HL Deb 16 May 1995 vol 564 cc494-554

Consideration of amendments on Report resumed on Clause 9.

[Amendment No. 36 not moved.]

Lord Inglewood moved Amendment No. 37:

Page 8, line 2, leave out ("the terms and conditions of").

Lord Swinfen moved Amendment No. 38:

Page 8, line 3, at end insert: ("( ) In the case of a disabled claimant, a jobseeker's agreement shall set down the financial help that will be available to the claimant to help offset the extra jobseeking costs that he may incur as a direct result of his disability and the personal help and equipment that will be made available to assist the claimant overcome his disability in seeking work.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, at this hour of the night the time has come to précis speeches. I shall do my best to do so, but my speech will probably still be too long.

At Committee stage in both Houses, the Government affirmed that help, both financial and physical, is available from the Employment Service for disabled jobseekers. The amendment provides for what is said to be already available to be specified in the jobseeker's agreement. Previous amendments in Committee in both Houses sought to explore exactly what help is available to disabled people who may incur additional costs as a result of their disability when seeking a job.

In Committee, at col. 684 of the Official Report of 20th April, my noble friend Lord Mackay confirmed that the Employment Service could help disabled people with the costs of searching for work and getting into work. Provision exists for assistance through the placement, assessment and counselling teams, and payments under the access to work schemes. However, disability organisations have found that many disabled people out of work do not know about such schemes or have not been made aware of them. The amendment simply asks for the kinds of assistance that are available to a disabled jobseeker to be set out in the jobseeker's agreement.

Some people already wait months before they can be seen by a disability employment adviser, and months again before a suitable placement can be made or equipment given. I understand that one deaf-blind man in the South-East reported that it has taken the placement assessment and counselling team over three months to approve just some equipment, and he still has not received it.

In another case, a person assessed as eligible for the job introduction scheme was still waiting for six weeks after inquiring about it. With more disabled people moving from ICB to sign on, there are fears that the placement, assessment and counselling teams will not be able to cope.

At col. 684 of the Official Report of 20th April, in Committee, my noble friend Lord Mackay stated: There is no evidence that unemployed disabled people attending any of the Employment Service programmes aimed at helping with jobsearch face additional expenditure costs to enable them to attend or participate fully". However, anecdotal evidence suggests that even the present access to work budget is insufficient to cover the needs of disabled jobseekers. Some deaf people have found that access to work does not even extend to the provision of interpreting services for interviews with DEAs, even to seek information about the access to work itself. In some cases, interpreters have not been available for interviews for the job interview guarantee scheme or new claims for unemployment benefit.

In one area, access to work payments for the assistance of interpreters at interview do not cover the full cost or the travelling time which is often significant in rural areas, thus leaving the full cost to be met by the individual jobseeker or the organisation providing the interpreter. While appreciating that access to work is being reviewed this summer, can my noble friend give an assurance that access to work will not remain in its present form but will offer enough assistance to help the thousands more disabled jobseekers who may require help from the scheme? Disabled people coming off incapacity benefit will need the fullest possible range and extent of specialist as well as mainstream assistance.

I believe that the amendment goes some way towards ensuring that the individual jobseeker knows exactly what is available to him. I beg to move.

8.45 p.m.

Lord Carter

My Lords, the noble Lord set out the arguments extremely well. The amendment refers to the extra costs of disability and the problem that they create for the disabled person when seeking work.

As the noble Lord states, the help available to disabled people in terms of extra costs is not clear. Some help was indicated at Committee stage both in another place and in this Chamber. The amendment seeks to set out the information clearly in the jobseeker's agreement. It would then be entirely clear to the disabled person exactly what he could or could not expect from the agreement.

The amendment also refers to the importance of specialised equipment to assist in employment. I refer to such equipment as specialised computers for blind people, portable induction loops for the hearing impaired, and personal help.

The noble Lord referred to the access to work scheme. Although it is not strictly relevant to the amendment, having spent some time helping to fill in the forms at the end of the first month of the access to work scheme for a disabled person, I can assure your Lordships that the new scheme is far more bureaucratic than the one that it replaces. I was involved in the previous scheme in helping to fill in forms every quarter. A weekly form is now required. The scheme is immensely more bureaucratic and requires much more form filling than previously. No doubt we shall discuss that matter when we discuss access to work and in particular when we discuss the Disability Discrimination Bill.

From this side of the Chamber, we support the amendment. It has been made clear in another place and in this Chamber that there is help available. The Minister made it clear when he replied in Committee. If such help is available, the information should be spelt out in the jobseeker's agreement so that the disabled person knows exactly where he stands.

Earl Russell

My Lords, the amendment divides into two parts. One is about making known information which already exists and facilities which are already available. The access to work scheme is not the easiest system to find out about. I began writing letters to Ministers about the scheme as far back as 1989 when the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, was a Minister. It is a good scheme. Not enough people know about it. That is why putting the information into the jobseeker's agreement would be a help.

However, the other point of the amendment relates to the extra costs in seeking work which arise from disability. In Committee on 20th April, the Minister stated: There is no evidence that unemployed disabled people attending any of the Employment Service programmes aimed at helping jobsearch face additional expenditure costs to enable them to attend or participate fully".—[Official Report, 20/4/95; col. 684.] To take an extreme example, if you travel in a wheelchair, the journey is an endless series of complications and results in potentially vast additional costs. If you are blind and going to a job interview in a strange town, you will have difficulty. Finding your way around by bus in a strange town for the first time it is hard enough for most of us, but if you are blind it could be positively alarming. If you are short of time, the need to obtain a more expensive form of transport may on occasion be acute. I need not continue with the examples; I am sure that every noble Lord can imagine them. I do not suggest that they go so far as a disabled French friend of mine. He once came to London with his car which had been adapted for the disabled and his disabled parking badge; he thought that that enabled him to park at Oxford Circus. The towing away fees are not the kind of expense that the amendment is meant to cover.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for providing us with an opportunity to discuss this topic. Perhaps I may start at the beginning when the jobseeker seeks his first interview with the Employment Service. It will be with an employment officer and together they will discuss the jobseeker's needs and seek to draw up a jobseeker's agreement. If they decide that the jobseeker would benefit from specialist advice from a specially trained disability employment adviser, that can be noted on the agreement and the employment officer will organise it. Not all jobseekers who would be entitled to do so want to use our specialist disability services. It might be interesting to reflect that many people with a disability want: to seek work through the Employment Service mainstream services. During 1994–95, nearly 80 per cent.—that is more than 55,000—of jobseekers with disabilities placed in jobs by advisers were placed by mainstream advisers rather than by disability employment advisers. It is estimated that more than 25,000 other people with disabilities were placed in jobs by the Jobcentre self-service facilities. So it would be wrong to insist that a disabled person's agreement should necessarily contain information about the help and support that is available. The jobseeker may not wish to go through that route.

However, of course, some disabled people want specialist help and they get it from the disability employment adviser. Those specially trained officers clearly have more expertise and experience than it would be possible for the employment officers negotiating jobseeker's agreements to have. There is a disability employment adviser available to every Jobcentre. That is why the best way to ensure that disabled people receive the best help is to offer them specialist advice, rather than trying to include information, which would necessarily be less individual, in each agreement.

In addition to the services of disability employment advisers, the Employment Service seeks to make available to all jobseekers with disabilities or health problems a leaflet about the help that is available to them through the placing assessment and counselling teams and ability development centres. In recognition of the special needs of disabled jobseekers, there is a wide range of provision, both financial and personal.

My noble friend mentioned people who may be coming off incapacity benefit. As I have said before, the Employment Service will spend an additional £71 million in the first three years of incapacity benefit for all those coming to unemployment from IB, including in-depth interviews, specialised help from placing assessment and counselling teams, extra provision on Jobplan, Jobclub and job interview guarantee. People affected by the introduction of incapacity benefit will, therefore, have early access to the most appropriate provision.

Mention has been made of the access to work scheme introduced in June 1994. That extends and replaces existing programmes to provide a wider range of help to more disabled people. The scheme provides help for people prior to finding a job, and help can continue into employment. Help provided includes fares to interview, aids to communication, adaptation to vehicles, and support workers for people with severe disabilities. That might go some way—I hope that it goes further than that—towards addressing one of the anxieties of the noble Lord, Lord Carter, and the noble Earl, Lord Russell, about travel. This financial year there is a budget of £13.4 million for the access to work scheme.

Information about that scheme and other support for disabled jobseekers will be available from the employment officer when the individual makes his claim or in the leaflet that the Employment Service produces about provision for disabled jobseekers.

Those remarks were a little abbreviated, like my noble friend's introductory remarks, but I hope that he will be reassured that we take the needs of people with disabilities seriously. I have set out the additional financial support that is available through the benefits system and the provision that is provided by the Employment Service. I believe that the amendment would remove some of the flexibility that the current system offers to treat people as individuals and respond to their needs. Many of them wish to go down the normal route and do so very successfully indeed. I hope that with those reassurances and explanations my noble friend will be able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Carter

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, when he reads the phraseology of his briefing, I am sure that he would not wish to imply that disabled people seeking employment are rather out of the mainstream or going down an abnormal route. I believe he said that the budget for the access to work scheme was £13 million. Has he an indication of first estimates of the likely cost, as opposed to the budget, for the first year?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I am afraid that I cannot help on the latter point. I only know the budget figure. I hope that in my effort not to take too much time I did not make any injudicious remarks. The point I was trying to make was that many disabled people successfully look for and find work through the mainstream services without going to the disability employment adviser.

Lord Swinfen

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his reply and those who supported me. I entirely agree with the Minister that not all disabled people necessarily wish to use the services of the disability employment adviser. What worries me is that so many of them do not know that the help is available or that the access to work scheme exists, as I made clear in my introductory remarks. Can I take it that my noble friend will ensure that all employment officers will make certain that disabled people are aware of the services, even if they do not wish to make use of them? I see my noble friend nodding his head in assent, so I am delighted to accept that assurance and have it on the record. With those remarks, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Inglewood moved Amendment No. 39:

Page 8, line 4, leave out subsections (6) and (7).

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the three Amendments Nos. 39, 91 and 96 are all consequential on the provisions in new Clauses 6 and 7 for permitted periods, which I explained in my remarks when the House was in Committee last week. The permitted period is when a person may be treated as being available if he is prepared to be available only for employment and to seek employment in his usual occupation and at his former rate of pay.

Before the amendment providing for those new clauses, the Bill made provision for a permitted period through regulation-making powers specifying such a period in the jobseeker's agreement and through the provision giving an exemption from sanctions in Clause 18. As we explained during Committee, we were concerned that this construction in the Bill appeared to imply that the jobseeker's agreement, by introducing the notion of the permitted period, itself gives rise (rather than expression) to the conditions of entitlement to JSA. The new subsections in Clauses 6 and 7 were our response to those concerns.

Now that Clause 6 provides for regulations to stipulate the minimum and maximum permitted period and the factors which adjudication officers should take into account in determining the permitted period, there is no need for the provisions relating to the permitted period in Clause 19. For the sake of completeness, I should also explain that the protection from any sanction for failing to apply for or refusing employment outside a person's usual occupation and below the usual rate of remuneration will be secured through regulations under Clause 18 prescribing the circumstances in which a person is to be regarded as having good cause for such refusal. I beg to move these technical amendments.

9 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker (Lord Lyell)

My Lords, I have to inform the House that if Amendment No. 40 is agreed to, I shall not be able to call Amendment No. 41.

Lord Inglewood moved Amendment No. 40:

Page 8, line 10, leave out from beginning to second ("to") in line 11, and insert ("The employment officer may, and if asked to do so by the claimant shall forthwith, refer a proposed jobseeker's agreement").

[Amendment No. 41 not moved.]

Lord Inglewood moved Amendment No. 42:

Page 8, line 13, leave out ("those terms or conditions") and insert ("the proposed agreement").

Lord Inglewood moved Amendment No. 43:

Page 8, line 18, leave out ("those terms or conditions") and insert ("the proposed agreement").

[Amendment No. 44 not moved.]

Lord Inglewood moved Amendment No. 45:

Page 8, line 19, leave out from beginning to end of line 20 on page 9, and insert: ("(9) An adjudication officer to whom a reference is made under subsection (8)—

  1. (a) shall so far as practicable dispose of it in accordance with this section before the end of the period of 14 days of the date of the reference;
  2. (b) may give such directions, with respect to the terms on which the employment officer is to enter into a jobseeker's agreement with the claimant, as the adjudication officer considers appropriate;
  3. (c) may direct that, if such conditions as he considers appropriate are satisfied, the proposed jobseeker's agreement is to be treated (if entered into) as having effect on such date, before it would otherwise have effect, as may be specified in the direction.

(10) Regulations may provide—

  1. (a) for such matters as may be prescribed to be taken into account by an adjudication officer in giving a direction under subsection (9) (c); and
  2. (b) for such persons as may be prescribed to be notified of—
    1. (i) any determination of an adjudication officer under this section;
    2. (ii) any direction given by an adjudication officer under this section.

(11) Any determination of an adjudication officer under this section shall be binding.").

[Amendments Nos. 46 to 49 not moved.]

Clause 10 [Variation of jobseeker's agreement]:

Lord Inglewood moved Amendment No. 50:

Page 9, line 43, leave out ("the terms and conditions of").

Lord Inglewood moved Amendment No. 51:

Page 9, line 45, leave out from beginning to second ("to") in line 46 and insert ("The employment officer may, and if asked to do so by the claimant shall forthwith, refer a proposed variation of a jobseeker's agreement").

[Amendment No. 52 not moved.]

Lord Inglewood moved Amendment No. 53:

Page 10, line 1, leave out ("those terms or conditions") and insert ("the agreement").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Inglewood moved Amendment No. 54:

Page 10, line 6, leave out ("those terms or conditions") and insert ("the agreement")

[Amendment No. 55 not moved.]

The Deputy Speaker

My Lords, I have to tell the House that if Amendment No. 56 is moved, I cannot call Amendments Nos. 57 and 58.

Lord Inglewood moved Amendment No. 56:

Page 10, leave out lines 7 to 26 and insert: ("(6) An adjudication officer to whom a reference is made under subsection (5)—

  1. (a) shall so far as practicable dispose of it in accordance with this section before the end of the period of 14 days of the date of the reference;
  2. (b) shall give such directions as he considers appropriate as to—
    1. (i) whether the jobseeker's agreement should be varied, and
    2. (ii) if so, the terms on which the claimant and the employment officer are to enter into an agreement to vary it;
  3. (c) may bring the jobseeker's agreement to an end where the claimant fails, within a prescribed period, to comply with a direction given under paragraph (b) (ii);
  4. (d) may direct that, if—
    1. (i) the jobseeker's agreement is varied, and
    2. (ii) such conditions as he considers appropriate are satisfied,
the agreement as varied is to be treated as having effect on such date, before it would otherwise have effect, as may be specified in the direction.

(7) Regulations may provide—

  1. (a) for such matters as may be prescribed to be taken into account by an adjudication officer in giving a direction under subsection (6) (b) or (d); and
  2. (b) for such persons as may be prescribed to be notified of—
    1. (i) any determination of an adjudication officer under this section;
    2. (ii) any direction given by an adjudication officer under this section.

(8) Any determination of an adjudication officer under this section shall be binding.").

[Amendments Nos. 57 and 58 not moved.]

Lord Inglewood moved Amendment No. 59:

After Clause 10, insert the following new clause:

Jobseeker's agreement: reviews and appeals

(".—(1) Any determination of, or direction given by, an adjudication officer under section 9 or 10 may be reviewed (by a different adjudication officer) on the application of the claimant or of an employment officer.

(2) Regulations may make provision with respect to the procedure to be followed on a review under this section.

(3) The claimant may appeal to a social security appeal tribunal against any determination of, or direction given by, an adjudication officer on a review under this section.

(4) A social security appeal tribunal determining an appeal under this section may give a direction of a kind which an adjudication officer may give under section 9(9) (b) or (c) or (as the case may be) section 10(6) (b) or (d).

