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Lord Renton: My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, I wonder whether he would agree with me, in view of what he has said—that the four particular matters which the Government have in mind may be covered by regulations—that it would be better not to use the expression "examples" because the word "examples" implies that there could be other matters. If there are arguably other matters, then those other matters should be dealt with under the ejusdem generis rule.

Lord McCarthy: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I should say that I agree with that. If I understood correctly what the noble Lord said, he said that he had no intention to extend the examples. How can you have a series of examples, which are examples of something larger, which you have no intention to extend?

5.45 p.m.

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, I would say to the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, that we are talking about the restrictions and not the examples. I would say in response to the point made by my noble friend Lord Renton that the restrictions that will be brought in will not be all encompassing because logically, were that to be the case, there would be no definition of availability

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for employment at all. I am not convinced that the logic of my noble friend's comments takes him to the conclusion that he suggested to me.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale: My Lords, I am most grateful to your Lordships who have participated in and to the Minister who has replied to the debate. However, I noticed that he carefully differentiated his pronunciation of the Latin phrase from the way the noble Lord, Lord Renton, and I pronounced it. Even so, I am not sure he went as far as the way the ancient Romans would have expressed it. I entirely agree with the comments that were made by the noble Lord, Lord Renton, and the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy. It seems to me that when you give examples you are implying that there are other matters of which they are exemplary. I very much hope that this way of drafting by examples, as indicated by the Renton Committee, will be pursued. I would very much welcome a chance of discussing the matter with the draftsmen and First Parliamentary Counsel. If the noble Lord, Lord Renton, would consent to join in such a discussion, it would, I think, be useful. In the meantime I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 27 and 28 not moved.]

Clause 7 [Actively seeking employment]:

Earl Russell moved Amendment No. 29:


Page 6, line 16, leave out ("to have").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, Amendment No. 29 deals again with the tendency of the Bill to have what are, in effect, hidden provisions, hidden requirements and hidden steps that the claimant may be required to take. I beg the pardon of the House for having lost my place. I was too busy listening to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, whose speech was most interesting and most enjoyable.

Amendment No. 29 and Amendment No. 30, which is consequential upon it, deal with requirements which may be brought in by regulation subsequent to the passage of this Bill. They purchase specifically on Clause 7(1) and the steps which a person may take if he is actively seeking employment. The Bill in its present form refers to,


    "such steps as he can reasonably be expected to have to take in order to have the best prospects of securing employment".

It is the words "have to" to which this amendment takes exception. There are no steps specified at present which the claimant has to take. Therefore whatever steps the claimant will have to take will be specified in regulation in the future. We do not yet know what they are. As so often in the Bill, we are being asked to approve a pig in a poke. As so often in the Bill, the Government are not relying on the general provision expressing a general principle in the way recommended by the noble Lord, Lord Renton; they are setting out to prescribe, one after another, all the things that a claimant should do and all the steps which he must take in order to prove that he is actively seeking employment. Indeed so many steps are contemplated that one sometimes wonders whether this Bill was written by John Buchan in conjunction with Lewis Carroll.

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I do not think that that is a sensible approach to the drafting of legislation and I do not think it is a sensible approach to seeking employment, because the best steps for a person to take when seeking employment may depend on all sorts of things. They may depend, for a start, on what sort of employment a person is seeking. If he is seeking academic employment, there are all sorts of things I would advise him to do which I certainly would not advise him to do if he was seeking a job as a bricklayer. If he was seeking a job as a fisherman, there are all sorts of things I might advise him to do which I would not advise him to do if he was seeking a job as a garage mechanic. Therefore the suitable steps depend on the nature of the work, on where the person is and on what travel one can reasonably expect him to undertake. They also depend on a person's circumstances, such as caring responsibilities, to which reference has already been made.

I simply do not think any legislators, however wise, can set out in advance all the steps which we can require all the claimants to take. If they try to do so, we shall have an endless refinement of regulation upon regulation upon regulation—the sort of proliferation of pages in the statute book to which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, has so often called our attention, and a great deal of confusion and a great deal of hardship on the ground.

A great deal of the disentitlement to benefit which is likely to happen under this Bill will happen for failure to take various steps prescribed by regulation. We on these Benches believe that even with the best will in the world we cannot always be sure that those steps will be in the client's interest as a way to finding work. There may be circumstances where a client may reasonably fail to take those steps. As we have not succeeded in persuading the Government that claimants should retain benefit pending an appeal, we must return to the restrictions on the steps that they are prepared to take. I may approve a list of steps; I may not approve a list of steps; but either way I want to know what the steps are before I am asked to approve them. I beg to move.

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, I have been looking carefully at the amendments during the noble Earl's speech and I think that there is a great deal of common ground between us. I shall try to explain that. Let us consider the effect of the two omissions. Is it the noble Earl's intention in removing the reference to "reasonable" steps, that the regulations could in effect make provision for a jobseeker to take any sort of steps, whether reasonable or not? I do not believe that it is. The first priority of all jobseekers should be to get back to work as soon as possible. The requirement for the jobseeker to take such steps in any week as he can reasonably be expected "to have" to take in order to have the best prospects of securing employment, is intended to give a clear signal to jobseekers of what is expected of them.

We have spent some time on this matter since the first Committee sessions and receipt of the views of the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee. The wording we have come up with is the product of considerable deliberation, and it may help the House if I try to explain.

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What we have tried to do here is to put an objective question at the root of the actively seeking work condition. That is the commonsense query "what do I have to do in order to have the best chance of getting a job?" That is then qualified by a reasonableness test as set out in the provision. To delete the words "have to" would take away that commonsense standard. The question is no longer "what should be done, subject to any limitation of reasonableness?" but "what is it reasonable to expect the claimant to do?" I suggest that that second question is harder to answer, because it immediately makes all aspects of the test more relative.

To give an example, I, knowing my nephew (in fact I have no nephew, so this is a hypothetical nephew), might judge that I could reasonably expect him only to do the tiniest amount to find work. It might be optimistic to the point of being entirely unreasonable to expect him to get out of bed before noon. But in order for him to have the best prospects of finding employment I know that he must make greater efforts than that. We must consider not what I reasonably expect him to do but what he can be expected to have to do. That is the point here. The steps a jobseeker should take are those that in reality he can be expected to have to take in order to have the best prospects of securing employment.

I should explain that the current regulations state that:


    "the taking of one step on a single occasion during a week shall not be sufficient unless taking that step on that occasion is all that it is reasonable for the person in question to do in that week".

They also contain a non-exhaustive list of steps which may be acceptable as steps towards meeting the actively seeking employment condition. Our intention is to continue that approach in JSA. As we have made clear, however, we propose to broaden the list of steps so that it will include not only steps that are actual jobsearch, as at present, but also steps that will improve a jobseeker's employability.

To sum up, we believe that it is up to jobseekers to take responsibility for their steps to find work. Those steps must, however, be reasonable and must take full account of their circumstances. Clause 7(2) (a) is intended to provide for that.

I hope that that explanation answers the noble Earl's questions. If it does, I hope that he will consider withdrawing the amendment.


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