HL Deb 14 March 1988 vol 494 cc904-65

2.53 p.m.

The Minister of State for Defence Procurement (Lord Trefgarne)

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

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

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.


Clause 23 [The Training Commission]:

Baroness Turner of Camden moved Amendment No. 120ZA: Page 24, line 20, after ("sixteen") insert ("but members appointed in addition to the ten specified in that section shall have an advisory role only").

The noble Baroness said: As it stands the Bill seeks to change representation on the Manpower Services Commission, which is now to be known as the Training Commission. Since 1973 the commission has consisted of three commissioners representing employees via the CBI, three commissioners representing employees nominated by the TUC, plus representatives from the local authorities and a representative from the field of education. The Bill seeks to add to that number further employers' representatives who are not nominated by the CBI but appointed directly by the Government.

The MSC has opposed that change. It felt that such additional employer members would upset the current balance which has enabled the commission to function effectively. During our debates on this Bill much has been heard about the need for balance. This proposal is another instance of the Government going over the top in their attitude to trade union representation and disturbing that balance, because the new employers' representatives will certainly have the effect of weighting the commission against trade union influence.

The TUC General Council, of which I was a member until last year, has always supported training programmes and the Manpower Services Commission. This has not always been easy. Voices have been raised within the trade union movement against continued participation in the commission and against particular schemes. The YTS in particular has been heavily criticised as not providing proper training and because of the level of allowances, which were seen to be too low. Nevertheless, the TUC has seen its role as directed towards ensuring that quality training is provided rather than cheap labour schemes, and the General Council has hitherto been successful in persuading the trade union movement that at every level co-operation with the commission is desirable.

To me and to these Benches the Goverment's proposal in this Bill appears to undermine the contribution which the trade union movement has made and should continue to make. If the trade union commissioners are to be swamped in this way by employers' representatives who are directly appointed by the Government, pressure will grow for the TUC to withdraw altogether from the commission on the grounds that its representatives are simply prisoners of an in-built majority. That would be a great pity and entirely counter-productive.

The Government may say, as indeed they have said already in another place, that the employers' representatives are required to be there in force because they are the ones who will be expected to provide the training. My amendment acknowledges that fact. It does not seek to debar them from membership but to restrict their role to an advisory capacity. In that way the essential balance can be maintained. If the Government are genuine in saying that they are not anti-union and do not want to marginalise the trade union movement, but are concerned to ensure continued trade union co-operation in training, then in our view they should accept the amendment.

I ask the Committee to vote for the amendment. If it is accepted it will be necessary to move a similar amendment to Clause 28, which contains similar propositions. We shall table an amendment at Report stage in order to bring that clause into line and maintain consistency. I beg to move.

Baroness Seear

I want very strongly to support this amendment. For the past four years I have been chairman of a local board and through all the difficulties of ensuring full support for the YTS, trade union loyalty to the scheme has been absolutely essential. In the case that I have been concerned with and, I believe, throughout the country, trade union support has been very good indeed. After all, these measures have to operate at local level. If the trade union representatives feel that inevitably they will be outnumbered and down-graded—on the committees one does not vote very often but it happens from time to time—one runs the very considerable risk of losing that absolutely essential trade union support.

I know that the Government will say that they want more employers' representatives because they want employers to represent different facets of employment. They want the small employer as well as the large one, the retail trade and so on. I suggest that that is not a very powerful argument. On these committees one wants employers who are experienced in training, who understand the problems and have enthusiasm for training. Our experience has been that employers find it extremely difficult to make time to attend. Employers must be enthusiastic and want to come to the committees.

I believe that it will be very difficult to get people to turn up to man the committees in the numbers that are suggested and that they will be hampered to no good effect at all. I very much hope that the parity of the trade unions will be maintained, both centrally and locally.

3 p.m.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

This amendment does neither one thing nor the other: it does not retain the membership of 10, which seems to appeal to both the noble Baronesses who have spoken; on the other hand, it proposes that six of the 16 members should attend only in an advisory capacity. It is not very clear what precisely is meant by "an advisory capacity", although I suppose it means that they would have no vote in the event of a difference.

However, the idea that one has carefully to constitute the commission so that there is no majority for one source of membership or another is quite misleading. There is no reason to believe that the present commission has voted on party lines, still less reason to believe that the Training Commission—as it will become—will similarly vote. There is something slightly derogatory, of being a second-class citizen, in being put on a body some of whose members have full voting rights and are full members, and some of whom are only there in an advisory capacity. The difficulty the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, has suggested in getting good enough employers—employers with enough experience—to serve would be accentuated if all that they could be offered was a post in an advisory capacity.

I share the Government's view that one wants additional employers on this body. It is the employers who will be responsible ultimately for training, and, with the vast variety of British industry today, in particular with the development of the new technologically important industries, very few people will have the knowledge to cover the training needs of more than a small section of industry. Therefore one requires—and this I understand is the purpose of the clause—a fairly wide spread of employers who will have between them the knowledge of the training requirements of most of British industry. I suggest that one will not attract those if one puts them on a body in a slightly derogatory way.

When I read the amendment I could not help being reminded of—and Members of the Committee may recall—the pleasant story of the preacher at one of those sects that indulge in extempore prayers at their services. He was heard to say, "Oh Lord, use me. Oh Lord, use me—be it only in an advisory capacity."

Lord Campbell of Alloway

I cannot support the amendment because the additional members in this important task ought to have a full vote and ought not to have merely an advisory role. However, the amendment raises a very important point of principle. The principle of parity between the employer and employee representatives on the commission was enshrined by Section 1 of the Employment and Training Act 1973. Clause 23, as it stands, leaves it open, as I understand it, to the Secretary of State by appointments to this commission without consultation to defeat this principle of parity if the membership, excluding the chairman, is enlarged beyond 10 to 16.

On this process of enlargement on this very important commission, it appears that there would be no consultation required before the Secretary of State makes any further appointments beyond the 10 under the Act of 1973, and there is absolutely no machinery whatever to preserve parity. I accept that one wants more employer representatives, for the reasons given by my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter, but I cannot understand why the principle of parity should be derogated. It is not merely a question of not understanding. It is the settled wish that there should be continued co-operation between the trade unions and the employers, so essential to this vital new dimension of employment and training as envisaged by this Act. Therefore, speaking only for myself, while I am relieved that the noble Baroness put down this amendment to afford a vehicle for an exchange of view, as I have indicated, I cannot vote for it because I take the view that the functions are so important that there should be full voting rights, not merely advisory rights.

There has been a history of problems—and Members of the Committee should know it—in the past where the trade union council at one stage was minded not to co-operate under the old Act and it was only by virtue of certain very responsible unions (I need not name them) that co-operation was retained, regained and preserved. Is it not more important that we should go forward, so far as we can, in a form of partnership, a joint venture in training and in employment, rather than that we should give the impression to trade union members that they are to be to some degree at a disadvantage? Many of these trade union members vote Conservative. More—it is true—vote Labour. Some vote for other political parties. Some do not vote. But how they vote, or whether they vote, we, and any government, assuredly will require their co-operation in the years to come.

This is merely a plea to the Minister to entertain the principle which could be derogated from to the danger of future advance, although, as I have said quite frankly, I shall not support this amendment.

Lord Dean of Beswick

I was not going to speak to this amendment, but perhaps I may correct one point put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter. I do not think that I am putting his words perfectly accurately, but he inferred that the final total responsibility for training rests with the employer. To anyone who has spent a lifetime in a skilled industry training apprentices nothing could be further from the truth. If one is training youths and girls in skills—and I am talking about skills, not semi-skills, and much of this will be skilled techniques in the new industries—they can be trained only by people who have those skills. They can be trained only on a widening basis.

During a long time spent as a skilled engineer in factories in a variety of jobs, I was able to help train apprentices under agreements with the trade unions. There is no point is saying that because the employer owns the factory he can go ahead with training schemes, and that whatever he says will count. It just does not work like that. Other than finding the time and resources, the employer is not—and I repeat, not—the teacher. In most cases it will be the man in the overalls. If it is in engineering, he may be a turner, a miller, a fitter, a blacksmith or someone like that, who will convey his skills and will train the emerging generation.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

Will the noble Lord allow me to intervene? The point that I was trying to make was this—and if I failed to make it clearly I apologise to Members of the Committee. The employer is, in the first place, in a position to know what skills are likely to be required in future years. He is in a position to know therefore not merely that people require to be trained, but how many of those trained in particular skills will be taken up in employment. That is the point. I did not say that he had sole knowledge. The noble Lord misunderstood. I said that he had a major responsibility; and I stick to that.

Lord Dean of Beswick

I accept fully what the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, has said, but I do not think that the two facets of his argument alter the basis of the argument one iota. Though the employers' representatives might have a crystal ball to see what future requirements are, when they have decided how many apprentices a trade will require for the next few years everything comes back to square one, where the men on the shop floor at various levels will be mostly in charge of training these lads.

I worked in a factory that at one time employed 25,000 of whom the greater percentage were mainly skilled people. Within that factory was a very fine fully managed training school. It became part of a rationalisation programme and the new employer thought that it was not worth keeping the school open, so that part of the training fell by the wayside. Training had to take second place. I stress once again that training took place with the tools of the trade on the job. It is because of proper training methods that is some industries young men of 20 and 21 are almost at their peak of production; they have been trained properly, by skilled men on the job, in full knowledge and cognisance of the trade union movement.

When talking about trade unions some Members of the Committee may sometimes assume that unions make a blanket approach to everything. But that is the last approach of trade unionism and its application, because most trade union agreements are dealt with at factory level. Very often trade union officials will make decisions on training and try to impose them in a particular factory. It is possible that the people in the factory will not accept them; however they have to be carried into effect.

I feel that it is dangerous to assume we can continue in this fashion and diminish the role of the trade union movement in such a vital area as this. Today, the CBI is on record as saying that there is a shortage of skilled men and women in certain jobs. Is that any wonder when for nearly a decade some industries, I repeat the word "some", have been unnecessarily savaged in the view of some of us? We have lost a generation of seed corn in this country.

As I said, I am a skilled engineer. When I left engineering to become a Member of Parliament in 1974 there were nearly half a million apprentices in training, from school leaving age until they emerged as skilled men. Today, there is a less than 30 per cent. intake of skilled engineers, and that has been so for the last 10 years. We are wondering why there is now a shortage of skilled people. I am concerned mainly about skilled engineers and I understand now that in some parts of the country there is a crying need for them.

If the Government are really serious and want to make up some of the leeway that has been tragically lost, unless they give the trade unions a full role to play—and that will be seen only as a diminishing one—we may very well damage the schemes that we are hoping will be successful.

3.15 p.m.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

I intervene briefly in this discussion because for a number of years I was a commissioner in the Manpower Services Commission, so I have immediate experience of how it has worked in the past and perhaps can imagine how it would work in the future under the Government's proposals.

Through the years of developing the employment and training measures that we now have, and of making the enormous and radical changes in training which the country needed, on the whole the commission has succeeded on behalf of the nation. However, its progress has at times been desperately slow. One of the reasons for that is that the composition of nine members (which included three TUC and three CBI members) and the balance of interest was such that many months were spent—for example, in getting off the ground the Youth Training Scheme, or the TVEI, which was the Manpower Services Commission initiative in schools or, indeed, the earlier adult programme—in discussion across the table between the CBI and the TUC about their interests, also between them and the Government about their interests, and sometimes about the combined interests of those two groups and the Government. After each meeting those two groups had to go away and talk to their parent bodies and return for another meeting.

This went on for months. In the meantime a whole year of YTS potential trainees lost the opportunity to be in the scheme. Many adults lost opportunities on the old schemes because they were delayed and the TVEI was held up. Indeed it was held up, although I do not think particularly under the auspices of the Trades Union Congress, by the teachers' unions. In my own area it was held up for so long that it has only just now started in the schools. This was not because individual members did not think that what was going on was a good idea, but because of the structure of the commission and what it was trying to do. I believe it was right to structure it like that at the time, but huge changes in understanding had to occur, and these were bound to take time.

Now we are in a different ball game. People now understand the YTS. We know that it will get better and better. It is already quite good, as many noble Lords have already said from their own experience. Its model is now being followed for adults by the other training scheme; this will bring all the other schemes together. All this is now accepted. What is now important is that the content of training should move fast enough for the changing needs of the nation.

Baroness Seear

The noble Baroness will agree, surely, that there is a grave danger that the new job training scheme efforts will not be accepted because of failure of trade union co-operation. The amendment is an attempt to stop the possible ruining of the new job training scheme.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

I imagine that that is how we used to talk, but, quite honestly, I think that the nation now understands that it would be at the TUC's peril if it tried to hold up such an excellent scheme, when we can all see how well the youth training scheme has developed. I should not have thought that the TUC would want to do so. Nor would I hope that the TUC would want to withdraw from the commission, because it has an enormous and important contribution to make, as it has all along. What the noble Lord, Lord Dean, said was indeed true. The contribution of the trade unions to the development of training has been crucial.

Lord Dean of Beswick

I am glad that the noble Baroness has given way, and I appreciate that. But is she, and is the Committee, aware that the biggest crash training programme ever in the history of this country took place when the nation was in peril in 1940? Does the Committee recall that Winston Churchill sent for the trade union leaders and asked them to accept dilution and train quickly hundreds of thousands of engineers to produce on behalf of the country? We are now within an economic war, whether we want it or not. Does not the noble Baroness think that it might be better to proceed with goodwill rather than to introduce a measure such as this, which may have the opposite effect?

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

I should quickly like to complete my argument. Of course that is true and the unions understand it very well now, but we have to move quickly and it is clear that training has to be employer-led. Employers are paying for much of it. As my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter said, they have the knowledge of what future skill requirements will be. It is not only the CBI that has it. In the past there has been the feeling among employers that as not everyone belongs to the CBI its position is not necessarily that of all employers, especially the smaller ones. They very much wanted other employer representatives and therefore I believe this to be an excellent arrangement for the new type of commission.

The TUC is there to advise, contribute and vote but the commission as a whole is employer-led and that situation would work. It would not work if the extra members were non-voting members. I do not believe that the TUC or the unions should feel that there is anything wrong with that. I believe that it will work, that it is right for the nation and that it should take place and therefore I shall oppose the amendment.

Lord Rochester

The noble Baroness says that it is for the employers to lead. However, does she not agree that the essence of leadership is that people should follow? Are not people more likely to follow—in this case trade unionists—if they are able to participate in the consultative and decision-making process?

Lord Carr of Hadley

I cannot support the amendment because I do not like the idea of advisory members and I believe that it would be wrong. However, I am unhappy about the Government's proposal. As Secretary of State for Employment at the beginning of the 1970s I had a considerable hand in the formulation of the idea of the Manpower Services Commission, although when it was implemented I had moved on elsewhere. I am sure that the idea of parity was central to its acceptance and its working, certainly far from perfectly but not too unsatisfactorily. I believe that to disturb that parity would be detrimental and not helpful.

I do not give much credence to the idea that there must be more employers to cover a wider range of skills. That would be equally true of the number of employee representatives because they are also involved. In response to the point made by my noble friend Lady Carnegy of Lour, I do not say that the CBI and the TUC should necessarily have a monopoly of representation. That may be another issue to examine.

I believe that to leave the matter as it is, except for upsetting the parity, would be an ill-guided action and I hope that the Government will give the matter further thought. I go so far as to say that if the Government consider that they cannot maintain that parity, it would be better to put that training within the Department of Employment, from whence it came, and to drop the idea of a commission. However, please do not do so without giving the matter a great deal of further thought.

The Earl of Dundee

This amendment concerns the operation of the Training Commission. Members of the Committee will know that this clause fulfils the Government's manifesto commitment to increase employer representation on the commission. This change reflects the new focus on training and retraining in the commission's work. Its effect would be to deny these members the right to make a full contribution to the work of the commission and to vote on commission business. Following the remarks of my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter, I am sure that its contributions in an advisory capacity would still receive the blessings of the Almighty.

What is the justification for increasing the number of employers, as we propose? The Government firmly believe that employers have the primary responsibility for the provision of training. Naturally, they also believe that this should be reflected in the composition of the Training Commission—

Baroness Seear

Will the noble Earl say to whom he was referring when he said that it would have the blessing of the Almighty?

The Earl of Dundee

I was moving to half support the wishes of the noble Baroness because we believe that contributions in an advisory capacity are always most useful, particularly so when blessed by the Almighty. I concede the point made by my noble friend Lord Carr that there will not be parity between employers and others.

