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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I forgot to ask that question for which I deeply apologise. I wanted to ask the Minister—when referring to the numbers of those who overstay their release by a very short time—for an assurance that those cases would not be dealt with in the courts as criminal offences but by the usual disciplinary procedures within the prisons, for which I would have thought they were quite adequate.

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Baroness Blatch: My Lords, the noble Lord was kind enough to give me forewarning of the question. Whether or not he asked the question, I thought it was worth putting on record a response because there is a natural anxiety as regards the degree of flexibility in applying these new measures. I can tell the noble Lord that in the circumstances which he has now explained, the governor would be able to deal with such a breach under prison disciplinary rules. Indeed my right honourable friend the Home Secretary recently increased the powers available to governors for up to 42 additional days in prison. The guidelines which are being drawn up jointly by the Prison Service, the Lord Chancellor's Department and the Crown Prosecution Service on the referral of alleged offences for prosecution will ensure that prosecutions are reserved only for those who have determinedly remained unlawfully at large. Therefore the degree of flexibility which the noble Lord asked for has been provided. On the other point which was raised by the noble Lord—

Lord Monkswell: My Lords, I am sorry to intervene, but listening to the exchanges there seems to be a question which arises as regards who will refer a prisoner who has overstayed his temporary release period to the courts, and in what circumstances that will be done. How will it be determined that the prisoner will be dealt with by the courts under the new criminal law that is being projected? Who will decide whether a prisoner will be dealt with by the prison authorities under their authority?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, there will of course be guidance that will help the implementation of this particular measure but it is envisaged that the governor will make a judgment about the seriousness of the breach and the degree to which that needs to be addressed either by referring it back to court as a new offence, or by having a prison deal with it under its internal disciplinary arrangements.

In relation to the other point raised by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, concerning the number of breaches, it is my understanding that under the prison disciplinary system 12 per cent. of prisoners dealt with under the prison adjudication system were given 28 added days; in other words, awarded the maximum punishment under the rules at the time.

Statistical data on the number of prisoners who remain unlawfully at large for more than five days are not yet held centrally. However, I am told that in response to a commitment given from the Front Bench by my predecessor, my noble friend Lord Ferrers, a comprehensive statistical data base is being set up to enable such information to be made available.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, will that information come to me automatically when it is complete, or do I need to trigger that?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, the noble Lord can consider it triggered.

My noble friend Lord Lauderdale has already set out most lucidly the purpose and effect of the Bill. I shall therefore do no more than repeat my welcome for the Bill, which I believe will make a valuable contribution

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to the package of reforms which my right honourable friend the Home Secretary has introduced. We wish the measure well during its passage through this House.

8 p.m.

The Earl of Lauderdale: My Lords, first, I must thank my noble friend Lady Blatch for her support and, through her, her department for the help it has given me in trying to understand my daughter's research.

The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, raised two questions of which I did not have previous notice. In relation to the figure of 5,000, I must tell him that I asked the same question. I understand that there is no breakdown. He will find that my words were picked very carefully, not to hide that point but to cover it. I did not want to mislead the House in any way, so my words were chosen with great care. No doubt my noble friend Lady Blatch will write to the noble Lord.

On this occasion I could not sit down without having congratulated the honourable Member for Sutton and Cheam for her prodigious research and enormous enterprise in this matter. I ask the House to give the Bill a second reading.

On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

The Earl of Lindsay: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now adjourn during pleasure until 8.40 p.m.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

[The Sitting was suspended from 8.2 p.m. to 8.40 p.m.]

Jobseekers Bill

Consideration of amendments on Report resumed on Clause 9.

[Amendment No. 36 not moved.]

Lord Inglewood moved Amendment No. 37:

Page 8, line 2, leave out ("the terms and conditions of").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Swinfen moved Amendment No. 38:

Page 8, line 3, at end insert:
("( ) In the case of a disabled claimant, a jobseeker's agreement shall set down the financial help that will be available to the claimant to help offset the extra jobseeking costs that he may incur as a direct result of his disability and the personal help and equipment that will be made available to assist the claimant overcome his disability in seeking work.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, at this hour of the night the time has come to précis speeches. I shall do my best to do so, but my speech will probably still be too long.

