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Division No. 1


Addington, L.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Barnett, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L.
Blackstone, B.
Brain, L
Bruce of Donington, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.
Chorley, L.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.
Craigavon, V.
David, B.
Dean of Beswick, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Ewing of Kirkford, L.
Falkland, V.
Freyberg, L.
Gallacher, L.
Geraint, L.
Gould of Potternewton, B. [Teller.]
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Grey, E.
Halsbury, E.
Hamwee, B.
Henderson of Brompton, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Howell, L.
Hylton-Foster, B.
Jay of Paddington, B.
Jeger, B.
Jenkins of Hillhead, L.
Jenkins of Putney, L.
Kilbracken, L.
Kirkhill, L.
Lawrence, L.
Lester of Herne Hill, L.
Liverpool, Bp.
Longford, E.
Lovell-Davis, L.
McCarthy, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L.
McNair, L.
Mallalieu, B.
Masham of Ilton, B.
Mason of Barnsley, L.
Merlyn-Rees, L.
Milner of Leeds, L.
Mishcon, L.
Monkswell, L.
Morris of Castle Morris, L.
Nicol, B.
Palmer, L.
Rea, L.
Redesdale, L.
Richard, L.
Rochester, L.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Russell, E. [Teller.]
Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Seear, B.
Sefton of Garston, L.
Serota, B.
Shaughnessy, L.
Simon, V.
Stedman, B.
Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Strabolgi, L.
Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Tordoff, L.
Turner of Camden, B.
Varley, L.
Waverley, V.
White, B.
Williams of Crosby, B.
Williams of Elvel, L.
Williams of Mostyn, L.


Addison, V.
Aldington, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V.
Ashbourne, L.
Astor, V.
Astor of Hever, L.
Balfour, E.
Banbury of Southam, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L.
Birdwood, L.
Blaker, L.
Blatch, B.
Bledisloe, V.
Boardman, L.
Borthwick, L.
Boyd-Carpenter, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L.
Brentford, V.
Brigstocke, B.
Brookes, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L.
Butterworth, L.
Cadman, L.
Caithness, E.
Campbell of Alloway, L.
Carnock, L.
Chalker of Wallasey, B.
Chelmsford, V.
Chesham, L.
Clanwilliam, E.
Clark of Kempston, L.
Courtown, E.
Cox, B.
Craigmyle, L.
Cranborne, V. [Lord Privy Seal.]
Cumberlege, B.
Davidson, V.
De Freyne, L.
Dean of Harptree, L.
Denton of Wakefield, B.
Dilhorne, V.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Eden of Winton, L.
Elles, B.
Elliott of Morpeth, L.
Elton, L.
Fanshawe of Richmond, L.
Ferrers, E.
Flather, B.
Foley, L.
Fraser of Carmyllie, L.
Fraser of Kilmorack, L.
Gardner of Parkes, B.
Goschen, V.
Gray of Contin, L.
Haig, E.
Hanson, L.
Harding of Petherton, L.
Harmar-Nicholls, L.
Harmsworth, L.
Hemphill, L.
Henley, L.
Hives, L.
Holderness, L.
HolmPatrick, L.
Hood, V.
Hooper, B.
Hothfield, L.
Howe, E.
Inglewood, L.
Knollys, V.
Lauderdale, E.
Lindsay, E.
Liverpool, E.
Long, V.
Lucas, L. [Teller.]
Lucas of Chilworth, L.
McColl of Dulwich, L.
McConnell, L.
Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.
Mackay of Clashfern, L. [Lord Chancellor.]
Macleod of Borve, B.
Malmesbury, E.
Manton, L.
Marlesford, L.
Massereene and Ferrard, V.
Merrivale, L.
Mersey, V.
Miller of Hendon, B.
Milverton, L.
Mottistone, L.
Mountevans, L.
Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Moyne, L.
Munster, E.
Nelson, E.
Norrie, L.
Northesk, E.
O'Cathain, B.
Oppenheim-Barnes, B.
Orkney, E.
Orr-Ewing, L.
Oxfuird, V.
Pearson of Rannoch, L.
Pender, L.
Platt of Writtle, B.
Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.
Prior, L.
Rankeillour, L.
Rawlings, B.
Rees, L.
Renton, L.
Renwick, L.
Rodger of Earlsferry, L.
Romney, E.
St. Davids, V.
Seccombe, B.
Sharples, B.
Simon of Glaisdale, L.
Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.
Stewartby, L.
Strange, B.
Strathcarron, L.
Strathclyde, L. [Teller.]
Sudeley, L.
Suffield, L.
Teynham, L.
Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Torphichen, L.
Trumpington, B.
Ullswater, V.
Vivian, L.
Wakeham, L.
Wynford, L.
Young, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