(5) Where a social security appeal tribunal gives a direction under subsection (4) of a kind which may be given by an adjudication officer under section 10(6) (b) (ii), an adjudication officer may bring the jobseeker's agreement to an end if the claimant fails to comply with the direction within a prescribed period.

(6) An appropriate person may, on the ground that it was erroneous in point of law, appeal to a Commissioner against the decision of a social security appeal tribunal on an appeal under this section.

(7) Any of the following is an appropriate person for the purposes of subsection (6)—

  1. (a) the claimant;
  2. (b) an adjudication officer;
  3. (c) in prescribed circumstances, a trade union;
  4. (d) in prescribed circumstances, any other association which exists to promote the interests and welfare of its members.

(8) Subsections (7) to (10) of section 23 of the: Administration Act (appeals to Commissioners) shall apply in relation to appeals under this section as they apply in relation to appeals under that section.

(9) In this section "Commissioner" has the same meaning as in the Administration Act.").

Clause 12 [Income and capital: income-based jobseeker's allowance]:

[Amendment No. 60 not moved.]

Clause 13 [Trade disputes]:

[Amendment No. 61 not moved.]

Clause 15 [Severe hardship]:

Lord Inglewood moved Amendment No. 62:

Page 13, line 8, leave out ("or other assistance"].

Earl Russell moved Amendment No. 63:

Page 13, line 11, at end insert: ("( ) This section shall apply to any person aged 16 to 18 who has applied to join the armed forces but cannot join until the next enlistment date.").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, I have not totally shrunk into immobility. I have been encouraged to move this amendment partly by the delightfully back-handed sympathy expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, who said that it was the only one of my amendments on 16 and 17 year-olds that was not wholly without merit. I have been in this House long enough to recognise a hint when I hear one. I was also slightly encouraged by a very faint chink of sympathy from the Minister.

The point of this amendment is that the Armed Forces have an enlistment system based inevitably, if people are to go through basic training together, on blocks of people who come in together at three-monthly intervals. The Minister said that there was a possibility of that system changing. I shall listen to anything that he has to say about the matter with interest.

The effect on 16 and 17 year-olds is that if they want to enlist in the Armed Forces they have to wait for the next enlistment date. The time between applying and the enlistment date is not sufficient for them to do a youth training course. They cannot get a youth training place because they could not complete the course. Therefore they tend to have no visible means of support until their Army enlistment date arrives. That tends to have the effect of discouraging enlistment in the Army. It also creates very grave hardship among those who are so determined to enter the service that they are not discouraged. This seems to me not to be in the public interest and not to suit the preoccupations of any of us who are concerned with the issue.

The amendment would provide for an entitlement to jobseeker's allowance from the date of registering for enlistment in the Army right up to the moment of enlistment. It is in the interest of the Army, of the teenager, of the Government, and of the country. I beg to move.

Lord Swinfen

My Lords, very briefly, I support this amendment. Civilian firms very often take in small groups of people in order to train them for new work. The Armed Forces need such people, quite obviously, in reasonably sized intakes of probably not less than 30 at any one time at a training centre. Therefore the centres have to wait until a sufficient number of high-quality recruits is available to train. There is a lot of merit in this amendment.

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, we are at one in recognising the importance of this country's Armed Forces. On 27th April, my noble friend said in Committee that we would give further consideration to the noble Earl's point about 16 and 17 year-olds who have applied to join Her Majesty's Armed Forces but who are waiting for their enlistment date. This amendment gives me an opportunity to return to that point.

We said at the time that we would need more time to give this complex matter full consideration. I fear that our early inquiries have only made the question more complicated. The three different services of Her Majesty's Armed Forces each have their own recruiting procedures. All need to be consulted about whether difficulties are experienced by young people who are waiting for their enlistment date. The Ministry of Defence told us in response to our initial inquiries that, on average, after receiving an offer a young person will wait about two months for his enlistment date, but in some cases the wait could be much longer.

When we last debated this point my noble friend suggested that he would like to incorporate young people in that provision. However, I am clear that it is important to strike a balance between young people who have to wait only a few weeks for their enlistment date and those who may have to wait considerably longer. For example, there will occasionally be cases in which the young person has to wait for perhaps as long as six months for his enlistment date. In such a case, it does not seem right to encourage him to sit at home on benefit when he could be in employment or undertaking useful training in the intervening period. Therefore, it is my intention to make special provision for young people who have a firm offer of an enlistment date but only if that date is within a fixed period.

However, there are a number of matters to be considered. There is the question of whether the young person waiting to join the Armed Forces should be required to show severe hardship to be entitled to JSA; whether there should be any period for which that is not required; and whether he should be required to register for either training or employment or both.

There are a number of matters on which it is important to get this matter right. I propose to consult further with the Ministry of Defence and other colleagues before writing to the noble Earl with our proposals. Having heard that explanation, I hope that he will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Earl Russell

My Lords, I am very grateful to the Minister for the trouble that he has taken on this matter and for his recognition that there is a genuine problem. However, it is true to say, important though it is to get things right, that if one looks for difficulties one will find them. I do not see why it is quite so important to work out exactly the average and the median waiting time. One should not be without visible legal means of support, whether it is for two months, three months, three weeks or even three days. If it is one day, it is too long. After all, we are dealing with people who have a very serious wish to undertake what is not a particularly easy form of work and not the sort of activity in which one would expect shirkers to get involved.

I hope that the Minister will not make a meal of the question of how long they must wait. If they must wait, they must eat; if they do not eat, they will not wait. It is as simple as that.

The Minister is also a little optimistic to suggest that they could be in employment or in useful training during a period which, by his own argument, will often not be more than two months. That mistake has been made before. It was made by King Charles I in the summer of 1640 when collecting troops to go and fight against Scotland. He did not have enough money, so he told them to wait for a few weeks, during which time they virtually all deserted. So he could not gather nearly so effective a force as he thought and he lost. I hope that that will not be a precedent.

I think that this matter is not so difficult as the Minister suggested. I may come back to it at Third Reading to see whether the Minister has managed to find ways to make it any simpler. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Brougham and Vaux

My Lords, I have begged the noble Lord to explain. It is most ungracious—

The Deputy Speaker

My Lords, despite my noble friend's intervention, the noble Earl asked leave to withdraw his amendment. Therefore, I put to the House that the amendment be, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Inglewood moved Amendment No. 63A:

Page 13, line 18, leave out from ("concerned") to ("or") in line 23 and insert ("has—

  1. (i) failed to pursue an opportunity of obtaining training, or
  2. (ii) rejected an offer of training,
and has not shown good cause for doing so;").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Clause 15(3) (b), as it now is, deals with the revocation of the severe hardship direction if it appears to the Secretary of State that the young person has failed to pursue or has rejected an opportunity for training.

In Committee the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, argued that there should be a provision on the face of the Bill that the direction should be revoked only if the person had acted without good cause. The noble Baroness argued most persuasively and my noble friend agreed to reflect further on her points. Yesterday I gave an undertaking to bring forward a suitable amendment. That is now on the Marshalled List as Amendment No. 63A.

The amendment makes clear that it is open to the 16 or 17 year-old who has rejected or failed to pursue an offer of training to say that he had good cause for so doing. But if he does not do so, the direction is revoked. If he does, and as a result it appears to the Secretary of State that he has shown good cause, the direction will remain in force.

Several times I have explained that that situation is exactly as it is now in practice. But we have been persuaded that it is right that that important protection should appear on the face of the Bill. That is precisely what the noble Baroness sought. I hope that she feels that the Bill has been improved in that respect.

The amendment also removes the references to employment in Clause 15. It will make clear that the sanctions in Clause 16 can be applied in respect of refusing, failing to pursue or leaving training which is covered by government guarantee but not employment.

I turn to Amendment No. 93A. This amendment makes plain on the face of the Bill that young people in receipt of JSA due to risk of severe hardship, will not receive a sanction under Clause 18 if they have a direction in force and have acted in such a way as to risk its revocation under Clause 15(3) (b) or have a direction in force and are receiving a reduced amount of JSA due to leaving a training course early. It clarifies the sanctions applicable to 16 and 17 year-olds subject to severe hardship direction.

In those directions we have shown a willingness to listen to advice from the Benches opposite. In particular we introduced the concept of "good cause" into Clause 15 and clarified the position on sanctions. I hope that your Lordships will be able to approve the amendment.

9.15 p.m.

Lord McCarthy

My Lords, my noble friend thanked the Minister last night in advance, so I can thank him today We thank him for the amendments. They seem to be an advance and establish a principle; that is, that the Government, somewhat late in the day, have been converted to the idea that matters of importance should go on the face of the Bill.

Earl Russell

My Lords, I give a warm welcome to Amendment No. 63A.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham

My Lords, we are delighted to see the belated conversion of the Government to goody words like "reasonable", "suitable" and "good cause". We hope to see if they can be converted equally to the expunging of words like "regulations" and "as the Secretary of State may prescribe". We regard this as the first small step of the 39 steps to follow.

[Amendments Nos. 64 to 66 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

Lord Inglewood moved Amendment No. 67:

Page 13, line 34, leave out from ("event") to end of line 36.

[Amendment No. 68 not moved.]

Clause 16 [Reduced payments]:

Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde moved Amendment No. 69:

Page 13, line 41, after ("percentage") insert ("of not more than 10 per cent").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 69 I shall speak also to Amendment No. 70. These amendments deal with the clause relating to young persons in the 16 to 18 age group.

Clause 16 deals with regulation. It is not clear what the reductions in benefit will be for this group of young people in the first stages of being involved in work if they are lucky enough to obtain employment. The clause says that the regulations may provide "in such circumstances"; it does not give them because they will be within the prescriptions. It says the allowance may be reduced by a percentage but does not state what the percentage is. If young people are receiving benefit, the reduction of an already small amount on which they have great difficulty managing may be punitive. We are saying that the amount should be not more than 10 per cent.

The clause states that the allowance will be reduced "for such a period". Amendment No. 70 seeks to ensure that the period is not more than one week. We are dealing with a vulnerable group of people. We have continually tabled amendments affecting this group but have made little progress. Those young people do not need to be turned away; they need help in a situation which often is not of their own making. The amendments are small. Their effect is that the prescriptions will be on the face of the Bill and not subject to regulation. They will therefore be clear for everyone to see. I beg to move.

Earl Russell

My Lords, I support both amendments. In dealing with benefit for young people we must remember that they are already receiving a reduction. As soon as a benefit penalty is imposed, they are subject to a reduction of a reduction and the situation becomes severe. It was somebody in precisely that position, as I mentioned earlier, who told a CAB office in north Wales that he would rather be in prison where he could afford a bed and occasionally put on the electric light.

It is not sensible to subject people to the sort of hardship I have described. And it is not sensible, when people are already disentitled, to subject them to longer periods of disentitlement. During those periods they build up debts which may be a millstone around their necks for years, even if they involve sums which other people may regard as trifling. They have; no resources with which to pay them off and the longer they are disentitled the bigger grow the debts. I hope the Minister will think seriously about the amendments.

Lord Swinfen

My Lords, I support the spirit behind these amendments. I am not sure whether the percentage or the term is right; but in replying my noble friend must give the House an indication of what percentage and term the Government have in mind for these reductions otherwise I do not know how we can go on.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

My Lords, I fully appreciate the point that the noble Baroness, Lady Dean, -was making; but I fear that I do not agree with her and I do not suppose that that will come as any surprise. What we do agree over most emphatically is that most 16–17 year-olds are keen to better themselves and take their obligations seriously. They will, as a result, quickly be offered, and accept, suitable training or other assistance. But, a small minority abuse the system. Clause 16 provides a means of dealing with this. We have seen in Clause 15 that it gives the Secretary of State the power to revoke the direction if it appears to him that the 16–17 year-old has failed to pursue or has rejected training places or other assistance. Clause 16 provides for his personal rate of JSA to be reduced by a prescribed amount for a prescribed period if he subsequently reapplies for a direction.

Our intentions in this area were set out by my honourable friend the Minister of State for Employment in another place, and I shall repeat them for your Lordships' benefit. We intend that if a 16–17 year-old turns down a suitable training place or leaves such a place early without good cause, they will receive a penalty of a 40 per cent. reduction in the personal rate of JSA for two weeks.

The Government believe that is a fair but realistic penalty. The noble Baroness invites me to defend 40 per cent. against 10 per cent. and two weeks against one. To be effective, a sanction must appear as a real deterrent. But we must also recognise the particular circumstances in which we are seeking to make the sanction work. I do not think that a 10 per cent. reduction would be a deterrent, neither do I think that one week is sufficient. Is the noble Baroness really suggesting that a penalty which in many cases would total less than £3 is really sufficient to the purpose? A 40 per cent. reduction would certainly be noticed and I do not deny that. But we are limiting the application to two weeks. It will not go up to four weeks for a subsequent offence as it would for an adult in a similar position, and I think that is an important recognition of the position of young people.

I should like to remind the House that the purpose of sanctions is to deter: if they are effective, they will not be used. The arrangements we have made will ensure that no young person unwittingly falls foul of this rule. A young person who is new to the guarantee group will be allowed once to turn down any offer of training or leave any course early, as I have explained before, whether or not they have good reason for doing so. And, of course, if they do so subsequently they will be able to argue—as we have newly made clear in the Bill—that they did so for good cause.

This is a new provision, designed to deal with the abuse that in a minority—I admit that it is a tiny minority—of cases is increasingly creeping into the system. We are seeking to act against those who turn down offers or leave training and apply for a new direction the next day, which in practice they may do without fear of penalty. It is important that young people are aware of their responsibilities if they are to receive benefit. This is not a means of support for life. It is a helping hand while they find their feet on the career path. It is not acceptable in my judgment for such young people to refuse or walk out on the opportunities that are provided for them.

I believe that, taken together, the government's youth training guarantee, backed up by these clear sanctions and the safeguards and protection I have described, now and at other stages of the Bill, represent a fair and balanced package of measures for young people. I hope that your Lordships are reassured that there is adequate protection for 16–17 year-olds who refuse, fail to pursue or leave training places. I hope that the noble Baroness can withdraw her amendment.

Earl Russell

My Lords, before the Minister sits down, is he aware that he is very lucky not to have read out that reply rather earlier in the day?

Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde

My Lords, I thank the Minister for the new details that he has given us. He talked logically and calmly about a group of people who, frankly, do not have the calmness or experience of the Minister or most Members of your Lordships' House. We are talking about young people who will probably be in a degree of turmoil. Many of them will feel rejected.

The Minister said that the provisions are balanced and fair. I do not accept that. There is to be a 40 per cent. cut in a benefit which is already low. If that sanction is applied against a young person I suggest that it will be regarded as a message of rejection; not of trying to help or to give a hand-up to those young people as they attempt to deal with their difficulties and their refusal of a training place.

We must remember that the group with which we are dealing cannot, by definition, have a record of swinging the lead or of trying to find a way around the system. They are new into the system and new to potential employment. Such a group must be given particular attention and shown understanding. That is why the amendment has been tabled. A young person can turn down a training place once. I do not know where that gets us because it is saying, "You are allowed one mistake and then that's it; penalties will be applied". I find the Minister's response unfeeling and unacceptable. Nevertheless, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 70 not moved.]

Lord Henderson of Brompton moved Amendment No. 71:

Page 14, line 15, at end insert: ("( ) In determining whether the amount of a young person's jobseeker's allowance is to be reduced under the provisions of subsection (1) regard shall be had to the welfare of the young person concerned.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Minister has spent a great deal of time and trouble trying to argue the details of costs and benefits, giving percentages and other such things. This amendment is of an entirely different order from the two amendments that we have just discussed and which were spoken to by the noble Baroness, Lady Dean.

Amendment No. 71 merely asks that in determining whether the amount of a young person's allowance is to be reduced, regard shall be had to the welfare of the young person concerned".