The noble Baronesses, Lady Turner and Lady Seear, and the noble Lord, Lord Dean, expressed concern that the effect of the measures would be detrimental to trade union representation. There will be a continuing role for trade unionists, local authorities, educationists and others on the commission and its advisory bodies. However, the central responsibility for training must lie with employers. It is they who create the demand for skilled labour, it is they who are the customers for such skills, and it is they who are best placed to assess their training requirements.

One consequence of this is that it is important that the new commissioners should be able to contribute fully and effectively to the work of the commission. By this I do not mean that the contribution of employers should be to the exclusion of the contributions of others, merely that it is important that the new commissioners are able to vote should that ever prove necessary. A further consequence of the argument I have outlined is that since employers have the major responsibility for training they should also be the majority on the Training Commission.

The noble Baronesses, Lady Turner and Lady Seear, and my noble friend Lord Campbell expressed concern about the effect that the clause may have on the commission's decision-making process. The operation of the commission is a matter for the commission to decide upon. I see no reason why it should not continue to operate through consensus. In that context I was interested to hear the remarks of my noble friend Lady Carnegy. However, whatever its chosen style, the fact remains that we believe that employers should have a greater say in that process and that all the commissioners should, as at present, have full voting rights should they need them.

I should like to deal with the overall effect of our proposals on the commission. If the number of employers were to be increased in an indiscriminate way I should partially accept the argument put forward by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, that that would not necessarily be helpful. I believe that the new commission will be a more effective commission. The appointment of more employer commissioners is an opportunity to bring in members from a broader spectrum of industry, particularly from those sectors where employment growth has been fastest; for example, the new technology industries, tourism and leisure services, retailing and distribution, banking, insurance and financial services and small firms.

Our concern is to develop a training strategy able to meet the needs of contemporary industry and provide individuals with the skills they need to play an active and rewarding part in society. To meet this challenge the commission will need to draw on the skills and experience of our traditional industries and the enterprising spirit and innovative flair shown by the newer sectors. Clause 23 will allow the commission to do this in the most direct and sensible way. For those reasons I have to say that I am unable to accept this amendment.

Lord Wedderburn of Charlton

We on these Benches should like to clarify one matter. Is it the case that the pleas put forward to the Government spokesman by his noble friends for maintaining the position of parity—which is the solution that we prefer even to our own amendment— fall on deaf ears and that there is no prospect of the Government rethinking the matter?

The Earl of Dundee

I should not like to say to the noble Lord that his pleas, or those of other Members of the Committee, fall on deaf ears because our ears are always open. I hope that we always respond in a constructive manner to everything that is said. Nevertheless, I confirm that our decision is not to have parity, as he has outlined.

Baroness Turner of Camden

I am disappointed with the Minister's response to what we on these Benches considered to be an extremely reasonable amendment. As my noble friend Lord Wedderburn has said, we should prefer parity and that is our starting point. However, we tabled the amendment in an attempt to come to terms with what the Government have said in another place. In effect, they said that they felt that more employers were required because they were mostly concerned with training and the kind of training that was provided was down to them. We did not altogether agree with that but we tried to meet that point of view by suggesting that the employer should have an advisory role and in that way, as we saw it, maintain the balance as regards trade union input on the commission.

I am very sorry to hear from the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, that she believes that the presence of the TUC was not all that helpful when it came to the YTS. In fact, the trade union commissioners on the commission at that time were anxious to ensure that the YTS scheme that eventually emerged was the kind of scheme which would carry conviction with the mass of the membership. We have to ensure that people understand what is being done at local level as well as having agreement at national level.

3.30 p.m.

Lord Dean of Beswick

Perhaps my noble friend would give way. Is it not a fact that some of the most successful schemes have only proceeded on a substantial basis where trade union leaders have consulted with their members and have been able to ensure that their members accept a reduction in the agreed training periods—from five to three years in some industries—which has increased the employment of youngsters in those industries fairly dramatically? Indeed, the electricity industry is a prime example. Is it not a fact that the kind of action on which the Government are insisting may jeopardise the situation in other industries?

Baroness Turner of Camden

I thank my noble friend for that intervention. He is quite right and it simply emphasises what we have said on these Benches; namely, that trade union co-operation and input into training are very important indeed if these schemes are to proceed, and everybody hopes that they will do so.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

Perhaps I may just interrupt the noble Baroness. I was not suggesting that the TUC input was not altogether helpful. I was chairman of the committee for Scotland for several years and the TUC input was enormously helpful. I was merely pointing out the pragmatic fact that the structure of the commission, with three CBI and three TUC members—which had been the vision of my noble friend Lord Carr and subsequently was the way in which the commission was set up—held matters up and made them painfully slow. However, that was not in any way a criticism of the trade union members in their relationship to YTS.

Baroness Turner of Camden

I am grateful to the noble Baroness. To return to the arguments about parity, I was glad to learn that noble Lords on the opposite side—the noble Lords, Lord Carr, and Lord Campbell of Alloway—seem to be arguing in favour of parity. Moreover, during the course of the discussions this afternoon, it seems that there is a view in your Lordships' Committee that the whole idea of parity should be reconsidered by the Government, even though the Minister said that the Government are not prepared to do that. Therefore, although it had been our intention to divide on this amendment if we did not receive a reasonable response from the Minister, we now intend to seek to divide the Committee on the Question whether clause stand part, which I believe we can do if that emerges as a result of the discussions in Committee. It seems to us that this has clearly emerged during the discussions on this amendment in Committee. Therefore, while we are not asking the Committee to divide on this amendment, we shall ask it to divide on the Question whether clause stand part. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

3.34 p.m.

On Question, Whether Clause 23 shall stand part of the Bill?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 112; Not-Contents, 72

Ailesbury, M Kitchener, E.
Allerton, L. Lane-Fox, B.
Ampthill, L. Lauderdale, E.
Arran, E. Layton, L.
Auckland, L. Long, V.
Bagot, L. Lothian, M.
Bauer, L. Luke, L.
Beaverbrook, L. Lurgan, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Mackay of Clashfern, L.
Belstead, L. Macleod of Borve, B.
Bessborough, E. Manton, L.
Blatch, B. Marley, L.
Blyth, L. Merrivale, L.
Boyd-Carpenter, L. Mersey, V.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Morris, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Butterworth, L. Munster, E.
Cameron of Lochbroom, L. Nelson, E.
Campbell of Croy, L. Norfolk, D.
Carlisle of Bucklow, L. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Onslow, E.
Cawley, L. Orkney, E.
Colnbrook, L. Orr-Ewing, L.
Colville of Culross, V. Porritt, L.
Constantine of Stanmore, L. Pym, L.
Cornwallis, L. Rankeillour, L.
Cottesloe, L. Reilly, L.
Cowley, E. Renton, L.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Richardson, L.
Davidson, V. [Teller.] Rodney, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Romney, E.
Digby, L. Rugby, L.
Dundee, E. St. Davids, V.
Ebbisham, L. St. John of Fawsley, L.
Eden of Winton, L. Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Ellenborough, L. Sanderson of Bowden, L.
Elliott of Morpeth, L. Sandford, L.
Fraser of Kilmorack, L. Seebohm, L.
Gormanston, V. Selborne, E.
Grantchester, L. Semphill, Ly.
Gray of Contin, L. Shannon, E.
Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. Sharples, B.
Shaughnessy, L.
Harmar-Nicholls, L. Simon of Glaisdale, L.
Harvington, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Hayter, L. Slim, V.
Hemphill, L. Strange, B.
Hesketh, L. Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.
Home of the Hirsel, L.
Hood, V. Strathspey, L.
Hooper, B. Terrington, L.
Hylton-Foster, B. Teviot, L.
Kaberry of Adel, L. Thorneycroft, L.
Killearn, L. Trefgarne, L.
Kimball, L. Trumpington, B.
Kinloss, Ly. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Kinnoull, E. Wolfson, L.
Ardwick, L. Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.
Attlee, E. Dormand of Easington, L.
Aylestone, L. Dowding, L.
Banks, L. Dudley, B.
Basnett, L. Elwyn-Jones, L.
Boston of Faversham, L. Ennals, L.
Bottomley, L. Ewart-Biggs, B.
Briginshaw, L. Falkland, V.
Bruce of Donington, L. Fitt, L.
Callaghan of Cardiff, L. Gallacher, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Galpern, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Graham of Edmonton, L.
David, B. Hampton, L.
Davies of Penrhys, L. Hanworth, V.
Dean of Beswick, L. Harris of Greenwich, L.
Diamond, L. Hughes, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L. Rochester, L.
Jacques, L. Sainsbury, L.
Jay, L. Seear, B.
Jenkins of Hillhead, L. Serota, B.
Kearton, L. Shepherd, L.
Leatherland, L. Somers, L.
Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. Stallard, L.
Longford, E. Stewart of Fulham, L.
McCarthy, L. Strabolgi, L.
McGregor of Durris, L. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
McNair, L. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Mayhew, L. Turner of Camden, B.
Mulley, L. Underhill, L.
Nicol, B. [Teller.] Wallace of Coslany, L.
Oram, L. Walston, L.
Peston, L. Wedderburn of Charlton, L
Phillips, B. White, B.
Pitt of Hampstead, L. Wigoder, L.
Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. [Teller.] Williams of Elvel, L.
Wilson of Rievaulx, L.
Ritchie of Dundee, L.

Resolved in the affirmative, and clause agreed to accordingly.

Clause 24 [Functions of the Secretary of State and of the Commission]:

3.42 p.m.

Baroness Turner of Camden moved Amendment No 120ZB: Page 24, line 35, after ("appropriate") insert ("in consultation with the Commission")

The noble Baroness said: The clause as it stands gives the Secretary of State very sweeping powers indeed. If the clause is passed unamended it will give the Secretary of State the power to make whatever arrangements, he considers appropriate for the purpose of assisting persons to select, train for, obtain and retain employment suitable for their ages and capacities". Furthermore, the arrangements for which he is to have direct authority include temporary employment, encouraging increases in equal opportunities, payments by way of grant or loan, provision for allowances, and so on. It would seem that the Bill formally removes from the commission any independent power to control its own training programmes.

These changes have the effect of centralising power in the hands of the Secretary of State. I am not alone in believing that too great a concentration or centralisation of power is a bad thing. That view is held by many people nowadays and is being increasingly voiced.

There is little point in having a Training Commission unless it has some degree of independence. If we have a specialist body concerned with training, which most people believe to be necessary, why should not the Secretary of State have a duty to consult that body in the exercise of the very wide powers granted to him under the Bill? I cannot think of any possible objections to this reasonable amendment and I therefore commend it to the Committee. I beg to move.

Baroness Seear

Again, I should like to support this amendment. The whole idea of the establishment of the Manpower Services Commission, which was after all created by a previous Conservative Government, was the need to bring in people working in that field—employers, trade unionists, and others—who had expert knowledge of training matters. Civil servants in the Department of Employment do not have that kind of expertise and that is one reason why the commission was set up. It is an extremely retrograde step to take away responsibility from a body which has done an extremely good job and which can draw on the support of people working in this sphere, and to hand it back to a government department.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

The noble Baroness, Lady Turner, said that she could not see any reason for not accepting this amendment. I am conscious that in rising to speak I am making a purely technical objection. As the Committee will know, there are various canons of construction which act as a scheme of communication between Parliament, through its draftsmen, and the courts. One of those is frequently quoted in Latin by my noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham and I suspect that it would be quoted by the noble Lord, Lord Wedderburn, if he were in the Chamber. Roughly translated into English it means: "If Parliament specifies one particular thing it means to exclude others of the same sort of thing". By stating, that this shall be done, in consultation with the Commission", if the matter ever came to be reviewed by the courts there is some reason to fear that the courts might say that Parliament intended that there should not be any other sort of consultation.

Reading through this clause, it strikes one immediately that one sort of consultation that the Minister will wish to conduct is with the Equal Opportunities Commission in relation to the employment of women. Therefore, whatever the general merits of this amendment it seems to me that there is a technical reason which the Committee should hesitate on before accepting the amendment.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

Briefly, such indeed would be the unintended effect in law of this amendment. There would be a severely limiting instruction. Bearing in mind that the Secretary of State, shall make such arrangements as he considers appropriate surely it is all but implicit that he would consult before he makes arrangements. He cannot make arrangements out of the air, so to speak. Is it not implicit also that he would consult with, of all bodies, the commission? Therefore, the amendment is not only open to the objection that it could have a limiting effect but that it would be slightly inconsistent with the way in which Clause 24(1) is drafted in mandatory form. I know that is not what the noble Baroness intended, but it would be very dangerous to accept this amendment.

Lord Trefgarne

I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, for his intervention to which I believe the Committee will wish to attach considerable importance. The noble and learned Lord was supported by my almost equally learned friend sitting on my right, which adds a special force to what the noble and learned Lord said.

I was interested also to hear the intervention of the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, in support of the amendment. Indeed, I notice that the noble Baroness has attached her name to almost every amendment to the Bill tabled by the Opposition.

Baroness Seear

Not every amendment.

Lord Trefgarne

Perhaps not every amendment, but a great many tabled by the Opposition enjoy the support of the noble Baroness. Indeed, during earlier discussions on this Bill the noble Baroness spoke in support of Opposition amendments to which she had not specifically attached her name but with which she nonetheless found herself in agreement. Whether this comparatively new departure by the Liberal Party totally aligning itself with the views of the Opposition represents the result of the removal of Dr. David Owen as an inhibiting influence on the views of the noble Baroness, I cannot say. Nonetheless, she is of course entitled to express her views.

Baroness Seear

Would the noble Lord not waste the time of the Committee by discussing my relations with the Labour Party?

Lord Trefgarne

I think I am entitled to comment upon the speech of the noble Baroness speaking from the Liberal Front Bench in support of this amendment. If the noble Baroness wishes to avoid any comment upon what she says, then she has only to keep in her place.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

Would the noble Lord give way—

Lord Trefgarne

Are we going to reduce everything to this childish party-points scoring? The House of Commons does it rather better than this House. I am sorry if the noble Lord is so sensitive about criticism of his party's policy. This is a highly political measure. I recognise that it represents the embodiment of what this party thinks on these matters. The amendments tabled by the Opposition represent their view on the matter. They are entitled to express their views, and I am entitled to express mine. The noble Baroness is also entitled to express her views. I too am entitled to criticise the views that are offered in criticism of this Bill.

It may help if I explain that the adjustment of powers made by Clause 24 follows from the transfer from the Commission to the Secretary of State of Jobcentre activities so that the new Employment Service could be created. This new service combines the management of the Department of Employment's network of unemployment benefit offices with that of Jobcentres. Our aim is to create a service which can ensure that the unemployed have the best possible help to take up the expanding job opportunities on offer. Many of the unemployed have lost touch with the jobs market. While in the past they will have continued to attend benefit offices, their contact with Jobcentres has often been limited to the occasional scrutiny of the self-service displays. The new service will mean that it will be easier for Jobcentre staff to give help regularly and individually to the unemployed, particularly the longer-term unemployed.

Clause 24 gives the Secretary of State his own powers in the longer term to run the new Employment Service. The effect of this amendment would be to take that power away because it would prevent him from running the Employment Service except in consultation with the commission.

Concern has also been expressed that the commission should be consulted about training. As your Lordships will be aware, the commission is now able to focus its efforts on training following the formation of the new Employment Service. The adjustments made by Clause 24 should not in practice affect the work carried out now by the commission nor should it affect its relationship in practice with the Secretary of State. Paragraph 4 of Schedule 2 makes it clear that the commission shall continue to carry (out after the Bill comes into force) the same activities as at present. There is also formal provision in Clause 24 for dialogue between the commission and the Secretary of State.

There has always been a flow of information in both directions and an exchange of thoughts and ideas. I see no reason why that should stop. Section 2(4) of the 1973 Act as amended by the Bill provides for the Secretary of State to carry out his duty by authorising the commission to act on his behalf, which he can hardly do without agreement. We envisage this will be the way in which functions are normally delegated. Furthermore, Clause 24 provides in new Section 3(2) of the 1973 Act for the commission to continue to submit proposals to the Secretary of State from time to time in relation to its functions.

I hope in the light of that explanation, and in particular as regards the difficulties referred to by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, the noble Baroness will see fit to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Phillips

Before my noble friend replies, perhaps I may seek clarification. I had the privilege of speaking at the Dispatch Box for five years. I was told that you speak for the Government or on this side you speak for the Opposition. If you wish to express your own views you go to the Back-Benches. Can we have clarification of what the noble Lord said at the outset? He said he was allowed to express his own point of view. Was he expressing his own personal point of view or was he expressing the views of Her Majesty's Government?

Lord Trefgarne

Happily, the two are coincident.