15 May 1995 : Column 340

5.59 p.m.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham moved Amendment No. 2:

Page 1, line 10, after ("Act") insert ("and in particular subsection (2A) below).

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 2 I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 5, 96B and 96D. The amendments are concerned with vulnerability and the definition of vulnerability.

The Government have allowed that where a doubt has arisen in relation to availability for or actively seeking work nonetheless someone who is both vulnerable and in hardship should continue to receive a penalised benefit of some 60 per cent. of means-tested JSA. In

15 May 1995 : Column 341

the amendment we do not deal with the issue of doubt, although we shall explore that issue later. Nor are we concerned with the 60 per cent. sum, woefully inadequate though we believe it to be. We deal instead with who is deemed under the Bill to be vulnerable. We attempt to define vulnerability, particularly, as your Lordships will see, in Amendment No. 5.

The Government may object to the amendment on one of two possible grounds, or on both. They may object that this is a matter for regulation and should not therefore be on the face of the Bill. That would be one argument against the amendments. A second argument would be a substantive one; namely, that some of the categories of claimant listed in Amendment No. 5 do not seem to the Government to be vulnerable and should not be included. I shall speak to each of those arguments briefly.

I shall deal first with the argument that such a definition should not be on the face of the Bill. The whole House made it clear when we dealt with the recommittal of Clause 6 and throughout the Committee stage of the Bill that it was deeply dissatisfied that so much was being left to regulation. The Minister himself admitted at Second Reading that this was a skeleton Bill and policy details would be left to regulation and statutory instruments. In other words, the details would be left to the discretion of the Minister and therefore would be beyond the proper scrutiny of the House and beyond the power of the House to amend.

The concept of vulnerability is pivotal to the Bill. It is pivotal because it defines what someone who is vulnerable—for example, a carer—may reasonably be expected to do when seeking and being available for work. It is pivotal in the sense that it defines eligibility for a hardship payment. We believe that it is sufficiently pivotal for it to be on the face of the Bill. Otherwise a major area of policy is beyond the capacity of this House to modify in debate. If it is put on the face of the Bill then claimants, staff and advisory bodies know where they stand.

The amendments are not inflexible. The final category in paragraph (h) of Amendment No. 5 allows for additional groups of claimant not covered in the list to be included. At the very least it ensures that those groups listed are defined as vulnerable.

Therefore, the first argument, which I hope your Lordships will accept, is that the concept of vulnerability is so important to the Bill that it should not be left to regulation but should be on the face of the Bill so that we can all see what is meant by it.

The second argument that the Government may advance against the amendments could be that some of the groups listed should not be designated as vulnerable. I wish to emphasise that, with one exception, this definition of vulnerability is entirely consistent with all the assurances that the Minister has so far given us. It is also entirely consistent with the concept of vulnerability used by the Department of the Environment in relation to eligibility for priority housing should someone become homeless. The only addition in the housing legislation which is clearly not relevant here is the case of people coming out of prison

15 May 1995 : Column 342

or a long-stay institution such as a former mental hospital. Under JSA such people would be eligible for income support rather than this allowance.

