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Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 4:


Leave out Clause 6 and insert the following new Clauses—

Availability for employment

("6.—(1) For the purposes of this Act, a person is available for employment if he is willing and able to take up immediately any employed earner's employment.
(2) Subsection (1) is subject to such provisions as may be made by regulations; and those regulations may, in particular, provide that a person—
(a) may restrict his availability for employment in any week in such ways as may be prescribed; or
(b) may restrict his availability for employment in any week in such circumstances as may be prescribed (for example, on grounds of conscience, religious conviction or physical or mental condition or because he is caring for another person) and in such ways as may be prescribed.

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(3) The following are examples of restrictions for which provision may be made by the regulations—
(a) restrictions on the nature of the employment for which a person is available;
(b) restrictions on the periods for which he is available;
(c) restrictions on the terms or conditions of employment for which he is available;
(d) restrictions on the locality or localities within which he is available.
(4) Regulations may prescribe circumstances in which, for the purposes of this Act, a person is or is not to be treated as available for employment.
(5) Regulations under subsection (4) may, in particular, provide for a person who is available for employment—
(a) only in his usual occupation,
(b) only at a level of remuneration not lower than that which he is accustomed to receive, or
(c) only in his usual occupation and at a level of remuneration not lower than that which he is accustomed to receive,
to be treated, for a permitted period, as available for employment.
(6) Where it has been determined ("the first determination") that a person is to be treated, for the purposes of this Act, as available for employment in any week, the question whether he is available for employment in that week may be subsequently determined on a review of the first determination.
(7) In this section "permitted period", in relation to any person, means such period as may be determined in accordance with the regulations made under subsection (4).
(8) Regulations under subsection (4) may prescribe, in relation to permitted periods—
(a) the day on which any such period is to be regarded as having begun in any case;
(b) the shortest and longest periods which may be determined in any case;
(c) factors which an adjudication officer may take into account in determining the period in any case.
(9) For the purposes of this section "employed earner's employment" has the same meaning as in the Benefits Act.
Actively seeking employment

6A.—(1) For the purposes of this Act, a person is actively seeking employment in any week if he takes in that week such steps as he can reasonably be expected to have to take in order to have the best prospects of securing employment.
(2) Regulations may make provision—
(a) with respect to steps which it is reasonable, for the purposes of subsection (1), for a person to be expected to have to take in any week;
(b) as to circumstances (for example, his skills, qualifications, abilities and physical or mental limitations) which, in particular, are to be taken into account in determining whether, in relation to any steps taken by a person, the requirements of subsection (1) are satisfied in any week.
(3) Regulations may make provision for acts of a person which would otherwise be relevant for purposes of this section to be disregarded in such circumstances (including circumstances constituted by, or connected with, his behaviour or appearance) as may be prescribed.
(4) Regulations may prescribe circumstances in which, for the purposes of this Act, a person is to be treated as actively seeking employment.
(5) Regulations under subsection (4) may, in particular, provide for a person who is actively seeking employment—
(a) only in his usual occupation,
(b) only at a level of remuneration not lower than that which he is accustomed to receive, or
(c) only in his usual occupation and at a level of remuneration not lower than that which he is accustomed to receive,
to be treated, for the permitted period determined in his case for the purposes of section 6(5), as actively seeking employment during that period.

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(6) Regulations may provide for this section, and any regulations made under it, to have effect in relation to a person who has reached the age of 16 but not the age of 18 as if "employment" included "training".
(7) Where it has been determined ("the first determination") that a person is to be treated, for the purposes of this Act as actively seeking employment in any week, the question whether he is actively seeking employment in that week may be subsequently determined on a review of the first determination.
(8) For the purposes of this section—
"employment" means employed earner's employment or, in prescribed circumstances—
(a) self-employed earner's employment; or
(b) employed earner's employment and self-employed earner's employment; and
"employed earner's employment" and "self-employed earner's employment" have the same meaning as in the Benefits Act.
Attendance, information and evidence

6B.—(1) Regulations may make provision for requiring a claimant—
(a) to attend at such place and at such time as the Secretary of State may specify; and
(b) to provide information and such evidence as may be prescribed as to his circumstances, his availability for employment and the extent to which he is actively seeking employment.
(2) Regulations under subsection (1) may, in particular—
(a) prescribe circumstances in which entitlement to a jobseeker's allowance is to cease in the case of a claimant who fails to comply with any regulations made under that subsection;
(b) provide for entitlement to cease at such time (after he last attended in compliance with requirements of the kind mentioned in subsection (1) (a)) as may be determined in accordance with any such regulations;
(c) 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; and
(d) prescribe—
(i) matters which are, or are not, to be taken into account in determining whether a person has, or does not have, good cause for failing to comply with any such regulations; and
(ii) circumstances in which a person is, or is not, to be regarded as having, or not having good cause for failing to comply with any such regulations.").

The noble Lord said: We now come to the three new clauses which are in my name on the Marshalled List and which replace Clause 6 in the original Bill. In responding to the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Richard, I have already outlined some of the preliminary points that I might otherwise have made when introducing this amendment. I hope that the Committee will forgive me if I do not again go over that ground. I shall simply ask the Committee to consider the structure of this amendment in my name.

First, let me take new Clause 6, which deals with availability. We propose to devote the whole of this clause to availability. Clause 6(1) provides a broad definition; namely that:


    "a person is available for employment if he is willing and able to take up immediately any employed earner's employment".

It is not our intention with this definition to introduce anything new or additional to the current understanding of the term. That understanding is made clear by case law, as I have explained, which already defines and interprets availability in these terms. The effect of case law is also

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that a person who is unable to accept offers of work either because he is precluded by law from working or because he is not in a position to respond to such offers is not available.

The vast majority of people who currently sign on for unemployment benefit and income support declare that they will accept immediately any work. However, we recognise that some people will want to restrict their availability in some way from that absolute condition to be willing and able to accept work immediately. Subsection (2) allows for that. It is our intention that regulations will provide that in any week a claimant who does not wish to make himself available at all times may limit his availability to a minimum of 40 hours. He may agree any pattern of 40 hours across the week, provided that that pattern does not limit unreasonably his prospect of securing work.

Thus a person who wanted to be available for night work only (10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Monday to Friday) or a person who wanted to be available for work on certain days only might meet the condition for benefit, provided that he or she showed that with that pattern they retained reasonable prospects of finding work.

People may also want to place restrictions on, for instance, the locality in which they are prepared to work. Again, it is our intention that the same labour-market test of retaining reasonable prospects of securing work will be applied under this subsection. Subsection (2) (b) recognises that there are certain classes of claimant who for specific reasons wish to place further restrictions on their availability.

Subsection (3) gives examples of how people may restrict their availability. Regulations will make provision for people who will be able to restrict the type of work they are prepared to accept on the grounds of conscience or religious conviction. Such restrictions will not be subject to the test of the prospect of securing work.

We shall make provision for people with disabilities. As we have made clear already in Committee, such restrictions on nature, hours, rate of remuneration, locality or other conditions of employment will be accepted where they are reasonable in view of the person's physical or mental condition and will not be subject to the test of reasonable prospects of securing work.

We will also, for the first time, make explicit provision for people with caring responsibilities to restrict their availability. They will be able to restrict the hours for which they are available below the normal 40 hours minimum where those restrictions are necessary in view of their caring responsibilities. They, unlike other jobseekers, will have to be ready to take up work only at 24 hours notice rather than immediately.


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