Lord Somers

Perhaps I may point out one matter to the noble Lord. Has it occurred to him that it is a great mistake to give absolute power into the hands of any one political official? I am not wishing to throw any disparagement on the Minister we have at present, but one must remember that one of the features of our much-vaunted democratic system is that Secretaries of State come and Secretaries of State go. It might be our misfortune to have quite the wrong man in that position. Therefore I believe it to be very much better that we should have some means by which his choice is kept in check.

Lord Trefgarne

It is a feature of our system to which the noble Lord rightly draws attention that Secretaries of State come and go. If the electorate so decides, the Secretary of State might become one of a different political persuasion. That is how the system works. The fact of the matter is that Parliament often provides powers to the Secretary of State. Naturally, the Bill now before the Committee has been drafted by the Government with a view to its provisions being implemented by this Secretary of State and his Conservative successors. I dare say and hope that that will continue for a long time.

Baroness Turner of Camden

Nothing that the Minister has said has set at rest my fears about the centralisation of power which I believe this Bill indicates. The comments that he made about delegation and about Jobcentres, and so on, still indicate that the Secretary of State will have a very substantial concentration of power if the Bill goes through unamended. It is not my intention this afternoon to press this amendment. That is not because of what the Minister had to say, but because of the comments made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale. He pointed out an unlooked-for result of the wording of this amendment which could mean that consultation with other bodies such as the Equal Opportunities Commission would be ruled out if we simply specify by way of amendment that there should be consultation with the Training Commission. That is not what we had intended in putting down the amendment; and that is what other noble Lords understood who spoke to this amendment.

I regard the comments of the Minister as entirely unsatisfactory because he has not dealt in any way with the comments made by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, about the Training Commission and the wealth of expertise that is available through the commission. Neither has the Minister dealt with any of the the comments or criticisms that have been made about the over-concentration of power in the hands of the Secretary of State. Even so, we shall not press the amendment at this point in time. I beg leave to withdraw it. However, we may look at the matter again on Report.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Nugent of Guildford): Is it the pleasure of the Committee that this amendment be withdrawn?

Lord Trefgarne


The Deputy Chairman of Committees

The Question before the Committee is that this amendment be agreed to.

On Question, amendment negatived.

4 p.m.

Baroness Seear moved Amendment No. 120A:

Page 24, line 39, at end insert— ("(2) All arrangements made under this section shall make suitable provision for disabled people.").

The noble Baroness said: This amendment is tabled in order to make certain that the care taken by the Manpower Services Commission to make special provision for disabled people shall be incorporated into the new legislation. I have no doubt that the Minister will tell us that this is already adequately covered. We do not accept that that is so and we want to make absolutely certain that it will happen. I beg to move.

Lord Renton

I too am anxious that the commission should have a responsibility with regard to the training and employment of disabled people, including the mentally handicapped who are the largest group of disabled people in this country. I join the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, in reading the Bill as containing no reference whatever to disabled people. Perhaps there is some hidden reference which a superficial reading of the Bill does not reveal. If that is so we should be told what it is, but I doubt whether there is one. If no responsibility of this kind is placed upon the newly formed Training Commission perhaps some other statutory body will have the responsibility. However, I do not know of one.

Having said that, and bearing in mind that the noble Baroness presented the amendment in a somewhat probing manner, I do not think that it is in the right place in the clause. Instead of being a new subsection (2) of new Section 2 of the 1973 Act it should become subsection (3). It would be better that way. In addition, I should have preferred it to read, shall make provision for training and employment of disabled people who are unemployed". That is the intention. I do not think that the word "suitable" is necessary or, if I may say so, suitable at that point. I hope that we shall have a reasoned and sympathetic reply from my noble friend.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

I support the amendment and wish also to adopt the type of formula put forward by my noble friend Lord Renton as to the wording. "Suitable" raises problems in relation to the wording of new Section 2(1): The Secretary of State shall make such arrangements as he considers appropriate". Then we have "suitable" and it does not marry too well as a matter of drafting.

Secondly, and subject to correction, I do not think that the Committee will find anything about the disabled in this Bill and, indeed, would not expect to do so in Part II because Clause 24 amends the 1973 Act. In the 1973 Act there is no express reference to the disabled. However, we have developed so much in our care for the disabled since 1973 that the point is valid today. I am grateful to the noble Baroness for bringing forward the amendment.

I agree with my noble friend that the amendment is in the wrong place. I think it should go in Clause 25 where it deals with statutory instruments. However, I do not want to detain the Committee and I am fully content to leave it to the Minister and his advisers to decide where it should go. My only concern is that if possible we should have the sympathy of my noble friend for the principle of the matter.

Lord Basnett

I support the amendment and await with interest the contribution of the Minister. However, I should like to say a few words in support of the amendment because it is important to those with disabilities. During the Second Reading debate I drew attention to the fact that Part II of the Employment Bill will establish a commission with responsibility to provide vocational training. I said: There is no direct requirement in the Bill for the Training Commission to provide any special services to disabled people".—[Official Report, 22/2/88; col. 958.] I suggested that that was an omission and would need to be repaired at this stage. I was supported in this view by the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, who on the same day at col. 960 said: I hope and believe that the Training Commission will have provision for the training of disabled persons. If there is any omission in that respect I very much hope that my noble friend will deal with it". There is such an omission.

The Government may argue that the Secretary of State already has a general duty to make provision for disabled people. In that case the amendment would emphasise that commitment and restate existing government policy. However, there is a far more important reason for the amendment. It would remind those who formulate policy that disabled people's needs must be taken into account when existing schemes are evaluated and any new schemes are designed. Recent experience has emphasised the need for this.

In the recent past the Manpower Services Commission's schemes, such as YTS, have failed initially to take account of the particular requirements of disabled people. Pressure from organisations such as RADAR, the Spastics Society and the Royal National Institute for the Blind have brought about improvements. This has taken some time and has meant that disabled people have had to wait until schemes have been modified. During the interim period they have missed out on their fair share of training opportunities. This amendment would ensure that such oversights were avoided in the future.

The amendment has a real not merely a presentational appearance. It has the same real purpose as a similar clause already contained in the Bill in respect of women and girls. I do not need to remind the Committee of the disadvantaged position of the disabled in the labour market. I am sure that all noble Lords will support any action to provide wider training for this purpose. This amendment is widely supported. It offends no principle and subverts no purpose of the Bill. It helps and is seen to help the disabled. When the Minister replies I hope that he will accept the purpose of the amendment.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

I do not know the extent to which the noble Lord, Lord Basnett, has looked at what the Manpower Services Commission has been doing for the disabled over the past few years but it is widely admired all over Europe. The working up of schemes of the Manpower Services Commission took time for everybody and took time for the disabled. The noble Lord was quite right about that.

Various bodies have assisted the Manpower Services Commission through the years to develop those schemes. They are now absolutely magnificent. When I looked at the Bill I thought that it was the glory of the Manpower Services Commission that it does not have to keep saying that everything is different for the disabled. Its responsibilities include people with every kind of disability so long as they can take part in the scheme. Its responsibilities in training generally can apply to anybody. That is why I thought it was not mentioned. I look forward to my noble friend's reply to make sure that that is in fact so and that it is merely a continuation of the present situation. If there is any difference of course the amendment is necessary; but, if there is not, I suggest that it is not.

Lord Renton

If my noble friend would allow me, I should like to ask her whether she is suggesting that the Manpower Services Commission was doing all this great work without being placed under any expressed statutory responsibility to do so?

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

I am bound to confess that I cannot remember the precise wording of the Act on the subject. All I know is that the services and the training are now there and—it is not as my noble friend suggested—we are not merely talking about unemployed young people, we are talking about people with disabilities in training for work on the YTS. We are talking about the whole range of training and opportunities which will help people obtain employment.

Lady Kinloss

I support the amendment. The Bill pledges to encourage the participation of women and girls in the scheme. In that case, why can we not take this opportunity to demonstrate a similar commitment to make suitable provision for disabled people? In the past, special employment measures and training schemes have provided the few avenues through which disabled people have been able to obtain employment. In building for sound employment prospects in the future, the best practices from old schemes need to be carried forward into the new programme. The amendment argues for participation, not exemption, and gives legislative backing to attempts to make provision for disabled people.

Lord Trefgarne

I was hoping to intervene when most Members of the Committee had expressed their views so that I could perhaps respond to all of them at the same time.

Lord Allen of Abbeydale

I should like to say a few additional words from the Cross Benches, to emphasise the point that this is not a suggestion involving just the party politicians. As I understand it, present practice and the proposed arrangements take into account the needs of the disabled. Therefore, the acceptance of this amendment would not mean changes in what is at present being done and what is proposed, despite the points that have been made earlier in the debate. However, to put it at its lowest, I believe it would be an important gesture to give statutory backing to this provision. It would have the practical effect of ensuring that future programmes were bound to take account of such a requirement.

Sadly, I must say, be it fair or unfair, that there are many disabled people who have some doubts as to whether the Government really understand their position and their needs. However, this is not the occasion to discuss the view taken in another place regarding the amendment about disabled people passed in this Chamber on the Local Government Bill; but it is relevant to the extent that that decision, and the reasons given for it by the Government, will not do anything to diminish those doubts. It seems to me that here we offer a chance—whether it is in the right place or has the right phraseology, is a matter for discussion—for the Government to show that they care.

Lord Trefgarne

I fully appreciate the good intentions behind the amendment but I assure noble Lords that the duty on the Secretary of State, under Clause 24, clearly includes a requirement to make provision for the disabled. This provision also allows him to make special arrangements for this group of people to take account of their particular needs and problems.

The duty to make appropriate arrangements to assist persons to: select, train for, obtain and retain employment suitable for their.… capacities was placed upon the MSC when it was established under the Employment and Training Act 1973. This gave the commission the power to run specialised services for the disabled, incorporating other powers in the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act 1944. There is no change in the nature of the Secretary of State's powers and duties towards disabled people in the Bill. That same duty is transferred to the Secretary of State in Clause 24 of the Bill and will apply to the commission whenever the Secretary of State delegates his powers to it. A power is also retained in the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act 1944 to run specialised services for the disabled, such as sheltered employment.

I turn to the point made by the noble Lady, Lady Kinloss, when she referred to the parallel between women and girls on the one hand and disabled people on the other, given that women and girls are indeed mentioned. That provision emerges from Section 2(2)(b) of the Employment and Training Act 1973, which relates to women and girls, and is reproduced in the Bill in the new Section 2. This provision, which was inserted in this Chamber during Committee stage in 1973, is purely presentational and simply states a specific power already included in the general power of Section 2(1).

Noble Lords have argued that we should also make specific provision for the disabled along the same lines. But if we were to list all the specific applications of the general duty in Section 2(1), it would be a very long list. It may indeed arise because of the difficulty referred to by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, when he spoke to an earlier amendment; namely, that by reciting a list of specific powers you then exclude those that are not mentioned. I am sure that that is not what members of the Committee have in mind. However I am—

4.15 p.m.

Baroness Seear

Does the Minister agree that, by including women and girls, he has already offended in that way?

Lord Trefgarne

I was in fact just saying that that particular amendment was inserted in the 1973 legislation by this Chamber and, as I understand it, against the advice of the Government on that occasion. That is why I was able to say that I believe it was thought unnecessary at that time by the Government.

Lord McCarthy

Can the Minister say whether it has done any harm?

Lord Trefgarne

No, I do not suppose that it has done any harm. However, if the noble Lord will allow me to continue he may be reassured by what I have to say. For the reasons that I have given. I have already explained why I do not think that the amendment is necessary. But, having said that, I understand that your Lordships have strong views on the issue, as was evidenced by the speeches made on the previous Bill to which the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, referred. In the circumstances, I undertake to have another look at the wording of this passage to see whether it is possible to underline and clarify beyond peradventure the Government's intentions in the matter.

I should stress that I am not making a formal commitment to bring forward another amendment, because I may, after taking advice, find that that course is not necessary. However, I undertake to look again at the matter, and if the noble Baroness will withdraw her amendment perhaps she and I can be in touch between now and the next stage of the Bill's proceedings to see whether there is a way to underline and clarify the Government's intentions.

Baroness Seear

Coming from the noble Lord, that offer is most gracious indeed. I shall therefore be extremely glad to withdraw the amendment on those conditions.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Turner of Camden moved Amendment No. 120B: Page 25, line 26, at end insert ("and such an allowance shall be paid unless such facilities are reasonably suitable to his capacities, aptitudes and requirements, and are of reasonable overall quality").

The noble Baroness said: The Bill makes provision for young people to be paid a bridging allowance, for a maximum of eight weeks in any one year, to tide them over while attempts are made to find them a training place. It has repeatedly been stated by Ministers that everyone will have a place. However, there are problems with that approach, and those are basically the reasons for the amendment which I move.

First, the mere promise of a YTS offer does not take sufficient account of the need to provide suitable training for young people; suitable in terms of their own capacities and aspirations and suitable in terms of the needs of the economy as a whole. Secondly, the absolute nature of the Government's determination to withdraw the bridging allowance after eight weeks could result in young people being left without any financial support. With such benefit entitlement withdrawn young people will lose an imporant element of choice in post-school life.

At present, the quality of training on offer is generally agreed to be patchy. The MSC itself admits that fact and agrees that by international standards our schemes are not good ones. One hopes of course that standards will improve, but in the meantime there would appear to be a paucity of options for young people looking for suitable training. There is the further criticism that, despite all the emphasis given by everyone to equal opportunities, the YTS does not yet pay sufficient attention to job training for female trainees in non-traditional areas; 92 per cent. of female YTS trainees are engaged in the caring and personal services sector; and only 3.5 per cent. in mechanical engineering, for example. So, what about choices in non-traditional areas for young women?

There is genuine concern that choice will be inhibited by the Bill's provisions. The scheme cannot be deemed suitable if unwilling trainees are forced into it by lack of financial support. The worry is that young people will not be offered or find suitable training.

Despite government claims that there are enough places on YTS, doubts about that still exist. At Christmas 1987, some 2,305 young people were still waiting to receive the offer of a YTS place. There are special problems in rural areas. The MSC sponsored a review entitled YTS in rural areas, and identified transport and travel as a most serious problem. In some cases, trainees have to make round trips of between 80 and 100 miles to complete the off-job content of their programme. Such young people often have a long wait for a place through no fault of their own. There would also appear to be continuing problems for young black people in the inner cities. The Government have committed themselves to find YTS places for every unemployed 16- and 17-year old within four months of their leaving school or two months of leaving YTS or a job. That is a welcome commitment, but there is no safety net for young people if that cannot be achieved. Nor is there any attempt made in the Bill to ensure that places offered to them, will be suitable. The amendment seeks to do both those things. I therefore commend it to the Committee. I beg to move.

Baroness Seear

I support the amendment, but not for the reasons that the Minister implied previously. Employers do not want conscript trainees. Those who have been involved in running a training course know that anyone who is there against his or her will is an extremely disruptive element. It is highly undesirable that people should be pushed into training programmes in which they do not wish to participate.

The noble Baroness, Lady Turner, referred to the position of girls. In the areas with which I am especially concerned, we have a concentration of ethnic minorities. They have complained forcefully, rightly or wrongly, that they obtain the least favourable youth training scheme opportunities—those at the bottom of the pile.

If we are honest, we know that although the YTS has improved a great deal, some of the training is still not of the kind that we could say is up to the quality that we want. We are all working hard to get it up to that quality, but until that stage is reached it is highly undesirable that people should be forced into training programmes which are not good and which they do not wish to enter. In that respect, I hope that the Government will reconsider the amendment.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

I oppose the amendment. It is wrong to have a mandatory provision of a financial nature such as this in this clause of the Bill. Surely that is contrary to the spirit of the drafting of the clause. I can see no justification for it.

Baroness Phillips

There is a provision which already refers to payment. It would seem to include the element that needs to be covered by an amendment of this kind. It provides: shall not include the payment of any such allowance to a person—

  1. (i) for any period after that person has attained the age of eighteen years; or
  2. (ii) for any period for which child benefit is payable in respect of that person;"
As I understand it, there could be a lapse of a year. There is a difference between the end of child benefit payment and the beginning of the period which is referred to. That is why an amendment of this kind which makes no such reference would be useful.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

But there is no mandatory requirement as to payment in subsection (3)(a). The amendment imports a mandatory requirement.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

On a separate point, I question one word in the amendment. I see the argument that the facilities should be reasonably suitable to the capacities and attitudes of the person concerned and of reasonable overall quality. The word which I think calls for some explanation is "requirements". As I understand it, the word "requirements" puts the decision in the hands of the young person concerned, who could, if he or she felt so inclined, say, "Oh well, I require training in some speciality such as an astronaut or pop singer or something exciting," but which is not a heavily populated occupation.

The amendment goes too far. I shall be interested to hear in what sense the word "requirements" is used. As it stands at the moment, and as far as I understand it at the moment, that word is a great weakness in the amendment.

