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Lord McCarthy: The noble Lords, Lord Renton and Lord Boyd-Carpenter, who spoke in support of the Government, made a much better case than that made by the Minister. They merely asked us to believe that if our amendment were passed, everything would fall away and that people could lie on their backs, receive unemployment benefit and that there would be nothing to stop them. To those noble Lords, the word "active", which most of those in the Employment Service have never heard of, never seen, never introduced and never needed, was the critical word—take away "active" and all is lost. That is nonsense, but it has a certain surface and plausibility.

At the beginning of the Minister's comments he toyed with that defence. He told us, first, that most of the unemployed, or a great number of them—he did not agree at the end—wished to return to work. At the end of his speech he told us about those who did not. The Minister then said that the Government will undermine "it". I believe that he meant their wish. He said, "We will undermine their wish by taking away this particular test".

It is a strange idea that all those people should be lying around saying, "Now I won't have anything to do. I don't want to go back to work; I previously did, but I have lost my desire to work because I happen to know that they have taken a word out of the Bill". The Minister was much closer to the truth when towards the end of his speech he began to explain clearly—more clearly than we did—precisely how the Government see the Employment Service operating. It is there to test people. It is there to find people wanting. It is there in the figures, to which we shall return later, that year by year, under the crucial use of that phrase, more and more people find that their benefit is disallowed. That is the object of the exercise. That word is a crucial part of that exercise and that is why I shall divide the Committee.

5.39 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 2) shall be agreed to?

20 Apr 1995 : Column 612

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 66; Not-Contents, 108.

Division No. 2

CONTENTS

Acton, L.
Addington, L.
Airedale, L.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Avebury, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L.
Bruce of Donington, L.
Carter, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.
Darcy (de Knayth), B.
Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.
Desai, L.
Diamond, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Dubs, L.
Eatwell, L.
Falkender, B.
Falkland, V.
Fisher of Rednal, B.
Freyberg, L.
Gallacher, L.
Gladwin of Clee, L. [Teller.]
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Halsbury, E.
Hamwee, B.
Hanworth, V.
Haskel, L.
Henderson of Brompton, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Hooson, L.
Howie of Troon, L.
Hylton, L.
Jay of Paddington, B.
Jeger, B.
Kilbracken, L.
Lawrence, L.
Listowel, E.
Longford, E.
Lovell-Davis, L.
McCarthy, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L.
Methuen, L.
Milner of Leeds, L.
Monkswell, L.
Murray of Epping Forest, L.
Nicol, B.
Northfield, L.
Peston, L.
Redesdale, L.
Rochester, L.
Russell, E. [Teller.]
Sefton of Garston, L.
Shaughnessy, L.
Simon, V.
Stallard, L.
Stedman, B.
Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Tordoff, L.
White, B.
Williams of Crosby, B.
Williams of Elvel, L.
Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.

