to protect the rights of individual Peers to express their opinion and to use the machinery of the House to do so, equally we have a responsibility to protect the reputation and business of the House, and that responsibility rests upon the shoulders of the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, as much as on the rest of us. Our business procedures here are very flexible but we do have some responsibility to see that the general flow of business is maintained. It is on this account that I feel great sympathy with the noble Lord for having these postponements of his Bill—and nobody could but feel sympathy for him with his deep feeling about the purpose of the Bill—nevertheless, this is repetition of existing business and therefore it ought not to go forward. I hope that the noble Lord will withdraw it; because if he refuses to do that I feel that, in the interests of the business of the House, I shall have no alternative but to press my amendment at the end of the debate.

Lord Sefton of Garston

My Lords, in view of the noble Lord's remarks about his sympathy with my noble friend, Lord Molloy, and his implication of seeming support of the principle of the Bill, will he be prepared to give his support to an amendment to the Transport Bill, an amendment which will achieve the results sought by my noble friend Lord Molloy?

Lord Nugent of Guildford

My Lords, when the noble Lord has heard the Government's reply, he will be informed as to what now is the measure of aid. It does, in fact, go a very long way to meet the point which Lord Molloy has been putting before us. In my own judgment, it probably substantially satisfies it; but perhaps I should myself wish to reserve my opinion on this point until I hear the further debate which will take place on the Report stage of the Transport Bill—a debate in which no doubt Lord Sefton will wish to take part—to see whether there is a substantial area not covered when the Government and the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, have given further consideration to it.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, will the noble Lord please give me a small answer to one small question? He is the author of a wrecking amendment. I have never realised that he was privy to what a Minister of the Crown was going to say. I am not so; but he said so. He asked us to listen to what the Minister says. He must know what the Minister is going to say. I do not think that that is fair.

Lord Nugent of Guildford

My Lords, that is a point which has absolutely no relevance whatever. I have no idea of what he is going to say—well, I do have a pretty good idea because I have seen what my noble friend Lord Bellwin said in answer to the amendment—which is the same as this Bill—which the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, moved. If the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, has not read Hansard of Thursday of last week, then he would not know; but, if he has read it, he will know the substance of what my noble friend Lord Lucas is going to say. That is what I know and what I suppose everybody else knows. There is no secret about it.

Moved, as an amendment to the Motion that the Bill be now read a second time, to leave out "now" and at the end to insert "this day six months".—(Lord Nugent of Guildford.)

12.7 p.m.

Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran

My Lords, I rise warmly to support the Bill and simply to deplore the fact that an amendment of this kind has been brought in at this stage in regard to this Bill. I use the word "deplore" and therefore I must justify it. The noble Lord, Lord Nugent, for whom I have the greatest respect—I know of his great works in Surrey for the water boards—himself said that he would not be giving his reasons for that amendment until he had heard the Minister. He based his reasons upon a speech made last Thursday by the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin. With the greatest of respect, speaking without that speech before me, I do not think, prima facie, that the time of this House has been wasted by proceeding with this Bill, and there is no duplication of business. That is my theme at this stage because I am uninstructed about, I do not know, what the Minister will say on behalf of the Government. The noble Lord, Lord Nugent, gave me the impression (as he has given the noble Lord, Lord Molloy) that he knew what the Minister was going to say.

My Lords, we shall now proceed on the basis of this notable Bill put forward on the initiative of Lord Molloy, for which he is to be congratulated. I say that it is a notable Bill because it is going to help those caught in the hideous trap of unemployment who find it expensive and difficult financially genuinely to seek work. The adoption of this Bill in the way that the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, has described, would in many instances give an incentive for many now unemployed and in despair to look for work. I use the word "hideous" in relation to unemployment and I feel I must justify using that word. The position of many men and women is hideous because they are forced, owing to their inability to travel to seek work because of the financial stress on their families due to lack of funds, to join a subsection of society where they are apparently useless and unwanted.

May I give your Lordships an instance of a one-parent family in my experience? There are young children and one adult who has gone around seeking work. He has run up bills and his mother is in despair about the cost of this situation. The moral effect upon this young man—and this scenario is duplicated in many places—is that he feels he cannot go seeking work now. He spends his time lolling about the house or in bed, wasting his life, because he feels that by going out to seek work and spending money on travel he will be depriving the rest of the family of their bread and their livelihood. I shall not take up your Lordships' time by giving instances of that kind but there are many, particularly of men, in the longer term of unemployment who, because of the cost of travelling, in rural areas or in city areas, give up.

This Bill would be an incentive to those who are genuinely going to seek work. It is not a costly Bill. As the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, indicated, its costs would be set off by contributions to the transport organisations; and I am not going to involve myself in the details of administration. The Manchester Corporation—and I am aware of the part played by Liberal colleagues of mine in this research—consider that it is a project worth pursuing. Therefore, I speak strongly in favour of this Second Reading and I do hope that the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, will not press his amendment today.

I heard the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, earlier this week talk about the benefits being given to the unemployed and to the disabled. Here we are dealing with people who are able-bodied and could do with a little bit of support when genuinely seeking employment. The amendment would seem to be counter to the expressed views, certainly of the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, who was sincerely putting forward the views that he did in winding up that great debate. I believe the Government would be very wrong to rely on this technical matter in the way that the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, has suggested: that we are duplicating work on this very serious social question that is before the House.

