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Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I am not able to answer the specific question asked. Those statistics are not held centrally. I can confirm what the noble Lord said and that it is indeed a very serious offence under the Public Bodies Corrupt Practices Act. Giving information for money is an offence and receiving it is an offence. It is also an offence and a disciplinary matter if a policeman, or indeed a civilian member of a police authority, gives information, whether or not it is for money.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, if there is no reason whatever to suppose that the person concerned is likely to abscond, why do not the police simply ring him up and ask him to report to the station?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, matters surrounding the arrest of someone are operationally very much for the police themselves.

Lord Trefgarne: My Lords, am I right to conclude from my noble friend's original reply that there are circumstances in which information is released with the necessary authority? If so, can she say what circumstances create that situation, and when information is released with authority?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, the best example of authorised information leaking was Operation Bumble-bee. That was a successful operation on the part

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of the Metropolitan Police force when it engaged public support to help in reducing the number of burglaries in London. It was successful. Very often the press, the other media and the general public can help in tracking down a criminal. Sometimes chief constables will authorise the release of information in order to apprehend the people who are guilty. But in every case the protection of innocent people until proven guilty is at the heart of what they do.

Lord Trefgarne: My Lords, I do not think I made my question clear. Can my noble friend say what are the circumstances in which information about the impending arrest of a suspect, as described in the Question of the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, is released with authority?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I refer again to the example of Operation Bumble-bee where people were apprehended in the course of burgling. If that is public information, protecting the anonymity of the person doing the burglary until proven guilty is very much in the public interest to reduce down the amount of criminality in our community.

Israel: Nuclear Non-Proliferation

3 p.m.

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will advise that a state visit be paid to Israel before Israel signs the non-proliferation treaty.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, there are many competing bids for outward state visits, but there is no reason why one should not be paid to Israel in due course. We shall continue to urge Israel, and other non-members of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, to allay suspicions about its nuclear activities and accede to the treaty as a non-nuclear weapon state.

Lord Kennet: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for that reply; but will she bear in mind the somewhat equivocal background to the position? The Israeli Government said that they will never be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into the Middle East. That does not make sense, first, because they have already done so; and, secondly, before they did so, the Americans, ourselves and probably also the French did so. Beyond that, Israel proclaimed its desire to be the first country to propose a nuclear weapon-free zone in the Middle East. That too is nonsensical because such a zone was proposed for many years by Egypt and Iraq and is now proposed also by Iran.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, along with many others, we have been concerned for some time, as the noble Lord knows, about reports that Israel has a nuclear weapon programme. However, we have no verifiable evidence of that. The noble Lord went on to say that others have been talking of the creation of a nuclear weapon-free zone but do not mean it—I believe that that was the sense of his question. We support the establishment of a nuclear weapon-free zone; but the most effective way for states to demonstrate their

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commitment to non-proliferation is to join the NPT. That is why my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary spent some time last Thursday with the Israeli Foreign Minister, Shimon Peres, urging him to make progress with Egypt. That means allaying international suspicions and acceding to the non-proliferation treaty as a non-nuclear weapon state as soon as possible.

Lord Beloff: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that Iran recently repeated its threat to annihilate the state of Israel? So far as we know, it is on the path to securing nuclear weapons. Iraq is very much of the same mind. Therefore, would it be reasonable for any government to ask the state of Israel not to retain at least the possibility of deterrence to those major threats to its very existence?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, the difficulty is that both Iran and Iraq are not just a threat to Israel; they are a threat to peace in the Middle East and the wider world as a whole. That does not mean that we should not seek, where we can, to stop nuclear proliferation. That is why this important non-proliferation treaty and the forthcoming review conference is so much in the news at the present time. I understand my noble friend's anxieties in regard to the position of the state of Israel. I believe that signing the non-proliferation treaty is something we should be encouraging worldwide, not only with Israel.