Therefore, the definition is consistent with what the Minister has said so far, with one exception. It is consistent with existing definitions of vulnerability used by the Department of the Environment in relation to homelessness and priority eligibility for rehousing.

The one addition in the amendment, which reflects the nature of the Bill, relates to those with incapacity points but who nonetheless do not have sufficient incapacity points to qualify for incapacity benefit. They should also be added to the list. All the other groups—women who are pregnant, those who have dependants, carers, people with an illness or disability defined by a general practitioner, the homeless, those under 18 or living in a refuge—are covered by the housing legislation. I believe that the Minister has accepted that all of those groups are potentially vulnerable. As I said, the only addition is to take account of the new incapacity benefit legislation. Someone who has points which would begin to qualify them for incapacity benefit but not sufficient points to obtain incapacity benefit would be deemed to be vulnerable for the purposes of JSA.

Why do we propose that addition? Many noble Lords who spoke in Committee on the Bill were worried about the interface between incapacity benefit and the jobseeker's allowance. People who fail to meet the either/or test for incapacity benefit will not be credited with the 15 points for physical disability or the 10 points for mental health problems. They will fail to get those points and will not receive incapacity benefit. They will therefore be required to conform to the jobseeker's agreement. We are worried and have expressed that anxiety on many occasions, and many of your Lordships have joined with us in expressing that concern, that some people may fall between the two stools. They will not be eligible for incapacity benefit but, because of their partial disability, they will not be eligible for the jobseeker's allowance.

The noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, has repeatedly given an "absolute assurance" that if someone is refused incapacity benefit they will obtain jobseeker's allowance. He has said that there will be no gap between the two benefits through which the partially disabled may fall. I am afraid that his "absolute assurance", which he gave the Committee in good faith, does not explain why people already fall through the gap between the two benefits. I have quoted the RADAR survey before. RADAR showed that in approximately 77 cases of people being refused invalidity benefit nearly one-third were then refused unemployment benefit. They fell between the two, just as we feared. That is happening now. Incidentally, none of those people was able to find work.

We fear that because a gap exists now and people fall into that gap the Minister's absolute assurances, though given in good faith, cannot cover some of the eventualities. We fear that the gap will widen.

I believe that the Government do not want that gap to exist, and I believe that they certainly do not want it to widen. If the Government were minded to accept them,

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the amendments would help to bridge that gap. How? Because they flag as vulnerable a claimant who is partially disabled and has some points towards incapacity benefit as accredited by a GP or by the Benefits Agency's own medical service, but not enough to qualify. What is that flagging likely to mean? It means two things. First, such flagging of someone as vulnerable will shape the perceptions of the employment officer. It will ensure that he understands that someone with partial disability—which could be a physical condition such as chronic angina or, more worryingly, a mental health problem such as chronic depression, or a moderate learning disability—is regarded as vulnerable in terms of the labour market. It will ensure that a sensitive and appropriate jobseeker's agreement will reflect that partial disability.

If there is doubt about abiding by those terms, and when dealing with mild or moderate mental health problems, flagging someone as vulnerable will also ensure, secondly, that that person, if in hardship, is immediately eligible for a hardship payment while those doubts are resolved and will not be required to wait a fortnight or so for benefit.

If one has been on invalidity benefit and for many years has been regarded as disabled, coming off that benefit as a result of the introduction of the new incapacity benefit legislation will be traumatic for many partially disabled people. They will be fearful, anxious and frightened as they are expected to re-enter an already overstocked labour market, bringing with them a track record of chronic ill health, irregularity of work, probably a lack of attachment to the labour market and lack of suitable labour skills. They are deeply apprehensive; they are in poor health.

If we have to force such people back into the labour market —that is what the incapacity benefits legislation does—at the very least I would hope that we could allay their fears somewhat by flagging such claimants as vulnerable, thus ensuring a more sensitive jobseeker's agreement and immediate eligibility for hardship benefit should they fail to meet the requisite tests. I beg to move.

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