We know that, High heaven rejects the lore

Of nicely calculated less or more". I am not asking the Minister to calculate here; I am asking him to think and to feel. There are young people, perhaps without his ken, who are badly treated when they are young by their parents, foster parents or, say, an uncle; or who suffer perhaps simply because of the sheer misery of being a child of an unemployed person or of a person who is imprisoned and who cannot help his children, as I am sure the noble Lord would like to help his own. I am asking the Minister to reflect on how difficult children can be even when they are brought up in well-ordered houses like his own and mine, and with the benefit of an income. I am asking the Minister to remember those other children when he is dealing with his own children of 16, 17 and 18. I am sure that with his own children the noble Lord has experiences similar to mine, but not, I expect, with grandchildren, as I have.

We are talking about children at a very difficult age. Indeed, they are probably even more difficult at 16, 17 and 18 than at three and four and they require every possible consideration from their parents. Those parents may not exist. The children may be in foster care or in care. Very often, such children have no friends to speak for them except those in the social services or possibly in the probation service.

I am asking that where children are destitute of the ordinary love and care which I have no doubt the noble Lord would lavish on his children of that age, they should be treated with special care, and that their welfare should be taken into account by the employment officer and anyone else who has some authority over them. I know that an employment officer is not supposed to have authority, but he wields the whip. Children who are in the parlous condition I have described should not be treated with a whip; they should be treated with kindness. The amendment seeks to encapsulate that principle into the Bill.

As I am not asking for something which will cost money, which seems to be the only gauge by which the noble Lord can answer any questions in this House, perhaps I might appeal to his heart instead of his head. Otherwise I feel that these people, who are often literally destitute and devoid of any help or comfort, should have some obligation towards them laid upon the shoulders of the employment officer. It is for that reason that I beg to move.

9.30 p.m.

Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde

My Lords, we are pleased to support the amendment. It is a matter that has been debated previously, and, as the noble Lord said, it is not an area that costs money; but it is one which will probably have a profound effect on young people. I know that when the young 16 or 17 year-old is in the employment office the rules are made clear to him. I know that the JSA to which young people are required to agree and sign up to will be explained to them thoroughly, but the employment officer dealing with a young person will not necessarily know that person's real personal circumstances, the difficulties he may have, or the turmoil he may be going through.

Whereas the Minister may take the view that the Bill will fully cover the issue of a young person's welfare, it is essential to have that on the face of the Bill. If there is a discretion in the Bill as it stands at the moment to take the welfare of the young person into account, there is also the discretion not to take it into account.

We are merely saying that when the young person is faced with a potential reduction in benefit, before the decision is finally taken—before the young person is sent out of the office having been told that the benefit is cut—the welfare of that young person is taken into account. It is not over-dramatising the; position, or over-egging the argument, to say that it could make the difference in that young person being pushed into the twilight zone of our society. We all too often see young people wandering the streets. In many respects, that will determine the rest of their lives.

I hope that the Minister will agree that the amendment in no way distorts the financial implications of the Bill, takes away any kind of authority from the individual employment officer or reduces the Bill's overall impact. It merely requires the welfare of a young 16 or 17 year-old (a child) to be taken into account when his benefit is being considered.

Lord Swinfen

My Lords, I, too, support the amendment. We all have a responsibility for the welfare of young people. In many respects, the; nation has a greater responsibility than we have as individuals. By taking into consideration the welfare of young people, as the amendment proposes, that could save money, for the simple reason that if their welfare is not taken into consideration at that stage, they could end up as criminals. That would cost the Home Office a considerable amount of money through the police and the probation service. In their criminal activities they could end up injuring other people, which will cost both the National Health Service and themselves money. But apart from that, there is a moral duty to look after the welfare of young people and to ensure that we help them on the road forward through life and not down into the pit.

Baroness Williams of Crosby

My Lords, I support the amendment. There is a danger that we are creating in our society a subsection that will increasingly become excluded from society as a whole. It is becoming forgotten and neglected and is almost losing the citizenship that it ought to enjoy.

That becomes more dangerous because as people have grown older it can be said that those of my generation and of other noble Lords have done extraordinarily well. We have gained from pensions, health provision and many other benefits which to a great extent are being paid for by the working generation and those entering the labour force.

I have real fears about creating a generation tension which will give young people the sense that they are increasingly being abandoned by a luckier and more fortunate generation than theirs. Today most of our children do not expect to be better off than we are. Many parents expect their children to be worse off than themselves. There is a declining projection of what will happen to our society.

It is wicked that people should give the impression that they are abandoning those between the ages of 16 and 18; the age when they have hardly entered adult society. That is a very wicked thing to do. Sometimes we should use powerful moral phrases.

The amendment is moderate, and it is greatly to the credit of the noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton, that he has come here tonight to move it. Obviously, doing so has caused him certain problems and therefore I greatly respect him for that. I hope that Ministers will consider carefully what is the minimal possible safety net for young people to whom we owe at least the obligation of a chance in life before they are written off.

Earl Russell

My Lords, I too support the amendment. I do not believe that the Minister has any idea of the level of hardship that is normal among this group of people. If one lives on a diet of social security briefs, one gets pretty used to hardship; indeed, one must get hardened to it. However, I can think of no where in the whole field of social security where I meet a regular diet of such intense hardship as I do when looking at what is happening to 16 and 17 year-olds.

The amendment is a small start. It also draws attention to a problem that I have raised previously and on which I should like a response. It is the problem of the application of the law of majority to people in this age group. It seems to me that they are treated like children when they would benefit from being treated like adults, and that they are treated like adults when they would benefit from being treated like children. They remind me of the sad case of the man who, when he was asked whether he would like the white or brown meat of chicken, said that he did not know because when he was a child the grown-ups had the white meat and when he was a grown-up the children had the white meat.

It is a sad situation and the question about the law of majority is serious. Will the Government consider asking the Law Commission to look at the question because it has many ramifications and it is rather important?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Russell, posed an interesting question on which I shall reflect. We consider that 16 and 17 year-olds are different from other people who are out of a job. That is why we have set up a special system to try to deal with them. It is based on their need to train and the fact that they should not be allowed to become dependent on benefit and should go into training or, failing that, employment; that is, the declining proportion who do not stay on at school and go on to other forms of education.

I outlined some of the safeguards in my response to the previous amendment. There are other safeguards which we have mentioned at various stages during the passage of this Bill through your Lordships' House. Those are safeguards put in place prior to the judgment as to whether the young person has declined or left training places without good cause. First, the careers service decides whether or not a training place is suitable for a young person. With JSA we are introducing a system of internal review which would take place before a direction is revoked on the grounds that a young person has refused a suitable training place. The young person will be given an opportunity to request a re-examination of his case by the Secretary of State before a direction is revoked.

If the young person is in a training place and is not happy with his training, he can take a number of courses of action. He can raise the matter with his training provider, his TEC or the careers service. Again, the facts of the case will be looked into carefully and, if appropriate, he may be found another place.

But if the young person does leave a training place early and feels that he had good cause for doing so, he will be able to put his side of the case to the Employment Service. The circumstances of the case will be re-examined, and, where good cause is established, a certificate will be issued by the Secretary of State and a copy given to the young person. If he reapplies for severe hardship under JSA, the certificate will entitle him to receive the full amount.

Therefore, we have safeguards to try to protect young people who either do not accept training for whatever reason or who leave it without reason to make sure that we are not being unfair to them when it is decided, if it is decided, to sanction them for not accepting or for leaving training.

I hope that those safeguards show that we are mindful of the special position of these young people. I have explained before that I am sure that no young person should unwittingly fall foul of the system. It will be explained to him and he should be aware of what will happen if he gives up or refuses training.

The welfare of young people is the particular concern of the noble Lord, Lord Henderson. Not all 16 and 17 year-olds will have to prove severe hardship in order to receive benefit. Perhaps I may give a few examples. Disabled young people and lone parents will be able to claim income support without having to be available for work. Others, such as 16 and 17 year-old couples with children and those leaving local authority care—a particular group which I know is of concern to some of your Lordships—will be able to claim JSA without having to prove severe hardship for different periods depending on their circumstances.

When we are looking at severe hardship, the welfare needs of the young person are taken into account in the decision to award a severe hardship direction. The criteria include vulnerability, health, including pregnancy, as I mentioned earlier, and homelessness or the threat of homelessness.

I do not believe that there is any need for young people to fall foul of the system. Young people who accept training receive an allowance as a wage. If they refuse or leave training places without good cause, then we must look carefully at what we do.

The noble Lord, Lord Henderson, made much of the fact that we should all give consideration to our teenage children. Indeed, we all do. My experience is that one occasionally needs a sanction and I believe that the same is true in this regard. Dare I say to your Lordships that when we are talking about youngsters who are being difficult and who seem to refuse training places or attend one for a week or two and then decide that they are no longer interested, those youngsters above all need some kind of sanction in order to encourage them to take the help which will mean that they avoid the problems which the noble Lord fears they will face.

We must balance the way we deal with those young people. I believe that the balance is about right and I hope that the noble Lord will withdraw the amendment.

9.45 p.m.

Lord Henderson of Brompton

My Lords, I find the Minister's response most unsatisfactory. Indeed, I was very sorry to hear the noble Lord say what he said; namely, that young people need a sanction. Of course, that is true sometimes. But that is not the point. Young people who are destitute do not need a sanction; they need a helping hand. In fact, they need, as set out in the amendment, the assurance that the employment officer will—and this is not very much to ask—have regard, to the welfare of the young person concerned". That is not asking a great deal. I have been given a good deal of detail in the reply to my amendment, but, as Bung Lear said to his ungrateful daughter and son-in-law, the Duke of Cornwall, I would say, O reason not the need!". There is a need, but it has not been recognised by the Minister. Indeed, there is a very severe need. If it were not so late at night, I would give the Minister many examples of the need of young people who are destitute which have been supplied to me by various organisations, not least the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders. Quite a number of those children are offenders in one way or another. The Minister will perhaps say that that is their own fault and that, if they have been offending, then they need at least a cuff over the ear or something of that nature. However, what they really need is regard to be had for their welfare.

I cannot for the life of me see why the Minister cannot agree to the incorporation of those innocuous words, which will cost no money, into the Bill. Surely that should appeal to him. I wonder whether the Minister will just reconsider his reply in the light of what I have said and, if he cannot accept the amendment straight away, say that he will at least consider it in time for Third Reading. Will the Minister be good enough to respond to my appeal?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall respond. The noble Lord, with all his long years of experience, has devised a way to get me on my feet again. I listened with care to what he said and I should certainly be interested if the noble Lord were to send me copies of the examples to which he referred. However, I believe that we are talking about youngsters who have been given a choice of. a training place or who have been put on a training scheme and have either refused to go on it or have come off the scheme. Therefore, I believe that they have had an opportunity and that officials of the Employment Service have tried to help them. It is a matter of considering what we do thereafter. Do we just go on ignoring the fact that they will not take any help and that they just wish to stay on that benefit, and leave it at that? I do not think that that is the proper way to address the problem.

I am sorry to be so negative to the noble Lord. But, as I said, I should certainly be interested in studying the examples to which he referred. As the noble Lord probably knows, during the course of debates during both Committee and Report stages of a Bill we look again at the matters raised so as to ensure that we have not missed a point that we should have taken on board.

Lord Henderson of Brompton

My Lords, the Minister's second response gives me the mere whisper of an excuse to seek the leave of the House to withdraw the amendment. I say that because the Minister has not rejected it out of hand. I am asking the Minister to incorporate in the Bill the innocuous words set out in the amendment which would make all the difference between life and death to the people about whom we are talking; and, indeed, would not affect the principles of the legislation one jot or tittle.

Why can the Minister not agree at this stage to accept the amendment, or at least say that he will reconsider the matter before Third Reading? I see that the noble Lord continues to shake his head. In the circumstances, I feel inclined to press the amendment to a Division. It is of very great moral significance as the noble supporter said. I should like to test the opinion of the House.

9.50 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 71) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 23; Not-Contents, 51.

Division No. 4
Carter, L. [Teller.] Mackie of Benshie, L.
Craigavon, V. Mar and Kellie, E.
Darcy (de Knayth), B. Masham of Ilton, B.
Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B. Morris of Castle Morris, L.
Newcastle Bp.
Grey, E. Palmer L.
Harris of Greenwich, L. Parry, L.
Henderson of Brompton, L. Russell, E. [Teller.]
Hollis of Heigham, B. Seear, B.
Judd, L. Swinfen, L.
Lawrence, L. Turner of Camden, B.
McCarthy, L. Williams of Crosby, B.
Astor, V. Denton of Wakefield, B.
Balfour, E. Dixon-Smith, L.
Blaker, L. Fraser of Carmyllie, L.
Blatch, B. Gage, V.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Gisborough, L.
Byron, L. Goschen, V.
Carnock, L. Hacking, L.
Chesham, L. Haig, E.
Clanwilliam, E. Harms worth, L.
Cranborne, V. [Lord Privy Seal] Hemphill, L.
Howe, E.
Cross, V. Inglewood, L.
Cumberlege, B. Jenkin of Roding, L.
Dean of Harptree, L. Leigh, L.
Lindsay, E. [Teller.] Rawlinson of Ewell, L.
Long, V. Renton, L.
Lucas, L. Rodger of Earlsferry, L.
Lyell, L. Seccombe, B.
McColl of Dulwich, L. Shaw of Northstead, L.
McConnell, L. Slim, V.
Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L. Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.
Macleod of Borve, B. Stodart of Leaston, L.
Marlesford, L. Strathclyde, L. [Teller.]
Miller of Hendon, B. Trumpington, B.
Monk Bretton, L. Ullswater, V.
Northbrook, L. Wynford, L.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

9.57 p.m.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 72:

Page 14, leave out line 17.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the amendment has been spoken to. I beg to move.

[Amendment No. 73 not moved.]

Clause 17 [Recovery of overpayments]:

[Amendment No. 74 not moved.]

Clause 18 [Circumstances in which a jobseeker's allowance is not payable]:

[Amendments Nos. 75 to 79 not moved.]

Baroness Williams of Crosby moved Amendment No. 80:

Page 16, line 3, after second ("a") insert ("suitable").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, once again the amendment is an attempt to introduce the word "suitable" before "training", to permit a young person to argue that a course of training is not suitable and therefore avoid the removal of the jobseeker's allowance.

Clause 18 is a tough clause. Even in conditions where all the requirements of the jobseeker's allowance have been met it allows the Secretary of State to refuse the jobseeker's allowance to a young person. It sets out the grounds upon which the Secretary of State can refuse a jobseeker's allowance to a young person, overriding even a situation in which all of the conditions have been satisfied. One of the grounds on which he can do so is that the young person has refused or has not taken up a training place.

Once again, we urge the Government to consider the addition of the word "suitable" before "training scheme" on two grounds. First, for a young person to be put into an unsuitable training place is a waste of time and money for the young person, the employer and the trainer. Secondly, the drafting of this subsection is very wide given the stringent situation in which the young person could be placed if he is believed not to have satisfied the additional conditions required in the clause.

In some ways the subsection follows the broad lines of a previous amendment. However, it is more precise and narrow, dealing with the suitability of training. If the Government were to accept the amendment and put the provision on the face of the Bill it would avoid many additional appeals and a good deal of unnecessary trouble. The provision could be borne in mind by employment officers when making a dispensation for a young person.

I have a final point to make. I shall be brief because the hour is late and I do not wish to detain the House; otherwise, like the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, I would have much more to say. As with the last amendment, I do not see why the Government cannot accept this amendment, not so much because it is innocuous but because it clarifies, is helpful, more precise and more definite and therefore allows the young person to see where he or she stands. I urge the amendment because I simply do not understand why it cannot be easily accepted by the Government, unless on the ground of some strange machismo which makes people think that to concede anything is somehow an emasculation of themselves. I ask the Government to consider the possibility of including the word "suitable" in the subsection.

Even after the changes that have been made—I welcome them and the willingness of Ministers to move on at least some parts of the Bill—the Bill remains extremely harsh on young people. Very few changes have been made which enable the Bill to be a little more understanding towards their needs and requirements. I beg to move.

