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Baroness Blatch: I am grateful to the noble Lord for allowing me to intervene. I simply cannot allow that to go on the record as the last word on this amendment. To say that the Security Service is not accountable in the process and to suggest that the Home Secretary can act in some kind of cavalier way is simply wrong. The security services are accountable. They are overseen by the committee; they have a security tribunal; they have a commissioner, who will certainly hold the Security Service in operation to account. If a warrant is applied for and secured, it will be secured on the basis of meeting the serious crime test set out in detail in Clause 2.

We take the view that in the pursuit of serious crime--for example, drug trafficking, money laundering and racketeering--these powers are absolutely essential. They will be awarded only on the basis of conforming to Clause 2.

In conclusion, the Home Secretary himself is also fully accountable to Parliament for his actions. The whole situation is entirely transparent. Clause 2 does not refer to safeguards for the police because, as I have said, we wish to put the system on a statutory footing. It is a subject for another debate on another day. Clause 2 refers to the security services. I believe they are accountable; they can be trusted; the system is overseen and is properly transparent.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Minister used the word "cavalierly" in relation to the Home Secretary's use of the powers. The Committee will note that I did not use that word. I simply said that the Home Secretary can delegate his power to authorise intrusive surveillance to somebody else. That is simply a fact. The power can therefore be exercised by the Executive. Ultimate responsibility to Parliament is a fact; but it is a very remote fact when it comes to the exercise of powers of this kind.

I yield to no one and my party yields to no one in our desire to pursue those involved in drug trafficking, racketeering, money laundering, and all those things the Minister mentioned. Serious crime, as defined in Clause 2 of the Bill, is a very much wider issue. It has been made clear that it covers a large number of matters for which the kind of powers being sought through this clause are entirely inappropriate. This is not an issue of law and order in the party sense. There is no disagreement about the need to pursue

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serious crimes. It is fundamentally an issue of civil liberties. I am not satisfied with my own approach to this.

Baroness Blatch: I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord but I have just been reminded to correct the noble Lord on another point. For the record, the Home Secretary cannot delegate his responsibility for signing warrants.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: So, if he is not available, no warrant will be signed.

Lord Campbell of Croy: Perhaps I can intervene. I have with me the latest report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Nolan. In paragraph 7 he describes over the year--dealing with telecommunications and postal interceptions--the very rare occasions in emergencies when someone else has to do it. He is perfectly satisfied that it was very occasional and could only be done in certain circumstances. I recommend to the noble Lord paragraph 7 of the report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Nolan.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: That is nice to know. He can delegate under exceptional circumstances. Let us hope that the present practice of doing so only in exceptional circumstances will be maintained.

As I started to say, I am not satisfied that a Motion to oppose the Question that Clause 2 stand part of the Bill is the right way to achieve our very serious objectives in criticising the clause. I propose to come back at Report stage with precise amendments which precisely set out our objectives and requirements in this most important matter. I shall not pursue the Motion further.

Clause 2 agreed to.

Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 6:


After Clause 2, insert the following new clause--

Powers and duty of Police Complaints Authority

(".--(1) Nothing in this Act shall preclude or limit investigations by the Police Complaints Authority in respect of any actions undertaken by or on behalf of police officers in pursuance of activities authorised by this Act.
(2) It shall be the duty of the Police Complaints Authority to ensure that any complaint duly made to it by any person in respect of activities carried out in support of the police under the provisions of this Act by officers of the Security Service is forwarded for investigation by the Tribunal appointed under the Security Service Act 1989, which shall report to the Police Complaints Authority on the conclusions of any such investigation.").

The noble Lord said: This amendment was fully discussed earlier together with Amendment No. 3. I do not wish to diminish the central question of principle involved in Clause 2, which we have just discussed. However, the whole question of the complaints procedure is not a minor or technical matter. The view of the Minister is broadly that the existing procedures work well. From these Benches and elsewhere in the Chamber, we have sought to demonstrate that we are now dealing with a new

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situation. The problem of complaints and the shortcomings of the Bill remain. I shall not proceed with the amendment.

[Amendment No. 6 not moved.]

Remaining clauses agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported without amendment.

Jobseeker's Allowance (Amendment) Regulations 1996

6.15 p.m.

The Minister of State, Department of Social Security (Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish) rose to move, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 28th March be approved [16th Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am sure that it is for the convenience of the House that we also deal with the Jobseeker's Allowance and Income Support (General) (Amendment) Regulations and the Social Security (Adjudication) Amendment Regulations at the same time.

The jobseeker's allowance provides a new and very different way of giving help to unemployed people. It replaces an outdated, confusing and fragmented system which contained disincentives to job seeking.

We know that the majority of unemployed people want to work. The focus of JSA is therefore firmly and properly on motivating and helping jobseekers to get into employment within a framework which will provide a better and more streamlined service.

JSA will be implemented from 7th October this year. There are still a number of areas in the framework of secondary legislation to be completed before JSA is introduced, and so the Government are bringing these regulations, which have been debated and approved in another place, before your Lordships' House for your approval today.

The main set of jobseeker's allowance regulations was considered by this House in January. During the debate on the principal regulations, we made it clear that it was likely that the Government would need to come back to the House with further regulations, including amending regulations, before JSA was introduced.

My department constantly reviews benefit policy. It is important that the benefits that we pay to people keep up with changes in modern life and reflect the Government's policy intentions and that the public funds to which we all contribute are spent wisely. Scrutiny of income support and changes to that benefit form part of this process and it is right they should do so. A number of changes have therefore been made to income support since the principal JSA regulations were introduced. Because income-based JSA is broadly aligned with income support, we now need to amend the original jobseeker's allowance regulations to mirror these recent changes in income support.

