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Lord Swinfen: I thank my noble friend for his reply, which I shall consider when I read it in Hansard later. I may return to this matter. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 171 not moved.]

Lord Swinfen moved Amendment No. 171A:

Page 19, line 15, at end insert:
("( ) the amount of a bonus to take account of the travel to work distances of persons who may be entitled to a bonus;").

27 Apr 1995 : Column 1140

The noble Lord said: The purpose of this amendment is to confirm that the regulations made under this clause provide for the amount of the back-to-work bonus to take into account travel-to-work distances and to ask what are the Government's intentions in that regard.

The issue of travel-to-work distance arises most acutely in respect of jobs in rural areas. In the absence of jobs in their immediate vicinity, rural jobseekers have to contend with serious practical difficulties in terms of time and cost in travelling to would-be job opportunities.

I was encouraged by the remarks of my noble friend Lord Inglewood and what my noble friend Lady Trumpington is signalling at the moment on Amendment No. 150. I beg to move.

Lord Carter: Perhaps it will help the noble Baroness if I tell her that I have a three-page brief here and I want to read every word of it!

The response to Amendment No. 150 appeared to indicate that the travel-to-work problem will be taken into account. This is particularly acute, as we know, in rural areas because of the lack of transport, the distance from jobs and so forth. Therefore I hope that the Minister will be able to give us a satisfactory answer. And I hope that that pleases the noble Baroness.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I have a much longer brief than that, because initially we were not very sure what my noble friend meant by his amendment. Happily, I now know and I shall try to answer him.

Of course I understand that unemployed people may hesitate to take up work that involves a significant travelling distance and expense. However, I believe that the bonus scheme will help claimants to take jobs which are some distance from home. It can, for example, be difficult to meet the cost of a new season ticket before receiving the first wage packet. The bonus will provide a lump sum to help the claimant with that initial expense. That scheme, in tandem with the other incentives such as housing benefit and council tax benefit run-on, ought to provide financial security at the beginning of a new job. I do not believe that we should go further than that and relate the level of bonus payments to the distance that the claimant has to travel.

The bonus scheme will provide clear incentives to people to take work while on benefit and will encourage them to move off benefit. It will give them cash at that difficult point of transition. I hope that my noble friend can therefore withdraw his amendment.

Lord Swinfen: I indeed beg leave to withdraw the amendment. I reserve my right to return to the matter at a later stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 23 agreed to.

Clause 24 [Employment of long-term unemployed: deductions by employers]:

[Amendments Nos. 172 to 174 not moved.]

Lord McCarthy moved Amendment No. 174A:

Page 19, line 47, leave out ("two years") and insert ("one year").

27 Apr 1995 : Column 1141

The noble Lord said: We come now to the only other good clause in the Bill; namely, on the employment of the long-term unemployed. It is significant that when something is done for them, they are called "the unemployed". They are not "long-term jobseekers". Thank God for that!

The object of our amendment is to make the provision even better than it is. The object of Clause 24 is a worthy one; namely, to reduce national insurance obligations to employers who take on any of the half million unemployed who have been unemployed for more than two years. The amendment aims to go further and reduce it to one year so that one million workers will be covered by the amendment rather than the half-million covered by the Bill. The reason why we are doing this is quite simple. This is the only part of the Bill that does something for the unemployed. It is true that it is not job creation, which the Government used to do in the early 'eighties, but is job redistribution and preference. It favours the long-term unemployed as against the non-long-term unemployed. On the whole, we are dealing with men without qualifications. Their unemployment rate is twice as high. Many of them are over 50 and have no spouse who works. They have been unemployed for a very long time. All we can do for them if we do not pass this amendment is pray. I beg to move.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: The proposed national insurance holiday for employers—which I am pleased to hear the noble Lord welcomes—is an incentive to them to take on people who have been long-term unemployed. We chose two years as the qualifying period simply to focus help on this particular group, who obviously find themselves in an even more difficult position than, say, the one-year or one-and-a-half-year unemployed. The deadweight costs will be less than extending the scheme to those who have been out of work for one year. A considerable number of people find work between the one and two-year positions. The amendments would increase the scope of the scheme by including people who have been unemployed for between one and two years.

This can be done in two ways. If we stayed within the £45 million earmarked for this, the holiday would last for only eight weeks. I do not think that that would be very effective. If we did it the other way and simply paid for the reduction to one year, it would cost about £200 million. That is more than we judge we can afford to put into this particular scheme. We want to use the £45 million to concentrate on the two-year-long unemployed. In a number of previous debates the Benches opposite and I have agreed that those people are in the most difficult position of all. I therefore believe it is right that we should target this reasonable benefit on that particularly difficult group. While I appreciate that the noble Lord would like to be much more generous, I hope he accepts that perhaps the importance of targeting overrides that.

Lord McCarthy: I do not expect anything else at this time of night, or at any other time. We shall have to have a Labour government and then we will do far more. I seek leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

27 Apr 1995 : Column 1142

[Amendments Nos. 174B and 175 not moved.]

Clause 24 agreed to.

Clause 25 agreed to.

Clause 26 [Pilot Schemes]:

[Amendments Nos.175A to 177B not moved.]

Clause 26 agreed to.

11 p.m.

On Question, Whether Clause 27 shall stand part of the Bill?

Earl Russell: I have made no attempt to claim my ration of time but I have not become a Trappist monk. This is the Motion on which I want to raise a few points.

Clause 27 came in without a consultation process. We do not yet understand it. It replaces what used to be a government statutory duty to provide resettlement units. It replaces it with a discretionary power to fund resettlement places. I know that this is connected with the transfer of units, but there is no necessary reason why the Schedule 5 funding, on which resettlement units presently depend, should stop.

There is certainly a fear of it. An article in Inside Housing of January this year states:

    "No one is suggesting funding will be immediately withdrawn. The agency is officially keen to stress that there will be cash in the future. But some agency sources claim the Government will quickly cut spending on resettlement, and then scrap it altogether. The move threatens more than 200 projects in the long term".

That is why I am trying to replace this clause with an amendment that would continue a duty in a form which I hope is reasonably satisfactory to the Government. I shall ask them—because it relates to the whole matter of Clause 27—to think a little more about the effect of the Bill on the homeless.

Take, for example, Clause 6(3), referring to a person's appearance. One cannot expect the homeless to keep to that requirement in the way that others might. I hope that that is understood by the Government. My noble friend Lady Seear once referred to the homeless who have to sleep rough being required to turn up to look for work in clothes in which a noble Lord would not garden. I hope that the homeless are not going to be judged not to be actively seeking work if that happens.

The requirement to find accommodation, which is imposed on the homeless when they are claiming, is extremely discouraging when there is no accommodation to find. In fact, there are too many cases of people faced with that condition who simply give up looking. One example is that of a man who had been 30 years in the Army, and was clearly used to work, who said:

    "They interviewed me and made me sign a 'Back to Work' plan which said 'Find accommodation'. I gave up signing and survived on hand-outs for a while, then I got a portering job. It wasn't easy, getting up at 5.30 every morning and going to the station to clean myself up for work".

One in five of those who are actually roofless have no income, which suggests that the benefit system is missing them already. Under this Bill I believe that it will miss them a great deal more. Until it is possible to have deposits on the Social Fund when you open new leases, it will be very hard to get out of that situation.

27 Apr 1995 : Column 1143

We have a problem which is already bad and which this Bill exacerbates. There should be some process of consultation before this clause, which was not debated in the other place, passes into law without anybody thinking about it.

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