10 p.m.

Lord Ingle wood

My Lords, as the noble Baroness explained, this amendment stipulates that a claimant would not be subject to a sanction in connection with a training course or employment programme unless that course was "suitable". Given the wording of the clause, that stipulation would apply to all the circumstances set out in Clause 18(5) (b) and (c).

Perhaps I may begin by commenting on one of the points made by the noble Baroness. We wish to be quite clear that this particular part of the Bill does not relate to young people. The provisions which relate to people under 18 are to be found in Clauses 15 and 16.

I am bound to say that I do not see what the amendment would achieve. As we have explained, the kind of courses we intend to prescribe are provisions such as the motivational courses, Restart courses and job plan workshops. Claimants will be offered places on these courses by Employment Service staff. A government amendment, accepted during the Committee stage, introduced the safeguard that the sanction could be applied only when the opportunity had been offered in this way. I can assure your Lordships that a place will not be offered unless the staff concerned are satisfied that the course is in the claimant's best interest. I hope that that touches on another of the concerns expressed.

I remind your Lordships that throughout Clause 18(5) (b) the claimant can escape a sanction if he can show that he had good cause for his action. This could relate to some personal reason—for example, for leaving the course concerned—but it could also relate to the course itself. If the claimant can satisfy the adjudication officer that the nature of the course was such that he had good cause for refusing the place on it or giving up that place, the effect is surely the same as saying that the course was unsuitable in his case. The only circumstance in which good cause cannot be a factor is where the claimant loses his place on a course through misconduct. If misconduct is indeed proved against the claimant, I cannot imagine that any noble Lord would consider that the suitability of the course was relevant.

Against that background, I suggest to the noble Baroness that it might be an occasion to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Williams of Crosby

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I should like clarification on one point. I mentioned young people, not in connection with the technical phrase "young people" in earlier clauses, but with reference to training places which are likely to be largely, though not entirely, taken up by younger people. I do not mean specifically those aged 16 to 18, but the younger workers who are most likely to be sent to training places as a condition of the jobseeker's allowance.

I take the Minister's point about good cause. However, I was trying to point out that the word "suitable" would avoid situations where one had to go through the relatively long process of determining whether the claimant had good cause because the matter would never arise. Will the Minister say something about that?

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, I shall be pleased to try to elaborate on what I said in the light of the noble Baroness's subsequent remarks. The crucial point is the government amendment to which I referred and which was adopted during the Committee stage. As I explained, it introduced the safeguard that the sanction could be applied only when the opportunity had been offered by the Employment Service for access to the course. We return to the comments I made earlier about the approach that the Employment Service adopts. The whole object of the Employment Service is to try to get people back to work, either by placing them directly in jobs or by putting them on courses which, in turn, will improve and enhance the likelihood of the person finding work.

The whole nature of the jobseeker's system is to try to ensure that we have what I described on a previous occasion as a dialogue between the employment officer and the jobseeker. It is against that background that the placings will be made. I believe that the worst fears of the noble Baroness are misplaced.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, with the leave of the House and before the noble Lord sits down, perhaps I may make a point. He is relying on the wisdom of employment officers. I dare say that a great deal of the time they are right, but quite often they are likely to be wrong and they misunderstand what is suitable for the youngster. If the word "suitable" is in the Bill, attention can be drawn to the opportunity for the youngster or older person, as may happen, to say that the course is not suitable. If the word is included in the Bill, it is much easier for the point to be stressed.

Lord Inglewood

My Lords with the leave of the House, we are painting a picture where an almost blindness to the requirements of the jobseeker is the reason for a jobseeker being put on a course that is entirely unsuitable. However, in the real world I suggest that whether or not the word "suitable" is on the face of the Bill will not give a great deal of assistance. What matters is the existence of the phrase "good cause" in a position for the adjudication officer to be able to unravel the mess—if I may put it that way—in which the parties find themselves.

Baroness Williams of Crosby

My Lords, in view of the Minister's explanation, I hope that everything he said will hold true. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde moved Amendment No. 81:

Page 16, line 23, at end insert: ("( ) In paragraphs (6) (c) and (6) (d), "good cause" shall include the fact that the claimant has completed at least half (and is within 6 weeks of completing) a course of training or study relevant to their prospects of obtaining employment.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, Ministers have said on different occasions while we have been debating the Bill today, "That shows that we have been listening, we're prepared to accept changes". We too have been listening and have carefully read the Hansard report in response to a similar debate on training. Our amendment answers the point about the Bill where we are continually told how important it is to get people back to work. All too often today in the workplace the only way people can get back to work is for them to get added skills or retrain. As the Minister said, many people in work also take part in part-time training courses.

The problem with the Bill is that if such people become redundant and are judged not to be available for work because they are attending a training course, they can and will lose their benefit. Yet in taking a decision as to whether they will accept the benefit and come off the course, they may be determining that they will be unemployed for longer.

For instance, we discussed the issue of drivers of heavy goods vehicles. After the last debate I made it my job to see that I was up to date on this matter. I spoke to some people in Scotland who train heavy goods vehicle drivers. The cost of a course is just under £500 and the duration is two or three weeks depending on the ability of the individual. Someone who goes on such a training course will be regarded under this Bill as not being available for work. People who are given notice of redundancy and who may be on a training course will have to take a decision as to whether they come off the course and possibly blight their future prospects of employment.

This amendment is very straightforward. It states that the claimant must have completed at least half the course, or, in an attempt to answer the Minister's point about implied professional students, must be, within 6 weeks of completing … a course of training or study relevant to their prospects of obtaining employment". So we are not talking of someone taking a course in, let us say, ornithology, or in any subject that may not be related to their employment prospects. The course must be directly related to their prospects of obtaining employment, and for a period that will entitle them to benefit for no more than six weeks. I beg to move.

Earl Russell

My Lords, the Minister knows that we believe there is a problem here. He listened to us and we are grateful to him for it. Something will have to be done in future. But meanwhile, we need a holding operation to try to keep the mess under control until a real solution is sorted out. This amendment would suit the purpose extremely well. I am glad that the noble Baroness has moved it, and I am happy to support it.

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, we have previously debated the advantages of jobseekers undertaking study and training. We are all agreed that it can help a jobseeker improve his skills and chances of finding employment. There is no difference between us on that. However, we have on many occasions made clear that a jobseeker's first priority should be to get back to work as quickly as possible. Anyone whose first priority is to undertake a course of study should not look to JSA for funding. Jobseekers should be undertaking a course because they feel it will help them to get a job. They should continue looking for work while they are on the course. If a job becomes available, they should take it. Most jobseekers do find work very quickly, and that should apply to those who have started a course of study as it applies to all others.

I of course appreciate the amount of time and effort that people invest in their study and I understand the noble Baroness's concern that such an investment should not go to waste. However, I hope that in the majority of cases, a jobseeker approaching the end of a course would not have to give up the course or training if a job becomes available. Courses are becoming increasingly more flexible and I hope that most jobseekers would be able to rearrange their course in order to take a job.

As always, the noble Baroness and the noble Earl have argued their case most persuasively. Let me be quite clear. I do not propose to accept this amendment. But having said that, we are willing to reflect on the matter further. We think that we may—I stress "may"— be able to see a way forward. We have in Clause 28 of the Bill a power to pilot regulations with a view to ascertaining whether their provisions will, or will be likely to, encourage persons to obtain or remain in work or will, or will be likely to, facilitate the obtaining by persons of work or their remaining in work". This is an important flexibility to test out new approaches that have been welcomed on both sides of the House.

We propose to collect new and better information on the part-time study arrangements, and perhaps pilot new approaches. This would be intended to provide secure evidence on what kind of arrangements will best enhance jobseekers' prospects of obtaining work. With your Lordships' permission, I should like at the same time to consider whether an approach based on the noble Baroness's proposals might be tested alongside other ideas. I do not say that we will do so immediately after JSA is introduced. Indeed, I do not think that we shall wish to do so until JSA has been allowed to settle in for a year or so. But it is certainly something that we shall consider. We are all agreed that study can help a jobseeker's job prospects. What we want to do is to sharpen our understanding of that through research and piloting, and I can give an undertaking that we will consider what the noble Baroness said in that context.

Lord McCarthy

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down and with the leave of the House, I wonder whether he can go a mite further. Since he accepts the principle behind the amendment, would it be possible to do something without waiting until the JSA has, as he put it, run itself in? Would it be possible in the meantime to give guidance and ensure that something like this would be encouraged by the Government? Must we wait all that time until the JSA has run itself in, when the Government believe in the principle behind the amendment?

10.15 p.m.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, with the leave of the House and before the noble Lord finally sits down—though, as he is in fact sitting down, perhaps I should say before the noble Lord rises again—as I understood him, he was requiring a person who was undertaking a course of training relative to employment to have to take a job, although that person had not quite finished the course. That seems absolutely mad.

Surely if you are training for something, you want to complete the course. If someone has nearly completed a course, what is the sense in telling the chap that he has to leave it before he reaches the end of it in order to take a job? He would be better qualified and do a better job and be less likely to become unemployed again if he completes the course. To say that we now have modules and the last little bit of the course can be found from somewhere else and added on at a later date is quite absurd.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham

My Lords, again, before the noble Lord sits down and with the leave of the House, perhaps I may remind him that the point of this amendment came up following very helpful discussions with the Minister.

We accepted that he felt obliged to standardise the procedure across the country by coming from 21 hours down to 16 hours. We understood his thinking, although we thought that he could have been more generous. We understood that he was trying to achieve a standard formulation of 16 guided study hours.

We were concerned that that caught two groups of people. One, as my noble friend said, which had paid fairly heavy fees for a course—more than £100—which was deemed by the employment officer to represent such an investment in the course that those people were then disqualified from benefit; and a second group of those who had almost reached completion of the course and, as the noble Baroness said, were required to leave that course, sometimes perhaps for just a fortnight's temporary job before Christmas in Woolworths. Those people, nonetheless, after three months might have to give up the final month of a four months' course. We all thought that that was foolish and I thought that the Minister had accepted that.

Following the plea of my noble friend Lord McCarthy, and given that we have delayed the implementation of JSA until October though no doubt the guide and study rules will come in through guidance earlier, can the Minister say in the meantime that, at the time that the guided study hour regulations go out, there will be an accompanying note advising employment officers to look sympathetically at a situation in which somebody is undergoing an approved course of training or study relevant to his employment and is close to completing it? It would be an investment for the future. That would not be much. Clearly it could still be taken to adjudication or appeal if either side thought that the other side was behaving unreasonably. It would at least produce a climate in which we respected that situation.

Earl Russell

My Lords, perhaps I may ask one question before the noble Lord sits down. I welcome very warmly what he has said; but will he also consult the associations of colleges and the heads of further education institutions?

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, we seem to have been going back round the debate that we had on a number of occasions earlier. As I said, the case from the Benches opposite has been argued most persuasively. The hand that was trying to feed has been bitten a little. I have explained the Government's position. I do not see any need at all to take the matter any further at this stage.

Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde

My Lords, I have heard of giving on the one hand and taking back on the other, and we have just had a very good example of it. The Minister has made the point. The argument is accepted and the fact that it will probably put people back into work. But it will not be done immediately. We welcome the proposals put forward by the Minister. What we have great difficulty with is the timing of those proposals. We have some time in front of us to look at the whole area before this Bill goes on the statute book. If there needs to be a pilot course or if there needs to be more research, that is fine. But to say that it will not happen for a long time makes the apparently generous gesture almost worthless.

With due respect, it is not a reality to say that people on courses, if they gain employment, can rearrange the courses. They cannot. I have dealt with thousands of people who have been on such courses after being made redundant and had to retrain. It is not possible to go to the training centre, the TEC or the college and say, "You must rearrange my course because I have the opportunity of employment." One can imagine the trainer's response, "But you only have a few weeks to go. Why leave the course now when you will come out at the end with a skill that will increase your prospects?"

The Minister almost tripped himself up in saying that the logic is there, the case is made, but they are not going to implement the provisions as yet. I regret that the Minister should feel that we are biting the hand that feeds us. We are not. We are trying to ensure that people do not remain on the unemployment register for one day longer than necessary. Added skills will help towards that. We need perhaps to look at the whole debate again. I shall read the Minister's words tomorrow with increased interest and may well come back to the matter. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 82 to 90 not moved.]

Clause 19 [Exemptions from section 18]:

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 91:

Page 17, line 9, leave out subsection (1).

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment has already been spoken to. I beg to move.

[Amendment No. 92 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

Lord Inglewood moved Amendment No. 93:

Page 17, line 14, at end insert: ("( ) Nothing in section 18, or in regulations under that section, shall be taken to prevent payment of a jobseeker's allowance merely because the claimant refuses to seek or accept employment in a situation which is vacant in consequence of a stoppage of work due to a trade dispute.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords one of the consequences of our accelerated progress through the amendments in the late hours of the Committee stage on 27th April was that the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, withdrew her amendment to put on the face of the Bill the protection from sanction for a person refusing to accept an offer of employment arising from a trade dispute. That denied me the rare pleasure of being able to accept an amendment from noble Lords on the Benches opposite. Not to be denied that pleasure a second time, I am bringing the same provision forward as a government amendment.

It was always the Government's intention to carry forward this provision, contained in current legislation, though we had been minded to provide for the protection in regulations. I hope that noble Lords opposite will accept this amendment as an indication of the importance of the provision. I beg to move.

Lord McCarthy

My Lords, of course we congratulate the Government. I never thought that this Government could surprise me. It may sadden me, annoy me, make me laugh, but not surprise me. But they surprised me tonight. I still do not know why they have done it but then I never knew why they took away this long-standing concession in 1988. I am only saddened that, as the noble Lord said, the amendment was tabled in our name and if I had moved it at 10.45 p.m. they may have accepted it. One can never tell.

I say only one word of warning: one damn thing leads to another. If the Government start giving back trade unionists their rights, one never knows where it will end.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 93A:

Page 17, line 14, at end insert: ("(1B) Section 18 does not apply, in the circumstances mentioned in subsection (5) of that section, if—

  1. (a) a direction is in force under section 15 with respect to the claimant; and
  2. (b) he has acted in such a way as to risk—
    1. (i) having that direction revoked under subsection (3) (b) of section 15; or
    2. (ii) having the amount of his jobseeker's allowance reduced by virtue of section 16, because he has failed to complete a course of training.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 93A has already been spoken to. I beg to move.

Lord Inglewood moved Amendment No. 94:

Page 17, line 15, leave out ("may") and insert ("shall").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is another of the consequences of our accelerated progress on 27th April when the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, withdrew her amendment to replace the power to make regulations for trial periods with a duty. As with Amendment No. 93, here I am not to be denied the pleasure again of responding positively to the noble Baroness's concerns and, incidentally, surprising the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy.

In other areas of the Bill we have resisted attempts from the Benches opposite to replace regulation-making powers with duties because of the need to retain flexibility in the way in which we provide for the detailed rules of JSA. In this instance there is no such concern.

The employment on trial rule enables people who have been unemployed for a certain length of time to take up work in the knowledge that if they subsequently decide to give it up after a specified time, there will be no question of a sanction for leaving the job voluntarily. The Government is confident that this protection from sanction provides a valuable incentive for unemployed people to try out areas of work that might be comparatively unfamiliar to them. Our hope is of course that once started in the job, they find that it is working out, and that they decide to stay in it. The success stories are those who do so. Paradoxically, the fewer people who actually end up using the rule and thus return to benefit, the better.

In the JSA White Paper, the Government confirmed their support for the employment on trial rule. We announced that it would be continued and improved. Our intention is that the qualifying period of unemployment will be reduced from six months to three months, and that people using the rule will be able to leave jobs without penalty at any time between the fourth and 12th weeks of employment, instead of the sixth and 12th weeks. This will help potentially an additional 200,000 people. I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, can accept this amendment as a response to her own amendment which was not moved in Committee. I beg to move.