Lord Trefgarne

I believe that the noble Baroness is concerned that the opportunities offered to young people may not be suitable and that because of the time limits which are proposed on the payment of the YTS bridging allowance young people may be coerced into accepting unsuitable places of, perhaps, dubious quality. I cannot accept that proposition. The extension of the child benefit period for three months for Easter and Christmas school leavers and four months for summer school leavers provides ample opportunity for young people to consider all the options available to them.The bridging allowance is available for nearly two months and this time should be more than adequate to match an individual with a suitable YTS place. I recognise that in some instances there may be special needs to take account of and that is why there will be no time limit imposed on the payment of the bridging allowance to registered disabled young people.

If it is suggested that eight weeks in not a sufficient period of time for young people to find a suitable YTS place, I suggest that it represents a reasonable period of time for a person who has been in work or on YTS to look around for a new job or to take up the offer of a new place on the YTS programme. We guarantee a YTS place within this period and there should therefore be no question of young people being left without support. We shall, of course, want to keep all aspects of the YTS, including this one, under review.

I could speak at greater length about the guarantee, but I hope that what I have said will persuade the noble Baroness not to press her amendment.

Baroness Turner of Camden

The amendment was concerned to ensure that a safety net was available if young people did not obtain places within the eight weeks. As I attempted to demonstrate when moving the amendment, it is by no means certain that eight weeks will be sufficient in a number of places. I mentioned rural areas. There are special problems for ethnic minorities, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, referred.

I am glad that there is apparently to be no limit for registered disabled people. That is of course to be welcomed. I am also glad to learn that it is intended to keep the scheme under review. I shall not press the amendment to a Division at present, but I am not altogether happy that the Minister's reply adequately dealt with the arguments put from these Benches, especially as we feel that it is necessary to have some kind of safety net or fallback if it should transpire in certain places and in certain circumstances that no YTS places will be available for some young people despite the Government's intentions that there should be.

Nevertheless, in view of what has been said, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4.30 p.m.

Lord Rochester moved Amendment No. 121: Page 25, line 26, at end insert ("and the amount of any such allowance shall be—

  1. (i) determined only after consultation with the Commission; and
  2. (ii) reviewed annually; and
  3. (iii) subject to approval by a resolution of each House of Parliament").

The noble Lord said: My understanding is that the Government's intention is that the amount of the bridging allowance should be set initially at £15 per week, and, as has been said, it will last for a maximum period of eight weeks. The first question which arises on this amendment is whether the amount and the length of time for which the allowance is to be paid are adequate, given that £15 is considerably below the level of supplementary benefit now payable and that it is questionable whether the Government will be able to fulfil their commitment to offer employment or training to young people or every young person within only eight weeks of leaving a scheme or losing a job.

To say the least, it remains to be seen whether the amount proposed for the allowance and the period envisaged for its payment will prove adequate. Nevertheless, it appears from subsection (3)(a) of Clause 24 that the amount of the allowance is to be determined by the Secretary of State alone and that, unlike payment of benefit, there is no requirement that it should be reviewed periodically or made subject to parliamentary approval.

I am bound to say that I see this as just one example of the excessive powers which the Secretary of State is to be accorded under Part II of the Bill. The purpose of this amendment is therefore to diminish those powers in this instance in three ways. First, before deciding on the amount of allowance to be paid the Secretary of State would be obliged to consult the body best qualified for the purpose; namely, the Training Commission. I suggest that the point made earlier by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, relating to other bodies—that is, bodies other than the Training Commission which might be consulted—has less application in this case. Secondly, if this amendment were agreed the amount would have to be reviewed at annual intervals. Thirdly, it would be subject to approval by a resolution of each House of Parliament.

The Minister will no doubt say in reply that the provisions of Clause 24 are not concerned with social security legislation but merely adjust powers already available to the executive under the Employment and Training Act 1973. He may further claim that the amount of the bridging allowance should not be made subject to parliamentary approval, both because payments made under the 1973 Act are not subject to scrutiny by the legislature and because the allowance is not technically a form of income support. He may even add that in any case the benefit upratings do not have to be approved by parliamentary resolution but are tabled in orders which can only be prayed against.

I am nevertheless moving this amendment for two reasons. First, it will give the Minister the opportunity to justify—if he can—both the amount and the period of payment now contemplated for the bridging allowance. However, I am doing so mainly because in my view the Government's proposals in this paragraph are a good example, as I said at Second Reading, of their reluctance to consult, their distaste for consensus and the excessive centralisation of their decision-making. I beg to move.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

I oppose the amendment. I wish to speak to the amendment as it stands and not, if the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, will forgive me, as he moved it, because I found that extremely difficult to follow. I should wish to do justice to what he said and to study it, but I could not follow the reasoned support for the amendment save for one point which went home. That was the desire to diminish the powers of the Secretary of State. That I understand and that I can speak to.

The noble Lord wishes to diminish the powers of the Secretary of State in three ways: first, so that the amount of the allowance shall be determined only after consultation with the commissioner. Far from reducing the impact of the observations of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, it heightens them by the use of the word "only". What will the courts make of that?

The second way to reduce the powers of the Secretary of State is to review annually. Annually may be too short a period; it may be too long; it may be unnecessary. One should seek to maintain, in this sphere of all spheres, a measure of flexibility. The amendment as it stands in sub-paragraph (ii) is far too rigid.

Thirdly and lastly, it says: subject to approval by a resolution of each House of Parliament". It is not understood why the amount of the allowance should be subject to approval by Parliament or why Parliament should be concerned with the original determination or any review determination from time to time. Surely the Committee would agree on all sides that this would impose an unnecessary and unacceptable burden on both Houses of Parliament.

Lord Renton

I agree with what my noble friend said. I just add on the last point that requiring an affirmative resolution of each House of Parliament before, for example, an increase in payment could become valid and be made could cause delay, because there are occasions, especially when there is an election in the autumn, when Parliament may not be sitting between the end of July, let us say, and well into October. That could be a cause of hardship.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

I intervened formerly with great reluctance because other Members of the Committee are experts on this matter, and I certainly am not. I intervened purely to draw attention to a legal technicality, but since what I said has been invoked again, perhaps I may say that I think that the noble Lord, Lord Rochester is right. With great respect, I do not think that the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, is right.

It all turns on sub-paragraph (i): determined only after consultation with the Commission". That does not exclude consultation with other bodies. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell, reads it as though it said: shall be determined after consultation only with the Commission". but that is not what it says. As regards whether the technical points which I raised were false or valid, I do not think that in any way invalidates this amendment.

Baroness Turner of Camden

I rise to support the amendment from these Benches. I agree with much of what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Rochester. As regards the provision in sub-paragraph (iii), which reads: subject to approval by a resolution of each House of Parliament", I do not understand the objection. It is my understanding that when there are increases in benefit generally through regulations, those regulations have to be laid before each House of Parliament. I see little difference between doing that in relation to increases in benefit and the procedure suggested in relation to a review of the allowance. It is essential that the allowance is kept under review annually. As it presently stands it is far too modest. The amendment would ensure that it was subject to review in each House. I therefore commend the amendment.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

I believe that the noble Baroness has misled herself on the procedure regarding other increases in benefits. She said quite rightly that the orders had to be laid before Parliament. But only in a very limited number of cases are they subject to the affirmative procedure which the amendment contemplates for the allowance. The vast majority—I speak from memory—are laid and they can be prayed against in either House if any noble Lord or Member of another place wishes to do so. That is a totally different procedure from the affirmative resolution.

That leads me to my second point. The procedure outlined in the amendment would be a slow and cumbrous one. First, the commission would have to be consulted; it would not necessarily be sitting at any particular time of year. There would be an annual review, a laying of the orders, and a further delay if Parliament was in recess or, if Parliament was sitting, for parliamentary time to deal with the matter. That seems to be an extraordinarily cumbrous way of proceeding.

Surely the better way, which is the more usual way in respect of a great many such provisions, is to leave the matter to the Minister, as the Bill proposes. If the Minister makes a decision which either House of Parliament does not like, either House then has perfectly good means of calling the Minister to account, asking him to explain and (certainly in the case of another place) voting against him. Surely that is a more straightforward, flexible and speedy method of dealing with the matter, rather than having a cumbrous set of manoeuvres.

Lord Renton

And it is more usual.

4.45 p.m.

Lord Trefgarne

Perhaps I may start by mentioning the guarantee of a YTS place to which the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, referred in his opening remarks. I believe that I can set aside the anxiety which was expressed about whether the MSC will be able to meet its guarantee to provide a YTS place for any 16 or 17 year-old who would otherwise be unemployed.

I say straightaway that the MSC is confident that it will meet the guarantee. The undertaking has not been given lightly. The new guarantee builds on a well-established track record. Over 99 per cent. of the guarantee group has been offered a suitable YTS place every year since 1983. Next year it will do better. There are currently over 100,000 vacant places in all parts of the country. We have provided the commission with the funds to enable it to create an additional 30,000 places this year. That will certainly ensure that all young people who want a YTS place will get one.

Turning specifically to the issues raised by the amendment, it is said that the commission ought to be consulted about the bridging allowance in the same way as it is consulted about the YTS allowance. As the Committee is aware, we are always happy to receive the advice of the commission. But the level of the allowance must be a matter for the Government. The YTS bridging allowance is intended for people who are without a YTS place for a short time. It is a short-term allowance which will be paid by the Department of Employment to those who are committed to taking up a YTS place. It would therefore be inappropriate to consult the commission about its level.

It is argued that the bridging allowance is a form of income support and should therefore be subject to the affirmative resolution of both Houses. The argument is based on a misunderstanding of the new allowance. The YTS bridging allowance is not a form of income support and I suggest that it would be inappropriate for Parliament to review it as if it were. The bridging allowance is not intended to support young people over a long period of time. The guarantee of a YTS place for all unemployed people under 18 will mean that no one in that age group will be unemployed. We are providing a bridging allowance because we recognise that a YTS place will not always be immediately available when a young person leaves a job or a previous YTS place.

For those young people who are unable to take up a YTS place because of, for example, long-term sickness or severe disability, income support will continue. The allowance is a payment made under the powers contained in Section 2 of the Employment and Training Act 1973 as amended by Clause 24 of the Bill. No payments made under the powers of the 1973 Act are subject to such a requirement. I hope that in the light of those considerations and the difficulties referred to in other parts of the Committee the amendment will not be pressed.

Lord Rochester

I thank all Members of the Committee who have taken part in our exchange. I am particularly grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, for his response to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell. As the noble and learned Lord said, in effect the amendment does not say that the amount of the allowance should be determined after consultation with the commission alone; it says that it should be determined: only after consultation with the Commission". The noble and learned Lord made that point better than I can, and I am happy to leave the matter there.

The second point made by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, was that the suggestion in the amendment was that the amount of allowance should be reviewed annually. As regards that point, in putting the amendment down in that way it was my intention to suggest not that the amount of the allowance could not be reviewed more frequently than annually but that it should be subject to at least annual review.

The noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, said that I had asserted the allowance was a form of income support. When he comes to study what I said in my opening remarks, he will see that I anticipated that the Government would deny that it is a form of income support. However, I see that there are procedural difficulties with the third element of the amendment which suggests that the amount of allowance should be subject to approval by a resolution of each House of Parliament. As I said in moving the amendment, my intention was largely to draw the Government out by asking them to justify the amount of £15 which was initially set for the allowance and also justify the period of time over which it should be paid.

I am not altogether satisfied with the response to those two points. However, in the light of the discussion I do not propose to press the amendment. There are many other amendments with which we must deal. It is possible that I shall wish to return to at least part of the amendment at a later stage. For the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Whether Clause 24 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord McCarthy

We gave notice that we wish to oppose that this clause stand part of the Bill because, as the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, rightly suggests, this is the takeover clause. This is the clause which most clearly exhibits the Government's distaste for consensus. This is the clause which buries the best of all the tripartite bodies, the Manpower Services Commission. What takes its place will no longer be able to formulate its own detailed policies within guidelines set down by the Government. As I see it, it will no longer he free to publish its own criticisms of Government policy as the Manpower Services Commission undoubtedly was, and sometimes did quite sharply. It will no longer be encouraged nor in any real sense will it be free to undertake its own research, produce its own figures and engage in a dialogue with the Government and with the country over manpower services in the name of its tripartite representatives.

This is a sorry day. The Manpower Services Commission was not created by a Labour Government; it was created by a previous Conservative Government. No Member of this House contributed more to the ideas behind the Manpower Services Commission than the noble Lord, Lord Carr, who unfortunately is not in his place.

We regard this as a very sorry day. In opposing this clause we ask the Government to give better reasons than any we have been given so far as to why this clause is necessary. So far as I know, the only time that this clause has been considered in any detail by the Government was when the Secretary of State made one of his rare interventions in another place to the Standing Committee on 26th January (cols. 709–714). He said that the clause was necessary to give the Secretary of State direct powers to run training and manpower services which were formerly the responsibility of the MSC. We know that. The clause says that. He said that only in this way could be fulfilled the new functions which were to be carried out by the Government and by the newly renamed body in relation to an expanded YTS and the new 600,000 place scheme for unemployed adults, and so on.

In my reading of his speech he did not say—indeed the Government have never said—why it is necessary for direct powers to be given to the Secretary of State in this way. We have never been told, and I hope that we shall be told this evening, what was wrong with the operation of Sections 2 and 3 of the old Employment and Training Act 1973. For example, we have heard no allegations that the Manpower Services Commission under its series of distinguished chairmen has at any time sabotaged the Government's manpower policy or that it failed to fulfil any objectives or directions given to it by the Secretary of State.

We know, because they have said so, that carrying out the instructions of the Secretary of State often caused the distinguished members of the Manpower Services Commission great heartsearching. In particular we know that the previous chairman of the MSC, Sir Bryan Nicholson, strove with might and main against the use of compulsion in the YTS. We know that as a result of that struggle, which he lost, he left the Manpower Services Commission. In fact we know that there are virtually no members of the MSC who really believe in what the Government are doing in the area of compulsion. Because they have made it public, we know that the TUC nominees have indulged in much heart searching, not only on this issue but also on others, such as the size of the allowance to be paid under YTS, the winding up of the community programme and the inadequacy of the provisions made for training within the YTS.

We have to ask the question yet again, and I ask the Minister tonight. After making their criticisms public, is it suggested that the members of the MSC ever failed to co-operate fully with the Government? Is sabotage alleged? Is that why it is being stripped of its powers? Is that why, under the previous clause, it is being packed with poodles? Is that why? What of the powers of independent investigation and research, which the MSC performed so well? Was that the problem? Was that the difficulty? When the MSC discovered and published the fact that the overwhelming majority of employers was against compulsion, was that something that it should not have done? Is that something that the new body will be allowed to do?

In its follow up survey the MSC discovered that only 50 per cent. of the YTS go on to a job, 28 per cent. go back on to the dole, 3 per cent. enter full-time education, 6 per cent. re-enter the YTS and that in some parts of the country much higher figures go on to the dole. In other words, figures were discovered which are impossible to square with the claims made by the Secretary of State on the radio, in the newspaper or on 26th January in Standing Committee (col. 711) that the vast majority of YTS trainees leave to take a job or to receive further training or education. Those statements by the Secretary of State are impossible to square with what has been produced by the MSC. Must the MSC he put down because of such data?

These are the questions that we ask. We ask them in the context of a series of amendments. We are very pleased to note the support they have received. The Minister has said that those amendments were either unnecessary, unclear, unworkable or unwise. We asked about the possibility of regular consultation with the new commission. The Minister said that it was unnecessary and that the amendment was unclear—he may have been right as far as clarity is concerned.

We asked for more reasonable facilities and for a safety net to be placed under the scheme. He said that it was unworkable. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, suggested that, if the amendment was carried, anybody with three O-levels might demand to be an astronaut

Lord Graham of Edmonton

He is a high flier!

Lord McCarthy

The Minister said that it was unworkable. We asked for better allowances with some independence, if only on the part of Parliament. We were told that that was unwise, unnecessary, unclear and unworkable.

Only in relation to one amendment, concerning special arrangements for the disabled, did the Minister offer to go away and think again—and I give the Minister credit for that. It was unnecessary, unclear but nevertheless he offered to go away and look at it. It is not enough, and we shall divide the House.

Lord Trefgarne

The Committee—

5 p.m.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

I am grateful to my noble friend for giving way, but if he wishes to intervene we shall listen to him with the greatest of interest. The noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, obviously enjoyed himself—as did your Lordships—in his good, romping speech, of which I venture to suggest he does not really believe half.