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, can the Minister say whether the Government will consider going to the national non-proliferation treaty review conference later this month with a clear commitment to make no increase in the number of warheads on Trident over and above the number on Polaris? Would that not be an encouragement to countries such as Israel which, regrettably, refused to be party to the treaty? It would encourage them to take a more responsible position in relation to that treaty.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, we shall do all we can to halt proliferation. That is why we shall take a positive position at the review conference.

Lord Chalfont: My Lords, I understand and share the anxieties which have been expressed regarding the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Does not the Minister agree that the object of the non-proliferation treaty is to prevent the further spread of nuclear weapons? Does she agree also that four—possibly five—countries in the Middle East other than Israel either already have nuclear capability or are on the brink of acquiring it? They are also on the brink of acquiring the capability of other weapons of mass destruction, including chemical and biological weapons, and are about to obtain the capability to deliver them by ballistic and air-breathing missiles. In the light of that, is it not strange to be concentrating upon the activities of one country in the Middle East?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, there is genuine anxiety about all countries which have not signed the non-proliferation treaty as well as some of those who have, like Iraq. However, at least if they have signed the NPT there is a legal basis for taking them to

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task, whereas for countries which have not signed the non-proliferation treaty there is no such basis. The solution to all these problems must be to strengthen the International Atomic Energy Authority's ability to detect undeclared activities, to extend the non- proliferation treaty and also to ensure that the treaty not only enshrines commitment to negotiate nuclear disarmament, but also extends its influence over those countries mentioned by the noble Lord.

Jobseekers Bill

3.7 p.m.

The Minister of State, Department of Social Security (Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish): My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

The Bill introduces the jobseeker's allowance, a single allowance to replace the outdated system of unemployment benefit and income support for unemployed people. It will ensure that the efforts of jobseekers are focused on looking for work. The jobseeker's allowance will improve incentives to work and it will target benefit on those who need it most.

The allowance will be implemented jointly by the Benefits Agency and the Employment Service and will introduce a streamlined and more modern system of delivering benefits to unemployed people. Both the Benefits Agency and the Employment Service have made great improvements over the past few years in delivering benefits and jobsearch advice faster and more efficiently. The introduction of the new allowance will build on that and make further improvements in service.

The change will cut out the duplication caused by paying two benefits and reduce the number of offices with which most people have to deal. From April 1996 most people will be able to claim the jobseeker's allowance, obtain advice about their benefits and discuss jobseeking in the same office—the jobcentre. We provide an unprecedented range of programmes and services to keep people in touch with the labour market, to help them search effectively for work and to improve their skills. In 1995-96 there will be over 1.5 million opportunities on training and employment programmes.

Well over 40 per cent. of unemployed people attending jobclubs are successful at finding work. Almost half find jobs through the job interview guarantee scheme. The jobplan workshop and new restart courses have helped around 90 per cent. of course participants to apply for a job, training or other sources of help. And we continue to offer new initiatives. The jobfinder's grant will be extended to some 25,000 people this year who have been unemployed for two years or more: cash in the hand to people to help with bus fares, clothing or the tools they need for work when they first start a job.

Workwise and 1-2-1 will provide intensive jobsearch help to 18 to 24 year-olds who have been out of work for more than a year. And only last week we launched the new Jobmatch pilot to help long-term unemployed people who have been unable to find a full-time job to use part-time jobs as a stepping stone to full-time work.

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With measures such as these the Employment Service placed more than 1.6 million people into jobs last year; and next year it aims to do even better, facing its toughest ever target of 1.9 million placings.

We are seeing unemployment falling—down by 600,000 since December 1992. For over a year and a half the number of people out of work has been falling at the rate of 1,000 a day—falling in all parts of the UK, falling among both men and women and in all age groups. In particular we have concentrated help on those people who do not leave the register within six months. That is where help is needed most since more than two-thirds of unemployed people leave unemployment within six months.

Again success is evident. The numbers of long-term unemployed people as a proportion of total unemployment are now lower than in the 1980s and far lower than in the majority of our European partners. More than a third of the fall in unemployment over the past year has been among those unemployed for over a year—the group long considered the most difficult to help. We want to support and reinforce this success.

