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Lord Inglewood: I hope that the noble Earl will forgive my interrupting him. As I hope I made clear, the point is to establish a non-exhaustive list rather than an exhaustive list.

Earl Russell: I am relieved to hear that. It goes a long way to reassure me. However, if the list is to be non-exhaustive, I do not understand why it is worth making. One has to judge these matters on their merits. I cite the example of someone who has to walk five miles every day to his Jobcentre. Let us suppose that that person said one day that he could not attend the Jobcentre because he had blisters. I would not be happy with providing either that that was a good cause or that it was not. I should have thought that it depended on how bad the blisters were. The best way to find out would be to ask the man's doctor, and not to make another regulation. I believe that this is an entirely misguided method of legislation. During a moment of osmosis, we may think about whether this is really a sensible way to set about legislating. I look forward to hearing a reply.

Lord Inglewood: Throughout the Jobseekers Bill we aim to introduce greater clarity to benefit procedures and conditions. At present the adjudication officer decides on the merit of each case whether the claimant has good cause guided only by precedent. That introduces uncertainty into the arrangements both for the claimant and Jobcentre staff. By prescribing in a non-exhaustive list matters which are, or are not, to be taken into account by the adjudication officer it will be clearer for all concerned whether the reasons for non-attendance should lead to the claimant losing benefit.

Earl Russell: In its report the committee, chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Renton, explained most eloquently how the continuous pursuit of certainty leads in the end to a self-defeating growth in uncertainty. I have never seen that point demonstrated so clearly as today. I had no idea

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that the noble Lord was quite as right as he obviously is. Nevertheless, for the time being I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Inglewood moved Amendment No. 67:

Page 5, line 39, leave out ("without good cause").

The noble Lord said: I spoke to this amendment earlier.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Inglewood moved Amendment No. 68:

Page 5, line 41, after ("subsection") insert:
("( ) provide for entitlement to cease at such time (after he last attended in compliance with requirements of the kind mentioned in subsection (4) (a)) as may be determined in accordance with the regulations;
( ) provide for entitlement not to cease if the claimant shows, within a prescribed period of his failure to comply, that he had good cause for that failure;").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 69 and 70 not moved.]

Baroness Williams of Crosby moved Amendment No. 71:

Page 6, line 7, at end insert:
("( ) Regulations may provide for an income-based jobseeker's allowance (a "hardship allowance") to be payable to a person in need (a "vulnerable person") where the person would otherwise suffer hardship and—
(a) is not available for work;
(b) is not actively seeking work;
(c) has not entered into a jobseeker's agreement; or
(d) the question of his entitlement to jobseeker's allowance under sections 6, 7, or 8 has been referred to an adjudication officer for a determination.")

The noble Baroness said: This amendment has the objective of providing for a hardship allowance—the minimum level of benefit—in circumstances where the claimant is, for reasons determined, not available for work—that is to say, he does not satisfy the requirements defined in that terminology; where he is not actively seeking work—again he does not satisfy the requirements laid down for that definition; where he has not entered into a jobseeker's agreement; or, finally, the issue which we have discussed at some length in the Committee, where the adjudication has not yet taken place.

I shall not pursue the arguments at length because we have already deployed them a good deal in Committee. However, the force of the amendment is essentially that men and women should not be left without any means of legal sustenance of any kind in circumstances beyond their control where they are unable to draw benefit and are unable to draw any other kind of income.

The anxiety we have was expressed eloquently earlier in the Committee stages by the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis. She referred to the problem that arises when people have no legal means of income whatever. I find that we too easily dismiss the problem of how one obtains income in those circumstances. We too easily dismiss the possibility that people may be driven to crime or other acts against the legal structure of our society by their inability to obtain a basic income from any legal source whatever.