Lord McCarthy

My Lords, the noble Lord is quite right in that one damned thing leads to another and we thank him for this amendment.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 95:

Page 17, line 20, leave out from beginning to ("payable") in line 24, and insert ("In such circumstances as may be prescribed, an income-based jobseeker's allowance shall be payable to a claimant even though section 18 prevents payment of a jobseeker's allowance to him. (3A) A jobseeker's allowance shall be payable by virtue of subsection (3) only if the claimant has complied with such requirements as to the provision of information as may be prescribed for the purposes of this subsection. (3B) Regulations under subsection (3) may, in particular, provide for a jobseeker's allowance payable by virtue of that subsection to be—

  1. (a) payable at a prescribed rate;
  2. (b)").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Clause 19(3) provides the powers to make hardship payments of JSA to claimants who are under a sanction imposed for one of the "offences" set out in Clause 18. This amendment has two purposes. First, it corrects a deficiency in the original draft of the Bill which would have restricted hardship payments to people whose original claim to JSA was income-based. This would have meant that someone who was claiming contribution-based JSA only could not have received a hardship payment even though he satisfied the conditions for income-based JSA. The issue arises because, although the personal rate of JSA will be the same by both routes, legally the contribution-based allowance takes priority. Consequently, people who could establish both a contribution-based and an income-based entitlement, of equal amounts would only be claiming contribution-based JSA. The amendment ensures that any JSA claimant can receive hardship payments if he satisfies the relevant conditions since it removes the original qualification that they be made only where an income-based jobseeker's allowance would otherwise be prevented from being paid by Section 18.

Secondly, the new subsection (3A) allows for the adjudication officer to seek additional information from the claimant to ascertain whether he is in a vulnerable group, and whether there would be hardship if benefit were denied. There are already powers to require information in the Administration Act where this is necessary to determine a claim. This cannot apply in these cases since the claim will by definition already have been determined, but benefit will not normally be payable because of the sanction. This amendment ensures that proper provision is in place to carry out the policy intentions which we have already made clear. I commend it to your Lordships. I beg to move.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham

My Lords, obviously we accept the need to have hardship payment for those on contributory non-means-tested JSA. Clearly also, we do not move from our view that if somebody is getting means-tested JSA, which means obviously that their partner is not in work and that they have virtually no other earnings and very modest savings, that of itself is a test of hardship. That was the position which we argued at Committee.

Given that the Government nonetheless are persisting in having a definition of "hardship" which is more severe than that for the means-testing of JSA, perhaps I may use this opportunity to ask the Minister to clarify what that additional test of hardship will mean. First, will a person be expected to use up all of their savings before being eligible for hardship payments? At the moment, under means-tested JSA, there is an income scale of £1 for every £250 for savings of between £3,000 and £8,000 for a couple. Will those savings have to be wiped out before there is eligibility for hardship payments?

Secondly, what types of income, normally ignored, will be counted? Will the disability living allowance be included? Will there be the usual disregard of £10 per week for charitable or voluntary payments?

Thirdly, what will claimants have to do to show that they have no alternative access to funds? Will they have to show that they have tried the Social Fund but been refused? Will they have to show that they have tried a bank for a loan but been refused? Will they have to show that they have pestered relatives or charities but been refused? In other words, once the Minister has gone down the path of saying that "hardship" is be be even more harshly defined than "eligibility" for means-tested JSA, it would be helpful to the House if, at the very least, we could know what he has in mind for the basis of that test.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

My Lords, I am happy to respond to that, although it takes us back to earlier discussions when I was armed with some information on the subject—but I am armed again. So perhaps I can explain that we shall be carrying forward current practice for hardship payments in income support. It is for the adjudication officer to decide whether to award a hardship payment, taking account of the circumstances of the household and its access to alternative funds, including income from savings or from other benefits. Having modest savings will not automatically debar someone from receiving a hardship payment. For example, provision will be carried forward for a 20 per cent. reduction to apply—rather than a 40 per cent. reduction—where the household has capital of under £200 and a family member is pregnant or seriously ill. The question of borrowing will also, as now, be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. In some cases, it may appear to the adjudication officer that a claimant may reasonably look for support to a family member, particularly if the period covered by the benefit sanction is short.

In JSA we shall be specifying in regulations that the adjudication officer must take into account the duration of the shortfall of funds—a matter which is currently left to guidance in income support. However, the claimant's representation of hardship will cover not only his circumstances but also why the non-payment of JSA would result in that hardship. It will be for the claimant to satisfy the adjudication officer that he has no alternative source of funds. A hardship payment is made, by definition, to someone who in principle has forfeited his right to JSA. The payment is a safety net and any safety net has to rely on a fair amount of discretion. I hope that I have answered the points made by the noble Baroness and I commend the amendment to the House.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 96:

Page 17, line 26, leave out subsections (4) to (6).

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have already spoken to this amendment. I beg to move.

Schedule 1 [Supplementary Provisions]:

Lord Carter moved Amendment No. 96ZA:

Page 34, line 23, at end insert:

("Period of entitlement

2A. Where a person has been assessed as capable of work under Part XIIA of the Benefits Act, but has been awarded one or more points in respect of one or more of the descriptors applied under the all-work test; the period for which he is entitled to a contribution-based jobseeker's allowance shall not exceed, in the aggregate, 364 days in any period for which his entitlement is established by reference (under section 2(1) (b)) to the same two years.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, as the Minister has surprised my noble friends Lady Hollis and Lord McCarthy, it is only fair to give him a chance to surprise me by accepting this amendment. The purpose is to reinstate the 12 months' contributory JSA to disabled people. The matter has been discussed previously. The amendment protects disabled people from the reduction in contributory benefit from 12 months to six. We know that disabled people take longer than non-disabled people to find work because of their disability or, in some cases, because of a negative attitude to disability and health problems on the part of prospective employers.

With at least 150,000 more disabled people expected to sign on as unemployed for JSA, the scale of the problem will be greatly increased. For example, someone who scored below the threshold for incapacity benefit could, nonetheless, have a substantial disability even though that person would be considered theoretically capable of all work. That is a problem we have discussed on previous amendments.

I am advised by the Disability Alliance that demands on the specialist expertise of disability employment advisers are likely to increase far beyond the numbers for which the Government expect to cater, as a result of removing thousands of disabled people from incapacity benefit. Only 29,000 of the 150,000 people expected to sign on (about one-fifth) will be referred to placing assessment and counselling teams. There is already evidence of long waiting lists to see DEAs. Some people have to wait three months to be seen in the first place. One disabled person had to wait for over six weeks for a DEA to arrange a job introduction scheme.

In effect, a disabled person can spend almost all of the period of contributory JSA waiting for assessment and a suitable training placement. A shorter period of contributory benefit could therefore affect disabled people disproportionately. Reinstating the 12-month duration of contributory JSA to people coming off incapacity benefit will cost about £10 million a year. That information was given in a Written Answer in the Official Report of the other place on 9th May 1995 (col. 394).

When a similar amendment was debated in the other place in Committee the Minister stated that the proper way to help disabled people was through the Disability Discrimination Bill. If that is in the Minister's brief, when he replies perhaps he will tell us how it is proposed to do that. As it stands, it will relax the necessary enforcement procedures needed to ensure that it is implemented fully; and, of course, the exemption from the Bill of small employers will not help those people who are seeking employment in companies with fewer than 20 people—that is, 96 per cent. of all employers.

We have tried to deal with the problems of disabled people throughout the Bill. The amendment would put right an obvious injustice at, as I said, a cost of about £10 million.

The main reason put forward by the Government for reducing the current duration of unemployment benefit to six months under the JSA is that the majority of claimants have only a short spell of unemployment lasting six months or less. A recent parliamentary Answer suggests that 44 per cent. have spells of unemployment lasting less than six months.

We know that the position is bound to be different for disabled people. There is evidence to suggest that many disabled people actively looking for work take a considerable time to do so and therefore could be substantially disadvantaged by a shorter period of contributory benefit. An excellent report entitled Employment and Handicap was produced in 1990 by Social and Community Planning and Research. I shall not go through all the evidence, but it shows without any doubt that disabled people take much longer to find work than do non-disabled people.

There is also the business of training. We know that unemployed disabled people receive priority on training courses for training for work. However, the way training finance operates means that while there is a financial incentive to take on disabled people—there is double the start payment and eight times the outcome payment— providers will have an incentive to take on only those disabled people who they are confident will complete the programme, gain qualifications and find work.

There are many disabled people, especially those moving from incapacity benefit, who are unlikely to meet the requirements of providers looking for a quick throughput for their programmes. If we take the greater disadvantage which already faces disabled people in the labour market, to cut six months from their contributory benefit is little short of mean. Reinstatement to that group of people is unlikely to cost the Government much, but it will make a massive difference to disabled people themselves. I beg to move.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

My Lords, the purpose of the amendment is to allow those people who are found capable of work under the all-work test in incapacity benefit, but who have scored one or more points under the test, to receive a contribution-based jobseeker's allowance for up to 364 days rather than the 182 days specified in the Bill.

I am almost tempted to say that from my re-appearance at the Dispatch Box the noble Lord, Lord Carter, will realise that I do not consider that would be right for a number of reasons. It seems to be my noble friend who has been giving all the concessions, and so on, for the last little while.

The basic principle of contribution-based jobseeker's allowance is that it is a personal entitlement paid for up to six months, irrespective of the claimant's personal circumstances. Therefore, I do not believe that it is appropriate to adjust the basic conditions for individual groups. However, claimants can receive certain disability benefits on top of their contributory allowance; in particular, disability living allowance. Where there is continuing need at the end of the six months' contributory benefit period, income-based jobseeker's allowance will be available for all those who require it and for as long as it takes to find work.

We recognise that disabled claimants may have special needs and difficulties in finding work. But extending the contributory period is not the answer. The best way to help those in this group, as for all unemployed people, is to get them back into work. I shall not pray in aid the disability Bill that is soon to come to this House. We shall have more than enough time to discuss it. However, I must point out—and perhaps I shall have to do so on a number of occasions—that the figure of 20 per cent., which the noble Lord gave as a limit, is not an accurate reflection of the real situation as regards employees. Eighty per cent. of all employees will be covered by the Bill because so many work for the larger companies.

The Employment Service provides a wide range of services and programmes to help disabled people and their employers, giving unemployed disabled people priority for a place on all main employment and training programmes for which they are suitable. In response to my noble friend Lord Swinfen, I mentioned them in some detail earlier. I do not wish to go over them all again but I remind noble Lords that 53,000 unemployed disabled people were helped into work by the Employment Service in 1993–94. Furthermore, during the next three years an extra £71 million in resources will be going into the Employment Service to provide a package of help to enable those people affected by the introduction of incapacity benefit to have early access to the most appropriate Employment Service provision.

I regret to say that for all those reasons we believe that it would be inappropriate to extend the period of entitlement to contribution-based JSA to this group. I hope with that explanation the noble Lord will withdraw his amendment.

Lord Carter

My Lords, I thought that the Minister was going to surprise me but, obviously, he is not going to do so. Claimants receive DLA in any event, and therefore I do not see what that has to do with the amendment. All the evidence points to the fact that disabled people do not get back into work as quickly as other people. The Minister has no evidence to show that the facts that we have given are wrong.

I am not surprised that he did not quote from the Disability Discrimination Bill. I do not believe that he was stopped from doing so by the time of night but because he realised that the argument which the Government produced when they called that Bill in aid in the other place will not work in this case. He said that 80 per cent. of employees will be covered. That means that 20 per cent. will not be covered. If the proportion is that small, why not include them? We shall discuss that matter when we debate the Disability Discrimination Bill next week.

I am disappointed by the Minister's reply. I believe that we made a strong case but I am not surprised by the rejection. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment but we may wish to return to the matter on Third Reading.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Swinfen moved Amendment No. 96A:

Page 35, line 40, at end insert: ("(e) for occupational pensions to be disregarded, in the case of a disabled person").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, under current unemployment benefit rules, people aged 55 and over have their benefit reduced pound for pound if they also receive an occupational or personal pension of more than £35 per week. The proposal in the White Paper for contributory jobseeker's allowance is to remove the age threshold and to raise the pension level to £50. This amendment concerns disabled people, some of whom may have occupational pensions awarded on the basis of early retirement on grounds of ill health. It seeks to disregard such pensions when calculating contributory jobseeker's allowance.

Written Questions were put to the Minister in the other place in order to ascertain how many of the estimated 150,000 people moving from incapacity benefit to jobseeker's allowance in the year 1996–97 will also have an occupational or private pension. The Minister stated that the information is not available, as reported in the Official Report of the other place on 7th March at col. 169 and again, 10 days later, at col. 744.

However, according to the Department of Social Security's own research—in its Report No. 20—over two-thirds of the sample of people receiving invalidity benefit did not receive an occupational pension. Only an estimated 38 per cent. of invalidity benefit claimants received an occupational pension at an average of £60 per week, as reported in the Official Report of the other place on 8th February last year at col. 210.

If that percentage of claimants is reflected in similar proportions in the numbers expected to sign on in 1996–97, about one-third of such claimants—about 50,000 people—could have their contributory benefit reduced or completely withdrawn. For example, an average £60 pension would reduce contributory JSA by £10 per week.

The removal of an age threshold means that people of any age could be affected. That could have the greatest impact on older disabled people moving from incapacity benefit to JSA. The chances of a disabled person having an occupational pension increases with age, with 55 per cent. of men claiming invalidity benefit having some occupational pension payment after the age of 55, compared with only 5 per cent. before the age of 45, as reported in the House of Commons' Hansard of 7th February last year at col. 32.

In Committee in another place the Minister argued that the pension level should be the determinant rather than age, as reported in the Official Report of Standing Committee B in the other place on 7th February this year at col. 248. However, age is relevant to disabled people. Indeed, the greater likelihood of people over the age of 45 having an occupational pension was one of the reasons put forward by the Government during the passage of the Social Security (Incapacity for Work) Act for reducing the age from which the age allowances are payable with incapacity benefit to below that age.

While only 30 per cent. of people aged between 45 and 54 claiming invalidity benefit received an occupational pension, as reported at col. 32 on 7th February last year in the House of Commons' Hansard, such people in that age group moving from incapacity benefit to JSA could have their benefit reduced as a result of this provision.

Someone with a working spouse or with savings above the limit, could also be excluded from income-related JSA, leaving someone with no benefit at all from day one. I beg to move.

10.45 p.m.

Lord Carter

My Lords, I do not wish to go through the whole argument on this amendment, because it is complicated and has been put extremely well by the noble Lord. I hope that the Minister will deal with the illogicality which the noble Lord pointed out; namely, that the arguments used by the Government when we debated the incapacity for work legislation is the reverse of the argument which they are likely to use on this amendment.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

My Lords, since 1981, there has been some form of abatement in unemployment benefit for occupational pensions. This is, therefore, a long-standing principle in contributory benefit, and one which is widely accepted. That principle should, we believe, apply to disabled people who receive occupational pensions in the same way as it does to other claimants. There is no reason to treat disabled people who are unemployed and looking for work differently from other jobseekers.

We are, however, increasing the level of disregard that applies to those receiving contributory-based jobseeker's allowance with an occupational and personal pension from £35 to £50 a week. Of course, that will be applicable to all jobseekers on the contributory-based JSA. That provides a positive incentive to people to make provision for their own retirement and allows for a disregard of a substantial part of that pension. Pension payments will continue to be taken into account fully in income-based JSA, as they are in income support for all claimants, including disabled people.

We believe that the removal of the 55 age limit is fully justified. The current limit is arbitrary and inequitable. There is no reason to treat two claimants differently simply because one is 54 and the other is 55.

We believe the financial resources available in JSA are better used in measures which will actually help disabled people in general into jobs, not in giving a special disregard for disabled people with an occupational or personal pension. There is an extensive programme of financial and practical help for unemployed, disabled claimants—which we discussed on a number of occasions this evening—over and above that given to the majority of claimants.

