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Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, with the leave of the House, I understand that this amounts to Committee procedure and I shall go no further with this matter. The point about the test that we shall apply in relation to family credit type benefit for single people and childless couples is that it will affect not just a partner but the individual himself. It will not simply affect the partner rule.

As I explained, the partner rule has to do with the fact that the unemployed couple are treated as a couple. When they claim benefit they are treated as a couple, and therefore there has to be some kind of dividing line. I accept that the noble Baroness thinks that our dividing line is unacceptable, but I explained why her amendment would render some people who receive very high income support—for example, mortgage support—virtually unable to take any job because they would not be able to get a job that would give them more income than their benefit.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I do not understand that point at all. The new changes in the mortgage system would overcome the very problem that the Minister adduced. That is not a relevant argument. The Government have taken steps to overcome that problem for people going onto income support. The Minister is saying that he prefers to pilot an in-work scheme that will top up the joint income of one person in work rather than abolish the hours rule so that the person in part-time work can set that against a JSA in a pound for pound deduction and then top up.

The advantage of the second path, namely abolishing the hours rule, is that it will indeed do what the Minister wants. It will allow one person in a partnership to use part-time work as a stepping stone to full-time work or to an adequate income. If the 24-hour rule is abolished, you are more likely to find people in relatively unskilled, relatively low-paid part-time work in the hope and expectation that it may be a springboard. If the rule is kept in place, you cannot reasonably expect anybody rationally to choose to stay in work, even if it is a passport to full-time work, and knowingly be poorer as a result. The Government are imposing this choice on people: stay in low paid work, or leave work and get a more adequate benefit. Can the Government be surprised when people do the rational thing and go for the benefit, which is £10 or £15 higher, rather than for work that brings in £10 or £15 less? The Government recognise that. They are to pilot an in-work scheme to top up. We could argue about the sense in that.

I do not see why the Government are going by the more cumbersome route when they can go by the simpler route and abolish the 24-hour rule. It is simple. All you have to do is wipe out a couple of lines of the Bill. Instead, we are going through an elaborate array of pilot schemes, checks and audit trails, testing back on everything, seeing whether we extend it, and primary

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legislation. We are going through all of that, when instead all that we have to do is accept this amendment, which would have the same effect.

Why are the Government making life so difficult for themselves? Why do they have to spend more money and take more time to be less effective in doing what this amendment would offer? I had always thought that one of the definitions of bureaucracy was essentially that it was rational. I thought that there were many other disadvantages to bureaucracy, but at least it was rational. I have now even given up on that. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 12 to 15 not moved.]

Lord Inglewood moved Amendment No. 16:

Page 3, line 26, leave out subsection (4).

The noble Lord said: My Lords, we have had substantial debates on the provisions of the Bill relating to 16 and 17 year-olds. My noble friend the Minister has just given a very full definition of our approach. However, it still appears that there is much between the Government and the Opposition on this issue. I hope, however, that we may all be able to agree on some government amendments in this group. I should like to take some time to explain them.

In Committee we had a long debate over Clause 15(3) (b), as it now is. This deals with the revocation of the severe hardship direction if it appears to the Secretary of State that the young person has failed to pursue or has rejected an opportunity. The noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, argued that there should be a provision on the face of the Bill that the direction should be revoked only if the young person had acted "without good cause". My noble friend resisted this on the grounds that it was unnecessary because the Government's arrangements with training and enterprise councils and the Careers Service effectively provide this sort of protection to young people. But the noble Baroness argued most persuasively and my noble friend agreed to consider her points further. We have done so carefully. I shall not speak to Amendment No. 66 on today's Marshalled List but I undertake that there will be a similar amendment on tomorrow's Marshalled List. Our amendment will make clear that it is open to the 16 or 17 year-old who has rejected or failed to pursue an offer of training to say that he had good cause for so doing. If he does not do so, of course, the direction is revoked, as now. But if he does, and as a result it appears to the Secretary of State that he has shown good cause, then the direction will remain in force. I have several times explained that this situation is exactly as it is now in practice, but we have been persuaded that it is right that this important protection should appear on the face of the Bill. This is, I think, precisely what the noble Baroness was seeking, and I trust that she will accept my undertaking.

Amendments Nos. 16, 62, 67, 72 and 105 deal with the provisions in the Bill relating to the definition of "training" for 16 and 17 year-olds and related issues. This is another matter which we debated fully in

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Committee. The noble Earl, Lord Russell, approached it with all his customary passion for questioning regulation-making powers.

I remain convinced that the definition of training for the purposes of JSA must be in regulations, not primary legislation. Only regulations will provide the flexibility needed to keep pace with developments in training. New qualifications and training methods are being brought forward all the time. The Government's own programme of modern apprenticeships is a major reform of the training system for young people and has been very widely welcomed.

On top of this, the definition must be able to respond to different arrangements in different parts of the country. Government sponsored training in this country takes account of individual and local needs within a national framework, ensuring high quality. We do not have every trainee learning the same thing at the same time in all parts of the country. We have encouraged diversity and competition. In England and Wales, different TECs make different arrangements. That breeds quality. In Scotland, the system itself is different. It operates under different legislation and in place of TECs there are the local enterprise companies, Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise. The arrangements lead to training of the highest quality.