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In view of the late hour, I shall not move Amendment No. 71 at great length. Its purpose is to try to provide as a basic final entitlement—not for those who are job-shy but for those who have gone through all the procedures to try to establish their right to legal entitlement—that they shall be entitled to a hardship allowance and a minimum level of benefit as an alternative to being driven to extra legal methods of trying to pay their basic bills. I beg to move.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: I support Amendment No. 71 but perhaps I may ask the noble Baroness whether she was also speaking to Amendments Nos. 101, 102, 180 and 182.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: Yes, I should have been but I felt that in view of the time we should refer briefly to Amendments Nos. 101 and 102. I am sorry that I did not do so and am grateful to the noble Baroness for mentioning it. The purpose of Amendment No. 101 is to ensure that adjudication of any claims is made within a relatively short time and that where the adjudication is not made within 14 days, there should be a continuing entitlement to the jobseeker's allowance. We understand that the average period in which adjudication is made can be as long as 22 weeks or even longer. Therefore, at present, no allowance is made in the Bill to provide people with means of benefit to sustain themselves while they wait for a final adjudication.

We return to the point which has been made time and again about the Bill that people should not be found guilty while their proof remains to be heard. We should make the normal assumption of innocence until guilt is proven. In this case, that means that benefit should continue to be paid until the adjudication is made. With some of the most vulnerable and impoverished people in our society, it must be wrong to make a decision in advance of adjudication that tells against their right to benefit.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: I thank the noble Baroness for clarifying Amendment No. 101 for us, as well as the other amendments in the group. We support them and Amendment No. 71.

As the noble Baroness explained persuasively to us, Amendment No. 71 involves our anxiety where the Government are withdrawing the statutory right to those who fail the vulnerability and hardship tests. Thousands will have nothing to live on; some will be awkward customers who insist on living. We have the experience of America, which shows what happens when they take to the streets. We have said less tonight about the others who will not have that fortitude to survive because they are vulnerable. English may not be their first language; they may have a drink problem or a moderate mental health problem which is not easily detected but which makes them virtually unemployable or, as we are increasingly learning, they may be on the streets because they come from a background (you can almost chart the history) of family abuse leading to local authority care, the Army and out on to the streets, never having experienced a satisfactory family life and being unable

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to survive outside some version or other of institutional care. And they are incompetent. They are vulnerable because they are inarticulate.

Therefore, because they are vulnerable and inarticulate, they are less likely to be able to persuade suspicious, doubting and sometimes cynical employment officers that they are vulnerable. The inarticulacy that makes them vulnerable is the precise reason why their vulnerability may not be recognised. They are not pretty; they are not persuasive; and they are not physically obvious in their portrayal of desperation. I do not believe that I am understating the position. We are sentencing them to the world of the street undead, the shadowy drifters, huddled with their dogs for warmth on the streets as we step over them on the way to the theatre. We should not do that to any fellow human being.

Therefore, we have two paths. We can provide—as I believe these Benches would infinitely prefer and, I suspect, in all good faith many Members opposite would prefer—that benefit should continue in full until the appeal has been heard, with a hardship payment continuing, as now happens in the case of unemployment benefit, if the decision goes against the claimant. So there would be a decent minimum competence, although still well below income support level. In that way no one ever again has the right to justify breaking a window because he does not have bread to eat. How can we morally sentence someone for breaking a window if we deny him the legitimate means of getting bread to eat?

If that is not acceptable to the Government—and we shall return to this matter on Report—the Government must take the other route. They must ensure that those unemployed people who are judged by the Employment Service to be neither vulnerable nor in hardship, even though they may be wrong on both counts, nonetheless have speedy access to adjudication and appeals so that their case may be heard. As the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, said, in 1993-94 such appeals were taking up to 20 weeks. What are those people to live off in the meanwhile? They will have 20 weeks on the streets. Therefore we say that either the Government must continue to pay benefit until the appeal is heard, and thereafter hardship, or they must support an amendment to ensure an expedited appeals system so that at least those who are genuinely seeking work will have their benefit fully restored. I give my heartfelt support to all these amendments.

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