What was that great phrase—that the Training Commission was to be "packed with poodles"? That is a very entertaining phrase, but highly offensive to a number of people whose names are not yet known. It assumes in advance that they would be poodles of the Secretary of State. Equally, there is the allegation that what caused this clause to be imposed was the idea that there had been sabotage of the MSC. All that is good, romping stuff, but it does not help the Committee very much in coming to a conclusion on the matter.

The noble Lord was good enough to refer to one of my speeches on an amendment in which I suggested that the use of the word "requirements" in regard to the trainee might be helpful to those who had unreasonable requirements, because a requirement is something that one is entitled to require. I did not mention three O-levels. I assumed that anyone who wished to be an astronaut would probably have a great many more O-levels than that, although possibly for someone who intended to be a pop singer such a grading might be more appropriate.

As I understand it, the essence of this clause, which has been brought out in many speeches by senior Ministers—and in a moment or two the Minister will tell us the views of the Government—is the importance which the Government plainly attach to dealing firmly and efficiently with problems of unemployment and above all youth unemployment. Noble Lords opposite have often waxed very eloquent about unemployment in general and the dangers of youth unemployment in particular. Personally I wholly agree with them. In the light of that situation the Government have decided on a great expansion of the YTS. The whole matter is of such importance and will involve such massive expenditure that surely it is right that the Government should accept far more responsibility than in the past for the efficient working of the system and that they should have the power to carry through the measures they think right and will work most efficiently.

Therefore unlike the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, I welcome this clause. I agree with him that it is one of the most important parts of the Bill. I believe that it will affect, and affect for the good, the wellbeing of a large part of the younger generation in this country. I believe that it will help to mould, and mould well, the lives of a very large number of young people in this land of ours. I therefore welcome it wholeheartedly.

Baroness Seear

I was extremely interested in the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, who told us that this proposal was intended to make the scheme more efficient. He said that it was an expensive scheme and that the Government needed to make it more efficient.

I should like to know from the Minister why it is more efficient to take away the scheme from the Manpower Services Commission and give it back to the Department of Employment. I would remind the Minister that when a previous Conservative Government set up the Manpower Services Commission it was largely because under the Department of Employment very little had happened. The employment service under the Department of Employment had an extremely poor reputation—and if the noble Lord wishes me to do so I can document that remark up to the hilt because I did a considerable amount of work on the matter at that time.

The training which was carried out by the the Department of Employment was almost negligible. That is why the Conservative predecessors of the Minister set up the Manpower Services Commission and drew into the work of the Manpower Services Commission people from both sides of industry and from other sources who had spent a lifetime working in this field and were highly knowledgeable about it. I ask the noble Lord to tell us why he considers that it will make the service more efficient to take it away from that body and put it back to the Department of Employment. Perhaps I may add that the noble Lord asked me earlier today why I was collaborating with the Labour Party. The answer is that bad Bills make strange bedfellows, and this is a thoroughly bad Bill.

Lord McCarthy

In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, perhaps I may say that I mainly asked questions and that I am looking forward to the Government's answers. I have no desire to be offensive. He knows more about that than I. What I said was, I believe, more plausible than what he said about astronauts.

Lord Trefgarne

I hope that in a very few words I can persuade the Committee to agree that this clause should remain part of the Bill. The fact of the matter is that in recent months—indeed, in the past year or so—the level of unemployment in this country has been steadily declining. Of course it is still at too high a level, and therefore the Government believe very firmly that the emphasis must now lie on ensuring that those people who need proper new or additional training must be given the opportunity to undertake it.

That is why we are changing the name of the Manpower Services Commission, but above all changing the emphasis of its work so that in future it will be able to co-ordinate and in some cases to provide the training that is required. Not all the training will be provided by the Manpower Services Commission, or the Training Commission as it will be called. Much of it will be provided by other organisations, and in particular by a great many of our existing companies.

It is clearly important that the emphasis on the role of the newly-named commission should be such that it can co-ordinate that training, provide it and deliver it to the people who are in need of it. That is the essence of this clause. It is an important and fundamental purpose of this Bill and I commend it to the Committee.

5.6 p.m.

On Question, Whether Clause 24 shall stand part of the Bill?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 135; Not-Contents, 77

Division No. 2
Aldington, L. Ellenborough, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V. Elliott of Morpeth, L.
Allerton, L. Ferrers, E.
Ampthill, L. Fraser of Kilmorack, L.
Arran, E. Gisborough, L.
Bauer, L. Glenarthur, L.
Beaverbrook, L. Gormanston, V.
Belhaven and Slenton, L. Grantchester, L.
Beloff, L. Gray of Contin, L.
Belstead, L. Greenway, L.
Blatch, B. Gridley, L.
Boyd-Carpenter, L. Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Halsbury, E.
Butterworth, L. Harrowby, E.
Caithness, E. Harvey of Prestbury, L.
Cameron of Lochbroom, L. Harvington, L.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Hayter, L.
Campbell of Croy, L. Henderson of Brompton, L.
Carlisle of Bucklow, L. Hesketh, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Hives, L.
Carnock, L. Holderness, L.
Carr of Hadley, L. Home of the Hirsel, L.
Cawley, L. Hood, V.
Colnbrook, L. Hooper, B.
Constantine of Stanmore, L. Hylton-Foster, B.
Cottesloe, L. Jenkin of Roding, L.
Cowley, E. Johnston of Rockport, L.
Craigavon, V. Kenilworth, L.
Cross, V. Killearn, L.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Kimball, L.
Davidson, V. [Teller.] Kinloss, Ly.
De Freyne, L. Kitchener, E.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Lane-Fox, B.
Derwent, L. Lauderdale, E.
Digby, L. Lawrence, L.
Dundee, E. Layton, L.
Eden of Winton, L.
Loch, L. St. Davids, V.
Long, V. St. John of Fawsley, L.
Lothian, M. Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Luke, L. Sanderson of Bowden, L.
Lurgan, L. Sandford, L.
Lyell, L. Seebohm, L.
Mackay of Clashfern, L. Selkirk, E.
Manton, L. Semphill, Ly.
Marshall of Leeds, L. Sharples, B.
Merrivale, L. Simon of Glaisdale, L.
Mersey, V. Skelmersdale, L.
Milverton, L. Somers, L.
Morris, L. Strange, B.
Mowbray and Stourton, L. Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.
Moyne, L.
Munster, E. Sudeley, L.
Nelson, E. Terrington, L.
Newall, L. Teviot, L.
Norfolk, D. Teynham, L.
Nugent of Guildford, L. Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Onslow, E. Thorneycroft, L.
Orkney, E. Trafford, L.
Oxfuird, V. Trefgarne, L.
Pender, L. Trumpington, B.
Quinton, L. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Rankeillour, L. Westbury, L.
Renton, L. Windlesham, L.
Richardson, L. Wise, L.
Rodney, L. Wolfson, L.
Romney, E. Wyatt of Weeford, L.
Rugby, L. Yarborough, E.
Airedale, L. Kearton, L.
Ardwick, L. Kennet, L.
Atllee, E. Leatherland, L.
Aylestone, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.
Banks, L. Lloyd of Kilgerran, L.
Basnett, L. Lovell-Davis, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. McCarthy, L.
Birk, B. McGregor of Durris, L.
Bonham-Carter, L. McIntosh of Haringey, L.
Boston of Faversham, L. McNair, L.
Bottomley, L. Mason of Barnsley, L.
Bruce of Donington, L. Molloy, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, I. Mulley, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Nicol, B. [Teller.]
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L. Oram, L.
David, B. Peston, L.
Diamond, L. Phillips, B.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Pitt of Hampsead, L.
Dormand of Easington, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. [Teller]
Elwyn-Joncs, L.
Ennals, L. Prys-Davies, L.
Ewart-Biggs, B. Ritchie of Dundee, L.
Ezra, L. Rochester, L.
Falkland, V. Seear, B.
Fitt, L. Serota, B.
Foot, L. Stallard, L.
Gallacher, L. Stedman, B.
Galpern, L. Stewart of Fulham, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L. Strabolgi, L.
Grey, E. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Hampton, L. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L. Turner of Camden, B.
Houghton of Sowerby, L. Underhill, L.
Hughes, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L. Walston, L.
Jacques, L. Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Jay, L. White, B.
Jeger, B. Wigoder, L.
John-Mackie, L. Williams of Elvel, L.

Resolved in the affirmative, and Clause 24 agreed to accordingly.

5.14 p.m.

Clause 25 [Status of trainees etc.]:

Lord Wedderburn of Charlton moved Amendment No. 121A. Page 27, line 20, leave out ("may") and insert ("shall").

The noble Lord said: Clause 25 deals with the legal status of trainees. Since the White Paper Training for Employment, published by the Government last February, spoke of their programme being intended to deal with some 600,000 people a year, we are dealing with the legal rights of a significant section of the population.

Clause 25, as it stands, gives the Secretary of State a broad, almost total, discretion to determine by order the legal status of all these people, the nature of payments to them, and indeed to modify any other enactment in so doing. Indeed, it is remarkably wide in subsection (1)(c) that my honourable friends in another place remarked upon the language, to which the Minister of State, Mr. Cope at col. 730 of the Committee stage, said that the words there written "have no specific purpose at present", although he went on to say that lawyers had recommended that they be put in.

This is another case where, as we have seen already in the Committee this afternoon, the discretion of the Minister is very wide. We say two things in our Amendment No. 121A and Amendment No. 121B, if I may speak to that also. First, we say that there should be a presumption as to the legal rights of those who are called trainees that they enjoy the same rights as employees. Secondly, we say that there is a need for flexibility—for reasons to which I shall come—and that there is a need for the Secretary of State to have a somewhat narrower range of powers that he would use after explaining his intention to do so to both Houses.

Although perhaps some of us have rather stronger doubts about the quality of schemes that have emerged over the past five years than have been mentioned earlier today, nothing divides these Benches from the Government about the need for training schemes of high quality, that reach those who are unemployed, and the need for legal flexibility to cope with the situation. However, we do not understand why those who are in such schemes should not presumptively enjoy the rights of employees.

If one takes the two main types of scheme specified in the Government's White Paper, in employer-based schemes they will be working—albeit, one hopes, also learning and training—on the job, in the office or factory. They will be producing work and value for another. If one considers the project-based training schemes—such as the well-known insulation of old peoples' homes, which is so often discussed in debates on the matter—and if one considers young people on such schemes, they are engaging in services. But the idea that they necessarily must be fundamentally different under the law from those who are working beside them as employees seems very strange unless there is a particular reason in favour of the trainees. That is why we believe that the Government's aim is to keep most trainees in a position where they do not enjoy these legal incidents because that goes with the Government's attitude of refusing the rate for the job and insisting upon workfare benefit plus £10, as is stated in the White Paper.

It is right that this matter be set out properly because it is a complex situation which emerges upon an already complex state of the law. The law of employment is in a chaotic state and the Government have done nothing to help it in the past eight years. That is to say that the basic concepts of the law are in turmoil. For most purposes and for most statutes those at work divide themselves into those under a contract of employment, or employees, and those under contracts for services, who are usually the self-employed or independent contractors. Under some statutes there is also a legal category of worker, but that poses few problems here.

These two basic legal building blocks have in some ways become fragmented. The Court of Appeal in 1986 held that a metal worker, who had been employed explicitly on a self-employed basis for four years, was in law really an employee; and in 1983 casual waiters, who had for years been regularly employed by Trust House Forte, were held in law not to be employees. From those cases one gains the flavour of what has happened. This is not the occasion to cure that ambiguity. For the most part, for millions of workers their status as employees is safe.

However, the Bill raises a third oddity that has emerged. There have grown up categories of people who work but who are in a sense not known to the law at all except as categories sui generis. I put aside the problem of clergymen, who the Judicial Committee recently observed were not the servants of the Church but the servants of God. That is perhaps not a problem here. I put aside police cadets, who have emerged as a category quite impossible to fathom, but I do not put aside the main category of oddity, the trainee.

The horrifying status of trainees as a kind of legal no man's land was revealed in 1982 and 1983 when decisions showed that not only in the first case was a young worker on a work experience scheme on a farm not covered by the unfair dismissal laws, because he was not an employee, but secondly, in 1983, a young woman worker was not covered by the Race Relations Act because she was neither an employee nor a self-employed person under a contract for services.

The Government hastily made orders—for that they should take credit, and we give it happily—to bring trainees for the most part within the scope of the Race Relations and the Sex Discrimination Acts, and also of Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

We agree that there is need for flexibility to make orders of that kind. It was said in another place in Committee—again I quote the Minister of State at col. 727 of the Committee proceedings on 26th January— but equality of opportunity in training requires positive discrimination". I think we should prefer to say "affirmative action". But however one puts it, one knows that the Sex Discrimination and the Race Relations Acts allow for discriminatory measures in order to help those who need special measures in ethnic minorities, and for women workers.

The Government's point is only half right; that is to say that the Government suffered from a confusion of categories. It is possible to discriminate in training under those sections of the Acts in many cases where the workers are themselves employees. What one must not do is discriminate in the employment of the employees, so it is not necessary for the most part that a trainee should have a status other than as employee for that purpose. There are a few cases where it is needed, and our amendment provides for that.

The purpose and thrust of the amendment is to ask the Government: why on earth not start with the presumption that trainees are employees so far as concerns their rights? How easy it would have been for the Government to do that. After all, governments in France and Italy have had for some years now specially devised work training contracts. Indeed, there is a British precedent. Although the Government have allowed apprenticeships to wither on the industrial vine, the legal category of apprenticeship is still there It could have been adapted. I do not say that all the old feudal incidents should have been brought in, although the Government may be attracted by some of them. I have in mind the master's duty to the apprentice to provide him with medicines, which the Government might have seen as a useful opportunity to promote private medicine. We should of course not wish to do anything of that kind, but we should wish to take the contract of apprenticeship and update it to include trainees.

In most of the employment legislation, unamended by the Government, the apprentice is included in the provisions for unfair dismissal, maternity rights, equal pay, race and sex discrimination, health and safety laws far wider than the Government's proposals, guarantee payments in regard to insolvency and in part, not wholly, redundancy. Is there not something unseemly, absurd and unjust in setting two young people at the bench, one an apprentice with rights under all those laws and legislation and the other a trainee? The Government and the law say to him, "You can only have a little hit of health and safety, race and sex discrimination protection. For the rest you are out".

It is this kind of approach that makes young people dislike the whole process of YTS. Today has proved again, I believe, that the Government have no conception whatever of why young people resist YTS and why they dislike some of the training schemes, especially in the urban areas and in ethnic minorities. However, that is another broad debate, but here is a little aspect of it. Why cannot we say, "All right, we cannot do a lot of other things, but we can give you as far as possible the rights of employees"?

There was a point at which I thought that perhaps the Government intended to do that because they have taken such a wide discretion in the clause. Indeed, in the Bill it looks as though it is possible that the Government will do that, but in relation to two other aspects one realises that they will not. First, in Committee in another place, at col. 731 on 26th January, the Minister of State rehearsed the protection under health and safety, race relations and sex discrimination legislation, and he went on: there are no other purposes at the moment, although the clause is drafted to allow an order-making power to be used under future legislation". He was being pressed to give unfair dismissal rights.

The White Paper is even clearer. Indeed, I find the White Paper offensive to trainees because, having set out all the things that the Government want to do—that is certainly not offensive and has high aims—it then says: Participants on the new programme will be trainees not employees". Why should that be? Of course some people could not be in that position and the Minister will have to make a special order; but for the most part why not begin by saying, "We offer you these courses", especially when they say: "We will prosecute you if you do not take them"—to which we come in a moment. If you say those things, why not say: These are the courses. We believe you ought to accept them when they are reasonable and high quality and what is more when you go to that office, factory, farm or whatever and work side by side with others who are fortunate enough perhaps to have a secure job, so far as we can we shall make your rights parallel to theirs. I beg to move.

5.30 p.m.

The Earl of Dundee

The powers contained in Clause 25(1)(a) to (c) allow the Secretary of State to clarify the rights of individuals on Government schemes in relation to legislation affecting the workplace where a doubt arises. Sometimes it has been thought necessary to give trainees specific protections where they would not otherwise have them. This was done, for example, in relation to the Health and Safety at Work Act where YTS trainees have been given the protection of employees. The power in Clause 25(1)(d) would also enable the Secretary of State to specify how payments to such individuals are to be treated; for example, whether or not the payment should be subject to deductions for National Insurance contributions.

The Noble Lord, Lord Wedderburn, has asked whether it is right that trainees should be treated as employees. He takes the view that participants on Government schemes should be normally employees and have full employment protection rights. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of our training programmes, although the noble Lord agreed with high-quality training. We are offering, through such excellent opportunities as YTS and the planned new adult training programme, a real chance to the unemployed to enhance their future employment prospects. We can offer these opportunities only if employers are willing to help in the training of the unemployed in addition to the training they would already carry out for their own employees. If we were to require that employers should offer people on these schemes a contract of employment, this would reduce severely the opportunities available and everyone would be worse off as a consequence.