The Government guarantee every young person who wants one a suitable youth training place. We are spending £676 million on youth training this year in England alone. It means there is no reason why young people need to be unemployed. We do not wish to encourage dependency on benefit at such an early age. Sixteen to 17 year-olds are, therefore, in general not entitled to claim benefits.

We recognise, of course, that there are circumstances when young people do need to claim benefits. We provide for them and will continue to do so. Young people who have recently left local authority care, for example, will be able to claim JSA for a period intended to allow them to overcome their temporary difficulties. And young people who are waiting for a suitable youth training place will be able to claim JSA if they would otherwise suffer severe hardship. The requirements to be available for and actively seeking employment will be tailored for young people in recognition of their need to focus on training.

The jobseeker's agreement will be a central feature of JSA. It will also make clearer the link between receiving JSA and looking for work. Each person will agree the steps they intend to take to find work and put them in the agreement. Their agreement will also contain information about the help that the Employment Service can provide to help them back to work. The jobseeker's agreement is the key to ensuring that jobseekers are treated as individuals and receive individual help. But let me explain that it will not mean individual terms and conditions for receipt of JSA. The agreement will set out what that jobseeker intends to do to meet the availability for work and actively seeking employment conditions. In the cases where the employment officer and the jobseeker cannot reach agreement it will be referred to an independent adjudication officer.

There has for many years been a provision whereby Employment Service staff can instruct unemployed people to take certain steps to get a job. We extend that approach in JSA. We believe that that is entirely reasonable. In any system there will always be a

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minority of people who do not play by the rules: people who for no good reason reject the help and advice of the Employment Service; people who will try to avoid work by deliberately making a poor impression to a prospective employer. In these circumstances it is absolutely right that the employment adviser should use this provision. But as a protection, no unemployed person will lose benefit unless an independent adjudication officer decides that it is reasonable in the circumstances.

There has been no fundamental look at the system of benefits for unemployed people since the war. There are currently two benefits for the unemployed: unemployment benefit and income support; and they overlap. At any one time most unemployed people receive income support—a general benefit which is also paid to pensioners, lone parents and sick and disabled people, rather than unemployment benefit, which was designed for unemployed people. The rules are complex. Unemployment benefit was designed for an era when few worked on Sundays, people were compensated for days of unemployment and relatively few married women were in employment. Unemployment benefit excludes Sundays; income support does not; there are different earnings rules, different ways of calculating payments and different claim forms.

By contrast, the jobseeker's allowance will have a single set of rules and one claim form. The new allowance will provide financial support for unemployed people and their dependants according to their income and outgoings and this will be paid as long as they need it, provided they are available for and actively seeking work. Those who have paid national insurance contributions will receive a personal rate irrespective of their capital or partner's earnings for up to six months. We intend to make the structure of the benefit simpler, thus ensuring that unemployed people do not have to become unnecessarily involved in red tape.

One such change is for those who suffer a short spell of sickness. They will be able to remain in receipt of JSA for up to two short spells of sickness a year instead of having to change and make a new claim for income support or incapacity benefit. As the work towards implementation of JSA progresses we shall be considering other possible areas where we can further simplify and improve the service provided to unemployed people.

The vast majority of unemployed people make every effort to find work, but we need effective measures against the minority who do not. Social security law has always included penalties for those who break the rules. It is reasonable that those who pay taxes should not subsidise those who make no attempt to get a job.

The new system will make it crystal clear that those who do not meet their obligations will not receive benefit. However, we will protect vulnerable claimants: claimants with children, those who are sick or disabled or pregnant or who have partners in this position and those with caring responsibilities will be able to receive reduced payments if they would otherwise suffer hardship.

