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Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall respond. The noble Lord, with all his long years of experience, has devised a way to get me on my feet again. I listened with care to what he said and I should certainly be interested if the noble Lord were to send me copies of the examples to which he referred. However, I believe that we are talking about youngsters who have been given a choice of a training place or who have been put on a training scheme and have either refused to go on it or have come off the scheme. Therefore, I believe that they have had an opportunity and that officials of the Employment Service have tried to help them. It is a matter of considering what we do thereafter. Do we just go on

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ignoring the fact that they will not take any help and that they just wish to stay on that benefit, and leave it at that? I do not think that that is the proper way to address the problem.

I am sorry to be so negative to the noble Lord. But, as I said, I should certainly be interested in studying the examples to which he referred. As the noble Lord probably knows, during the course of debates during both Committee and Report stages of a Bill we look again at the matters raised so as to ensure that we have not missed a point that we should have taken on board.

Lord Henderson of Brompton: My Lords, the Minister's second response gives me the mere whisper of an excuse to seek the leave of the House to withdraw the amendment. I say that because the Minister has not rejected it out of hand. I am asking the Minister to incorporate in the Bill the innocuous words set out in the amendment which would make all the difference between life and death to the people about whom we are talking; and, indeed, would not affect the principles of the legislation one jot or tittle.

Why can the Minister not agree at this stage to accept the amendment, or at least say that he will reconsider the matter before Third Reading? I see that the noble Lord continues to shake his head. In the circumstances, I feel inclined to press the amendment to a Division. It is of very great moral significance as the noble supporter said. I should like to test the opinion of the House.

9.50 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 71) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 23; Not-Contents, 51.

Division No. 4

CONTENTS

Carter, L. [Teller.]
Craigavon, V.
Darcy (de Knayth), B.
Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.
Grey, E.
Harris of Greenwich, L.
Henderson of Brompton, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Judd, L.
Lawrence, L.
McCarthy, L.
Mackie of Benshie, L.
Mar and Kellie, E.
Masham of Ilton, B.
Morris of Castle Morris, L.
Newcastle, Bp.
Palmer, L.
Parry, L.
Russell, E. [Teller.]
Seear, B.
Swinfen, L.
Turner of Camden, B.
Williams of Crosby, B.

NOT-CONTENTS

Astor, V.
Balfour, E.
Blaker, L.
Blatch, B.
Brougham and Vaux, L.
Byron, L.
Carnock, L.
Chesham, L.
Clanwilliam, E.
Cranborne, V. [Lord Privy Seal.]
Cross, V.
Cumberlege, B.
Dean of Harptree, L.
Denton of Wakefield, B.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Fraser of Carmyllie, L.
Gage, V.
Gisborough, L.
Goschen, V.
Hacking, L.
Haig, E.
Harmsworth, L.
Hemphill, L.
Howe, E.
Inglewood, L.
Jenkin of Roding, L.
Leigh, L.
Lindsay, E. [Teller.]
Long, V.
Lucas, L.
Lyell, L.
McColl of Dulwich, L.
McConnell, L.
Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.
Macleod of Borve, B.
Marlesford, L.
Miller of Hendon, B.
Monk Bretton, L.
Northbrook, L.
Rawlinson of Ewell, L.
Renton, L.
Rodger of Earlsferry, L.
Seccombe, B.
Shaw of Northstead, L.
Slim, V.
Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.
Stodart of Leaston, L.
Strathclyde, L. [Teller.]
Trumpington, B.
Ullswater, V.
Wynford, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

16 May 1995 : Column 515

9.57 p.m.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 72:


Page 14, leave out line 17.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the amendment has been spoken to. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 73 not moved.]

Clause 17 [Recovery of overpayments]:

[Amendment No. 74 not moved.]

Clause 18 [Circumstances in which a jobseeker's allowance is not payable]:

[Amendments Nos. 75 to 79 not moved.]

Baroness Williams of Crosby moved Amendment No. 80:


Page 16, line 3, after second ("a") insert ("suitable").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, once again the amendment is an attempt to introduce the word "suitable" before "training", to permit a young person to argue that a course of training is not suitable and therefore avoid the removal of the jobseeker's allowance.

Clause 18 is a tough clause. Even in conditions where all the requirements of the jobseeker's allowance have been met it allows the Secretary of State to refuse the jobseeker's allowance to a young person. It sets out the grounds upon which the Secretary of State can refuse a jobseeker's allowance to a young person, overriding even a situation in which all of the conditions have been satisfied. One of the grounds on which he can do so is that the young person has refused or has not taken up a training place.

Once again, we urge the Government to consider the addition of the word "suitable" before "training scheme" on two grounds. First, for a young person to be put into an unsuitable training place is a waste of time and money for the young person, the employer and the trainer. Secondly, the drafting of this subsection is very wide given the stringent situation in which the young person could be placed if he is believed not to have satisfied the additional conditions required in the clause.

In some ways the subsection follows the broad lines of a previous amendment. However, it is more precise and narrow, dealing with the suitability of training. If the Government were to accept the amendment and put the provision on the face of the Bill it would avoid many

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additional appeals and a good deal of unnecessary trouble. The provision could be borne in mind by employment officers when making a dispensation for a young person.

I have a final point to make. I shall be brief because the hour is late and I do not wish to detain the House; otherwise, like the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, I would have much more to say. As with the last amendment, I do not see why the Government cannot accept this amendment, not so much because it is innocuous but because it clarifies, is helpful, more precise and more definite and therefore allows the young person to see where he or she stands. I urge the amendment because I simply do not understand why it cannot be easily accepted by the Government, unless on the ground of some strange machismo which makes people think that to concede anything is somehow an emasculation of themselves. I ask the Government to consider the possibility of including the word "suitable" in the subsection.

Even after the changes that have been made—I welcome them and the willingness of Ministers to move on at least some parts of the Bill—the Bill remains extremely harsh on young people. Very few changes have been made which enable the Bill to be a little more understanding towards their needs and requirements. I beg to move.

10 p.m.

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, as the noble Baroness explained, this amendment stipulates that a claimant would not be subject to a sanction in connection with a training course or employment programme unless that course was "suitable". Given the wording of the clause, that stipulation would apply to all the circumstances set out in Clause 18(5) (b) and (c).

Perhaps I may begin by commenting on one of the points made by the noble Baroness. We wish to be quite clear that this particular part of the Bill does not relate to young people. The provisions which relate to people under 18 are to be found in Clauses 15 and 16.

I am bound to say that I do not see what the amendment would achieve. As we have explained, the kind of courses we intend to prescribe are provisions such as the motivational courses, Restart courses and job plan workshops. Claimants will be offered places on these courses by Employment Service staff. A government amendment, accepted during the Committee stage, introduced the safeguard that the sanction could be applied only when the opportunity had been offered in this way. I can assure your Lordships that a place will not be offered unless the staff concerned are satisfied that the course is in the claimant's best interest. I hope that that touches on another of the concerns expressed.

I remind your Lordships that throughout Clause 18(5) (b) the claimant can escape a sanction if he can show that he had good cause for his action. This could relate to some personal reason—for example, for leaving the course concerned—but it could also relate to the course itself. If the claimant can satisfy the adjudication officer that the nature of the course was such that he had good cause for refusing the place on it or giving up that place,

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the effect is surely the same as saying that the course was unsuitable in his case. The only circumstance in which good cause cannot be a factor is where the claimant loses his place on a course through misconduct. If misconduct is indeed proved against the claimant, I cannot imagine that any noble Lord would consider that the suitability of the course was relevant.

Against that background, I suggest to the noble Baroness that it might be an occasion to withdraw the amendment.


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