12.13 p.m.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, I too hope that the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, will not press his amendment, for two reasons: first, because of the time factor to which my noble friend Lord Ponsonby referred; and, secondly, because I have been misquoted as to what I said at the end of the debate on the amendment which I moved during the Committee stage of the Transport Bill. I will read what I said on 3rd March at cols. 1281 and 1282: I will consider the points which the noble Lord has made, but we may want to come back to the general principle of assistance as regards social needs and as regards the needs to which reference has been made. My noble friend Lord Molloy will be coming back to this matter because he has a Private Member's Bill dealing with this very point. We may look at that and also at what has been said tonight and consider whether we shall have a suitable amendment on Report". With those words, I withdrew the amendment. Naturally, if your Lordships support this Second Reading, as I hope you will, I will have to consider what to do on Report stage. We may still decide to put down an amendment on Report stage, bearing in mind that the Government may not find time for this Bill to be debated anywhere else. Therefore, our options are still open; but my statement did not mean that we should not support this Bill today: in fact it said the contrary.

The noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, whom I am pleased is speaking today, questioned whether or not the Transport Bill—and I quote him from col. 1279— is an active vehicle to carry such a clause, irrespective of its merits". Incidentally, I hope we are going to consider my noble friend's Bill on its merits and on nothing else. The noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, likewise questioned whether the amendment to the Transport Bill was the appropriate means to achieve the objective. Therefore, if the Transport Bill was not the proper place for my amendment, the Bill of my noble friend Lord Molloy is the proper place for it, and so we have to consider that aspect.

It appeared in that debate—and I re-read it carefully last night—that the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, to a great extent misunderstood all the objectives of the amendment which I moved; and we may also be in danger of misunderstanding the objectives of my noble friend's Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, was very sympathetic and he outlined all the provisions available for assisting travel for those seeking work and attending interviews. But on reading very carefully what the noble Lord said I find that he mentioned that these provisions are for claimants coming from the DHSS and they must be unemployed and receiving supplementary benefit. So any person who is unemployed and not receiving supplementary benefit cannot get this assistance from the DHSS to attend interviews or to travel to seek work.

The noble Lord the Minister also referred to possible help from the Manpower Services Commission. All these matters may be dealt with by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas; but they are irrelevant to the point of this Bill because for persons to be assisted under the MSC they must be unemployed or threatened with redundancy. They must be attending a definite job interview; so it is no good suggesting that someone may be paid for simply going somewhere to seek work. I am now quoting from the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, in cols. 1280 and 1281, where he said: The prospective employer must confirm a reasonable chance of success in the job application". That is a very, very limited form of assistance. Therefore, over and above the points made by the Minister in reply to me, there are obviously big gaps even in assisting persons who want to seek work and travel for interviews.

In my reply to the noble Lord the Minister, I stressed that I was not only dealing with help to seek work or attend interviews but I was dealing with the other social needs of the unemployed, to assist them to visit relatives and friends. This morning I did not travel by car but travelled by Tube and the cost was £1.80 for a single fare for a journey of 15 miles to Westminster. What unemployed person could afford that to visit relatives with his wife? As I have mentioned before to your Lordships, I happen to support a football team which does not attract a very great attendance. The unemployed are admitted at specially reduced prices to watch my team, Leyton Orient—a good, friendly club—but it costs them money to get there and I can assure your Lordships that within our catchment area the fare will be prohibitive for an unemployed man.

We are talking not only about assistance where the unemployed are not covered by the MSC or by the DHSS when seeking work and attending interviews, hut also about the social needs of the unemployed so that they will not be made to live like hermits because they cannot afford to travel. That is the basic justification for my noble friend's Bill.

In the light of what else was said in our previous debate at the Committee stage of the Transport Bill, I make it quite clear—if the Minister does not say it I will—that Section 138 of the Transport Act 1968 states that these concessionary fares can be only in the area of the authority or the transport executive which is making the decision—and, as my noble friend said, the power is a permissive one and is not mandatory—or in areas adjacent to it. Therefore, someone travelling down from Manchester to London to get a job is not covered. Such a case will have to be covered by one of the other schemes, if it can be covered at all. Only travel in the area of the local authority, or in places adjacent to it, is covered.

Therefore for all those reasons, I hope that noble Lords will put aside procedural points. If I may say so, it is for me to decide whether I will come back at Report stage, in the light of the discussion today and in the light of whatever timetable the Government promise this Bill, if it gets a Second Reading today—which I hope it will. Because the Bill is permissive, because it will affect not only the schemes which I am certain the Minister will tell us about today—the DHSS and the MSC schemes, which are very limited—and because of the need to ensure that the unemployed can live like the rest of us, and travel in their areas on a social needs basis, I hope that your Lordships will give support to my noble friend's Bill and will reject the amendment.

12.22 p.m.

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, has a worthy dream, but I fear that it is a dream of Utopia. There are so many groups who, in an ideal world, we should all like to help—and in the context of the noble Lord's Bill I am speaking of financial help. But, in the hard world of reality, where should the line be drawn? With only so much public money available, what criteria should be used to decide who might have the best claim for assistance by way of free travel? Well, my Lords, so far so good, from the point of view of the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, and, from one aspect, it is a view which I share. Obviously, unemployed people in search of jobs have to travel in order to be intervieved. Equally obviously they cannot, in many cases, afford the price of the bus or train fare.

