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Earl Russell: I accept the point the Minister makes in relation to a future government having a majority in another place. But a future government also may feel that that flexibility permitted them to do things which they would not risk doing with a narrow majority or a crowded legislative timetable.

Ultimately the power must stand or fall by the extent of the vires. Once the vires are there we must take the risk that they will be used. If the Minister has taken legal advice on the point that it would be impossible to introduce workfare, I would be glad to hear about that. But in relation to national service, I am sure that the Minister remembers the phrase "basic training". That could literally, within the ordinary meaning of the words, be introduced under these powers. I feel that one should be extremely careful before one leaves powers of this kind lying around. One ought, at all stages, to assume that something bad may be done with them.

I believe that all governments ex officio should be regarded as untrustworthy, and that includes any government of which one might oneself be a member. The last thing one should ever do is trust oneself with the exercise of power. So I hope that the Minister will not in any way take it personally when I say that any restrictions that they have should be put in, fearing the worst. As King James I put it, "From bad manners good laws". There is a lot in that maxim.

Lord Inglewood: I can confirm to the noble Earl that we have not taken legal advice on the particular point I raised. I shall write to him about it later.

Earl Russell: In that case, for the time being I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 25 not moved.]

Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde moved Amendment No. 26:


Page 3, line 19, at end insert ("provided that any registration required by such regulations shall be at one agency only, and that the designated persons are appropriately trained").

The noble Baroness said: Of all the amendments on the Marshalled List today, this one is very simple to read and one does not have to look at the Bill itself because the amendment is quite clear. It is sensibly asking that when people are required to register under the proposed regulations, they should go to one place only to register.

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Hand in hand with that, the officials whom they see should be trained over the wide range of issues that they will be considering.

For instance, currently young people have to register at the Benefits Agency, with the Careers Service and the Employment Service. The Government have said that they promise that these three bodies will be reduced to a two-stop shop. We hope that the Government will accept this amendment and we cannot see any reason why they should not. If there is a one-stop shop it will be particularly helpful to young people for a number of reasons. It will mean that they can identify the whole range of requirements of the legislation, but also their needs. They will be able to deal with one officer in that one office, whether it is about benefits, the employment position or their job opportunities and the Career Service support that is going to be given to them.

There may well be another beneficial effect that the Minister may not like as much. It may recoup some of the large amount of unclaimed benefits. We hear a great deal about people claiming benefits to which some allege they are not entitled, but there are also a great many people who are entitled to them, but who do not actually draw the benefits because they are not aware of them. This amendment will enable the individual to plug into one office and deal with one official with whom they can identify, although that may not be possible. In addition, there will be the tracking facility for them as regards employment and the benefit position. I beg to move.

Lord Swinfen: An extremely sensible suggestion has just been made. If the Minister feels that he cannot accept this amendment, perhaps he will come forward with a better drafted one at the next stage.

Lord Inglewood: As I have already explained, it is the Government's intention to ensure that as many young people as possible receive education or training and do not become dependent on benefit. But as we have also debated there are exceptional circumstances in which some 16 and 17 year-olds will have to claim JSA.

It is important that those 16 and 17 year-olds who do claim JSA receive the best possible careers advice and support to help them move quickly off benefit and into training. That is why 16 and 17 year-olds claiming JSA will be required to register with the Careers Service. They are the specialists and the people best placed to ensure 16 and 17 year-olds get all the available advice on training, education and employment with training options.

The JSA is a single benefit. Its introduction will allow us to streamline the arrangements for dealing with 16 and 17 year-olds and to improve the service they receive. As the noble Baroness said, at present, as well as going to the Careers Service, 16 and 17 year-olds have to visit the Benefits Agency as well as the Jobcentre to claim income support. Our intention is that 16 and 17 year-olds will be able to claim JSA and deal with related matters at the Jobcentre. I hope that answers the noble Baroness's point.

Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde: I thank the noble Lord for that reply, although it does not answer

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my point, as I am sure he accepts. The jobseeker's allowance will be paid to some young people because they are not in work. The Bill is intended to try to get people back into work, which is what we all want. Many young people see employment offices at the moment as giving them any job, whereas there should be a package and a claimant should be told, "You're on JSA until we can get you into some kind of employment which will help you forwards". People should not be offered just any old job; they should be offered a job in which they can progress throughout life. Such development is absolutely crucial.

