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Baroness Williams of Crosby: I was interested in what the Minister said in relation to Amendment No. 152A where the Government recognise the importance of notifying the jobseeker that a vacancy has arisen. I

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wonder whether he now sees the logic of applying that to the situation of warning people in writing about the possibility of their benefit being disallowed. It seems to me that the argument in both cases is in favour of notifying people who may otherwise not realise what is happening.

I shall not move Amendment No. 152 with regard to "suitable" training places but I wonder whether the Minister will say anything about that. Earlier, the Minister dealt with a situation where no suitable training place is available. Is the fact that a training place is available sufficient to meet the conditions?

Lord Inglewood: I am afraid that I did not hear the last point made by the noble Baroness.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: There is reference to a training place on the face of the Bill. Therefore, at least in theory, if a number of training places are available in a particular region, which are still vacant, although it may be that they in no way match the various qualities or capabilities of the person seeking a job, that person could be held responsible for not having taken up that vacant training place.

Lord Inglewood: We come back again to our old friend "good cause". Under those circumstances it seems to me that there is no doubt that the person would have good cause in not pursuing the matter further. Amendment No. 152 would prevent any sanction being imposed unless the place in question was "suitable". The word "suitable" would apparently not be defined further and we do not believe that it adds anything to the provision. As I explained, where some aspect of the training is unreasonable the claimant could argue that he had good cause for his actions. I hope that that answers the noble Baroness's question.

Lord Lyell: Perhaps my noble friend will assist me as to the word "notify" in Amendment No. 152A. Is there a set procedure to follow so that the applicant is notified of any vacancies? I believe that Amendment No. 152A does not change the current climate.

Lord Inglewood: I can confirm to my noble friend that that is the case. To notify somebody implies that they are actually seized of the information which one is trying to transfer to him.

Lord McCarthy: It is quite disgraceful. I should like the Minister to go away and produce evidence. As far as I know there is no evidence whatever that a significant element of compulsion has been a permanent feature of employment administration. Looking at my list, all of the areas in which compulsion operates at present, with the possible exception of YT, were invented by the noble Lord, Lord Young, when he was at the Department of Employment. The continuous cycle of restart and restart was invented by the noble Lord, or he told the department to invent it. There were job clubs and more job clubs. All those provisions were invented in the 1980s, as are the proposals now to extend all that to job plan and workstart. It is a form of busybodying and interference in the problems of the unemployed. That goes back to this Government and no further. Unless I am given absolutely convincing evidence, I

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would argue that the element of compulsion starts with this Government. It is a monstrous libel not merely on Labour governments but also on previous Conservative governments to say that there has been a long tradition of compulsion in the Employment Service.

Apart from that, the Minister appears to have no argument at all. He certainly does not try to explain the rising number of disallowances. In fact, he says that there need not be those disallowances. However, the fact is that the number of disallowances has more than doubled in a very short period. The most notable event that has taken place in the Employment Service is a move to compulsion. As a result, there are more disallowances. The Minister has afforded me absolutely no explanation or apology for that. Indeed, he says that somehow it justifies the Government continuing with their actions. Therefore, although it is twenty past nine at night, I cannot agree to withdraw the amendment. I shall divide the Committee.

9.20 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 151) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 18; Not-Contents, 41.

Division No. 2

CONTENTS

Airedale, L.
Carter, L. [Teller.]
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.
Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.
Desai, L.
Falkland, V.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Lawrence, L.
McCarthy, L.
McNair, L.
Monkswell, L.
Redesdale, L.
Ritchie of Dundee, L.
Russell, E.
Seear, B.
Williams of Crosby, B. [Teller.]

NOT-CONTENTS

Abinger, L.
Addison, V.
Annaly, L.
Balfour, E.
Blaker, L.
Blatch, B.
Brougham and Vaux, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B.
Carnock, L.
Chalker of Wallasey, B.
Craigmyle, L.
Cranborne, V. [Lord Privy Seal.]
Denham, L.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Downshire, M.
Ferrers, E.
Goschen, V.
Henley, L.
HolmPatrick, L.
Howe, E.
Inglewood, L.
Kingsland, L.
Leigh, L.
Lindsay, E.
Long, V. [Teller.]
Lucas, L.
Lyell, L.
McColl of Dulwich, L.
Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.
Mackay of Clashfern, L. [Lord Chancellor.]
Marlesford, L.
Miller of Hendon, B.
Northbourne, L.
Rawlings, B.
Renton, L.
Rodger of Earlsferry, L.
Seccombe, B.
Shrewsbury, E.
Skidelsky, L.
Strathclyde, L. [Teller.]
Trumpington, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

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27 Apr 1995 : Column 1116

9.28 p.m.