From earlier speeches in this debate, it seems that I may well be robbing my noble friend the Minister of his speech—because I do not know what he is going to say. But, if I may have the temerity to take up your Lordships' time by recalling what my noble friend Lord Bellwin said on 3rd March, about the circumstances in which assistance with travel costs is available to the unemployed from the DHSS, I shall now do so.

The noble Lord, Lord Underhill, has picked bits out of the speech of my noble friend Lord Bellwin. Perhaps I may return to what he said. It is true that claimants must be unemployed and receiving supplementary benefit. Assistance is given to attend interviews more than 10 miles from home if the person in question is not receiving help from any other source. If the DHSS arranges an interview within 10 miles of home, help can be obtained. Travel help will be extended up to a maximum of 14 days, if the person gets the job but has to wait for his or her first pay cheque. Unemployed people who are doing very worthwhile voluntary jobs under Government schemes can have their fares paid. This is not part of what the Minister said. Lastly—to return to what he said—interview expenses covering travel can be obtained from the MSC's job search scheme.

I am convinced that the Government already appreciate that people may, and do, have to travel to find suitable jobs. Provision already exists to provide not only assistance with travel expenses but, sometimes, subsistence allowances for all that is involved in seeking work, and, if the applicant is successful, assistance is also available for moving home to another area. It is possible that, when the Report stage of the Transport Bill is discussed, more discretionary help may be found to be available. But I believe that the Government's attitude is sensible and caring.

I admire the spirit and deep feelings which the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, has displayed in presenting his Bill. I share those feelings. But in this case, and for the reasons I have given, I must part company with the noble Lord and I shall support the amendment of my noble friend Lord Nugent if he presses it to a Division.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, with great respect to the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, and to the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, is it not a misconception to suggest that this Bill as drafted is appropriate to implement the "Get on your bike" exhortation of my right hounourable friend? With your Lordships' leave, perhaps I may put aside procedural questions, because I should be out of my depth on them, and, in no way challenging any assertion of the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, as to what was said, or not said, on a previous occasion, accept the noble Lord's challenge to try to deal with this matter on the merits?

Why is this Bill not appropriate to implement that exhortation? At the outset, I wish to associate myself with the concept that registered unemployed persons who travel in search of employment should receive reimbursement of all travel expenses incurred by them, irrespective of whether or not they are in receipt of supplementary benefit. In that context, from my personal point of view, the present state of the law is not wholly satisfactory, because the MSC grant is limited to those in receipt of supplementary benefit and not the ordinary benefit.

But, having said that and coming to the merits of the Bill as regards the unemployed, your Lordships will no doubt observe on objective examination that it fails to limit concessionary travel to the purpose of seeking employment under such schemes as the Manchester scheme, to which reference has been made by the noble Lord, Lord Molloy. This is important, because, if your Lordships will be good enough to bear with me and to follow the Bill, bearing in mind that you will have read the master Act onto which it is to be tacked, what has happened is as follows.

The principle of this Bill is really objectionable, in that it seeks to equate the status of the elderly, the blind and the disabled, who are in the master Act, and who, rightly, by virtue of that status qualify for concessionary travel irrespective of the purpose of the travel, with the status of the unemployed and those employed on youth opportunities schemes, without limitation as to purpose. This is a crucial defect in the tacking-on process, which confuses status with purpose and wholly fails to implement my right honourable friend's concept of the "Get on your bike" principle.

If your Lordships will allow me just one or two more minutes—Friday is not a day on which to bore your Lordships—there is one matter which on objective examination I feel I ought to draw to your Lordships' attention, if you have, at least, followed the approach to the proposed statute so far. This has rightly been said by other noble Lords to be permissive. That breeds disparity of treatment, because it may be implemented here but may not be implemented there. And it may be implemented here in a way in which it is not implemented there. If it is implemented, there is no control whatsoever under the Bill to prevent abuse at the expense of the ratepayer. Furthermore, if widely implemented, the system of control under the Transport Bill could, with some 3 million unemployed, be detrimentally affected. It is not appropriate to repeat what was said last week about the Transport Bill. I seek respectfully to draw only that aspect of the matter to your Lordships' attention.

If this process of reasoning should commend itself to your Lordships as a fair and objective examination of the proposed statute, would it not follow that one should reject the concept of the Bill but support the concept of the amendment? Should we not all agree on the principle at stake?—that, subject to reasonable control, the unemployed who are seeking work should be reimbursed for their expenses and that to that end further consideration should be given by the Government to the point which I sought to raise about the bar—unless one is receiving supplementary benefit, perhaps. Having made that suggestion, I most earnestly suggest to your Lordships that this Bill is not a fair or an appropriate means of implementing "Get on your bike".

12.32 p.m.

Lord Sefton of Garston

My Lords, I apologise to your Lordships for not having put down my name to speak in this debate. I should not have intervened but for the fact that we have now heard three speeches from the other side, all of which have expressed sympathy for the contents and the principle of the Bill. Indeed, in one particular case the speaker went much further. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, said quite clearly that he agreed with the principle that the unemployed should be assisted in travelling to look for work, regardless of their status in other ways—for instance, that they are receiving supplementary benefit. That I find to be very refreshing. It underlines what I have been told over many years is the hallmark of this Chamber: the ability of both sides to talk about principles and to say whether or not they agree with them, regardless of party standing. I welcome with great sincerity what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway.