I hope that, in introducing that aspect, I go some way to assuring the noble Lord, Lord Wedderburn, of the reasons why we have not given presumptions of similar rights as between employees and trainees.

However, I agree that it is right that trainees should have the full protection of the law for health and safety and against sexual and racial discrimination. This is why YTS trainees were given the protections of employees under the Health and Safety at Work Act. Furthermore, the Health and Safety Commission is currently consulting on draft regulations to apply these protections to other training programmes. It is also why we have designated training providers for programmes such as YTS and the Sex Discrimination and Race Relations Acts so that trainees on these schemes enjoy proper protection.

In regard to the new adult training programme, we intend to ensure similar protection for participants. The commission has recommended that trainees on the new programme are treated in the same way for health and safety and equal opportunities as trainees on YTS and my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has accepted its recommendations in full.

The noble Lord, Lord Wedderburn, said that he thought trainees would be deterred from joining the schemes as a result of not having the same rights. While I do not believe that to be the case, even if it is but only to a small extent the danger would be far greater if we were to deter employers from recruiting prospective trainees. That would be the case if we were to give the presumption which the noble Lord seeks. As a result of looking at the problem in that way, perhaps the noble Lord will at this stage see fit to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Wedderburn of Charlton

I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. I am glad that he confirmed much of what I said about race relations and sex discrimination. I hope that I gave credit to the Government for extending protection in 1983, but they did so only after two cases revealed a scandal. The Government acted because of the burgeoning protests about the number of trainees injured in training schemes in 1982–83. I tell the Minister that it will be after other scandals in regard to other areas of employment protection rights that the Government will have to move again, and I do not understand why it is that they cannot move a little now.

The Minister's central point was that if one gives to trainees the employment protection rights, employers will be more reluctant to recruit people on employer-based training projects. I shall not say to the Minister that I do not believe him but that I do not believe it. I do not believe it because nowadays most employers, even small employers, are fairly well advised about such matters. They would know perfectly well that the trainee would not be with them long enough to build up rights in respect of unfair dismissal. However, where the trainee stays in a job where continuous service is a possibility, why should he not count the period of his training towards the unfair dismissal protection? In most cases, whether it be one year or 18 months since the Government in their unwisdom saw fit to extend the qualifying period to two years before unfair dismissal can be claimed, that situation would not normally arise and it would not deter an employer.

After looking at other employment protection provisions I say to the Minister that I do not believe that, for the most part, our employers who will cooperate in the scheme are of such a character that they will consider it right to have working at the bench people who are so deprived of rights as compared with others alongside them. I do not believe that most employers would take that view. The noble Earl did not spell out the issue but spoke vaguely, as the Government often do, about employment protection rights being burgeoned on business and deterring employers. If there is a problem as regards that right, it should be part of the scheme that the Government will somehow help an employer with a genuine problem and not take away the rights of the worker.

If the Minister says that trainees might be deterred, I do not say that their legal rights will be a central point in that. Perhaps we should both be surprised to learn of the number of unemployed young people who know a great deal about the scheme, although in the White Paper the Government write about people as though they know little about it. Often that is not true and they are aware of the situation. However, their objections would be more towards the matters about which we shall speak later; namely, of being conscripted into the scheme under penalties and threat of penalties.

Quite apart from the Government's inept performance in regard to trade union co-operation and tripartism, the three points taken together (the abolition of tripartism; the conscription of young people; and the general approach of the Government) may well ruin what could and should be a good scheme. I do not understand why the Government cannot give a little and say that they will extend Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act; that they will look at other provisions in that Act; that they will look beyond race relations and sex discrimination at guarantee payments or maternity rights. Why not deal a little further with equal pay and maternity rights?

I hope that when the Government look to the Report stage they will go a little further in pronouncing the presumptive rights of trainees. If they do not do so, the clause which will be laid on the statute book will not give the Minister a general discretion which he will use in favour of making trainees into employees. It will be a general discretion which he will use against making trainees into those with employment rights because that has been made clear in the White Paper. We must pass to other matters which are linked to this amendment and I beg leave to withdraw.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 121B not moved].

Clause 25 agreed to.

Clause 26 [Amendment of the Social Security Act 1975 with respect to the refusal of training, etc]:

Lord McCarthy moved Amendment No. 121C: Page 28, line 8, at beginning insert ("subject to paragraph (ee)")

The noble Lord said: With this amendment I should like to take Amendment No. 121D. We come now to Clause 26. If we take the view, as we did, that Clause 24 is the most important and fundamental clause in Part II of the Bill, I believe we take the view that Clause 26 is the most objectionable clause in Part II of the Bill. This clause lays down the conditions under which people who unreasonably refuse a training place or who are dismissed from a training place can be disqualified from benefit. That is the issue which the amendment addresses.

The amendments focus on the creation of an appeal system, if it is alleged by the employer that an individual worker has lost his place or has had his place taken away from him as a result of misconduct. In the first instance the problem, as we see it, is that it is clear that the misconduct is the concept of misconduct as applied in social security law and as applied by the adjudicating officer if the individual appeals to a social security appeals tribunal. The problem is that this concept of misconduct is so much wider than the equivalent concept of misconduct in unfair dismissal.

Moreover, it is not merely a question of the way in which the concept has developed. In the case of unfair dismissal, once misconduct is established it is still for the tribunal to decide whether in all the circumstances it is fair and reasonable to regard it as a fair reason for dismissal. It is partly a question of observance by the employer of certain satisfactory procedures such as warnings and the element of natural justice. As far as we understand it, none of the sophisticated and —from the point of view of the employee—extremely helpful qualifications applies to the concept of misconduct as it is interpreted and applied in social security legislation.

The interpretation there has always been that if someone is dismissed on grounds of misconduct the essential matter is whether, in the opinion of the employer, he is significantly to blame. If he is significantly to blame and as a result the employer takes the view that he is no longer a suitable employee, then misconduct is accepted. Thus if one looks at the examples of cases of misconduct in social security law, in particular circumstances one can see examples which may well have gone another way in an industrial tribunal on issues of unfair dismissal. For example, individuals who get drunk in their own time away from the employer can be denied benefit; sexual offenders who offend on a Sunday far from the workplace can be thought to be no longer a suitable employee. People can be disbarred from benefit when the only offence is that of being sick and not informing the employer.

As long ago as 1932 the Royal Commission on the subject said that that concept, as used for social security purposes, was to wide and unfortunate. However, that is a concept which is now to be imported into the disqualification of benefit for those who are dismissed from a training place. In effect, that leaves the matter entirely to the word of the employer as to whether or not the individual receives benefit.

The only justification for the perpetuation of the notion of misconduct in social security for so long was that it was only applied for a relatively short period. The normal period for which individuals who were dismissed and in respect of whom the employer alleged misconduct were disqualified from benefit was six weeks. The concept of misconduct as it developed was never satisfactory. Indeed, it is perfectly reasonable for people to say something should have been done long before this Government took office. However, at least we can say that until October 1986 the disqualification period was normally six weeks—six weeks right back to the establishment of the whole concept in 1911, through the 1920s and 1930s until October 1986. At that time this Government were the first Government to more than double the period for normal benefit disqualification to 13 weeks. The justification of the time was that to increase the period from six to 13 weeks would help market mobility; an argument which will be familar to the Committee because it is the argument that the Government give for virtually everything.

However, next April there is to be a further doubling of the period of disqualification on grounds of misconduct to 26 weeks. Therefore, this quadrupled period of disqualification is now to be taken from the normal area of social security legislation into the area of training. Also, an individual who is disqualified for misconduct will have a 40 per cent. cut in supplementary benefit to be going on with. If he is seriously ill, the cut will be reduced to 20 per cent. Of course it is not just hoped that it will improve the mobility of the labour market; it will save £37 million a year. Since the period during which workers will be off the register will be doubled, it will be worth another 200,000 or 300,000, if not more, on the unemployment figures.

Apart from that, is it justified? In particular, is it justified when it is applied in training places? We do not argue that the measure should be done away with. This amendment has a far more modest intention than that. It merely says that if disqualification is introduced on grounds of misconduct then the individual on the training scheme should have access to some form of independent arbitration—third party arbitration or, if not third party independent arbitration, perhaps access to an industrial tribunal. If access is given to an industrial tribunal, we feel that there is a chance that some of the more balanced, fairer and wider criteria used by industrial tribunals might be introduced into the question of misconduct. I beg to move.

5.45 p.m.

Lord Irvine of Lairg

It appears to me that the amendment is all about fairness. Misconduct means a serious breach of contract of employment. The words: lost his place…through his misconduct mean that the real reason for the loss of the place is guilt of industrial misconduct. Therefore, in every case there must be two issues: was he guilty of conduct that amounts to misconduct and, if yes, was his misconduct the real cause of the loss of his place on the approved training scheme? Both these questions are capable of giving rise to very real and genuine disputes of a purely factual nature.

For employees—that is, people fortunate enough to be in work—misconduct, when established, often means the loss of employment. However, anyone dismissed who loses his employment because of an allegation of misconduct is entitled to take his case to an industrial tribunal. Industrial tribunals decide these cases daily. They decide whether a worker was dismissed unfairly or fairly. Therefore, the question of principle on this amendment is this: Why should not the same principle apply to the loss of a place on an approved training scheme as applies to the loss of employment?

A place on an approved training scheme offers some opportunity—perhaps not very great opportunity but real opportunity—to the individual concerned for obtaining employment. That is to him or to her at least as vital an interest—he or she being unemployed—as is the retention of employment for those who are fortunate enough to be employed. Therefore, the question of principle which this amendment poses surely is this: Why should the principle which applies to loss of employment because of misconduct not equally apply to the loss of the opportunity of employment through membership of an approved training scheme? I suggest that that is a question of principle which the Minister should address and respond to.

I hope that the answer is not that these cases can be dealt with by social security tribunals. Those tribunals are concerned only with whether or not there was misconduct according to a rather curious definition of misconduct. However, the important point of difference is that the industrial tribunals are concerned not only with whether there was misconduct but also whether it was, in all the circumstances, fair to dismiss by reason of misconduct. That is a wholly different and independent consideration. It allows all sorts of personal mitigating factors to be taken into account in ways that the social security tribunals, in practice and indeed in principle, do not countenance.

Therefore, when I consider—and, I hope, when other Members of the Committee consider—the likely backgrounds of so many on approved training schemes and the pressures to which they are inevitably subjected, I am driven to think that the same protection as applies in loss of employment cases should apply to those who lose their places on approved training schemes. That is the protection that must be established—that it was in all the circumstances fair that they should be deprived of their place because of misconduct.

Baroness Seear

I very much hope that the Government will agree to look closely at this amendment. We are all extremely anxious—and it is common ground between us—that the reputation of the YTS should be high and that potential trainees should see it as a desirable opportunity. One only needs a few cases in which it is felt that a job has been lost and the traineeship has been lost without consideration of fairness to prejudice a great many people against it. That makes the headlines and it is very bad for the scheme, particularly now that the penalties are tough—26 weeks is a very long time; it is half a year. A 40 per cent cut in benefit reduces the young person's benefit to a very meagre amount of money to spend. That is a very serious penalty. Surely it is in nobody's interest, and certainly not that of the Government, that it should be possible to say that a young person suffers these penalties without having the opportunity to have his or her case independently looked at. I hope the noble Lord will take that on board.

Lord Trefgarne

I fully share the concern of the Committee that benefit sanctions should not be applied to those who have good cause for refusing, failing to accept, or for leaving a place on an approved training scheme. As I shall expand in the discussions on this and other amendments to this clause, such safeguards are already contained in the provisions set out in Clause 26. However, perhaps I may first pencil in some of the background to these provisions.

Members of the Committee opposite may believe that Clause 26 introduces a new power to apply benefit penalties to those who do not take advantage of the training opportunities available on Government schemes. It has been a principle in law since 1946, and even before, that people should not be able to turn down an opportunity of help in favour of resting on benefit. Indeed, the honourable Member for Oldham, West, Mr. Michael Meacher, speaking on behalf of the Opposition in another place, said on 21st January that: No one objects to a measure of compulsion as a last resort for individuals who are blatantly malingering … it is perfectly reasonable to deny benefit to people who patently and unreasonably refuse to avail themselves of a job or a training scheme."—[Official Report, Commons, Standing Committee F; 21/1/88; cols. 633–34.] It may be helpful if I explain that principle in more detail. First, everyone claiming unemployment benefit is required by law to be available for work and this has been the position for more than 70 years. The principle was first set out in Section 86(3) of the National Insurance Act 1911, introduced, if my memory serves me right, by the then Mr. Lloyd George. It was carried over into other legislation in 1921, 1946 and, finally, in 1975 in Section 17 of the Social Security Act 1975. If someone repeatedly rejects all offers of help, including opportunities on training programmes, this may give rise to doubts as to their availability.

Secondly, the power to apply benefit sanctions to people who refuse a place on an approved training scheme or who leave prematurely, like the requirement to be available for work, dates back to Beveridge. It was first laid down in the National Insurance Act 1946 and carried over into Section 20 of the Social Security Act 1975.

As the risk of incurring again the wrath of the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, and the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, I remind them that both Lloyd George and Beveridge were distinguished members of the Liberal Party.

Baroness Seear

We are most grateful for the good publicity on the excellent record of the Liberal Party.

Lord Trefgarne

I am always anxious to help.

Lord Irvine of Lairg

Has the Minister shuffled his papers? The question to which this amendment is directed, and no other question, is whether individuals on approved training schemes should lose their places by reason of single acts of misconduct. Does the Minister propose to address directly the subject matter of this amendment and not to entertain us with history?

Lord Trefgarne

I am grateful for the advice of the noble Lord. Far from being the significant change to which noble Lords opposite have referred. Clause 26 simply rectifies an anomaly in Section 20 of the 1975 Act by bringing the provisions on employment and training fully into line. Clause 26 closes a loophole which allows a trainee to engineer his own dismissal from an approved training scheme, through misconduct, without the threat of benefit sanctions; whereas had the trainee been an employee, benefit sanctions would apply. At the outset I said I wanted to pencil in the broad background to this amendment and that is what I have done.

I turn now to the proposition that claimants can turn down unsuitable places. The provisions of Section 20 of the Social Security Act 1975

Lord Irvine of Lairg

The subject of this amendment is not the turning down of places offered but the removal from existing places by reason of misconduct. Can the noble Lord address the subject of the amendment?

Lord Renton

As I understand it, we are discussing only Amendments Nos. 121C and 121D.

6 p.m.

Lord Trefgarne

I am grateful for the advice from the noble Lord opposite, and from my noble friend. I have gone into the background of the essence of the provision and the amendment before the Committee. It is the question of the individual rights of trainees. Several noble Lords have suggested that all trainees on our schemes should have the rights of employees and an employment contract. It may help if I explain that many employers take on additional trainees surplus to their employee requirements. For example, that applies to YTS trainees because they recognise their responsibility to train for the future of the country and not just for their own particular needs. It would clearly be wrong to demand that these surplus trainees should have the same rights as employees, but to insist that they should have even more extensive rights of appeal than their fellow employees would be very unfair and would place an intolerable burden on employers. Employers may choose not to take on trainees rather than to attempt to shoulder such a burden which would result in less help for unemployed people.

I am sorry that the noble Lord does not like the basis upon which we bring forward this proposal. I recognise that he sees certain difficulties with it, but we believe it is an essential proposition and I hope noble Lords will not press their amendments.

Lord Wedderburn of Charlton

Before the Minister finally sits down, perhaps I may raise one matter now that he has nearly (but not quite) reached the question of misconduct. I am sure that the noble Lord's memory stretches to the years 1974–79 which was the first time in two decisions of those years that the Social Security Commissioners decided that they were not bound by the decisions of industrial tribunals. Therefore this problem has been with us for only 10 years or so and that is why the Government ought to look at it. He did not tell us whether he was going to look at it and perhaps he will do so.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

Will the noble Lord deal with the very precise and detailed questions put to him by the noble Lord, Lord Irvine of Lairg? He did not in any way answer the points made by the noble Lord and I am sure many of us would be very gratified were he to do so.

Lord Trefgarne

I am sorry if I do not respond in the way that the noble Lord hopes regarding the amendment. The essence of the proposition contained in this clause is one that I have referred to and I do not believe I can help the noble Lord further.