I recognise that pension payments are not taken into account in incapacity benefit. However, there is a wide difference in the nature of the two benefits, and as regards the situation of those claiming them. Contributory JSA is a short-term benefit paid to people to tide them over a period of unemployment. Everyone claiming JSA is, by definition, capable of work and is looking for work. In those circumstances it is right to carry forward the long-standing principle of abatement from unemployment benefit. Incapacity benefit, on the other hand, has to cater for those whose disabilities are long term and who are not, therefore, capable of working. With that explanation, I hope that my noble friend will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Swinfen

My Lords, I shall read the response given by my noble friend the Minister, but I may well return to the matter on Third Reading. Pensions granted to people who suffer disability as a result of their work are very often a way of compensation because their ability to work is limited and therefore their choice of jobs is limited. That means that they are likely to be unemployed for longer when they are looking for work. It is a matter which my noble friend does not appear to have taken into consideration. As I said, I shall read my noble friend's response and will perhaps return to the matter on Third Reading. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 96B to 96D not moved.]

Lord Inglewood moved Amendment No. 96E:

Page 36, line 14, leave out ("only").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving the amendment, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 96F. The amendments simply correct drafting errors in the provision and make no change to its effect. I beg to move.

Lord Inglewood moved Amendment No. 96F:

Page 36, line 15, after ("(2)") insert ("only").

Baroness Williams of Crosby moved Amendment No. 96G:

Page 37, line 29, after ("may") insert ("not").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I move the above amendment partly for the purpose of discovering a little more about what paragraph 17 of Schedule 1 actually means. As one grinds one's way through such a complex Bill, gradually, rather like a mountain appearing through the mist, the essence of the legislation begins to become clear. I may be wrong, but I am increasingly convinced that the essence of the Bill is about removing people from benefit so that not only will public money be saved but also an impressive fall in official unemployment figures will be brought about.

I have in mind the current gap between the appearance given by the employment statistics of constantly declining unemployment and the reality which seems to be encompassed in news broadcasts every single morning when yet another firm announces its intentions to downscale—usually in thousands—the number of people it employs. Most recently, I recall BRB in York, National Westminster Bank and other banks. I could read out a long list, but I shall not bore the House at this late hour by doing so. However, one becomes aware that there are two ways of reducing unemployment; one is to put people in jobs and the other is to change definitions.

Paragraph 17 of Schedule 1 rather surprisingly suddenly says that additional conditions may have, to be satisfied with respect to the payment of a jobseeker's allowance to any person who is, has been, or is to be, in employment". That is a rather wide number of tenses to cover every possible situation. The paragraph continues, which falls within a prescribed description".

One of the excellent things which has happened today is that Ministers have brought forward changes to the Bill which limit that dreaded phrase "prescribed conditions" and try to indicate more clearly what those conditions might be and what are the limits of prescription. But here, right at the very back of the Bill, buried in Schedule 1, we come across this troubling phrase, "within a prescribed description".

The prescription is presumably the result of regulations, the kind of which, the nature of which, and the category of which there are no clues to. As I read paragraph 17—I hope I am wrong—it looks almost like an open door to producing additional conditions which would have to be satisfied for jobseeker's allowance to be paid, with no indication of what those conditions might be. I very much hope I am wrong, because this paragraph by itself would almost undo most of what has been achieved in the past few days, and which Ministers have been kind enough to respond to.

I very much hope that the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, can tell me that these fears are all misplaced, that these possible regulations under which additional conditions can be laid down are circumscribed, narrow and are little more than technicalities. But I think that if he reads paragraph 17 again carefully he will at least see that it is not wholly unreasonable to think that this could be a wide open backdoor into the Bill. Above all, I am seeking a much closer definition of what paragraph 17 may mean. I beg to move.

Earl Russell

My Lords, I wish to add just one word to what my noble friend has already said. I hope, when the Government reply to this amendment, that they will not confine themselves to setting out their own intentions. We want to know what else could be done under these vires, not necessarily by them but by anyone else who might get them into their hands in future. We are thinking of the future as well as the present.

Lord McCarthy

My Lords, those on the Liberal Benches have certainly explained well their thoughts on this matter. They have, of course, said virtually everything which could be said about this amendment, but it is a useful amendment and it gives the Government an opportunity to explain what on earth this particular part of the schedule means. We look forward to hearing what they say.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

My Lords, this amendment would negate the power which enables us to require additional conditions to be satisfied by any person claiming a jobseeker's allowance who is, has been, or is to be in specified employment. The provision will be used to place additional availability requirements on share fishermen claiming contribution-based jobseeker's allowance and special availability conditions for those who have been temporarily laid off or put on short-time working. I shall explain this in some detail.

Your Lordships will be aware that this type of power is nothing new in social security legislation—similar powers are currently contained in Section 28(3) of the contributions and benefits Act 1992. Moreover, I should point out that, in carrying these provisions forward, the Government have actually restricted the scope of the power compared with that in the benefits Act, which provides for restrictions on the rate of allowance that can be payable. So what we have here is a more restricted power, which we nevertheless believe is necessary to allow for the fine-tuning of the benefit to meet the needs of individual groups.

It may help your Lordships if I explain in somewhat greater detail how this provision will be used. The first use concerns share fishermen. This is a group which your Lordships will be aware have special access to unemployment benefit at present. They do not pay Class 1 contributions, and so would normally not qualify. However, they are able to gain entitlement on the basis of their special Class 2, self-employed contributions, and this will continue to be the case for contribution-based JSA.

There is currently a rule in the unemployment benefit regime which requires share fishermen to demonstrate that they could not work on any day on which they claim benefit. That additional requirement reflects the self-employed status of fishermen and takes account of their particular work patterns, which are dictated by the weather and the availability of fish rather than the requirements of an employer. Similar regulations will be made in contribution-based jobseeker's allowance to require share fishermen to be available for work at all times and to prove that they could not work as fishermen if they wish to claim JSA. Those additional requirements are part of the overall package which applies to fishermen who are being given special treatment. I am sure that your Lordships will agree that it would be a nonsense to treat those claimants as if they worked a normal 9 to 5 day for an employer.

The second use of the power is for short-time or temporarily stopped workers. We accept that the benefit system should offer some support to people who cannot work their normal hours because their employer is experiencing industrial problems, but we do not believe that that can continue indefinitely. We shall use this power to set out a special availability regime for this group which reflects their very particular circumstances. It is clear that we are not dealing here with the normal case of unemployment. Many of these: claimants will have continuing contracts of employment.

We propose that if they are laid off because of industrial difficulties claimants will be able to look for temporary work only or, if they are: on short-time working, part-time work only for the balance of the days on which they are not working. That arrangement will apply for a limited period of 13 weeks. After 13 weeks claimants will be expected to take a full-time job even it if means giving up their existing job. We must recognise that after a while the situation can no longer be regarded as a temporary period of adjustment. Claimants' best chance of returning to full-time work after a reasonable time may be to move to a different employer.

I believe that those proposals strike a sensible balance which is fair to claimants, employers and taxpayers. It would be wrong that a benefit system designed to help people back to work should be used as a means of support for employers indefinitely.

I have explained the two uses which the Government propose to make of this power. I believe that they are entirely reasonable adaptations of the benefit system. I know that the share fishermen system works already under the current regulations. There is nothing sinister here. I hope that the noble Baroness will withdraw her amendment; but I shall find it amusing, and some of my colleagues may find it useful, if she decides to divide against a measure which is designed to help share fishermen.

11 p.m.

Lord McCarthy

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, perhaps he will answer this question. He has given two examples. Are we to understand that, like earlier examples, there may be many further instances, or are they finite examples and the only two instances, in which case why can they not be put on the face of the Bill?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

My Lords, with the leave of the House, they are two examples of where we currently apply the same procedure. We need to transform those into JSA. I suggest to the noble Lord that to include the regulations which encompass those two groups on the face of the Bill would probably take up some clauses. That would also mean that we could not fine tune the regulations if that were necessary because the employment patterns of share fishermen changed, if we decided to make a change or if any other group came into being which needed the same kind of special treatment as the two groups that I mentioned.

Earl Russell

My Lords, before the Minister sits down, can he answer the question I asked him about what other governments might do under these powers? That question is central.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

My Lords, I am afraid, as I said to the noble Earl on one or two previous occasions when he asked that question, it is very difficult for me to look into a crystal ball and into the minds of future governments. I have explained the use we propose to make of this power. I suggest that in future if a government decided to use the power in a way which seemed not to be in the spirit or the meaning of the words in the Bill or the words I have used this evening, there would be recourse to the courts, for example, to make sure that the interpretation was correct and that that future government were acting legally and were not abusing their powers. However, I cannot envisage a situation in which a future government might decide to use these powers in a punitive manner, other than in respect of the two cases I mentioned, where I believe they are being used in a positive manner.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, will the noble Earl at least agree that any changes made in this House would be by the affirmative measure so that we should have a chance to see what was being done?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

My Lords, again with the leave of the House, perhaps I may say this. I believe that these powers would be by the negative procedure. I presume that that is the position at present. I shall have to check that. Without checking the detail, I believe that it is the negative procedure. I think that that is how it should be left.

Earl Russell

My Lords, with respect, I do not think the Minister understood the question that I asked. I was not asking him to look into the mind of a future government. I was asking a technical, legal question about the extent of the vires he is taking. With advice, I am sure that he must be able to answer that question. We need to know the answer in order to decide what to do with the amendment.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall try to expand on the position. I am not a lawyer but I understand that these tests are very hard to judge in the way that the noble Earl asks. The courts and, in social security legislation, the commissioners can test a specific proposal against the vires test. Clearly, that is what would happen if in future a government seemed to be straying rather wide of what is viewed as the intention of the powers and someone wished to mount a challenge in that regard.

I am afraid that I cannot go any further to allay the noble Earl's suspicions about future governments.

Baroness Williams of Crosby

My Lords, let me respond to what the Minister said in response to my amendment. First, I am not sure that relying on precedent is always the wisest course if the precedent is bad—and there are some bad precedents in social security legislation.

Secondly, I share the concern of my noble friend about the vires. I do not believe that it would be impossible to draft the provision in a somewhat narrower way, as the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, suggested, even if it did not deal with the specific examples the Minister gave. With a rather wintry smile, he tried to entice me into pressing the amendment in order to offend share fishermen up and down the country—and I am not as stupid as I look!

However, before Third Reading, will the Minister consider whether this paragraph could be somewhat more narrowly drafted? I share the concern of noble Lords that it is so widely drafted that it could allow virtually any additional condition to be added to a jobseeker's allowance. From every point of view, that seems to me constitutionally undesirable. Therefore, I request the Minister to consider, not tonight at this late hour but before Third Reading, whether this paragraph could be more narrowly drafted. I urge him to look closely at the matter. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment, hoping that he will respond in that way.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 25 [The back to work bonus]:

[Amendment No. 96H not moved.]

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 97:

Page 21, line 30, after ("treating") insert ("the whole or").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I was busy contemplating what the noble Baroness said to me about the two groups and share fishermen and thinking that it might be quite nice to be in a fishing boat this evening. I have been present when there have been a few fishing expeditions as the evening has progressed. I am slightly thrown by the fact that Amendment No. 96H was withdrawn. However, I am now where I should be in the Marshalled List and I can stop talking about my desires to be in a fishing boat this evening and talk about Amendment No. 97. I am a patient fisherman when I get the chance.

Amendment No. 97 is a technical amendment designed to ensure that the policy intention of this subsection can be carried out. It has always been our intention, where partners' earnings have contributed to the accrual of a back-to-work bonus amount, that the partner should benefit from any payments under the scheme. In the normal course of events, where a claimant receives a bonus payment any benefit from it will be shared by the partner.

However, there are, of course, cases where couples separate during a benefit claim. The intention of the subsection is to ensure that where a partner's earnings have contributed to a bonus amount, that proportion can be transferred to a subsequent JSA or income support claim by the partner, provided that he or she makes a claim within the appropriate linking period.

As currently drafted, the subsection states that a prescribed part of an amount which has accrued towards a person's bonus can be treated as part of another person's bonus. Where it is solely partners' earnings which have caused the bonus amount to accrue, the present wording leaves some doubt as to whether the whole of the amount could be transferred to the partner's claim for JSA or income support. This amendment puts that right. I beg to move.

Lord McCarthy moved Amendment No. 97A:

Page 21, line 39, at end insert: ("( ) The amount of the back-to-work bonus shall be reviewed annually in the light of the previous year's price inflation.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Ministers have said all night that the central theme of the Jobseekers Bill is to get people back to work. I thought at one stage that they might set it to music, it goes rather well to "Jerusalem". We can sing it tonight because that is what the amendment is about. It deals with the back-to-work bonus and tries to make it more effective. So we can all sing "Jerusalem".

The back-to-work bonus has had a good press, rather too good. The trouble is that it does not go far enough. Funnily enough, it has been little debated in this House and it was little debated in the other place. It is a somewhat bizarre idea. It is supposed to deal with the problem of people who are unemployed and who do certain amounts of part-time work but cannot get back into full-time work, significantly because if they get back into full-time work they will lose money because of the earnings rule. However, it does nothing about the earnings rule itself; it maintains the restrictions exactly as they are. It says: "If you go back into full-time work, we will give you back half of what we take away while you are unemployed".

Many things are wrong with the back-to-work bonus as an incentive to "Jerusalem". The most important is that it depends upon discovery. First, you have to know that the individual is earning more than £5, in order that you can take the rest of the money away, or deduct it from the individual jobseeker's allowance, keep it in the piggy bank and give it back to him when he has a full-time job. But we know that in the majority of cases, because of the rules, we do not get discovery—most people in such situations do not declare the money. Of course they do not; we cannot blame them for it; the rule is ridiculous.

The efficacy of the provision depends on discovery or a sudden mass outbreak of honesty among all charladies in the country. That is not very likely. But the Bill does not deal with the heart of the problem, which is the earnings rule. The Government say: "Somehow, if we do this, we shall know how much they have; we shall stop it and only give half of it back".

However, that is only the first problem. The second is that the poor person in that position who has actually owned up and had the money taken away so that 50 per cent. of it is due to come back, will not know how much there is. Is a person supposed to keep bobbing into the Jobcentre every week, asking, "How much is in the piggy bank?". When there is enough, the person cuts it in half and goes back to full-time work. That is the miracle which will get people back into work. But it is a one-off payment; once a person has had it, that is it, he cannot get it again. He would have to remain out of employment for a long time to get the piggy bank up, and then he will get 50 per cent. of that if he is caught at it. So we say that the back-to-work bonus is a weak provision that should be improved. We suggest in this amendment that one of the ways it might be improved is for it to be reviewed annually in the light of the previous year's price inflation.

We know that the Government will say that that is no good because the back-to-work bonus is already indexed. In a sense it is, because it is 50 per cent. of what was declared. If that goes up, it is indexed. We are not talking about it being indexed in that way. It might be possible, for example, for the Government to say that the 50 per cent. could rise to 75 per cent. It might even rise to 100 per cent. It might even be linked to a rather more sensible earnings rule. In other words, in all kinds of ways this bonus could be improved, because it is in a pretty sick way at the moment. I beg to move.

11.15 p.m.

Earl Russell

My Lords, to try to add anything to that speech would be to gild the lily. I wish, however, to ask a few questions. First, is it possible that a situation could arise whereby a person was, let us say, £5 short of earning the bonus in the piggy bank and the need to earn enough to complete the bonus could act as a disincentive to going into employment. Secondly, is any uprating of the bonus that might occur to be done by the Department of Employment or by the Department of Social Security? If it comes into the social security uprating statement, then it will be by affirmative procedure and we shall know what is done. Thirdly, can the Department of Employment find better ways of publicising the decisions it takes about uprating? For many years I tried to find out whether it was uprating the youth training allowance and the bridging allowance. It was very difficult to find anyone who had the first idea. If I were to put down a Question for annual Written Answer about what is being uprated and what is not, would it be answered, and could we institutionalise it?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

My Lords, the amendment seeks an annual review of the maximum amount payable under the back-to-work bonus, which we intend will be up to £1,000. The maximum will be £1,000 but the bonus will be up to £1,000 depending on what the claimant has accumulated.

