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Lord Inglewood: It will come as no surprise to the noble Earl, Lord Russell, to hear me say that this amendment seeks to overturn current Government policy, which is to help unemployed young people into training or employment, not to create conditions in which they can sink into benefit dependency. The Government guarantee every young person who wants one a suitable youth training place. That is at the heart of our policy for 16 and 17 year-olds. We are going to spend £669 million on youth training and modern apprenticeships this year in England alone. That is a very significant investment in the future of our young people and in the nation's economy.

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The guarantee enables young people to focus their efforts on achieving their full potential and develop skills for the nation's economy. Young people should not become dependent on benefit. They need to take every opportunity to get the best possible start in the labour market.

We recognise that there must be exceptions, and we provide for them. First, young people in certain specified vulnerable groups, such as disabled young people, are allowed to claim income support. They will continue to be able to claim income support after the introduction of the jobseeker's allowance. Secondly, young people in prescribed categories, such as those who have recently left local authority care, will be allowed to claim JSA for a period intended to allow them to overcome their temporary difficulties. That also carries forward existing arrangements. Thirdly, young people who are waiting for a suitable youth training place will be able to claim JSA if they would otherwise suffer severe hardship. Again, that carries forward existing arrangements. We believe that the Government's youth training guarantee backed up by clear sanctions, safeguards and protection represents a fair and balanced package of measures for young people.

In the remarks made by the noble Earl, Lord Russell, and the comments made by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, examples were given of extremely distressing circumstances which I do not believe any of us would for a moment condone or support. But we are talking about benefits and the Jobseekers Bill. It seems to me that many of those examples which were described logically follow from the topic that we are discussing this evening—sexual abuse, for example. I do not believe that it is the right way to tackle this particular problem by saying that it has something to do with the benefits system. The problem there is much wider, and that is the way to try to deal with such problems.

I cannot give exact and specific examples of the extent to which, right to the limits, the definition of "vulnerable groups" falls. However, I should be very surprised if it does not include the kind of people about whom we are speaking. I shall write to the noble Baroness and give her full details of exactly where we stand now, because the plan is simply to roll forward the existing provisions to the future.

In his opening remarks the noble Earl, Lord Russell, referred to the comments of my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter earlier this evening. We have listened but I am not in a position to give any kind of commitment or promise at this stage.

Earl Russell: I shall not attempt to answer that reply in detail. Instead, I shall say what Lord Seebohm said in this Chamber the last time that the Government defended the freezing of child benefit: that is an old cracked record; we have heard it many times before; it is worn out; it is time that we had a new one.

I shall tackle only one point—that of the severe hardship payments, which are intended to plug a gap. The problem is that when people have had to leave home, they cannot wait to go through these procedures.

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They need food now. So they drift off, often into illegal courses of conduct, and they disappear. That is one reason why that provision does not achieve its desired object.

I appreciate that the Minister cannot give an absolute assurance about the timetable at this time. But, as I promised, I shall beg leave to withdraw my amendment. If the Minister does not negative me, I shall be encouraged. If he does negative me, I shall go through the Lobby and be very interested to see who does and who does not come with me.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 23 not moved.]

The Deputy Chairman of Committees: Amendment No. 24. If this amendment is agreed to I cannot call Amendments Nos. 25 and 26.

Earl Russell moved Amendment No. 24:


Page 3, leave out line 19.

The noble Earl said: This is the first of a series of delegated powers amendments. With this amendment, I should like to speak to Amendment No. 28. Both amendments concern training. The first one concerns line 19 on page 3 of the Bill:


    "a condition that the claimant must register for training".

A condition that the claimant must register for training may be introduced by regulation. The second suggested change concerns line 26 where it says:


    "(4) For the purposes of this section 'training' has such meaning as may be prescribed."

We know all about "Educating Rita" but what we are learning about here is training Humpty-Dumpty. This is the first of a series of probing amendments about the use of delegated powers. I gave the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, a list of five questions that I intended to ask about each of the delegated powers. First, why do the Government want the delegated power to do this by regulation? Secondly, what do the Government intend to do with this power? Thirdly, what else could be done with this power, not necessarily by this Government but by some other government with a quite different outlook in the future? Fourthly, what are the extreme things, the worst things, that could be done under this regulation-making power? Fifthly, how could the House give or withhold its consent?

It would not entirely satisfy me if the Government could persuade me that what they intend to do with the delegated power is entirely reasonable. I would find that reassuring but not totally satisfying. The vires to make regulations are like mines that we lay across the legislative landscape and they may explode at some future date in ways that none of us can now foresee, so I would want reassurance that we are not creating the vires to do something which is particularly dangerous.

I might be persuaded to agree to either of these powers individually. What really worries me—I should like to have some reassurance on this—is their effect in conjunction. There are libertarian objections to making training compulsory. Those objections might not be conclusive but if we can make training compulsory and

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then we can change the meaning of "training" to mean anything we like, goodness knows what could be done with that.

I accept that at present there is no governmental intention to introduce workfare. I have no intention of starting a scare about that, but the vires exist for some future government to introduce workfare if it chose, without any further legislation. If that were to be introduced I think even those who supported it would agree that it deserved the dignity of primary legislation and serious debate.

I have looked at the Government's memorandum to the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee. I understand that they intend "training" to have the meaning it has in the Employment and Training Act 1973. If they did that it would not worry me. If they wrote it into the Bill it would make me happy. But why do they want to leave to their successors a power to change the meaning of "training" in entirely arbitrary ways? Do the Government really have such great confidence in the Opposition? I beg to move.

10 p.m.

Lord Inglewood: The noble Earl, Lord Russell, accepts that there is no sinister intention behind the Government's present proposals. As explained, our intention is that the definition should incorporate training to be provided for such people under Section 2 of the Employment and Training Act 1973 and that includes youth training and modern apprenticeships. I hope that that will assure the Committee that there is nothing sinister in the provision.

We wish to be able to retain flexibility in regard to whatever changes may arise in the future in respect of training programmes. We believe that it is appropriate in the circumstances that, if we wish to link JSA for a certain category to training, we should be able to make quite sure that that definition is both clear and one which, if circumstances change appropriately, can be amended in line with what would be appropriate under future circumstances.

Earl Russell: I thank the Minister warmly for that answer which is reassuring as far as it goes. The trouble is that it only goes a limited distance. He reassures me that he does not have any sinister intention behind the words at present. But I notice that he omitted to answer the question of what use another government at another time may manage to make of the regulation-making powers. He has not denied that it would be possible to introduce workfare under these provisions. For that matter, he has not denied that it would not be impossible to introduce national service under the provisions. Again, even the strongest advocate of such a proposal would agree that it deserves the dignity of primary legislation.

Lord Inglewood: I do not believe that a definition of training can be broadened to turn it into an instrument for the imposition of workfare, as the word is used in contemporary English. The noble Earl asks what possible use a future government—perhaps a sinister

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future government—may make of these proposals. I am not in a position to be able to give the noble Earl a categoric response; we do not know. However, taking the argument one stage further; to have the kind of sinister government in the future to which the noble Earl alludes, it would be necessary for that government to have a majority in the other place. If that government had a majority in the other place, there is every likelihood that they may be able to introduce legislation of which people disapprove by virtue of their being a government and therefore by virtue of their majority. The point being made by the noble Earl therefore is not one which in practice will be relevant. If it is possible to introduce some extremely difficult and far-ranging proposition, it will be the result of the decision of the British people in the ballot boxes.


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