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I turn now to work incentives. The jobseeker's allowance is part of a much larger package of incentives announced in the last Budget and social security statement. The package of measures included in jobseeker's allowance legislation underpins the Government's determination to remove barriers to finding work and helping every unemployed person to find a job quickly. In October 1996 we will introduce the back-to-work bonus. At present most unemployed people who work part-time lose benefit pound for pound, yet if earnings were kept in addition to benefit there would be little incentive to move off benefit into full-time work. So the tax-free back-to-work bonus represents a new incentive.

Jobseekers and their partners who take small amounts of work while on benefit can build up entitlement to a lump sum bonus of up to £1,000. They can cash this in when they move off benefit into work. We will also pay the bonus to people who move off JSA at pension age and at age 60 to income support claimants who have participated in the scheme so the bonus will not be lost. We expect to pay at least 150,000 bonuses to JSA claimants each year once the scheme is up and running. This scheme will encourage people to stay in touch with the world of work while they are on benefit and to keep their skills up to date. And it will give claimants a financial boost at a crucial time by helping them to meet the expenses connected with the move back to work.

As well as offering help in earnings disregards we will provide help for couples, enabling partners of JSA and income support claimants to work up to 24 hours—not 16 as now—which will encourage partners to remain in or to take part-time work. And in addition couples will be able to earn £10 even if only one is working. That should bring extra help to around 70,000 people.

Building on the incentives for the long-term unemployed, we also propose a national insurance holiday for up to 12 months for employers who employ someone who has been out of work for two years or more. This will encourage employers to take on long-term unemployed. Some 120,000 people are likely to be helped in this scheme and it should be worth £45 million to employers in national insurance savings.

We are underpinning the work incentive measure announced by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Social Security last November by introducing a power to allow housing and council tax benefits to run on for four weeks for unemployed people who have to move to another local authority area to find work.

Its purpose is twofold. First, it enables authorities to exchange information about HB and CTB details. Secondly, it ensures that local authorities give priority to dealing with claims to these benefits from those who benefit from the run-on so that any ongoing entitlement to benefit is established before the end of the run-on period and there is no gap in housing benefit if an individual is entitled to it. In this way the claimant is protected from the sort of gap in income which currently causes concern and difficulties on returning to work. That fear can sometimes act as a deterrent to taking the plunge back into a job.

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There are other deterrents stopping people taking work: the fear of the unknown; of a job not working out. We intend to ease the rules to help those who find work. Employment on Trial allows jobseekers to try out unfamiliar work without fear of sanction if they give it up. People will be able to take a job on trial after just three months' unemployment and, if necessary, to leave it after four weeks. We estimate that about 200,000 extra people will come within the scope of this measure.

During the passage of this Bill in another place concern was expressed about carers who might wish to return to the workplace. We accept the special circumstances of this group. We will allow them to restrict the hours of their availability so they can work in line with their caring commitments. We will allow them to place restrictions on the locality and nature of work, provided that they retain reasonable prospects of finding a job.

The benefit system must be flexible and capable of adapting to change but it can be difficult to predict how effective some measures will be in improving incentives and affecting people's behaviour. We already pilot new employment services and training schemes and we will be extending this system to provide new powers to use local pilots in benefit regulations, too. These pilots will be used to assess measures which promote employment. All pilots will need specific parliamentary approval. They will be time limited and there will be no power to reduce benefit rates.

The Bill also allows the resettlement agency to complete its task of disengaging the Government from the running of resettlement units. This has been a success story. The resettlement agency has met all its targets and will complete its task in 1996, by funding more appropriate provision delivered by alternative providers such as voluntary organisations or local authorities.

In this Bill we are increasing the incentives for people to find work, widening the range of opportunities that we can offer people who are unemployed and targeting help on those who need it. This is a package of measures which will provide an improved means of delivering benefit to unemployed people. The Bill is a key part of the Government's strategy to tackle unemployment. I beg to move.

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

3.24 p.m.