If I understood it correctly the first question of the noble Earl, Lord Russell, was: will the; claimant decide to stay in benefit in order to accumulate the bonus? Perhaps I was wrong, but I had the impression that the noble Earl was under a misapprehension that either £1,000 could be claimed, or nothing at all. Since the bonus is up to £1,000, if a claimant has accumulated a bonus of, let us say, £400 on returning to work, that £400 is the amount that he will receive. The £1,000 figure is a maximum.

To turn to the interesting knock-about of the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, one of the serious questions was: how will a claimant know how much he has banked, so to speak? I can tell the noble Lord that we shall be sending claimants regular quarterly statements of their position. I do not want to go into the matter in detail on this amendment, but I believe that it is an important part of encouraging people back to work. Interestingly enough, many people do declare their earnings. It is not true, as the noble Lord seems to think, that most people do not declare. Many do and will therefore be eligible. Even more might be encouraged to declare. But even without the additional number declaring, those who do will be eligible for the back-to-work bonus. That helps in this problem, which we all accepted and debated recently, although I was not able to give way to the noble Baroness in her desires to uprate the £5 disregard. It also helps the other problem of the bridge between being out of work and returning to work and the additional costs that someone can often come up against in making that move. Also, an amount of up to £1,000 may give people a little more confidence in making that move. I should like to think that everybody thinks that at least the objectives behind the Government's move on this matter are well-judged, and I would like the proposal itself to be approved by your Lordships.

On the annual uprating question, so far as I can recall, the last time I had to do an annual uprating statement there seemed to be just about every figure imaginable on the piece of paper I had. Perhaps I may look at what the noble Earl had to say and write to him about the specific points that he raised. As I said, I did not have the impression from my brief—certainly I did not realise—that there quite so many different benefits, payments and so on, which either had to be up-rated annually or for which, in the case of many of them, Ministers were able to consider and decide whether or not to up-rate them.

The back-to-work bonus is designed to encourage people back to work. I trust that the payments will be seen as attractive for those participating in this particular scheme. We believe that the £1,000 is substantial. We do not have any proposals currently to up-rate the maximum limit on a regular basis, as suggested by the amendment. However, in line with our policy, as I explained briefly to the noble Earl, on a range of financial limits within the benefit system—for example, the earnings disregards—we keep the amount under review. The decision not to up-rate the maximum will not, in our view, devalue the incentive effect in any significant way, as up-rating the amount would be of a minor cash value, particularly while inflation is so low. It would not add anything to the particular attractions of this benefit for me to accept the noble Lord's amendment, but it has given me the opportunity to say a few words about the back-to-work bonus, which I regret has not received the attention that I believe it merits in your Lordships' House.

Lord McCarthy

My Lords, as I understand it, the Minister is saying two things. First, he is saying that he has no proposals to up-rate the bonus, even the maximum £1,000; and, secondly, he will meanwhile be sending out regular notices telling people periodically how much they have in the kitty.

I wonder whether he can give any estimate of how many that will be? They will be part-time workers who are in receipt of income support, earn more than £5 and declare it to the Employment Service. I do not think that it will cost much money, but does he know how much?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

My Lords, I thought that the noble Lord was asking one question, but then, towards the end of his remarks, I thought that he was asking me another. Perhaps he might repeat the question.

Lord McCarthy

My Lords, I asked how much it will cost to send out and how many there will be. The one precise thing that the Minister is telling me in answer to my question "How will they know how much they have in the kitty?" is that he will send them regular notices telling them how much. I wonder whether he has any idea of how many people will be covered and will have to have that information. Unless we know how many people are in that position, we have no idea, even in principle, of how useful the bonus might be.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I am happy to help the noble Lord. We expect that 150,000 bonuses will be paid in a full year to JSA claimants. We have no estimate of the administrative costs.

Lord McCarthy

My Lords, I shall not continue. The figure is 150,000 on the assumption that they will all declare it. However, at this time of night, I shall withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 26 [Employment of long-term unemployed: deductions by employers]:

Lord Swinfen moved Amendment No. 98:

Page 21, line 43, at end insert ("or would qualify for disability working allowance upon taking up employment").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 99 and 100. All three amendments seek to extend the employers' national insurance contributions holiday to disabled people.

Previous amendments have sought to include incapacity benefits as benefits which count towards qualifying for the employers' national insurance contributions holiday. At Committee stage in the other place the response from the Minister was that of cost. In this House, at the Committee stage, my noble friend the Minister intimated that disabled people were the wrong target. The holiday was, aimed at helping back into work people who have been capable of work but have not been able to find it rather than those who have been incapable of work"—[Official Report; 27/4/95; col. 1139]

Amendment No. 98 addresses the point made by the Minister; that is, that the holiday should target employers recruiting people who are capable of work. Disability working allowance is payable to people working more than 16 hours a week but who are disadvantaged in obtaining a job because of disability. It will enable a NIC holiday to be claimed by employers recruiting someone who would qualify for disability working allowance when taking up such employment.

Amendment No. 99 includes a period when someone is claiming disability working allowance towards the two years continuous receipt of jobseeker's allowance. Amendment No. 100 enables people to count periods of benefit, like incapacity benefit, towards the two years on jobseeker's allowance required in order to count as a qualifying employee for the NIC holiday. That could help some of the 150,000 disabled people expected to move from incapacity benefit onto jobseeker's allowance in 1996–97, many of whom may have been on incapacity benefit for over two years. It would enable such people to count a period on other benefits towards the qualifying two years on jobseeker's allowance.

Extending the NIC holiday could result in savings to the state as well as to the employer. For instance, someone moving from unemployment benefit to an average wage of £352 a week could attract a national insurance holiday for an employer of £1,869 a year, and save the Government over £10,000 a year in benefits and increased revenue. I beg to move.

Lord Carter

My Lords, these amendments are good for disabled people, good for employers and good for the Government. It will be interesting to see what contortions the Minister gets into in order to reject them.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

My Lords, perhaps I can look first at Amendments Nos. 98 and 99 without contortions. It will come as no surprise to the House that the amendments are technically unnecessary because, as I have explained previously, the clause already contains a power to extend by regulations the scope of the national insurance holiday to other groups of people.

We have proposed a well-targeted and affordable package of work incentive measures to help people back into work. This includes incentives both for the individual and for the employers. It is the national insurance holiday which provides an incentive to employers by encouraging them to offer job opportunities to the long-term unemployed. As I have said before to the House, it is aimed at helping people back into work who have been capable of work but have not been able to find it, rather than those who have been incapable of work. It is about helping people who are in and have been in the labour market for two years or more but have been unable to find work. It would not be appropriate to accept that periods of disability working allowance during which the person must be in work should count towards satisfying the two-year qualifying condition.

Disabled people, whom this amendment seeks to assist, receive other help in returning to work. Disability working allowance is available at a more generous rate than family credit to increase the income of some disabled people in work. Housing benefit and council tax benefit contain extra premiums for disability which again increase the amount of benefits they receive. I recognise that these benefits provide help for disabled people themselves and not to prospective employers, but extending the holiday to this group would go beyond our aim of helping those who have been in the market for a long time without being able to find work. This is where we consider that the need is greatest and where we should target the resources we have at our disposal.

What I can say to my noble friend is that we shall of course be carefully monitoring and evaluating the success of the scheme and would not rule out extending it further in some way if it became clear that there was value in doing so. For now we need to introduce the scheme within the cost constraints which apply and that means focusing the help essentially on the long-term unemployed.

In Amendment No. 100, my noble friend seeks to widen the scope of the holiday so that people who have been sick during the two-year qualifying period would also satisfy the qualifying conditions. We recognise that it might be appropriate to provide for some latitude in the qualifying period so that, for example, small periods of sickness could be ignored. That is why we have taken a power at subsections (6) (a) and (b) to treat people who would not otherwise satisfy the principal conditions as satisfying them.

At this stage we have not decided to what extent the qualifying conditions should be modified under this provision. My noble friend will, no doubt, continue to press me to include people who have been sick throughout the two-year qualifying period. It will come as no surprise to my noble friend that I cannot agree that we should extend the qualifying conditions for the holiday to that extent. This would go beyond our aim of helping those who have been in the labour market for a long time without being able to find work. This is where we consider that the need is greatest and where we should target resources.

As I said, we will be carefully monitoring and evaluating the success of the scheme and I have mentioned to my noble friend that that; would not rule out extending it further in some way if it became clear that there was clear value in doing so.

With that explanation of why we want to concentrate on the long-term unemployed, and with just a little look into the future and the fact that our minds are not closed to it and to making changes, I hope that my noble friend will withdraw his amendment.

11.30 p.m.

Lord Swinfen

My Lords, my noble friend offered me a mixed bag of sweeties, some of which I like and others I do not particularly like. But at this hour of the night I shall reserve my position on these amendments. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 28 [Pilot schemes]:

Baroness Turner of Camden moved Amendment No. 101:

Page 24, line 16, at end insert: ("( ) A pilot scheme under this section may be introduced only after consultation with such bodies or organisations in the specified area or locality as seem appropriate, but wherever possible such consultation shall include organisations representative of employers and employees.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I make it clear at the outset that we are in favour of schemes designed to get people back to work. We are in favour of pilot schemes as well—at least I think we are—although we have not had much opportunity to debate them in this House. We want to make sure that these are suitable and successful. If they are not, they will simply be seen as yet another initiative that loses credibility because it does nothing for the unemployed, particularly the long-term unemployed.

We believe that one of the ways of achieving success would be by the involvement of local people, and/or organisations, which have specifically concerned themselves with employment in the area concerned. We believe that this means involving representatives of employers and employees in the area. After all, they have the task on the ground, so to speak, of representing the interests of job providers and job holders, and also jobseekers. Most unions nowadays have arrangements for retaining in membership those of its members who become unemployed and providing them with a range of services, normally without requiring a subscription. That is certainly true of my own union. We have been anxious to ensure that those who become unemployed retain their links with the union and are not simply cast out once they lose the job which rendered them eligible for membership. There are other organisations too which might profitably be involved in consultations.

I hope that the Minister will not deride this amendment as being unnecessary or perhaps even undesirable. It has been worded carefully. There may well be places where such bodies do not exist and we have said that, wherever possible such consultation shall include organisations representative of employers and employees".

There is one question which I would like to pose to the Minister as regards these pilot schemes. I understand that they will not be able to vary the amounts of benefit payable. Will the schemes have any role in relation to benefit sanctions? Can they have any part in extending the period during which a JSA will be payable if there are sanctions? I hope that the Minister will be able to respond in a positive way. I hope that he will appreciate that the amendment is well-intentioned and will therefore be prepared to accept it or, if not this wording, at least something similar. I beg to move.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

My Lords, I certainly would not say that the amendment was wide of the mark, but I hope that I can persuade the noble Baroness that it is not needed. Normal consultation procedures will precede the introduction of any pilot regulation. Proposals for pilot regulations will be submitted first to the Social Security Advisory Committee, in accordance with the provisions of the Social Security Administration Act. Your Lordships will be aware that this is the normal conduit for outside comment on social security legislation. We shall of course consult other organisations in the usual way if we consider that to be necessary. For example, any change involving housing benefit or council tax benefit will necessarily involve consultation with local authority associations. It may on occasion be appropriate to consult bodies representing employers and employees. I am sure your Lordships will appreciate that on the question of who shall be consulted much depends on the nature of the pilot under consideration.

The pilot power is an innovation in social security in that it allows measures to be tested for effectiveness in advance of national implementation. However, regulations drawn under it will be subject to at least the same level of consultation and legislative scrutiny as they would be if introduced nationally. In some cases, the level of scrutiny may even be higher, since all pilot regulations will be subject to the affirmative resolution, whereas for a national change introduced under normal arrangements this might not always be the case.

The noble Baroness asked me whether pilots can be used for benefit sanctions. Regulations can be piloted under all the powers of the Jobseekers Bill. The provision would have to be within the scope of the powers and would have to be intended to promote employment, so there are some tests, so to speak, that any pilot proposed would have to obey before anyone could set up an experiment—a pilot—under these pilot regulations in the future. I hope that—

Baroness Hollis of Heigham

My Lords, I am sorry but I simply do not understand that. I was led to believe that within a pilot scheme the Minister (or the Government) may not change or modify the rates of benefit payable; they have to be nationally determined. We were trying to find out whether, nonetheless, within a pilot scheme there may be a dispensation from the existing rules of sanction—either to be more generous or to be harsher. Can the Minister answer that simply? I did not understand the answer as he formulated it.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

My Lords, I thought that I gave that answer. I said that the regulations can be piloted under all the powers of the Jobseekers Bill, and that provision would have to be within the scope of the powers and would have to be intended to promote employment, which is the underlying raison d'être of the pilots. They are supposed to aim to promote employment. As it is a bit late, I shall look into the point that the noble Baroness has made and shall try to come back to her more clearly in the next few days.

In conclusion, as I have explained, we shall be consulting through the Social Security Advisory Committee and it, in turn, will consult all those that it usually consults. We shall also, where necessary, consult with those people we feel appropriate, given the nature of the pilot. As we would want any pilot to succeed, clearly we would want to consult all the people who might be involved in or affected by the pilot-employers, unions, local authorities or whoever.

Perhaps I may clarify one point to the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis. We certainly cannot reduce benefit rates. We have always made that clear. We have never said that pilots can affect overall income levels, and indeed sanctions. However, I shall return to that in the next few days when I examine the questions that the noble Baroness put to me.

Baroness Turner of Camden

My Lords, I am obliged to the Minister for his explanation of the Government's position on this amendment, and I am glad to learn that the intention is to have very wide consultation with all appropriate organisations in relation to pilot schemes. I particularly welcome the involvement of the Social Security Advisory Committee—a broadly based body—the recommendations of which are normally very highly respected. I note what has been said about the inability to reduce rates of benefit. We welcome that assurance. I am glad that the Minister has undertaken to reply to my noble friend Lady Hollis on the sanctions issue that she raised.

In the light of the Minister's statement, which will be in Hansard tomorrow, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 34 [Interpretation]:

Lord Inglewood moved Amendment No. 102:

Page 29, leave out lines 19 and 20.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving the amendment I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 103 and 107. The amendments make small adjustments to the definitions of "earnings" and "employment" which will apply in JSA. Amendments Nos. 102 and 107 are designed to remove from the definition of "earnings" certain payments which will not be regarded as earnings for JSA purposes, and to ensure that the definition which is used is aligned fully with income support practice.

The new definition retains the reference to Section 3 of the Benefits Act, which provides the basic definition of earnings that will be used in JSA—payments which are, remuneration or profit derived from an employment". It removes the cross-reference to Section 4 of the Benefits Act. Section 4 provides principally that certain payments, including statutory sick pay and statutory maternity pay, are to be treated as earnings. It is not our intention to regard those as earnings for JSA. Claimants could not receive them because they are incompatible with jobseeking, and where the partner of an income-based claimant receives them they will simply be counted as normal income. I think it is clear that they do not fall within our basic definition.

Your Lordships will not fail to have noticed that we have also made the definition subject to any regulations. That is because the basic definition "remuneration or profit" needs some interpretation and we consider it sensible for the Government to be able to provide that as necessary through regulations. Otherwise, we could find that it was interpreted far more widely or narrowly than we had intended. Perhaps I may give an example. In unemployment benefit at the moment that definition has been taken to include certain payments in kind. For JSA we would wish to be sure that such payments were not taken to be earnings, in line with the practice in income support. It is also the case that employers are adopting increasingly flexible work and remuneration packages. The benefit system needs to keep up with that and to be able to reflect those new patterns in its definitions. The regulation-making provision will enable us to iron out any problems that arise by prescribing what is and is not to be included, and it will also ensure that JSA keeps in step with income support.