In the memorandum to the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee and in our debates on this Bill in Committee, we explained that our intention was that the regulations would define training as certain training provided for 16 and 17 year-olds pursuant to arrangements made under Section 2 of the Employment and Training Act 1973. In response to a debate earlier on the Bill, we have been considering whether we could provide noble Lords with a more useful definition at this stage. Your Lordships will understand that I am not drafting the regulations now as I speak, and these words may change between now and the publication of the draft regulations, but we have in mind a definition such as:

    "training for young people provided directly or indirectly by a TEC under its operating agreement with the Secretary of State",

and the equivalent in Scotland. I should explain that "operating agreement" is the term for the contract between the Government and the TEC. It is a long and detailed document and I shall ensure that copies are available in the Library.

We have concluded that the existing power to define the meaning of "other assistance" in regulations is too broad. As your Lordships are aware, we are very mindful of the need to use regulation-making powers sparingly and in the right context. We propose, therefore, that if regulations so provide, training will include:

    "assistance to find training or employment, or to improve a person's prospects of being employed, of such a kind as may be prescribed".

We propose to put that on the face of the Bill. I hope that noble Lords will find it acceptable.

This group of amendments is intended to bring about these changes. Amendment No. 62 removes from Clause 15 a reference to "other assistance". I do not speak to

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Amendments Nos. 64 and 65 but give an undertaking that there will be similar amendments on tomorrow's Marshalled List.

Amendments Nos. 16, 67 and 72 remove from Clauses 3, 15 and 16 the powers to define the meaning of "training" and "other assistance" in regulations. Amendment No. 105 adds a power in Clause 34 to define the meaning of "training" in regulations and a provision that, if regulations so prescribe, "training" includes assistance to find training or employment or to improve a person's prospects of being employed, of such a kind as may be prescribed.

In these amendments we have shown a willingness to listen to advice from the Benches opposite. In particular, I have given an undertaking that we shall introduce the concept of "good cause" into Clause 15 and we will limit the scope of the definition of "other assistance". I have also given your Lordships a further, clear indication of our intentions as to the definition of training for the purposes of JSA. I hope that your Lordships will be able to approve these amendments.

9.15 p.m.

Earl Russell: My Lords, the Minister is quite right that these amendments show that the Government have listened to what has been said on this side of the House. I thank them very warmly for doing so. In particular, I thank them for the "good cause" provision in Amendment No. 66. I am very pleased indeed to see it.

I am also entirely happy with Amendment No. 16, the amendment which is on the Marshalled List at the moment. I already previously moved such an amendment in my own name, even though it was not in quite the same package as the Minister's. I also welcome that amendment.

I am interested in and shall read carefully what the Minister said about the regulations and the definition of training. Before we leave the subject, perhaps I may ask him whether he would expand a little on the phrase "training ... provided ... indirectly by a TEC". I think I understand what he means by it. It probably means something to which I would not object. But I should welcome more explanation and possibly a slightly tighter definition. I presume that he is referring to franchising arrangements of one kind or another. If so, that is not in principle unacceptable, but I would want to be satisfied about the monitoring that is being done in relation to it.

I have slightly more problems about the amendment involving the definition of training. In this respect I want to speak to Amendments Nos. 104, 106 and 106A, which are also in this group and are in my name. The purpose of a definition is that a court should be able to decide whether the activity is within the definition or without it. A definition is one that must provide a test: does the activity meet it or not? We have attempted to provide a definition. It is taken out of the Employment and Training Act 1973, which is where the Government say in their memorandum to the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee they have gone for their definitions. The intention of these amendments is not in any way to be unhelpful.

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Amendment No. 104 defines an employment programme as meaning,

    "a programme which significantly improves the claimant's chances of finding employment".

A court can consider: does it or does it not? Does it qualify or does it not qualify? It is a meaningful question. Amendment No. 106 defines training as meaning,

    "training that assists persons to select, train for, obtain and retain employment suitable for their ages and capacities".

Again, it provides a test: does the activity meet it or does it not? Amendment No. 106A defines training schemes as meaning,

    "schemes that assist persons to select, train for, obtain and retain employment suitable for their ages and capacities".

None of those definitions is meant to be controversial. They are meant simply for the purpose of providing a test so that the court can consider whether something does or does not meet them.

However, when I look at the Government's amendment, Amendment No. 105, I cannot welcome it in the way I have welcomed other government amendments in this group. It begins with words which are painfully familiar to us:

    "'training' has the meaning prescribed for the purposes of this Act".

How on earth is a court to decide whether something is or is not a training scheme by virtue of that definition? It really is not on. I admit that the second part of the amendment, that it,

    "includes assistance to find training or employment, or to improve a person's prospects of being employed",

is a good deal more welcome. That is a good part of the amendment. But it still goes back to the same old language and ends up with the words,

    "of such a kind as may be prescribed".

It may be an uncharitable suspicion but I am beginning increasingly to wonder whether the purpose of this style of drafting is to give the Government powers which are immune from scrutiny by the courts because they are so meaningless that the courts cannot decide whether anything meets them. I give an example of training actually provided by a TEC in the North-West. The person concerned was supposed to be training as a pipe fitter. The employer providing the placement had so little work that the trainee was unable to get any experience. As a result, the whole of one year's trainees failed to reach the required standard because they had been unable to complete the necessary assessments for qualification. That story would fail our definition of training—and I think quite rightly too—but it would pass the Government's definition of training because it has so little precise meaning that I really cannot see how anything could fail it.

I know that Amendment No. 105 is not formally before us until late tomorrow night, but I will beg the Minister, in the spirit of the report of the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee, to come back with a little more explanatory definition, with a definition that actually defines. If he does not do that, whatever time of night it comes up, I cannot guarantee my reaction to it.

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