Lord Irvine of Lairg

The noble Lord has been most generous in giving way and I am grateful to him for doing so again. It may be my own fault that I have not put the question as clearly as I desired. Does the Minister accept that there can be cases where someone on an approved training scheme has misconducted himself but that it would still be unfair to take away his place because of this misconduct? Does the Minister accept that there can be such cases and that they should be catered for?

Lord Trefgarne

Perhaps I may help the noble Lord further in this way. I refer in particular to amendment No. 121C because we are dealing with that and Amendment No. 121D in the same debate. By requiring an appeal system prior to dismissal, Amendment No. 121C seeks to give a right of appeal to trainees way beyond the rights of employees. I suggest that this is quite impractical and unnecessary. It would be a major departure from current industrial relations law and practice to require employers to follow an appeals mechanism before dismissing an employee. The closest that current legislation comes to this is when an industrial tribunal makes an order for reinstatement in a case of unfair dismissal. Even then the law recognises that reinstatement is not always practicable and allows for compensation to be paid instead.

I do not believe that this is the time for us to consider such a radical reform of industrial relations law. We are concerned here with the application of benefit sanctions which I have described at some length.

Lord McCarthy

The noble Lord leaves me confused. We had a clause stand part debate not very long ago as regards Clause 24 to which he gave no answer at all. Now we have a much more precise amendment and he gives a clause stand part answer. However it does not concern Clause 24, but Clause 26. The Minister gives us a clause stand part answer in Clause 26. Perhaps when we reach the debate on whether this clause shall stand part he will tell us what he should have said at the clause stand part debate regarding Clause 24.

It is very confusing because as his clause stand part speech in answer to Amendment No. 121C went on, he began to give us an answer to Amendment No. 121B. He began to tell us the answer to the amendment which the noble Lord, Lord Wedderburn, moved saying that trainees should be employees. That is not this amendment. Finally, as a result of the intervention of noble friends on this side of the House, as I understand the Minister, he reaches Amendment No. 121C but what he says is wrong. He says that we are trying to obtain for people that which they do not have in other respects. In the area of training and misconduct we are trying to get something analogous to what happens in unfair dismissal cases generally. There is nothing unusual in this or anything which would set any unnecessary or unworthy precedent.

If the noble Lord had said, "Why did you not do this as regards the Social Security Bill, and why are you bringing it forward in this Bill?" I should have thought that was an answer. Perhaps we shall hear that answer in another clause stand part debate. The fact is that we are very familiar with this kind of answer. This answer is the same as, "Why do you not come Wednesday or why not do it on Friday?" We did not get that, but we have received an answer that we are trying to create some kind of precedent. We are not trying to do that. Any employer who has an agreement with a third party that he should go to that third party in the case of some alleged misconduct, would in fact do voluntarily what we are suggesting should be put on the face of the Bill.

We are only saying that if an employer decides not to do that then this provision should be processed not through the social security legislation but through the industrial tribunals set up to deal with unfair dismissal. There is nothing unusual or difficult in that. The fact of the matter is that when the Government finally get round to it they do not want to give the workers any rights.

Baroness Seear

Perhaps I may ask the Minister one thing. In plain straightforward English does he or does he not think it fair that a young trainee should lose his job for misconduct and suffer serious penalties as a consequence, without having the chance of having his case heard independently in some way?

I shall put it like this. Supposing a youngster has a row with his foreman. That is not an unknown situation. The foreman may be a most desirable person (as most of them are), but some of them can be a little difficult at times. The youngster and the foreman have a row, and the foreman says "You are out". Is this young man really to lose benefit for 26 weeks or, if he goes on social security, is he only to receive 40 per cent.? If he has been unreasonable and insubordinate to the foreman that is fair enough. It may or may not be fair enough. But at least let it be established by some independent party that the foreman was not suffering from a hangover. These things happen in real life; but perhaps the noble Lord does not know that people have hangovers in real life. When people have them, they do not behave as nicely as they do when they do not have a hangover. This is normal common practice. Is it not reasonable that the young man should have a chance to put his case to an independent person? That is all that we are asking.

Lord Trefgarne

I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, suggested that my answers have had a certain sameness about them regarding the amendments we have dealt with this afternoon. The fact of the matter is that some of the amendments have had a certain sameness about them. Naturally, I have tried to confine my replies to the essence of the amendments that were offered to me. Perhaps I may help the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, specifically in this way. If a claimant is apparently dismissed for misconduct he is not without any right of appeal against the decision of the adjudication officer. He can go first to the independent social security appeal tribunal. Thereafter, if he thinks fit, he can go on a point of law to the Social Security Commissioner, to the Court of Appeal and even ultimately to this House.

Baroness Seear

The noble Lord, Lord Irvine, explained why that was an inadequate—

Noble Lords


Lord Trefgarne

I am sorry if the noble Lord, Lord Irvine, thinks that that is unsatisfactory, unacceptable or inadequate. It is fair for me to say that such machinery exists, and for the reasons I have described we do not think it would be appropriate to supply the alternate route which is suggested by noble Lords opposite.

Lord McCarthy

I am afraid that the noble Lord fails to satisfy us even as much as he satisfied us previously. I did not say that it was sameness. I said that it was out of place. Now that it is in place it is unacceptable and we shall divide the Committee.

6.10 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 121C) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 68; Not-Contents, 120.

Airedale, L. Lawrence, L.
Ardwick, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.
Aylestone, L. Lloyd of Kilgerran, L.
Barnett, L. Lovell-Davis, L.
Basnett, L. McCarthy, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. McGregor of Durris, L.
Birk, B. McIntosh of Haringey, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L. McNair, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Mason of Barnsley, L.
Carter, L. Mishcon, L.
Craigavon, V. Nathan, L.
Davies of Penrhys, L. Nicol, B. [Teller.]
Dean of Beswick, L. Oram, L.
Diamond, L. Phillips, B.
Dormand of Easington, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. [Teller.]
Elwyn-Jones, L.
Ewart-Biggs, B. Prys-Davies, L.
Fletcher, L. Ritchie of Dundee, L.
Gallacher, L. Rochester, L.
Galpern, L. Salisbury, Bp.
Graham of Edmonton, L. Seear, B.
Grey, E. Seebohm, L.
Grimond, L. Serota, B.
Hampton, L. Shannon, E.
Harris of Greenwich, L. Stedman, B.
Hayter, L. Stewart of Fulham, L.
Henderson of Brompton, L. Strabolgi, L.
Houghton of Sowerby, L. Turner of Camden, B.
Hughes, L. Underhill, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Jacques, L. Walston, L.
Jay, L. Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Jeger, B. White, B.
John-Mackie, L. Williams of Elvel, L.
Kilmarnock, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V. Killearn, L.
Allerton, L. Kimball, L.
Arran, E. Kitchener, E.
Ashbourne, L. Layton, L.
Bauer, L. Lindsey and Abingdon, E.
Beaverbrook, L. Long, V.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Lothian, M.
Beloff, L. Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Belstead, L. Lurgan, L.
Birdwood, L. Lyell, L.
Boyd-Carpenter, L. Mackay of Clashfern, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Macleod of Borve, B.
Brookeborough, V. Marshall of Leeds, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Massereene and Ferrard, V.
Butterworth, L. Merrivale, L.
Caithness, E. Milverton, L.
Cameron of Lochbroom, L. Mottistone, L.
Campbell of Croy, L. Mountgarret, V.
Carlisle of Bucklow, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Munster, E.
Carnock, L. Nelson, E.
Carr of Hadley, L. Newall, L.
Cawley, L. Norfolk, D.
Chelwood, L. Norrie, L.
Coleraine, L. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Colnbrook, L. Onslow, E.
Constantine of Stanmore, L. Orkney, E.
Cottesloe, L. Oxfuird, V.
Cowley, E. Pender, L.
Cross, V. Quinton, L.
Davidson, V. [Teller.] Rankeillour, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Renton, L.
Derwent, L. Renwick, L.
Dilhorne, V. Rodney, L.
Dundee, E. Rugby, L.
Eden of Winton, L. St. Davids, V.
Elliott of Morpeth, L. St. John of Fawsley, L.
Ferrers, E. Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Fraser of Kilmorack, L. Sanderson of Bowden, L.
Geddes, L. Sandford, L.
Gisborough, L. Sharples, B.
Gray of Contin, L. Skeimersdale, L.
Grecnway, L. Somers, L.
Gridley, L. Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.
Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.
Sudeley, L.
Halsbury, E. Swansea, L.
Harmar-Nicholls, L. Swinfen, L.
Harrowby, E. Swinton, E.
Harvey of Prestbury, L. Teynham, L.
Harvington, L. Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Havers, L. Trafford, L.
Hesketh, L. Trefgarne, L.
Hives, L. Trumpington, B.
Holderness, L. Tryon, L.
Home of the Hirsel, L. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Hood, V. Westbury, L.
Hooper, B. Windlesham, L.
Hylton-Foster, B. Wise, L.
Jenkin of Roding, L. Wyatt of Weeford, L.
Johnston of Rockport, L. Yarborough, E.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

[Amendment No. 121D not moved.]

6.20 p.m.

Baroness Seear moved Amendment No. 121E: Page 28, line 13, after ("has") insert ("on at least three occasions").

The noble Baroness said: If these young persons are to be penalised for refusing to take a place on a training programme, we would ask that they should have turned down an opening on no fewer than three occasions (not one occasion) before it is counted against them in the way described in the Bill.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, that in a previous amendment perhaps the word "requirements", in relation to the trainee, was going a bit far because you could interpret that as being a demand which could be made by the young person.

However, there is something less than "requirements" which I think we should take into account. After all, the career service which is strongly supported by the Government, aims to find out what the interests and aptitudes of a youngster are before suggesting any training—it would be helpful if the Minister were able to listen to me. The training, if it is good, is very expensive and it is a waste of training time if it is given to people who have no particular interest or aptitude for it. They cannot continue unreasonably saying that nothing suits them except to be a brain surgeon. We know that there are some people around like that, but they are a small minority. If a young person is really keen to do a certain type of training and it is a reasonable occupation for which to train that is not available in his or her area, it is not unreasonable for that person to try and hang out for it for a certain period of time.

In the end, it will be much better value for money—the phrase so beloved by the Government—if the youngsters are allowed to wait a little longer in order to find what they really want to do, because they will put their backs into it and make a success of it. But, on the other hand, to drive them into doing what they do not really want to do is likely to be a considerable waste of training. I accept that they cannot go on forever refusing such offers. That is why we suggest that they should be allowed to turn down what is offered up to three times before the penalties are invoked. I beg to move.

Lord McCarthy

We support the speech of the noble Baroness and indeed we have our names on the Marshalled List in respect of the amendment. This is an amendment which should commend itself to the Government. It should especially commend itself to the Minister because I wrote him down as saying that Clause 26 represents "no significant change in policy". Well, if that is so, this is a way of proving it.

We have not taken those three occasions out of the air. It is the basic way, from time immemorial, that clerks in the labour exchanges, in the job centres and in the benefit offices have interpreted their instructions. This is how they decided what "good cause" was in practice. They have offered the people who have come in one job and, if they have not taken it, they have then offered them another one, and finally, they have offered them a third one. If, after the three occasions, the man or girl behind the grille thought that that this meant that the person was not seeking work or seeking training—as it might be now—they have said: "I am afraid old fellow you have had too long a piece of string. You are off the benefit."

The trouble with the system is that it does not remove many people off benefit. A recent survey of the MSC showed that out of 25,000 young persons who refused YTS in 1987 benefits were only stopped in 700 cases; that is to say, 2.8 per cent. If the Minister takes the view that this situation should continue and nothing changes, my question to him is this: can the Government say—since the MSC will not be there—that they will commission another survey for 1988 or 1989 and that they expect the percentage to be 2.8 per cent.? Or, will it be 28 per cent.? Or, will they stop doing the survey? That is how we shall see whether there has been any change in policy. However, if there has been no change in policy and if the Government do not wish to be tougher with the work-shy than they are now, there is no reason on earth why the Minister should not accept the amendment.

Lord Renton

I do not think that my noble friend should accept, or should be expected to accept, the amendment. The case that has been put forward by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, and the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, seems to ignore the presence in the paragraph of the words "without good cause". They are in fact saying that even though the young man has without good cause refused or failed to apply for a place, or refused to accept one, three offers must be made to him before he suffers any disadvantage. That situation seems to me, if I may use jargon which has been used several times in connection with the Bill, to be going right over the top. Surely it is wrong that the officials who have to administer the scheme should, when they find someone unto-operative because he has "without good cause" failed to accept an offer, nevertheless have to ensure that on two further occasions an offer is put to him? That does not seem to be reasonable. I hope that my noble friend will not accept the amendment.

Lord McCarthy

Does the noble Lord not agree that we may be going over the top but we have been doing so for years? I understand what the noble Lord appears to want to do. What I should like the Government to say is whether they are coming down from the top.

Lord Renton

With the greatest respect, that is not relevant.

A noble Lord

It was just a joke.

Lord Trefgarne

I am most grateful to my noble friend Lord Renton for making the point, or at least one of the points, that I intended to make to your Lordships in response to the amendment. It is proposed in the amendment that the young person should indeed be entitled to turn down "without good cause" three opportunities of a training place that may be offered to him. Furthermore it is proposed that he should, at the same time, continue to enjoy the benefits that he was receiving. I do not think that that is a sensible or fair proposition.

I should add that before a potential trainee is made any offer he is of course carefully counselled and much consideration is given to what would be an appropriate course for him to take. Clearly there would be no interest in offering the trainee a course which is not suitable for him and which he might well therefore feel like refusing with good cause. There would be no benefit to anyone in offering him a course of that nature. The system is devised in such a way as to ensure that that situation does not arise.

Baroness Seear

Does the Minister agree that there are not adequate training places available for the desirable jobs? The training places at the top of the list—this is common to all of us working in the field—are highly desirable. However, below that level, one has to take what is going and what is going is often not at all in line with that which a reasonable youngster wants to obtain.

Lord Renton

Before my noble friend answers that question I should say that we are not talking about jobs; we are talking about vacancies on training schemes, of which there are likely to be several available. Surely the provisions of the Bill have covered the position admirably.

Lord Trefgarne

My noble friend is again quite right in what he says. Indeed, as I said during the discussion on an earlier amendment, many thousands of additional courses will be made available this year and next year. This will ensure that there are an adequate number of places available for those who may need them, and also that there is an adequate range of choice of such courses so that those who advise the young people can select the best and most appropriate course for the young person in question.

The noble Baroness is of course quite right. There will be some courses right at the top of the desirable list which every young man in his right mind would be queuing up for. An astronaut's course, for example, if there were one available, would no doubt be desirable, as my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter said.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

A high-level course.

Lord Trefgarne

Yes, a high-level course. Equally, I dare say there will not be a great range of applicants suitably qualified for such a course. It will not be possible to offer many such desirable courses to young people, but there will be a considerable range of desirable courses tailored to the needs of the young people involved. My noble friend Lord Renton is right when he says that it is not satisfactory that applicants should be able to turn down three offers of a course without good cause.

6.30 p.m.

Baroness Seear

Is the Minister not being overoptimistic? I do not know where he obtains his information that there will be a large number of extra courses. The Government are, rightly, busily trying to obtain extra places for the new job training scheme for older people. My information at local level is that officials are extremely worried about whether they will be able to find all the YTS places in addition to those for the job training schemes, if all the job training schemes are taken up. I hope that the Minister is right when he believes that there will be this large number of desirable courses. That is not what I am being told, and I should like to know from where he obtains his information.

Lord Trefgarne

When I held a different appointment in the Ministry of Defence I was responsible for the armed forces YTS. There were a number of desirable, excellent courses, and we were short of suitable applicants for them.

Lord Wedderburn of Charlton

Before the Minister sits down, may I ask him whether he agrees—I suspect that he might because he has addressed the Committee on the history of the social security/national insurance schemes way back to 1924 — that since such a date the issue of whether someone has rejected the offer of a job or training by reason of it being unsuitable, or, the obverse side of the coin, for good cause—involves such a high element of subjective assessment that it is bound to be a problem where young people are being offered, as the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, has said, many jobs that do not offer the kind of training that they want? Would it not be wise, even if the Government cannot accept this amendment, for them to be a little more flexible on the question of "good cause" and the suitability of training courses, because it is here that the rub comes? People, especially young people, will feel conscripted if this Bill and the Social Security Bill go through.