However, at the end of his speech the noble Lord said that this Bill is not an appropriate way in which to achieve that aim. But this is not the be-all-and-end-all of the matter. If this Bill receives its Second Reading, I have been well advised that there is nothing at all to prevent noble Lords from putting into the Bill during the Committee stage all the kinds of control that the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, wants. That would apply to what was said by the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, and by the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, who moved the amendment. Nobody has so far disagreed with the principle of the Bill, though I have no doubt that somebody will do so later. As I understand the procedure of this House—

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. The principle with which we are in agreement is, I submit, incapable of fair reflection in this Bill. When, therefore, the noble Lord said that I am in agreement with the principle of the Bill, that is, alas!, just what I am not. I am in agreement with the principle with which I said I was in agreement.

Lord Sefton of Garston

My Lords, the noble Lord seems to be moving back from his previous statement, but I shall read with interest in Hansard what the noble Lord has said and see whether I can reconcile his statements. But even taking the noble Lord's last statement, that he does not necessarily agree with the principle of the Bill, because even then it would not be possible to achieve the method of control which he believes should be achieved by it, what on earth is wrong about giving a Second Reading to the Bill and then trying to achieve that objective at the Committee stage? I cannot, for the life of me, understand what procedure would prevent those on the other side who have spoken from achieving that objective at the Committee stage. What, therefore, is quite clear is that a refusal to give a Second Reading to this Bill by any noble Lords in this House means that they do not care about the principle of assisting the unemployed.

12.36 p.m.

Lord Kinnaird

My Lords, I had not intended to join in the debate, but I feel compelled to do so. I quite agree with my noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford that on the whole Private Members' Bills should give way to Government business. I quite agree, too, that at certain times and in certain circumstances, particularly in this House, the head should bend a little toward the heart. My head usually tends to go with the Government. Today my heart goes with the noble Lord, Lord Molloy. Unless certain things are said during the next five or 10 minutes which manage to change my heart, I shall vote for the Bill.

Lord Milverton

My Lords, I, too, should like to say that I shall be voting for the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, unless the speaker who is to wind up can persuade me otherwise. I shall do so on the principle that we must do all we can to prevent men or women from feeling that they are not human. If that means sacrifice for the rest of us, we must be prepared for it. As another speaker has already pointed out, any defects which there may be in this short Bill could be ironed out and put right at Committee stage. Let us give some hope to the unemployed. Those of us who live in rural areas know how costly travelling can be if we are lucky enough to be in a job, and for those in rural areas who are out of a job travelling can be very costly indeed. Let us therefore try not only to reason with the head but also to have a little warmth, heart and spirit. Surely it would not mean any doubling up with anything which will be in the Transport Bill.

12.40 p.m.

The Earl of Halsbury

My Lords, I should like to say a few words on the procedural point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford. If we follow purely matters of procedure, the type of Second Reading speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, and others in the course of this morning's proceedings would have been ruled out of order at Committee stage of the Transport Bill. Furthermore, the multiple speeches that have been made and the cut and thrust across the Floor of this House would equally have been out of order at Report stage. In a sense, the introduction of this Bill has by-passed our normal procedures so far as the Transport Bill is concerned. As such, I do not believe that it is a wise use of the time of this House. I am spending a Friday morning that I could have spent in other ways in discharging my duties by listening to this point. I believe that we should support the point of principle made by the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford; not because the head is ruling the heart but because we must learn to be economical with parliamentary time so far as we can.

The noble Lord's Private Bill has not a chance of survival in the Commons, introduced as late as this in the Lords without Government support. If it is not to receive Government support in this House, then it will not get it in the other place and it will not get on to the statute book this year. Surely a better course of action for the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, is to wait and see what emerges from successive stages of the Transport Bill, and then he will be free to introduce his Private Bill at the next Session, to smooth out whatever deficiencies there may be in the Transport Bill as it leaves both Houses. This is purely an intervention on the subject of procedure and I hope that your Lordships will accept it as such.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede

My Lords, before the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, sits down, I hope he will recall that this Bill was introduced on 10th November last, a few days after this Session began.

The Earl of Halsbury

With respect, my Lords, that has nothing to do with it, because if this Bill now goes to another place it will not get through Committee stage in time to get on to the statute book without Government assistance, which it does not look like getting.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, I believe that the procedural point has been completely dealt with by my noble friend Lord Sefton of Garston and I do not propose going any further into that matter, except to say that procedural points should not be allowed to undermine principles. We are on the Second Reading of a Bill, and Second Reading is, by convention, dealing with the principles of the Bill. I should like to make it absolutely clear to everyone in this House that anybody who votes against this Bill or who abstains from voting is casting a vote against the principle of subsidising the travel fares of the unemployed. As has been said, any details can be discussed at Committee stage, and will certainly be discussed in another place.

I welcome very warmly the cross-House and cross-party expressions of support for this principle. However, there are one or two points which have not been made in this debate so far. At one time the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, appeared to give the impression that this Bill was the personal possession of my noble friend Lord Molloy and all we were really discussing was whether we should be kind to my noble friend or not. That is not the case, and my noble friend Lord Molloy would be the last person to wish it to be the case.

In my view, this Bill should have come from the Government. It should have come from the Government on the basis of the Government's policy. Is it recognised that, on the one hand, from the Government's own figures, there are more than 3 million unemployed; but that, on the other hand, there are 300,000 advertised jobs vacant? We know that normally the number of advertised jobs vacant represents only one-third of the total number of jobs vacant, which would produce a figure of something like 900,000 jobs vacant. Surely it is common sense for the Government to want to get these two together.