At Committee stage in both Houses, the Government affirmed that help, both financial and physical, is available from the Employment Service for disabled jobseekers. The amendment provides for what is said to be already available to be specified in the jobseeker's agreement. Previous amendments in Committee in both

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Houses sought to explore exactly what help is available to disabled people who may incur additional costs as a result of their disability when seeking a job.

In Committee, at col. 684 of the Official Report of 20th April, my noble friend Lord Mackay confirmed that the Employment Service could help disabled people with the costs of searching for work and getting into work. Provision exists for assistance through the placement, assessment and counselling teams, and payments under the access to work schemes. However, disability organisations have found that many disabled people out of work do not know about such schemes or have not been made aware of them. The amendment simply asks for the kinds of assistance that are available to a disabled jobseeker to be set out in the jobseeker's agreement.

Some people already wait months before they can be seen by a disability employment adviser, and months again before a suitable placement can be made or equipment given. I understand that one deaf-blind man in the South-East reported that it has taken the placement assessment and counselling team over three months to approve just some equipment, and he still has not received it.

In another case, a person assessed as eligible for the job introduction scheme was still waiting for six weeks after inquiring about it. With more disabled people moving from ICB to sign on, there are fears that the placement, assessment and counselling teams will not be able to cope.

At col. 684 of the Official Report of 20th April, in Committee, my noble friend Lord Mackay stated:

    "There is no evidence that unemployed disabled people attending any of the Employment Service programmes aimed at helping with jobsearch face additional expenditure costs to enable them to attend or participate fully".

However, anecdotal evidence suggests that even the present access to work budget is insufficient to cover the needs of disabled jobseekers. Some deaf people have found that access to work does not even extend to the provision of interpreting services for interviews with DEAs, even to seek information about the access to work itself. In some cases, interpreters have not been available for interviews for the job interview guarantee scheme or new claims for unemployment benefit.

In one area, access to work payments for the assistance of interpreters at interview do not cover the full cost or the travelling time which is often significant in rural areas, thus leaving the full cost to be met by the individual jobseeker or the organisation providing the interpreter. While appreciating that access to work is being reviewed this summer, can my noble friend give an assurance that access to work will not remain in its present form but will offer enough assistance to help the thousands more disabled jobseekers who may require help from the scheme? Disabled people coming off incapacity benefit will need the fullest possible range and extent of specialist as well as mainstream assistance.

I believe that the amendment goes some way towards ensuring that the individual jobseeker knows exactly what is available to him. I beg to move.

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8.45 p.m.

Lord Carter: My Lords, the noble Lord set out the arguments extremely well. The amendment refers to the extra costs of disability and the problem that they create for the disabled person when seeking work.

As the noble Lord states, the help available to disabled people in terms of extra costs is not clear. Some help was indicated at Committee stage both in another place and in this Chamber. The amendment seeks to set out the information clearly in the jobseeker's agreement. It would then be entirely clear to the disabled person exactly what he could or could not expect from the agreement.

The amendment also refers to the importance of specialised equipment to assist in employment. I refer to such equipment as specialised computers for blind people, portable induction loops for the hearing impaired, and personal help.

The noble Lord referred to the access to work scheme. Although it is not strictly relevant to the amendment, having spent some time helping to fill in the forms at the end of the first month of the access to work scheme for a disabled person, I can assure your Lordships that the new scheme is far more bureaucratic than the one that it replaces. I was involved in the previous scheme in helping to fill in forms every quarter. A weekly form is now required. The scheme is immensely more bureaucratic and requires much more form filling than previously. No doubt we shall discuss that matter when we discuss access to work and in particular when we discuss the Disability Discrimination Bill.

From this side of the Chamber, we support the amendment. It has been made clear in another place and in this Chamber that there is help available. The Minister made it clear when he replied in Committee. If such help is available, the information should be spelt out in the jobseeker's agreement so that the disabled person knows exactly where he stands.

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