[Amendment No. 152 not moved.]

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: As Amendment No. 152A is grouped with the previous one and the previous one was defeated, I think that by the convention and Standing Orders of this Chamber this amendment now falls. The Minister gave no indication when speaking that this was separate from the others. We voted on the first amendment in the group and that fell; therefore the entire group falls.

Earl Russell: I do not think that is correct. The rule is that, if it is consequential upon the first amendment, then it is also carried or defeated as the case may be. I do not think that this is consequential and I do not think either the noble Baroness or the Minister would wish to think that their amendments were consequential upon each other. I think the Standing Order which prevails is that it is always open to—

The Deputy Chairman of Committees: I said that if Amendment No. 151 were agreed to I could not call Amendments Nos. 152 or 152A. Therefore I can now call Amendment No. 152A.

Lord Inglewood moved Amendment No. 152A:


Page 14, line 16, leave out ("refused or") and insert ("after a place on such a scheme or programme has been notified to him by an employment officer as vacant or about to become vacant, refused or failed to apply for it or to accept it when offered to him;
( )") .

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 153 and 154 not moved.]

9.30 p.m.

Lord Carter moved Amendment No. 155:


Page 15, line 2, at end insert:
("( ) prescribe circumstances in which a person is to be regarded as having good cause if he leaves employment to take up caring responsibilities.").

The noble Lord said: With Amendment No. 155 we come to the important question of carers and their connection with the jobseeker's allowance. The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that a person who leaves work because of caring responsibilities will not be treated as having voluntarily left work without just cause and hence disqualified from JSA. The wording may not be perfect, but I believe that the Committee will understand the purpose of the amendment.

I remind the Committee that only last Friday the other place discussed the Carers (Recognition and Services) Bill, a Private Member's Bill which I believe the Government support. In that debate (at col. 426 of Commons Hansard for 21st April) it was pointed out that an estimated 1.5 million carers provide care for 20 hours a week or more and that that caring army of 1.5 million people is a larger labour force in our welfare society than the entire labour force of the National Health Service and the social services departments combined. If the Minister refers in his reply to the public expenditure arguments we should remember the billions of pounds that are saved for the public purse by carers.

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I turn now to the detail of the amendment. Many carers are forced to leave work because of the pressure of their caring responsibilities at home. The fear is that, without clear guarantees, those carers may be deemed to have voluntarily left employment and then may be disqualified from JSA. Many people with caring responsibilities try to combine paid work with caring. An estimated 13 per cent. of all individuals in paid employment also have a caring responsibility. There are an estimated 3 million worker carers in the UK. Many working carers are excluded from the figure which was mentioned in the other place or are subsumed in that figure. Many of those working carers face intolerable stresses and strains in trying to combine their paid work with caring. Eventually, the strain can become too much and carers may be forced reluctantly to give up work altogether.

A survey by Caring Costs, an organisation which campaigns for an independent income for carers, showed that 53 per cent. of carers had given up work to care for a relation at home; 50 per cent. of carers who were still working experience increased stress as a result of their caring responsibilities; 28 per cent. said that the quality of their work had also suffered; and 40 per cent. were unsure whether they could combine paid work with caring.

Some carers who give up work to care will still want to be considered as jobseekers, but their claim may be affected if they are considered to have:


    "voluntarily left ... employment without just cause".

The purpose of the amendment is to find out from the Government whether their claim would be affected.

I am advised that the Carers National Association already receives telephone calls from carers who have been told that they have "left work voluntarily". However, as all the evidence illustrates, there is often no choice for carers who leave work either because they can no longer bear the strain of combining work and caring or their relation's care needs have increased. One has only to think of people caring for relations with Alzheimer's disease, motor neurone disease or other such conditions, to recognise that.

We believe that the Government should give some guarantee that a person who leaves work because of caring responsibilities will not be treated as voluntarily leaving work without just cause. The Carers National Association and Caring Costs have quoted a number of cases which I do not have time to quote but which illustrate extremely well the anxiety which exists on this matter. I hope that when the Minister replies he will be able to give a satisfactory response. I beg to move.


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