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Lord Inglewood: I am glad to say that I am clearer about the position in this regard and that I can now clarify the position for the Committee. The position is quite simple. One can be available for self-employment but one must be available for employment.

Earl Russell: I am grateful to the Minister for his reply. Before I decide what to do with the amendment, I should be grateful for a few further replies. I understand that some of the questions about suitability may not come up until a person applies for a job. But can the Minister spell

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out unambiguously that when a person has a job presented to him, he may yet retain a right to say, "I am not taking this job because I cannot do it", or that he may be able to say—as in the case of the job fundraising for the Labour Party—"I am not going to take it because I think it is wrong"? I should like clear answers to those two questions before I decide what to do with this amendment. If the Minister would consider that for a moment, I should be extremely grateful.

Lord Inglewood: The short answer is that it is always open to a jobseeker to turn down an offer of employment if there is good cause for doing that. That seems to me a fundamental principle. As regards the point that the noble Earl raised, it seems to me that there would be good cause if a person was unable to do the job. As regards his second question, I would object to doing the job that he has described but I do not think that one could say it was against my religion to do it. However, at the end of the day, it is a matter of seeing whether the test of good cause, as it is currently extensively defined, would meet the particular circumstances of the case.

Lord Campbell of Alloway: The situation would not arise because once the Labour Party discovered who my noble friend was it would not employ him anyway. Therefore that is a wholly hypothetical question.

Baroness Seear: There is an additional point; namely, that it is absolutely maddening from an employer's point of view—my memory goes back a long way on this—if totally unsuitable people are sent for jobs. It is highly desirable that there should be some selection before that point. There is the classic case of an employer who wanted a hydraulic engineer but who was sent a plumber. That sort of thing is extremely irritating. I hope that point will be taken into account and not only the point about what is convenient from the point of view of the employee. On what basis are the people in the Employment Service being paid? Does their pay in any way depend on the number of people they send forward for jobs or the number of people for which they get placements? It is important that we should know how they benefit in relation to the people they submit for employment.

Lord Swinfen: Before my noble friend responds to that point, perhaps he can tell the Committee whether a jobseeker's conscience can be taken into account. For instance, someone may be conscientiously opposed to the fur trade, and the only job on offer is one on a fur farm. Would that person be entitled to turn that job down and still be able to claim benefit? That, in my view, is a better analogy than a political one. However, that may be the only job going and the person concerned may have been looking for work for many months. Would he still be able to turn that job down on grounds of conscience?

The Earl of Dudley: On that same point, even if it is a fundamental principle that a jobseeker may be able to turn down a job, is there a safeguard written into the legislation that he can do so without risking being disqualified for the jobseeker's allowance, or forfeiting it?

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Lord Inglewood: A number of questions have been asked. I shall begin with the most straightforward one that was asked by my noble friend Lord Swinfen. In the proposed new Clause 6(2)(b), one of the grounds for restriction of availability is conscience. I hope that answers my noble friend's point. Obviously that must be tied in with good cause, and it must be genuine conscience. That takes me to the point made by my noble friend behind me. If you have good cause for not taking a job, then the various provisions and penalties which can come into play will not come into play. The two most important points were made by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear. Her first point concerned the Employment Service sending unsuitable people to employers. It is not ever the intention of the Employment Service to do that. Its intention is to send people to jobs for which they are suitable. First, the Employment Service wants to try to put people into work; and, secondly, it does the Employment Service's reputation no good at all to be accused of sending "duff" people to employers. That will reduce the achievements of the Employment Service on behalf of the unemployed. I hope that answers the points that have been raised on this matter.

Baroness Seear: The Minister did not answer my point about how staff in the Employment Service are paid. That is an important point.

Lord Inglewood: I apologise. I had a feeling in the back of my mind that there was a further point that I had not replied to. The staff in the Employment Service are paid on the same basis as staff in the Civil Service. There is a series of targets and rates which are assessed by an overall system. We shall deal with that issue in greater depth elsewhere in the Bill. I suggest that that would be the appropriate time to take up this point.

Earl Russell: The plot thickens. Are we now being told that an employment officer may affect the performance targets of his service if he does not send someone to apply for a vacancy? If that is the case, that would materially affect the situation.

The Minister has made a very gallant and careful attempt to reassure me. My misgivings have not entirely disappeared; they have been reduced. They have been reduced almost entirely by the invocation of good cause. That makes me the more concerned that under this Bill the Minister, and the Minister's successors—and we do not know who they will be —will have the power to define "good cause" by regulation. Therefore, the safeguard on which we now rely could be removed altogether. That is an issue which, together with the issue of performance related pay, my noble friend Lady Seear raised, both of which I shall address in the appropriate place. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment No. 6, as an amendment to Amendment No. 4, by leave, withdrawn.

Earl Russell moved, as an amendment to Amendment No. 4, Amendment No. 7:


Line 6, leave out ("may") and insert ("shall").

The noble Earl said: This is one of a series of amendments which replaces the word "may" with the word "shall". All the way through, the government amendment says simply that they "may" bring in

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regulations. My noble friend Lady Williams pointed out just now that all the safeguards that we have been told about in relation to conscience, religious conviction, physical or mental condition or caring responsibilities are safeguards which the Minister may introduce in regulations. One casual act of omission could blow them all away in a puff of smoke. If we let the provisions go through in their present form there is nothing that we could do about that.

There is a whole string of such instances, and if we are to make the Bill watertight, and if we are to put any weight on a series of often quite useful assurances that we have been given, we need the Bill to be in a mandatory form. Without that we do not have any reassurance. I beg to move.

Lord Inglewood: I get the feeling that the noble Earl does not trust the Government. I have the suspicion that he thinks that the Government will welch on their commitments.

Baroness Seear: The noble Lord may be right.

Lord Inglewood: Surely not.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: The question is whether we have good cause.

Lord Inglewood: We set out our intentions at length at the opening of this afternoon's debate. They repeat the proposals contained in the White Paper. I emphasise once again that the provisions for restrictions on availability are central to our policy on availability and central to JSA. We do not want to, would not and I suggest could not disappoint people with disabilities, carers and people with sincerely held religious convictions by failing to act on our commitments. Provisions will relate in different ways to restrictions on the nature of employment, on the hours in the week and the pattern of those hours across the week, on the terms and conditions of employment and on the locality within which a person may restrict his availability.

However, the regulations will be complex and the legal confines of a duty are sometimes difficult to interpret. A duty to make regulations creates a duty to make regulations to the extent set out in the primary legislation. Without in any way stepping back from our absolute commitment to provide for restrictions to availability in regulations, it is important to retain a degree of flexibility should we find, through experience, that the same results could be achieved in a more effective way but one which may involve using different powers. I regard a power to make regulations as more appropriate in these circumstances and therefore cannot accept the amendment.


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