Baroness Turner of Camden: My Lords, this is yet another nasty Bill from a Government which must hold the record for nasty Bills affecting employees and social security claimants. It appears to be based on the Government's oft-stated assumption that the jobs are there and all that needs to be done is to coerce people, many of whom are work-shy, into accepting them. The Government seem to have a bit of an obsession about possible social security fraud. We, on this side of the House, do not condone fraud, but we do believe that its

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impact has been grossly exaggerated. It is certainly not so grave a problem as to warrant penalising everyone else.

This measure has to be seen against the general background of, and as part of, the Government's employment philosophy. We are constantly told that unemployment is reducing—the Minister told us so this afternoon—but most people simply do not believe it. They do not believe the Government's statistics. Many are aware that the basis of assessment has been consistently changed and will no doubt be altered again as a result of the Bill. They are aware that the level of unemployment is still very high. Even on the Government's own figures unemployment stands at 2.5 million, 1.1 million of whom have been unemployed for over a year. The demise of a lot of UK manufacturing industry has drastically reduced the number of full-time jobs available. In 1971, 41 per cent. of the male workforce was employed in manufacturing. That was down to 28 per cent. in 1994. And this is the direct result of policies pursued by successive Conservative Governments, particularly those of the previous Prime Minister, who it is well known had little time for manufacturing industry and thought that everyone could be employed in the finance and service industries.

Now, as we have seen, unemployment is hitting even employments once regarded as relatively safe, like banking and insurance. As we know, banking is already threatening that 75,000 jobs are to go very shortly. Much of the so-called new employment is part-time and often low paid. One million people now earn less than £2.50 an hour and as many as 328,000 earn less than £1.50 an hour. It is hardly surprising that in these circumstances, the so-called feel-good factor is conspicuously absent and that the Government are just about as unpopular as it is possible to be—perhaps the most unpopular government since the Second World War.

Against that background the Government really have a nerve to introduce a measure of this kind, which will disadvantage yet further the most vulnerable and the poorest in our society. One of the core elements in it, as has been explained, is the provision of a jobseeker's allowance in place of unemployment benefit. Unemployment benefit is a contributory benefit for which people have paid. This new jobseeker's allowance will last for the first six months of unemployment, unlike the present unemployment benefit which runs for a year. Thereafter, after the first six months, entitlement will be means-tested.

I still do not understand how the Government can justify this. I listened carefully to the Minister this afternoon and I did not hear a justification for it in his speech. It is a cut in contributory benefit. Many people—perhaps as many as 90,000—will not be entitled to the means-tested jobseeker's allowance because they have a partner in work, perhaps on a low income, or they have savings or a redundancy payment above the £8,000 limit. Under the new system an unemployed man, if he had a redundancy payment of over £8,000 or if his partner works, would suffer a cut of £1,100 in a year. That really cannot be right. If the Government claim that the interests of the taxpayer have

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to be considered, they should remember that that unemployed man had been a taxpayer himself when in employment and had paid his national insurance contributions. The Government should not be allowed to change the rules of the game any more than private insurers are entitled to renege on policy promises and conditions.

Then there is the so-called jobseeker's agreement, which I note from what the Minister said this afternoon, is regarded as being a core part of the Bill. Personally, I do not believe that it is. I think that the real objective of this Bill is to try to save money in order to be able to provide some up-front tax cuts just prior to the general election.

I believe that this so-called agreement is all part of the pressure to try to get people to take low-paid jobs and inappropriate ones. On this side of the House we have never said that the unemployed should not attempt to secure other employment. It is part of the deal under which unemployment benefit is paid. For many years the requirement that people should simply be available for work on the day for which benefit is paid, was generally acceptable. Then the Government changed all that in order to specify that the unemployed must be actively seeking work. That has not been in operation for very long. We now have this new and much more detailed, and not very comprehensible, Clause 6 in the Bill which states:

    "(2) Regulations may prescribe circumstances in which, for the purposes of this Act—

    (a) a person who is not available for employment is to be treated as available for employment; (b) a person who is available for employment is to be treated as not available for employment; (c) a person who is not actively seeking employment is to be treated as actively seeking employment; or (d) a person who is actively seeking employment is to be treated as not actively seeking employment".

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