HL Deb 29 October 1999 vol 606 cc537-8

2.46 p.m.

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone) rose to move, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 14th July be approved [26th Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving the first Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper, I wish to speak also to the second Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Jobseeker's Allowance Amendment (New Deal) Regulations will help to open up the current New Deal education and training opportunities to a broader range of long-term unemployed jobseekers. Currently, the JSA regulations provide that people aged 25 and over who have been in receipt of JSA for a two-year qualifying period may be treated as available for and actively seeking employment while they undertake an education and training opportunity. We propose to provide for periods in receipt of National Insurance contribution credits only, as an unemployed person, or autocredits for those aged 60 to 64, to count towards the two-year qualifying period. These amendments will ensure more consistent treatment across long-term unemployed jobseekers and will enable more people to benefit from the support which is on offer to help them get into work.

The Jobseeker's Allowance (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations serve three purposes. First, they correct a defect in the current regulations and ensure that people in receipt of incapacity benefit who are found capable of work by the All Work Test, are able to move smoothly onto JSA. The decision disentitling a person to incapacity benefit is effective from the day on which it is made, but the notification may take several days to reach the claimant. The claims and payments regulations currently allow the Secretary of State to backdate a JSA claim to the day after the final day of incapacity benefit. However, the JSA claim for that period is still likely to fail because the claimant was not available or actively seeking employment, since he did not know he should have been. The amendment regulations provide that the claimant may be treated as satisfying the labour market conditions in JSA for the period covered by the administrative backdating.

Secondly, the regulations correct another defect and, in doing so, make sure, as originally intended, that prisoners who are released from detention and then claim JSA are given a short period to readjust to normal life. The regulations provide that ex-prisoners shall be treated as actively seeking employment during the period of up to six days at the start of their claim, before the beginning of their first full benefit week.

Thirdly, these regulations make a technical amendment which is necessary as a result of the mergers since 1994 of certain training and enterprise councils with chambers of commerce to form chambers of commerce, training and enterprise. These regulations allow us to put right defects in the current rules. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 14th July be approved [26th Report from the Joint Committee].—(Baroness Blackstone).

On Question, Motion agreed to.