Lord Trefgarne

As the noble Lord understands, we are talking about 16–18 year-olds. The proposition contained in the amendment is that they should be allowed, without good cause, to reject the offer of up to three courses. I do not think that is a sensible proposition. It is the proposition enshrined in the amendment. I do not think that the Committee should agree to it.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

Before the noble Baroness decides what to do with her amendment, as she is the one who understands how the scheme works on the ground because she is involved with it on her area manpower board, I ask her whether it is not rather misleading to talk about YTS, as we did on the previous amendment and on this, as if it were comparable to applying for a job. The YTS guarantees a place. A number of girls and boys whom I know have gone on one scheme which was not 100 per cent. what they wanted. They managed to move to another. Some have managed to move to three because they have not found what they wanted. They are not sunk if they go on the wrong scheme. Is it not a much better discipline and much more realistic for them to approach training as is suggested in the Bill as it stands, but with the understanding that the real object is to put them into something in which they are interested, which they enjoy and which motivates them? That is what the youth training scheme is all about. I should be interested to know whether the noble Baroness agrees with me.

Baroness Seear

I do not hold out much hope that the Minister will be accommodating. However, I shall repeat what I said a few moments ago. He is greatly over-estimating the ability to offer suitable training programmes. I should rather see "on three occasions" than "good cause" written into the Bill, if it were a matter of changing the wording. The noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, was correct when she said that a young person who, on going into a training programme, finds that it is not what he or she wants, moves to another. If that is not what is wanted, he or she moves to another.

Surely it would be more sensible to take a little longer and to put those young people into the third position the first time rather than to waste training time in training post one and training post two, which someone else could have had while they were occupying it. I know it is true and that a youngster who thought he wanted some training finds, when he gets the place, that his idea of that job is wrong. I agree that that is a good learning and desirable process. There is a taster element in that which can be useful. The situation is not always like that by any manner of means. It would be better initially to spend the time, money and effort to find the right programme. That is much less extravagant than having young people train for a bit, move onto something else, train and move onto something else again. We should allow them to wait until they find the right programme provided that they are doing that sensibly and responsibly. Of course we agree that that situation cannot go on indefinitely. I merely say that this proposal is not an efficient way to do that. We should allow them to have three goes at getting it right and then say, "You are being too choosy by half. You cannot go on like that". That is fine. Let them have the three goes. The Minister might feel happier if we took out "good cause" and put in "on three occasions"; that would cut the ground from under the feet of his argument.

Lord Trefgarne

It is not necessary to write in "refusal of a course with good cause" because that is already inherent in the provision.

Baroness Seear

As has been said what is good cause is highly subjective. Three times is a fact. One can say, "You have turned it down three times, and that is it". One can be as tough as one likes after that. That would be more efficient, economical and fairer to the youngster. I can see that we shall not have the amendment accepted at this time of night, having regard to the preceding results and I therefore beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Viscount Massereene and Ferrard

I know a young girl who wants to be a shepherdess—

Noble Lords


Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Turner of Camden moved Amendment No. 121F:

Page 28, line 17, at end insert—

("( ) After subsection (1), there shall be inserted the following subsection— "(1A) A person shall not be disqualified by reason of 'good cause' or 'neglect' under paragraphs (e), (f) and (g) above if he has left, failed to apply for, or otherwise taken up a place on a training scheme that is not reasonably suitable to his capacities, aptitudes and requirements." ").

The noble Baroness said: The amendment seeks again to underline the element of choice that we feel is so vital to the success of any training scheme. My noble friend Lord Wedderburn of Charlton has already spoken at length about our concern that we are having a provision which will conscript young people into unsuitable schemes. As we all know, the MSC has already said that the individual must count and that the training must be tailored to the needs of the individual. No training scheme can work without the principles that make for willing and committed participation by the trainees. A number of your Lordships have already said that on previous amendments.

It is to be hoped that every approved training scheme will be of good quality, and that every unemployed person, especially young people, joining will receive support and encouragement. Unfortunately, as we have seen, this does not always happen. So what we are doing with this amendment is to spell out precisely what we mean by "good cause".

There was a lot of discussion about "good cause" on the last amendment. We are saying in our amendment that a person shall not be disqualified from receiving benefit by reason of "good cause" or "neglect", if he has left, failed to apply for or otherwise taken up a place on a training scheme that is not reasonably suitable to his capacities, aptitudes and requirements. It is true that "requirements" appears again in this amendment, but nevertheless I think the wording indicates quite clearly that what we are lookng for here is an assurance that the schemes will be suitable and that people will not be denied benefit and forced into unsuitable schemes because they need the benefit. That is why we think that it is good to define "good cause" in this way. For those reasons I commend the amendment to the Committee. I beg to move.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

The noble Baroness pointed out very fairly that her amendment includes the word "requirements" which we discussed on an earlier amendment. The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, was good enough a little time ago to acknowledge that it was not an appropriate word in the context of the ealier amendment; nor, I would suggest to the Committee, in the context of this amendment.

If somebody's requirements are to be the dominating factor, they give that person virtual choice to demand a particular type of course which they want. Many young people are very sensible and will put forward sensible ideas. But some who have very high ambitions for themselves, or others who are perhaps not immune to the temptation of making difficulties, will pose as a requirement something that it is quite impossible to provide. Therefore apart from the broader considerations to which the Minister will no doubt refer in a moment, I would point out to the Committee that this amendment as it stands must be unacceptable because it shifts the balance of choice much too far.

Lord Mottistone

Some years ago I knew a young man who was out of a job. He was very ambitious, but he could not get the right sort of job. Without going through a long story, which would be a waste of time, I must tell you that he had to suffer all sorts of despair before he finally realised that the important thing was to have a job. He had two or three totally unsuitable jobs, but the great thing was that he was humble enough to accept them. The people who gave him those jobs moved him on to something better.

I know we are talking about training in this amendment, but I think it is important that the legislation should be strong enough not to make it too easy for the person who has ideas about himself which are too choosy, if you like, who is too sure that he should not do something which is nasty, dirty or untidy. In my experience, with most of these schemes people try to adjust the scheme to the person as best they possibly can. But if it just happens that the scheme is not there, then it is no bad thing to be trained at any old something rather than not be trained at all.

This young man I am talking about has gone on to all sorts of greater more successful activities—not wildly successful but much more in accordance with his own abilities. He has been at the bottom level, and it has done him no harm at all to know what the bottom level is. One of his first jobs was digging in preparation for a tennis court in outer London when the ground was freezing one winter's day. It was totally unsuitable for him but he did it. This was very good.

I personally think that the principle behind a lot of these amendments is that the Opposition, in their great softness of heart, are trying to put forward things which are not good for the people whom they are trying to help. I hope very much that the Committee will resist not only this amendment but many of the ones which may follow it.

6.45 p.m.

Lord Wedderburn of Charlton

Before the noble Lord sits down, his speech was most helpful—

Lord Mottistone

I am glad.

Lord Wedderburn of Charlton

—but does he not appreciate that what he said was exactly what young people object to? They look at a place like this and say, "When their kids leave school sooner or later— it is usually later— they go off, they have a choice; they may not get the course they want, but off they go to college and university; whereas we are not merely told that we have YTS, with which some of our friends have not had good experience, though others may have, but we are told that we must take any course that is going". Does the noble Lord not understand that that is exactly the attitude that is objected to? I understand it may sometimes do good in the way which he describes, but to have it enunciated as a principle is what working boys and girls, men and women, object to.

Lord Mottistone

I am not talking about somebody who went to university.

Lord Wedderburn of Charlton

I know you are not.

Lord Mottistone

I am talking more about the sort of person whom the noble Lord has just been mentioning. It is not therefore really relevant. But it is a fact that the young man himself realised that he had better get on and do what was in front of him.

Viscount Massereene and Ferrard

I should like to back up my noble friend Lord Mottistone in what he has said. I do not know whether the noble Lord. Lord Wedderburn, has any YTS youngsters whom he has been employing, but I have employed quite a few young people. I always try to do so, but some of them have very grand ideas about what they want to do.

When I was a young man I had to do exactly what I was told. A great number of these young people who now come from state schools will not take orders. I have in mind a young girl. If she was given an order, if she was told to do something and she did not want to do it, she burst into tears and complained that the foreman had shouted at her. It is really absurd. It will become rather like perpetual students who go from one university to another. They just want to pick and choose.

Lord Trefgarne

I daresay some of the bolshie ones come from public schools as well. Be that as it may, as I have already explained, the provisions of Section 20 of the Social Security Act 1975, as amended by Clause 26, already allow an individual to leave or turn down a place if he has good cause or if the training place offered is not a reasonable opportunity. If an approved training course would not help an individual get back into work or it was not suitable in his case, either because of his capacities, aptitudes or domestic circumstances, then that individual could refuse a place on it either because he had good cause to do so or because the training place was not a suitable opportunity for him.

Furthermore, as I have also explained, independent adjudicating authorities decide what is good cause and what is a reasonable opportunity. Such decisions can be complex matters and may need to take into account a variety of sensitive personal circumstances. They are helped in taking these decisions by extensive case law. While I recognise the intentions behind the Opposition amendments, I should point out that those amendments may actually be counter-productive by limiting the grounds which the adjudicating authorities could consider to those specified in the amendment when determining good cause. I am certain that that is not what was intended.

Perhaps I may stress again that the individual has a right of appeal against the adjudication officer's decision, initially to the independent social security appeal tribunal and thereafter, if he thinks fit, on a point of law to the social security commissioner and upwards through the Court of Appeal to your Lordships' House.

I hope therefore that the principle that is enunciated in this amendment and the difficulties to which I have referred will persuade the noble Baroness not to proceed with her amendment.

Baroness Turner of Camden

I note what the Minister has said. In view of some of the points which he made, I am surprised that he is not accepting the amendment. It seemed to me that he was saying that it would be good cause if a trainee or a prospective trainee were to reject a place which was not suitable to his capacities, aptitudes, and so on.

However, the Minister is clearly not accepting the amendment, and that leads us to say that we are still concerned that the Government's intention is to ensure that people are conscripted—it is a strong word but one which has to be said—into schemes which may not be suitable for them. It may well not be a case of suitability or not wanting training. Such people may well find that no training is provided in a scheme to which they have been allocated. They may want to leave because no training is provided. They may want to get out of such a scheme and get into another scheme which will provide them with training. They may wish to look again at the prospects and choices, such as they are, which are before them.

I share the views enunciated by my noble friend Lord Wedderburn. We are talking about young people who have been to state schools and who have not been subject to educational privilege. It is up to Parliament to ensure that those vulnerable young people are not conscripted in that way and put into schemes which may not give them anything. Certainly, if those schemes do not provide training, they will not provide those people with jobs or the reasonable possibility of jobs. I shall not press the amendment to a Division. However, we are dissatisfied with the response of the Government to what seem to us to be a reasonable set of amendments. Nevertheless, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Turner of Camden moved Amendment No. 121G:

Page 28, lint 17, at end insert — ("( ) After subsection (1) there shall be inserted the following subsection—

  1. "( ) (a) For the purposes of (e); (f) and (g) above, no person studying for a recognised qualification shall be disqualified from receiving benefit;
  2. (b) a recognised qualification shall be such a qualification as is prescribed by order made by the Secretary of State;
  3. (c) no order shall be made under (b) above unless a draft has been laid before and approved by a resolution of both Houses of Parliament." ").

The noble Baroness said: Perhaps it will be for the convenience of the Committee if, in moving Amendment No. 121G, I speak also to Amendments Nos. 121J and 121K. Those are grouped amendments. The purpose of Amendment No. 121G is to attempt to clear up the confusion which appears to exist in regard to what I believe is known as the "21-hour rule". Under current social security regulations, those who have been claiming benefit for three months or who have left a youth training scheme and are attending college for less than 21 hours a week can still continue to claim benefit. The only condition that such claimants have to meet is that they will end their studies and take up work if a suitable job becomes available. Those under the age of 19 years in non-advanced education and studying less than 12 hours a week can also receive benefit while remaining available for work.

Twenty-one hours a week allows an individual to study for a wide range of qualifications, including A-levels, RSA examinations or City and Guild examinations. It is clear that unemployed people with qualifications stand a far better chance of obtaining employment than those with no qualifications. The 21-hour rule is widely regarded as providing an opportunity for study and self-improvement.

Evidence concerning the rule is not easy to come by. However, information from colleges around the country appears to indicate that it is widely used. For example, I understand that the principal of Handsworth College in Birmingham has said that 3,000 out of 3,400 students are on benefit. As I said earlier, there has been some confusion as to whether or not the 21-hour rule will be affected. The amendment attempts to deal with that and it indicates clearly that study for a recognised qualification will entitle the claimant to continued benefit.

Perhaps I may now turn to Amendments Nos. 121J and 121K. Amendment No. 121J is a paving amendment for Amendment No. 121K. The object of that amendment is to ensure that training schemes will make provision for persons to gain a recognised qualification if they so wish. I am sure that that will commend itself to the Committee, and I hope also to the Government. As has been stated many times, we do not have as high a standard of education and post-training education as we should like. For example, in Britain only 32 per cent. of our 16 and 17 year-olds are in education, compared to over 95 per cent. in Japan. We are seeking in this amendment to allow a person on a designated training programme to study for a recognised qualification. We think that it is important to target training so that trainees can have something to aim for and know that it is to their advantage to study for a recognised qualification.

The question arises of what a recognised qualification is. Paragraph (b) states: A recognised qualification shall be such a qualification as is prescribed by order made by the Secretary of State", and paragraph (c) states: No order shall be made under (b) above unless a draft has been laid before and approved by a resolution of both Houses of Parliament".

The intention of the amendment is to ensure that young people on training schemes know that there is a list of recognised qualifications to which they can aspire and that an approved training scheme must make provision for a person who wants to gain a recognised qualification to do so via the approved training scheme. I beg to move.

Lord Trefgarne

As I understand it the amendments seek, first, to make it impossible for someone who is studying for a recognised qualification to be denied unemployment benefit if he refuses a course of approved training; secondly, to stipulate that all courses of approved training shall lead to a recognised qualification; and, thirdly, to require recognised qualifications to be prescribed by order of the Secretary of State after approval by both Houses of Parliament. I shall try to deal with each of those matters in turn.

The noble Baroness has said that someone who is already studying for a qualification which will help him to find work should not be forced into government training schemes by the threat of benefit sanctions. The sanctions in Section 20 relate to unemployment benefit. One of the basic conditions for the receipt of unemployment benefit is that the claimant should be available for work. He must be able to follow up any suitable job opportunity without delay. If he is studying in normal working hours, he must be prepared to give up the course at once if he is offered a job. If there is any doubt about that, a decision is sought from the independent adjudicating authorities.

It would therefore be rare for someone studying for a recognised qualification to be receiving benefit. The only likely case where someone might receive benefit while studying is under the so-called 21-hour rule. There is concern that those studying under that rule might be forced to give up their studies and go onto approved training schemes or face benefit sanctions. I believe that I can reassure the Committee on that point. The Government agree that someone who has left full-time education and wishes to occupy his time usefully by undertaking some study while looking for work should be allowed to do so. Therefore, a person may study for up to 21 hours and still be entitled to income support, provided he has already been unemployed and receiving benefit for at least three months and is available for work.

I am pleased to be able to reassure the Committee that, despite recent press reports to the contrary, those arrangements will be carried over into income support from April. It would also be regarded as a positive outcome at a Restart interview if anyone were pursuing a suitable course of study within the terms of the 21-hour rule so long as he remained available for work. Even if a claimant studying under the rule were offered a place on an approved training scheme and refused it, the adjudicating authorities could decide that he had good cause for refusal under the existing provisions of Section 20. Each case would depend on its merits. Therefore, I believe that the amendment is unnecessary. I hope that what I have said will persuade the noble Baroness to withdraw the amendment. I believe that there is very little between us on the point.

Baroness Turner of Camden

I thank the Minister for that response. We shall look closely at what he has said in Hansard as regards the 21-hour rule and see whether it meets the concerns that led us to put the amendment down. I am not certain whether the Minister had completed his response on Amendments Nos. 121J and 121K concerning recognised qualifications. Perhaps he had not.

Lord Trefgarne

I edited slightly the reply that I gave in the interests of brevity at this late hour. I could offer more information about the vocational qualifications. Perhaps I may write to the noble Baroness.

Baroness Turner of Camden

In view of that response I beg leave to withdraw the amendment. amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Strabolgi)

I call Amendment No. 121H.

Lord Mishcon

It may be convenient, since the hour has just struck seven, for a certain decision to be taken which was announced for seven o'clock.

Lord Trefgarne

I had thought that it might be appropriate to continue as far as the end of Clause 26. As always, I am in the hands of the Committee.

Lord McCarthy

I think it might have been appropriate if we had known that.

Lord Trefgarne

I apologise if the usual channels have not operated with their normal efficiency.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees

The Question is, That the House be now resumed.

Lord Trefgarne

Order! I have not moved that the House he resumed and that we adjourn. However, I am very happy to do so if that is the wish of the House. I also suggest that we continue discussion of the Employment Bill at 8 p.m. I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.