We need an integrated policy, not a series of separate policies. The noble Lord may feel that it is not possible to do that at the moment. If that is because of bureaucratic or administrative problems, that is one thing; but if it is an ideological problem (because we have completely different approaches) that is another thing. Before I make a decision on the amendment, I would appreciate it if the noble Lord could indicate which of those two attitudes dictated his reply.

Lord Inglewood: As I explained earlier, the key to understanding the jobseeker's allowance is that it is a single benefit. That is the core approach, whatever the category of jobseeker's allowance. Part of the nature of the jobseeker's agreement which we have been debating is to try to establish a plan of action to assist the jobseeker to get into work. That is where the role of the careers service fits in. That is why we believe that it is appropriate that there should be an interface at the Jobcentres as well as at the careers offices.

Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde: Clearly we have a little misunderstanding. I hear what the noble Lord says, and although it does not respond to my point, I shall not press the amendment this evening. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 27 to 29 not moved.]

Clause 3 agreed to.

Clause 4 [Amount payable by way of a jobseeker's allowance]:

The Deputy Chairman of Committees: I should point out that if Amendment No. 30 is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment No. 31.

Earl Russell moved Amendment No. 30:


Page 3, leave out line 34.

The noble Earl said: This is another delegated powers probing amendment. I should like to ask the same five questions as before. If the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, can indicate that he has a copy of those questions, perhaps I need not repeat them. Does the noble Lord have a copy? If so, I can save some time by not running through them again.

The amendment, deals with the question of allowing the Government by regulation to determine the age-related amount which is applicable. Again, I want to know the usual five things. In particular, as this is a highly contentious issue to which we shall be returning at a later stage, I want to know how this House could give or withhold its consent if the Government changed

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the amount. As we are still told that Parliament makes the law, I think that that is a question which deserves an answer. I beg to move.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I do not have to hand the questions which the noble Earl sent me, so I am in some difficulty, but perhaps—

Earl Russell: If it would be any help, I can repeat the questions. First, why do the Government want a delegated power? Secondly, what do they want to do with it? Thirdly, what other things could be done with the power by some other government? Fourthly, what are the extreme limits of that power and what are the worst things that it legally creates the vires to do? Fifthly, how can Parliament give or withhold its consent to things done under the power? I am sorry to have assumed that the Minister had a copy of the questions when he did not. All of us have to deal with a lot of papers today.

10.15 p.m.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I am still in some difficulty because the amendment in the name of the noble Earl at which I am looking is to delete line 34:


    "determining the age-related amount applicable to him".

I had come prepared to explain in some detail why we had come to the conclusion that the JSA for the under 25 year-olds (the 18 to 24 year-old group) should be paid at a lower rate. Therefore I should prefer to take away the noble Earl's questions, consider them and reply to his letter in some detail.

Perhaps I may say, however, that JSA brings together two benefits—unemployment benefit and income support. As I said earlier, it is a well-established feature of income support that young single people receive a lower rate of benefit. Under JSA we shall be adopting for unemployed young people the same treatment as they receive on income support. As I said earlier, the average earnings of the 18 to 24 year-old group is two-thirds of the average for all adults, and if the young person has a family he can claim income-based JSA and obtain the same rate of benefit as any other family.

I did not say this earlier, but the large majority (about 75 per cent.) of income support recipients under 25 do not live independently. Where the claimant does not live at home, he can obtain housing benefit on the same basis as anyone else.

What this group of people needs is help to get into work and out of unemployment. The service has been testing special programmes geared to the needs of young people. National programmes will provide 130,000 places from April 1995. We believe that that is the right approach and make no apology for looking at the wider earnings of young people in that age group and coming to the conclusion that they can have less than those aged 25 or over.

I am not sure whether that is what the noble Earl was wondering when he asked what the Government intend to do with the power and what else could be done. I apologise to him. I was not aware that this was where he was going to attack me with those questions. As there

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are other parts of the Bill in which these matters come up, I have no doubt that I shall be able to address the various points about which he has written to me.


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