How can they do so? We have been hearing about the provision under the DHSS for the assistance of travel for the disabled. The unemployed are disabled; they are disabled from working. They are disabled from earning a sufficient wage to keep their families in ordinary decency. A family of a couple with two children who receive £41.05 unemployment pay a week is disabled. If the Government are sincere in their desire to reduce unemployment and to give the unemployed the opportunity of taking the jobs which are available—the numbers of which may be disputed but the advertised number is 300,000, so the total number is certainly more than that—then surely it is the Government's responsibility to ensure that people who are unemployed today are given every opportunity and encouragement, without having to sacrifice the interests of their families in seeking those jobs. That is the principle we are discussing in this Bill, irrespective of what happens at Report stage of the Transport Bill.

I have one final point. This issue is really one of principle—and one that will be of concern to the whole of this country for the rest of this century. It is virtually a platitude today to point out that if we are to restore the industrial power of this country, then workers must be prepared to seek other jobs, to receive further training, and to move their homes and their families; and that it is imperative that there should be a great deal more mobility of labour than has been traditional in this country. That will be possible only if the workers themselves are assisted in their search for those jobs.

As one who comes from the North of England, I would ask Ministers who are responsible for this policy to go anywhere north of the Trent and just to talk with and listen to the people there, to learn just how many people are so desperate today that they are taking any form of transport they can find in looking for jobs which they hear are available. Jobs are available, and if your Lordships have seen on television each week the maps of lay-offs on the one hand and new jobs being created on the other hand, you will appreciate that people are trying to get to those areas where new jobs are being created. But it is the responsibility of the Government to give them every assistance to do so.

12.48 p.m.

Baroness Hornsby-Smith

My Lords, I apologise for not being here for the start of this debate, but from the five speeches I have heard it seems that the sympathy of this House, from all sides, is very largely for those who want free transport when they are genuinely seeking jobs. I am sure that the vast majority of your Lordships would support that. But as I read this Bill—unless the lawyers can tell me that I am completely wrong—it will mean creating virtually a universal pass enabling people to go anywhere at any time provided that they are unemployed, and will put the bill at the door of British Rail or Her Majesty's Government, who will probably have to pay the subsidy. Are we really to find that if people want to go from Glasgow to Wembley for the Cup Final we are going to pay their fares?

Noble Lords

No, no!

Baroness Hornsby-Smith

Are we going to find that we pay because somebody in Middlesbrough might have an opportunity of staying with a relative in Devon when he has been divorced from the area where he might be seeking employment? I would agree that the unemployed should get their voucher for anywhere where they want to go to seek a job. I would one hundred per cent. support that. But I do not agree that we should lay ourselves wide open to abuse for people to ride all over the country wherever they like at the taxpayers' expense.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, may I correct the position? I made quite clear in my remarks that Section 138 of the 1968 Act, which this Bill proposes to amend, applies only to journeys within the area of the local authority giving the concessions or adjacent areas. If a county decided to give the concession it would be in the area of that county. If a PTE decided to give assistance it would be in the area of the PTE or adjoining areas. The Bill would enable the unemployed to have concessionary fares of whatever kind the local authority wished, it does not necessarily mean free travel. They would get a concession up to the level decided by the local authority. But we would wish—I think the amendment we propose would involve this—that it would not just cover travel to work but enable the unemployed person to visit friends and take part in social life.

Baroness Hornsby-Smith

My Lords, if this is confined to the area for seeking work that would be less than I would wish. If somebody was living in Middlesbrough and had an opportunity of a job in London, I would rather support him having the right to a free fare to London to be interviewed for that job, than the freedom to go anywhere. The division between us is not that the unemployed should not be given every opportunity to seek work, anywhere in the country, with a free voucher; but I do think we are laying ourselves wide open to abuse when it is suggested that, even confined to the area—the noble Lord has corrected me and I apologise for my error—the concession should include other purposes. That still lays us open to abuse. Let them have a wider area, provided they are job seeking.

Lord Leatherland

My Lords, may I intervene with three sentences. In the first place, I have no interest to declare. It is 71 years since I entered full-time employment; I was never unemployed. This Bill is to help people to get work. That is surely a very worthy cause and deserves to be supported. When we talk about paying some of the expenses which people incur in trying to get work, we have to bear in mind that we get our own fares paid by the State when we come to work here.

12.53 p.m.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

My Lords, noble Lords from both sides of the House this morning have drawn attention to the difficulties facing the unemployed and some have argued the case for assistance through the kind of concessionary fare scheme envisaged in the Bill. My colleagues in Government have no difficulty in recognising the conviction with which those views are held. Neither are my colleagues less concerned at the plight of the unemployed than any other noble Lord in your Lordships' House. It is a matter of concern. But we have to ask ourselves: is subsidy for travel the best way of helping those who are out of work? Can the very considerable demands which such subsidies would make on national resources be justified, in terms either of transport policies or indeed of social welfare?