I turn now to Amendment No. 103. Clause 7(8) defines "employment" for the purposes of that clause to mean, in layman's language, employment or self-employment. Jobseekers will be able to seek self-employment actively if they prefer instead of, or as well as, employed work. Regulations will be made under Clause 7(6) to provide that, in the case of a young person, "employment", as it applies in the term "actively seeking employment", will include training as well as employment. That will allow young people actively to seek training as well as employment. That requires a consequential amendment to Clause 34 to exclude the general definition of employment from Clause 7.

This is a technical, tidying-up amendment and I urge your Lordships to accept it, together with the other two amendments. I beg to move.

Lord Inglewood moved Amendment No. 103:

Page 29, line 23, after (""employment"") insert (", except in section 7,").

[Amendment No. 104 not moved.]

Lord Inglewood moved Amendment No. 105:

Page 30, line 31, at end insert: (""training" has the meaning prescribed for the purposes of this Act and, in relation to prescribed provisions of this Act, if regulations so provide, includes assistance to find training or employment, or to improve a person's prospects of being employed, of such a kind as may be prescribed.").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move.

Earl Russell

My Lords, I gave the Minister notice when we debated this matter earlier and a few minutes ago that I am not yet happy with the amendment. If the Minister were able to reassure me I would be grateful. The Minister knows that I am concerned that we have definitions that are meaningful, that are: watertight and that we are capable of understanding. What we have here is: 'training' has the meaning prescribed for the purposes of this Act".

I recall the Minister being asked in Committee by the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, whether he could give any previous example of where we have been told in legislation that words have a meaning that shall be prescribed. I too would like to know the answer to that question because it is of importance.

I would also like to know—and it is the only thing that could reassure me about the wording of the amendment—the extent to which the power to call anything "training" is restricted by the words "for the purposes of this Act". Or is that restriction not as powerful as I would have hoped because many of the purposes of this Act are hereafter to be disclosed?

The second part of the amendment, which relates to assistance to find training or improving a person's prospects of being employed, is in principle more welcome. But that part of the amendment is to come into force only if regulations so provide. We are not told whether the Secretary of State will be graciously pleased to make regulations or whether this is just an empty provision in case he might feel like playing with it some time in the future. The assistance too is: of such a kind as may be prescribed".

When the Minister brings to this House proposals to grant him vires he will have to get used to being asked what else could be done under those vires. That is a question that all Parliaments ought to ask at all times. Personally, I intend to continue to ask it. For example, at present training is governed by provisions similar to those governing training allowance. One has to register for youth training in order to receive training allowance. Can the Government guarantee that they will continue to change the provisions for training and training allowance at the same time?

I understand that there is no present intention to introduce workfare. I am not attempting to create a scare about that. However, if some future Government—and I am not assuming that this Government with this Leader will necessarily be in office for the remainder of this Parliament—were to wish to introduce workfare, could they do so under these vires without the need for additional legislation? If the Opposition's proposals for citizen's service were to be put forward, could they be introduced under these vires without any need for primary legislation?

If a future Government were to decide to reintroduce National Service, could that be done under these vires without the need for primary legislation? They are real questions and I ask them because I do not know the answers. None of those things should be carried out without primary legislation giving us a good chance to look at what is being done.

I have already asked the Minister whether he could avoid difficulties by not pressing this amendment at this time of night, as I have refrained from pressing amendments on the definition of training which were not congenial to the Minister. It is perhaps possible that by rather less public consultation we might be able to find a way of satisfying each other before Third Reading. I fear that on Third Reading we might reach the provisions at very much the same time of night since they come at the end of the Bill. Is the Minister able to do anything to help me about that matter or are we left eyeball to eyeball? I would rather avoid that if possible.

11.45 p.m.

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, with the leave of the House, the noble Earl has raised a number of points. I must return to some of the comments that were made when we debated the matter yesterday. I explained that the definition locked in with the proposals that we have made regarding training and other assistance. As the noble Earl pointed out, the definition in the amendment contains a number of elements. It begins by stating: 'training' has the meaning prescribed for the purposes of this Act".

One of the points which the noble Earl raised was how the meaning of "training" might be changed in hypothetical circumstances and whether that in turn would flow across into other legislation. It is clear from this clause that the meaning which "training" is given in this context is restricted to this piece of legislation. I hope that that narrows the compass of what we are talking about.

It also—and this is important in the context of where we are now—relates to a definition which includes, where appropriate: assistance to find training or employment, or to improve a person's prospects of being employed, of such a kind as may be prescribed". That is important because if we go back to the debate which we had last night, part of the point of this change was that it was, in turn, part of a series of changes which dealt with the wider issue of other assistance.

If we lose that definition it will have a consequential effect on the scope of the Bill in so far as it relates to other assistance as I have described it. Therefore, if we lose that definition it will have a potential knock-on effect on something about which there was no disagreement, something which was desirable.

While we have no intention of prescribing a meaning to that at present, because at this stage we have no plans to introduce other assistance, we believe that we need the power because in future we may wish to include job preparation courses or education which are not, in themselves, in the nature of training. But we provide that such other assistance should be such that it will improve the jobseeker's job prospects, which is consistent with the argument that I have used and my explanation of the purpose of this legislation.

The crucial point that was raised by the noble Earl was about the meaning of "training". What does the meaning of "training" amount to? How far can that definition go? Can it include, as the noble Earl suggested, workfare? The precise meaning which will be given in regulations, if the amendment is made, has already been given to the House in the exposition that I gave yesterday. We have in mind something along the lines of training for young people provided directly or indirectly pursuant to an operating agreement between the Secretary of State and the TEC. That does not satisfy the noble Earl because he is concerned about what may be described as an "oppressive" government would do. I am advised that the word "training" must mean training or assistance of the kind described in the amendment. In our view, it cannot have a meaning which could be extended beyond that. For example, it cannot encompass ordinary employment.

Training has a natural meaning. It is not possible to define exactly a meaning extending beyond that except with the addition of "other assistance" which is limited to assistance, to find training or employment, or to improve a person's prospects of being employed". The power to prescribe the meaning of "training" in regulations allows us to prescribe a precise meaning for the particular training that we are talking about whereas, if a definition were to be written onto the face of the Bill, inevitably it would have to be extremely wide. I do not believe that that would necessarily be of assistance in trying to help jobseekers, whether they be younger or older, to have a successful jobsearch because your Lordships will remember that, in speaking earlier about the steps which the Employment Service is trying to take in relation to schemes, the key element is that the schemes are those onto which the Employment Service puts the jobseeker. Therefore, we wish to be able to define the relevant schemes for those purposes by reference to what the Employment Service will be wanting to do. I very much hope that that will reassure the noble Earl and that he will feel able, as a result, to withdraw his objections to the amendment.

Earl Russell

My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister for his help. However, with the leave of the House, I wonder whether I might ask for a little further assistance on two points. First, I am not quite clear as to the nature of "the purposes of the legislation; secondly, I am not quite sure about the meaning of "training" such as described in the amendment. Is the Minister telling me that it can only be found to be training if it involves assistance to find training or employment, or to improve a person's prospects of being employed? If the Minister could say yes to that question, it would materially assist me.

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, my understanding is that the meaning of the phrase "for the purposes of in the legislation means that where it is used—and it obviously is used in a particular context in the legislation—that is where the definition applies. I am clear in my mind in that respect.

The noble Earl asked me to look carefully at the exact relationship between "training" in Amendment No. 105 and the second part of that definition. I hope that the noble Earl will allow me to look further at the amendment while I stand at the Dispatch Box so that I may give him a satisfactory reply. I now see that training is defined there only if it is appropriately provided for within the regulations. That would include assistance, and so on, to improve a person's prospects of being employed, of such kind as may be prescribed". The first element of that means that training will have a wider meaning than something which is included. It must follow—must it not?—that the greater includes the less. Therefore, as I said earlier, it seems to me that training cannot have a meaning wider than that which the word could normally have. I return to what I said at the outset. We are talking about the definition of training in this particular piece of legislation; and, indeed, in the particular places where it falls in the legislation. There is no logical reason why the definition of the word "training" need be the same in each individual clause of the Bill.

Therefore, it must be within the scope of the Bill; it must fall within its ordinary meaning; and it can have the characteristics given in the definition. If one looks at the way in which the definition is drawn—or, for that matter, how a definition might be drawn in any other way—I do not see how it could actually contain the danger of oppression of the kind described by the noble Earl. I say that because the word "training" has a meaning. I do not believe that one can read into the meaning of the word "training" in that context the wider meanings of the type about which the noble Earl is concerned.

[Amendments Nos. 106 and 106A not moved.]

Lord Inglewood moved Amendment No. 107:

Page 30, line 41, at end insert: ("( ) Subject to any regulations made for the purposes of this subsection, "earnings" is to be construed for the purposes of this Act in accordance with section 3 of the Benefits Act and paragraph 6 of Schedule 1 to this Act.").

Clause 36 [Parliamentary control]:

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 108:

Page 31, line 27, after ("section") insert ("6, 7,").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving the amendment I shall, with the leave of the House, speak also to Amendments Nos. 109 and 114. The amendments fulfil the commitment I made in my response to those moved by the noble Lord, Lord Richard, when we discussed the issue of parliamentary control of regulations on availability for employment and actively seeking employment during the recommitment stage last Thursday. The amendments have the effect of ensuring that whenever regulations are made under Clauses 6 or 7 they must be approved by affirmative resolution of each House.

I said in our earlier debate that I accepted that there is real concern in both Houses that regulations that affect the meaning and treatment of the two terms, "availability" and "actively seeking", should receive the full and proper scrutiny of Parliament. I made it clear that we took the findings and recommendations of the Select Committee very seriously when it asked the House to consider whether the affirmative procedure should apply to these terms. These amendments, I believe, address these concerns in full.

Amendment No. 114 tidies up one small measure in the Bill, and is consequential on the changes we introduced at the recommitment of Clause 6. Your Lordships will remember that Clause 6 was split into three parts. Clause 7 now deals exclusively with actively seeking employment. This amendment is consequential on the fact that Clause 6(6), as it was, has now been split into Clause 6(6) and Clause 7(7). This amendment extends the provision to cover Clause 7(7). It restores the original intention in that regard. But I believe the main amendments, which I am sure your Lordships will welcome, are Amendments Nos. 108 and 109, which make Clauses 6 and 7 subject to the affirmative procedure. I beg to move.

Earl Russell

My Lords, I hope I may be forgiven for detaining the House just long enough to thank the Minister warmly for those amendments.

[Amendments Nos. 108A and 108B not moved.]

12 midnight.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 109:

Page 31, line 33, after ("section") insert ("6, 7,").

Schedule 2 [Consequential Amendments]:

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 110:

Page 38, line 41, at end insert:

("The Bankruptcy (Scotland) Act 1985 (c. 66)

. In section 31(8) of the Bankruptcy (Scotland) Act 1985 (definition of "whole estate of the debtor"), for "section 89(2)" substitute "sections 71(10B), 78(3B) and 89(2)".").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the need for Amendment No. 110 arises from the inclusion in the Bill of Clause 31. Your Lordships will recall that Clause 31 concerns the treatment of jobseeker's allowance in insolvency cases and provides that where an amount is deducted from JSA for the recovery of overpayments or social fund awards, that amount shall not be treated as income for the purposes of the Insolvency Act 1986 and the Bankruptcy (Scotland) Act 1985. This consequential amendment simply provides for the Scottish bankruptcy Act to be amended accordingly. I beg to move.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendments Nos. 111 and 112:

Page 43, line 33, leave out from ("not") to ("and") and insert ("entitled to a jobseeker's allowance").

Page 43, line 35, leave out from ("not") to end of line 36 and insert ("entitled to an income-based jobseeker's allowance."").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have already spoken to these amendments. I beg to move.

Lord Swinfen moved Amendment No. 113:

Page 44, line 5, at end insert ("and where a disability premium is not in payment, he shall fall to be assessed under section 129(1) (b)").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I now move the final amendment for discussion this evening and I shall endeavour to do so as quickly as I can. The purpose of the amendment is to enable people on jobseeker's allowance to claim disability working allowance where they pass the "disadvantage" test, even where a disability premium is not in payment. When the disability working allowance was introduced, the Government expected a caseload of 50,000 people. Yet by the end of last year only 7,247 people were receiving it. That is recorded in Hansard for the other place on 28th November this year at col. 524. That cannot be right; I mean last year. We are a forward looking House but not quite as far forward looking as that. I can find the reference for the Minister, if he requires it.

Its take-up is the poorest of any benefit. Research undertaken by the independent Policy Studies Institute found that less than one-sixth of those eligible were claiming it. Unless the caseload increases more dramatically, the Policy Studies Institute estimates that it will be another 25 years before the target of 850,000 recipients is reached. But the changes to incapacity benefit and jobseeker's allowance are likely to reduce this possibility still further. With more people coming off incapacity benefit to sign on for jobseeker's allowance, the pool of people eligible for disability working allowance will fall as a result of the qualifying conditions for disability working allowance.

In order to qualify for DWA, unless in receipt of disability living allowance or similar benefits, someone must have been receiving an incapacity benefit or disability premium within eight weeks of their claim. Many people coming off incapacity benefit and signing on for jobseeker's allowance will not have any entitlement to the disability premium.

The amendment seeks to allow the self-assessment disadvantage test used at renewal stage to be the basis for entitlement to disability working allowance where people do not qualify on other grounds. It would go some way towards extending disability working allowance to disabled people who obtain work but are debarred from that allowance because they no longer have a qualifying benefit. I beg to move.

Lord Carter

My Lords, in supporting the amendment, I should like to make one point to the Minister. Those of us who slogged through the Bill which introduced the DLA and DWA remember the Government's expectation of a caseload of 50,000, as the noble Lord mentioned. At the time we expected a caseload of 16,000. It is very worrying that the actual figure is only just over 7,000. As the noble Lord said, fewer than one-sixth of those eligible claim the benefit. It will be interesting if the Minister can tell us, either now or later in writing, what action the Government are taking to ensure that the benefit is taken up as it should be.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

My Lords, the amendment, if passed, would ensure that where JSA is not a qualifying benefit for disability working allowance because the claimant is not eligible for the disability premium, the claimant may still be considered for disability working allowance.

Disability working allowance is designed to help some people on long-term incapacity benefits to make the difficult transition into work. It provides a top-up for people who have a limited earning capacity because of an illness or disability which puts them at a disadvantage in getting a job.

The best way of targeting disability working allowance is through a connection with incapacity and disability benefits. The qualifying benefit test requires that a person must either be receiving disability living allowance, or a similar benefit, or within 56 days before they claimed disability working allowance, they must have been receiving the higher rate short-term incapacity benefit or long-term incapacity benefit, severe disablement allowance or a disability premium with income support, housing benefit or council tax benefit.

The qualifying benefit test is important in two ways. First, the connection with an incapacity benefit provides an effective measure of disability which obviates the need for a medical examination for new disability working allowance claims. Secondly, it ensures that the resources available are directed to those with greatest need.

The Government are committed to the success of disability working allowance. Although the caseload is small, it has been growing steadily since it was introduced in 1992. We are aware that take-up is slower than we thought it would be. We have commissioned research by the Policy Studies Institute as part of the evaluation of the benefit. Its final report is due in 1996. Any fundamental changes to DWA would be premature in advance of a full evaluation.

I can say to the noble Lord, Lord Carter, that we are committed to raising awareness. We want awareness to be high. We have produced videos in conjunction with the Royal National Institute for the Blind and MENCAP. We have advertised in the jobs pages of the local press and produced a magazine, New Start. So we have made efforts to increase the caseload. It is growing steadily but it has a long way to go before it meets the legitimate expectations of all those who supported DWA at the time of its introduction.

I hope with that explanation my noble friend can withdraw his amendment.

Lord Swinfen

My Lords, I shall certainly withdraw the amendment. I shall read what my noble friend said, and it is possible that I may return to the matter at the next stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 114:

Page 45, line 38, after ("6(6)") insert ("or 7(7)").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment has already been spoken to. I beg to move.

House adjourned at ten minutes past midnight.