NOT-CONTENTS

Addison, V.
Aldington, L.
Ampthill, L.
Astor, V.
Banbury of Southam, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L.
Birdwood, L.
Blaker, L.
Boardman, L.
Boyd-Carpenter, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L.
Braine of Wheatley, L.
Broadbridge, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L.
Cadman, L.
Caithness, E.
Campbell of Croy, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B.
Chelmsford, V.
Chesham, L.
Clanwilliam, E.
Clark of Kempston, L.
Cockfield, L.
Coleridge, L.
Cork and Orrery, E.
Courtown, E.
Cranborne, V. [Lord Privy Seal.]
Crickhowell, L.
Cross, V.
Cumberlege, B.
Dacre of Glanton, L.
Davidson, V.
Dean of Harptree, L.
Denton of Wakefield, B.
Downshire, M.
Ferrers, E.
Fraser of Carmyllie, L.
Gage, V.
Gardner of Parkes, B.
Gisborough, L.
Goschen, V.
Gowrie, E.
Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.
Hamilton of Dalzell, L.
Harding of Petherton, L.
Hayhoe, L.
Henley, L.
Hogg, B.
HolmPatrick, L.
Hothfield, L.
Howe, E.
Hylton-Foster, B.
Inglewood, L.
Kinnoull, E.
Kitchener, E.
Lauderdale, E.
Layton, L.
Leigh, L.
Lindsay, E.
Lindsey and Abingdon, E.
Long, V. [Teller.]
Lucas, L.
Lyell, L.
McColl of Dulwich, L.
Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.
Mackay of Clashfern, L. [Lord Chancellor.]
Macleod of Borve, B.
Malmesbury, E.
Marlesford, L.
Milverton, L.
Montgomery of Alamein, V.
Moyne, L.
Munster, E.
Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Napier and Ettrick, L.
Nelson, E.
Norrie, L.
Northesk, E.
O'Cathain, B.
Orr-Ewing, L.
Oxfuird, V.
Pearson of Rannoch, L.
Prior, L.
Pym, L.
Quinton, L.
Rawlings, B.
Rennell, L.
Renton, L.
Renwick, L.
Romney, E.
Saint Albans, D.
Savile, L.
Seccombe, B.
Sharples, B.
Skelmersdale, L.
Stewartby, L.
Strange, B.
Strathclyde, L. [Teller.]
Sudeley, L.
Swansea, L.
Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Trumpington, B.
Tugendhat, L.
Ullswater, V.
Vivian, L.
Wyatt of Weeford, L.
Wynford, L.
Young, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

20 Apr 1995 : Column 613

5.48 p.m.

Lord McCarthy moved Amendment No. 3:


Page 1, leave out line 13.

The noble Lord said: This amendment directs itself to the major new innovation in this part of the Bill; namely, the jobseeking agreement. Under the Bill as it stands, in order to qualify for benefit, an unemployed person, among all the other things which he must do which I mentioned in relation to the last amendment, must enter into a jobseeking agreement which remains in force at the time of the benefit. We are proposing to leave out line 13 on page 1 of the Bill which will mean that there will be no requirement that a person must sign a jobseeking agreement as a condition for receiving benefit.

We are not saying that there should not be a jobseeking agreement. After all, the Government are very fond of telling us—and they are right—that the idea of a jobseeking agreement came from the long-standing practice of a back-to-work plan. Often they speak as though the jobseeking agreement is no different from the back-to-work plan. If the Government want to call the back-to-work plan a jobseeking agreement, that is all well and good. We are not saying that that should not exist. We are not saying that all the other conditions which must be satisfied in order for a worker to claim benefit of any kind should not still be in the Bill.

Again, I make no apology for the fact that the idea comes out of the work and the research carried out by the Citizens' Advice Bureau. In its publication, which I hope the Minister has to hand, entitled In Search of Work, it has made it its business to catalogue the consequences of the present situation as regards the way in which the back-to-work plans have been developed; for example, the waste of time, the inappropriate jobs and the annoyed employers—indeed, all the factors that I sought to place before the Committee during discussion on the previous amendment.

20 Apr 1995 : Column 614

The Citizens' Advice Bureau says that, if we take the back-to-work plan and call it a jobseeking agreement, empower employment officers to give formal directions for the carrying out of such a plan and, unless that agreement is fully met, make it automatic—because that is what it means—that benefit will be denied, thus forcing the individual worker into the adjudication process, then we will further exacerbate the problems of dealing with long-term unemployment which we discussed previously.

I do not know whether many Members of the Committee remember the stories about the Ministry of Labour as it was before the war. In a study of the Ministry of Labour at the time, Freedland and Davies show that immediately before the war the ministry was carrying out practices which are very similar to those now before us; in other words, it had its version of a back-to-work agreement. A distinguished member of the Ministry of Labour took unpaid leave for six months and went around the country doing what sociologists would now call "participant observation", presenting himself as a member of the unemployed. He wrote out the results afterwards showing what was happening in the employment offices of the ministry, and a Conservative Government changed the way in which that department worked. Would that such simple research could have a similar effect today! I say that because there is research which reveals the same situation. Therefore, I beg to move.


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