Certainly in so far as transport policies are concerned, I suggest we have to look most closely at any case which argues that what we need are more subsidies for transport. It is no secret—we went over this last week—that the Government have been deeply concerned about escalating costs of revenue support for public passenger transport and the subsidy that applies to that transport. That is why in the Bill now before Parliament we seek to ensure that the case for subsidy is properly presented and thoroughly scrutinised before any decisions are taken as to the level of support. In one respect, of course, there is no doubt that the unemployed do have this particular problem of meeting expenses incurred when travelling in search of a job.

I had not intended to repeat what my noble friend Lord Bellwin said a week ago, but since there appears to be some confusion among some speakers this morning I regret that I think I ought again to spell out exactly what he said. Those seeking help for travelling expenses can be and are assisted under two schemes: first, from the DHSS, and certainly the eligibility is that the claimant must be unemployed and receiving supplementary benefit. This was a point that was made by my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway, and indeed by the noble Lord, Lord Sefton, who agreed with him. I take close note of what noble Lords said in that regard.

The benefit offered is assistance towards travelling expenses; first, to seek work in another area of Great Britain if there is a reasonable prospect of finding a job there; and, secondly, if the claimant is successful and would have to move house; thirdly, if he or she is not eligible for assistance from the MSC. Additionally, through the DHSS, there is assistance to attend interviews more than 10 miles from home, and when seeking a job within 10 miles of home if interview arrangements have been made by the DHSS; and when starting a new job, until the first wages are received, to a maximum of 14 days' benefit. In addition, any person receiving supplementary benefit is eligible for assistance with fares for hospital visiting, journeys arising from domestic issues—children in hospital, children in the custody of another parent, and so on.

Then from the MSC under the job search scheme interview expenses are paid. There the eligibility is that claimants must be unemployed or threatened with redundancy; they must be attending a definite job interview; the prospective employer must confirm a good chance of success in the job application; there must be no expenses contribution available from the employer; and there must be no reasonable job prospect in the home area, and no suitable unemployed person in the area where the job is available. The benefits offered there are fares and subsistence for pre-arranged interviews. At that time my noble friend Lord Bellwin omitted to tell your Lordships that the MSC also assists Youth Opportunity Programme trainees by meeting any costs of travel to a place of employment in excess of £4 a week.

It was the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, who quoted cols. 1280–81 in our debate last week, and he will, I am quite sure, agree with me that my noble friend at that time did say he would take note of what was said and would consider it. So in no way, notwithstanding anything that I might have to say, have the Government closed the door on any of these matters. The Government have made provision in the way that I have just described, through the DHSS and the MSC, for expenses incurred when one is actually looking for work.

The Bill now before your Lordships seeks to go very much beyond this and it includes unemployed persons and those working under the opportunities programme among those for whom local authorities have the power to provide concessionary fares under the 1960 Act. The position at present is that all county and district councils, including the metropolitan counties and the GLC, have specific powers under that section to provide concessionary fares for the elderly and the disabled. The principal objection to this Bill is that it would have very considerable consequences for public expenditure. Free bus travel across the board for the unemployed in metropolitan areas alone would cost about £90 million. It must also be remembered that the other groups, such as single parent families, the lower paid, and a great many groups of people might then be able to make similar claims for special consideration.

The 1968 Act gives local authorities the power to provide concessions for three groups: those over pensionable age—65 for men and 60 for women—the blind and those suffering from disabilities or injuries. These groups are clearly and closely defined and it would be generally accepted that local authorities should have the power to provide those groups with concessions.

But not all local authorities have made use of the power, which illustrates the fact that some authorities feel that their powers under the Act to give assistance to the aged, the blind and the disabled are better served in other areas. So, because Section 138 of the 1960 Act applies, it does not necessarily follow that all authorities feel that that is the best way to give assistance. The particular instances that come to mind are those authorities who provide assistance through meals-on-wheels or home helps, and it is particularly true in areas where public transport is limited and the concessionary fare benefit would not generally apply because of the lack of transport.

The Government have no doubt that authorities should have the power to provide fares for these groups, and they believe that that is the best way of helping them. This was made quite clear when doubts were cast on the powers of the GLC to provide such fares, and the response was shown in the Travel Concessions (London) Act 1982. However, the Government believe that it is possible to draw a valid distinction between those who are unemployed and those who are eligible for concessions under the Act. If we extend those categories under the 1968 Act we immediately come up against the wider questions of social welfare and the priorities to which I referred earlier. We are then faced with the great difficulty of finding criteria for deciding between all the different groups which might have claims, I have referred to some of those.

We have spent, and are spending, over £700 million a year on subsidies in public transport to help keep fares at an acceptable level. We have said during the course of the Transport Bill that a control has to be exercised on the level of subsidy. Acceptance of the noble Lord's Bill would release certain elements of that control because that would make it possible for local authorities to make use of the Bill to provide some concessionary fares on public transport, but only in their own areas and only on transport services for which they have some responsibility.

In response to the point raised by some noble Lords—particularly, I recall, the noble Lord, Lord Underhill—of travelling longer distances outside local authority and PTE areas, the Bill would not, in fact, make it possible for assistance to be given. It might be helpful to remind your Lordships that there are a number of bus operators who have found that it actually pays to provide reduced fares for the unemployed. They have found that it pays on purely commercial grounds. The increase in ridership cancels out the cost of fare reductions. The Government welcome such schemes wholeheartedly and encourage the hope that others may be inspired to follow that example. I suppose that in those areas of very high unemployment where the necessity to move across the area in seeking work is greatest there may very well be a good case to persuade the PTEs that there is a commercial advantage to be gained by giving such assistance. The Government's view is that such schemes are justified, but certainly only if they cover their costs.

I should perhaps return to the main point. The fact is quite simply that the Government do not believe that concessionary fare schemes of the kind envisaged in the Bill and outlined by some noble Lords are the best way of helping the unemployed. On the contrary, and in the long run, the Government believe that this can only serve to push up rates and taxes, thus putting even more jobs at risk, and that is not the way to the kind of recovery that the unemployed really need. Nor does it represent a sensible priority for the use of the resources that are available for the full and proper development of public transport. Were it not for the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford I would have advised the House to reject the Bill. As it is, I suggest that our total interests would be better served if we support the amendment.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, can he explain something to me? Perhaps I am simple minded, but he seemed to be contradicting himself. On the one hand he was saying that the scheme in my noble friend's Bill would cost £90 million in the metropolitan area and, on the other hand, he said that he is in favour of concessionary schemes where they cover themselves. What does he mean in saying that the scheme will cost £90 million? If the unemployed are able to travel on a bus where there are seats vacant, what is it costing?

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

My Lords, I am very surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, can stand there and ask me that question. He did not have the courtesy to put his name down, which is quite customary in your Lordships' House for Second Reading debates, and then he asks me that question. I am happy to answer the noble Lord, but I merely draw the attention of the House to that practice. There is no contradiction. Concessionary fares that are worked out by PTEs with their local authorities and that are self-financing are to be commended. Were we not to have that kind of arrangement—in other words, if we have an additional subsidy—we estimate that a further £90 million might be required in subsidy.

1.9 p.m.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, I deeply and most sincerely regret that because of the cheating and the chicanery of the Government Front Bench and the Government's Whips' Office a bitterness has crept into this debate. Let me say to the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury—he has left the Chamber, so perhaps someone will tell him—that his real charge against me was this: "You fool, you co-operated with the Government in the Government's Whips' Office. You put back your Bill week after week at the Tories' request. Of course they will cheat you and therefore we have no patience with you." That is my crime.

Lord Kinnaird

My Lords—

Lord Molloy

No, my Lords, I have too much to say. It is my turn now.

Lord Kinnaird

My Lords, I just wanted to say to the noble Lord opposite that we have discussed this matter before and we have spent a lot of time on it. The noble Lord has made a very good case and a very good point, pray do not spoil it.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, I am deeply grateful to the noble Lord for that contribution. But when you have lived a tough life and have never lost faith in your nation, despite the temptations of other hideous philosophies which you have fought, and you come to a House like this and think that you can be subjected to the type of behaviour to which I am being subjected, then I find it distasteful. Surely everyone knows full well that the Government lacked the guts to get up and say that they were against the Bill. They got the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, to do it and he slipped up because he told us almost what the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, was going to say. Is that the behaviour of the gentlemen of England? I am glad I do not belong to your club because that is highly distasteful.

Then there was the mix-up between the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, and the noble Lord, Lord Nugent. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell, quite honestly said—and I have never known him to speak any other way; I want to put that on record—that he disagreed that this was merely a procedural Bill. He dismissed that view. So he cannot support the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, can he?

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord for his courtesy. But to get the record straight, I just confessed frankly to the House that I did not understand the procedure and, therefore, I would not deal with it. I accepted the suggestion from the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, for whom I have unbounded respect, that I should try to deal with it on the merits. I am very grateful to the noble Lord.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, I am most grateful indeed to the noble Lord for that explanation, which I accept fully without any question.

I now turn to the point that the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, made fairly and justly. Where was I when the amendment was put down? I think that that is a fair question and I believe that your Lordships are entitled to an answer. I do not know quite how I would have dealt with it but I would have found a way. However, it behoves me to give your Lordships a reason.

As your Lordships know, my Bill was put down many months ago and was delayed and delayed. That is my responsibility for agreeing. But what happened—and I am quite sure that it has happened to all of us—was that other engagements came along. I had an engagement which I never dreamt would clash with that particular part of the Committee stage of the Transport Bill. Even now, when I come to give an explanation it will not do me any good. However, I will give an explanation. I was invited, as I have been for very many years, to go to the 155th annual dinner of University College London Union Debating Society. At that dinner they had the standard debate which they have been debating for 155 years and I was quite privileged to go along and participate. Incidentally, the subject for debate is always: That this House has no confidence in Her Majesty's Government. I went along and they announced the result of the election of an honorary president. That college is known to be a college right of centre, but to their credit and to my great joy, I was elected the honorary president of that London college union debating society. Then they crowned it at the end of the day by voting for me and supporting the proposition: That this House has no confidence in Her Majesty's Government. That is what I meant when I said that when I tell the truth it still will not do me any good. I really think that it would have been better if the Government had come straight and said that they were again the Bill, and not used the idea of delaying it for six months by the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Nugent.

The noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, said that I had a dream. I have had dreams all my life. The dreams of my life have been to eradicate from mankind, and certainly from my nation, all things evil and distasteful. So the noble Baroness puts me in the same category as a dreamer as Martin Luther King—all I hope is that I do not get bumped off too soon. The noble Baroness also mentioned the cost. Let me say to the noble Baroness very gently that people talk and they will say, "What sort of folk are they? They argue and they talk about giving us a few pounds to go and look for a job and then they offer Mr. MacGregor another £1 million to come and take on a job elsewhere which they gave him in the first place". I do not want to bring this matter into the argument, but I am trying to appeal to your Lordships to listen to what goes on outside, which does none of us in this Chamber any good. Therefore, I believe that we must look very seriously at all these matters.

As I have explained, the issue of fraud has been covered as much as is humanly possible by the Greater Manchester City Council. The Conservative councillors worked as hard as any of the other councillors in pushing this forward. They have telephoned me and spoken to me and urged me. There was no feeling of partisan politics until the matter came to this House. That hurts me much more than any regret can because I feel that we could have taken their example. Those councillors belong to the party opposite, to my party, to the party of the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, and to the SDP. They are the people so near the scene and they found a unity. I hope that we can too.

If I may say so to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, and to the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, this issue is not about measures and constitutional issues; it is about men, our countrymen. Therefore, I believe that that is a reason for supporting it. I could understand to a degree the submission of the noble Baroness, Lady Hornsby-Smith. But if this Bill went into Committee I could show her the complicated plan which I have—reams and reams of it—which gives almost a guarantee that the limits of the areas to which every local authority would have to adhere would be acceptable to all parties in both Houses of this Parliament, as much as it was totally acceptable to all parties in the Greater Manchester City Council. I would just say to the noble Baroness that I am still one of those who were brought up as a Welsh Baptist/Methodist who still happens to believe that compassion will cure more sins than condemnation. It is a lovely little pilot scheme in which they are going to indulge and from which the whole nation can learn. Despite all that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, has said, I at least implore your Lordships not to go with him all the way.

This is a poignant issue against people who at this moment, at almost 1.20 p.m. on a Friday afternoon, have their heads in their hands or have just come back from not being able to get a job. They are fighting the arguments that we fought when we were told in the mid-thirties that this country was finished. We said, "No way". There was no Parliament in those days to assist us. I would never have believed that I would be saying this, but I am going to say it. Perhaps the best friend that the unemployed could have could be this Chamber, this House of Lords. That is good for Britain, good for this Chamber, good for the unemployed and good for the principles of good standards of life and acknowledgment of our parliamentary procedure. I make my pleas as humbly as I can. Whatever little doubts your Lordships may have, we will have an opportunity to clear them up in Committee. But I ask your Lordships to unite this Friday afternoon on behalf of our less fortunate Britons and give this Bill a Second Reading.

1.20 p.m.

Lord Nugent of Guildford

My Lords, we have all listened with interest and sympathy to the noble Lord's moving speech. He regretted that a note of bitterness should have come into the debate; so do I, but it did not come from this side. There is just one point on that which I should like to make. It was a charge made in particular by the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, that any opponent of the Bill was an opponent of the travel concessions for the unemployed. That, of course, is totally wrong. If the noble Lord has listened to my noble friend the Minister, Lord Lucas, he will know—and all noble Lords who heard it will know—that there is quite a range of assistance. It is possible—it may even be probable—that something more needs to be done in that particular field. But one thing which is absolutely clear is that this is not the right Bill in which to do it, because this Bill will be tacked on to Section 138 of the 1968 Act, where it does not fit particularly well because that section is particularly for the assistance of the elderly and disabled. Therefore, technically, the use of this Bill is not necessarily the right way in which to achieve the excellent ends for which the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, has so eloquently pleaded.

I would ask him to accept that because we do not entirely agree with him on this side, it does not mean that we are not equally interested in and equally devoted to the cause with which he is concerned, which is to relieve the nation of this major problem of a very large number of unemployed. We all are. I shall not go on any longer, we have debated too long on this already. I wish to press my amendment.

1.22 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 50; Not-Contents, 35.

Airey of Abingdon, B. Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Mancroft, L.
Ampthill, L. Marley, L.
Balfour of Inchrye, L. Merrivale, L.
Belstead, L. Molson, L.
Boyd-Carpenter, L. Mottistone, L.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Campbell of Croy, L. Nugent of Guildford, L. [Teller.]
Coleraine, L.
Craigavon, V. Portland, D.
Davidson, V. Rankeillour, L.
De Freyne, L. Renton, L.
Denham, L. St. Davids, V.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Selkirk, E.
Faithfull, B. Sempill, Ly.
Glanusk, L. Shannon, E.
Glenarthur, L. Somers, L.
Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. Strathcarron, L.
Swinfen, L.
Halsbury, E. Swinton, E.
Harvey of Prestbury, L. Taylor of Hadfield, L.
Home of the Hirsel, L. Terrington, L.
Hornsby-Smith, B. Teviot, L.
Killearn, L. Trumpington, B. [Teller.]
Lindsey and Abingdon, E. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Long, V. Vivian, L.
Airedale, L. Kilbracken, L.
Amherst, E. Kinnaird, L.
Ardwick, L. Lawrence, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Leatherland, L.
Bishopston, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.
Briginshaw, L. Lloyd of Kilgerran, L.
Bruce of Donington, L. Mais, L.
Collison, L. Milverton, L.
Cork and Orrery, E. Molloy, L.[Teller.]
Davies of Leek, L. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Ewart-Biggs, B. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Gainford, L. Sefton of Garston, L.
Gaitskell, B. Segal, L.
Hampton, L. Shaughnessy, L.
Hanworth, V. Spens, L.
Hatch of Lusby, L. [Teller.] Strabolgi, L.
Houghton of Sowerby, L. Underhill, L.
John-Mackie, L.

Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.