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The original JSA regulations are an intricate and extensive set of regulations and it is right that they should be so. It is in the interests of JSA claimants that the rules under which their benefit is paid to them should be fully laid out in law to ensure that they are treated fairly. These amending regulations put right some minor errors in the original regulations, which detailed scrutiny has revealed.

Many of the most important and complex decisions on JSA claims are taken by adjudication officers who are independent of the Department of Social Security and the Department for Education and Employment and who use adjudication guidance prepared by the Central Adjudication Service to aid them in their work. It is important that that guidance is correctly drafted to ensure that claimants receive the high standard of adjudication they deserve. Preparation of this guidance has thrown up some areas of possible ambiguity in the original regulations. So we have taken the opportunity to clarify certain regulations so as to put their interpretation beyond doubt.

I turn first to the Jobseeker's Allowance (Amendment) Regulations 1996, which were laid before this House on 28th March. They make the type of minor amendments which I described earlier. Your Lordships may like to take particular note of one or two.

Regulation 10 introduces new provisions into the jobseeker's allowance regulations covering persons from abroad and asylum seekers. Your Lordships may recall that the equivalent income support regulations have already been the subject of a full debate both in this House and in another place. These JSA provisions do no more than bring JSA into line with income support and they will ensure that only genuine asylum seekers who have permission to work will be supported by taxpayers' funds while they look for work.

Regulation 11 also follows changes in income support. People on income support who are in residential care, nursing homes or certain other types of residential accommodation will be able to have £16,000 of capital before they lose their entitlement to benefit, and up to £10,000 will be wholly disregarded when calculating the amount of benefit they will receive. These regulations amend the JSA rules to bring them into line with the income support rules. Only a small number of people on JSA will be affected but it is important that they are treated in the same way as recipients of income support.

The Jobseeker's Allowance and Income Support (General)(Amendment) Regulations were laid on 30th April. Again, these regulations are mainly concerned with clarification and with keeping JSA aligned with income support. However, I should like to draw attention to two provisions of particular interest.

The Disability Alliance pointed out to us that the rules governing the ability to restrict the hours for which a claimant can be available for work due to part-time study, voluntary work or temporary lay-off did not link up with the provisions which allowed a claimant to restrict their availability hours due to their mental or physical condition. I am grateful to the Disability

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Alliance for drawing that matter to our attention, and I am glad to be able to correct the situation with the amendments in Regulations 3 and 4.

Regulation 33 is an amendment to the income support regulations. It is to ensure that there is no break in the eligibility for income support for a claimant caring for someone with disabilities. At present, a carer is entitled to income support if the person they are looking after has claimed attendance allowance or the higher or middle rate of disability living allowance and is awaiting a decision or is being paid either of those benefits. From 7th October carers will also be entitled to income support in cases where the person they care for has had a decision but payment is not due until a future date because they have not yet completed the qualifying period for attendance allowance or disability living allowance.

The final set of regulations, the Social Security (Adjudication) Amendment Regulations, consist mainly of amendments consequential on the introduction of JSA. In many cases the amendments simply bring forward to JSA principles which apply to the adjudication of income support. However, the regulations contain two new adjudication provisions which are needed for JSA. Regulation 56A enables an adjudication officer to decided a JSA claim in the jobseeker's favour and for JSA to be paid while the adjudication officer is still considering a separate question of whether a sanction should be applied. That fulfils our commitments during the passage of the Jobseekers Bill that JSA would continue to be paid in full in advance of any sanction decision. Regulation 56B provides that where a claimant or his partner switches to JSA from income support or vice versa, the existing claim can be terminated where the adjudication officer is satisfied that entitlement will exist to the alternative benefit. In addition, it provides that they will not have to serve the three waiting days for new claims to JSA.

When I introduced the Bill to bring JSA into being, I indicated that the Bill and JSA, when it comes in in October, will provide more help to the unemployed in their search for work. It will be targeted at those most in need and will provide better value for money for the taxpayer. It will offer a better service for the unemployed and will be both easier to understand and simpler to run.

As I recall, the noble Baroness did not completely agree with my views on JSA. Indeed, on 3rd April 1995 at Second Reading, she said:


    "the core of this Bill we believe to be nasty and pernicious ... it takes as a starting point the blaming of the unemployed for their unemployment and therefore seeks to make life on unemployment benefit, to coin a cliche"--
unusual for the noble Baroness--


    "mean, nasty, solitary, brutish and short... We have nothing but contempt for [the Bill]".--[Official Report, 3/4/95; col. 47.]

Those were her words on 3rd April. Her colleague, Mr. McCartney, in another place, on 17th January 1996 said,


    "We reject the JSA and all it stands for".--[Official Report, Commons, 17/1/96; col. 765.]

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It therefore puzzles me when poor Mr. Meacher writes an article in Red Pepper--a magazine of which I had not heard until he wrote the article but which is probably compulsory reading for the party opposite--repeating those assurances. At least, I felt that he repeated them, and he obviously thought so too when he said that the Jobseeker's allowance is unacceptable and that Labour will abolish it. However, poor Mr. Meacher had to swallow his words and say that it was the fault of his researcher, Mr. Ian Willmore, who made a drafting error. So it was a drafting error to say that it was unacceptable and that the Labour Party would abolish it.

Furthermore, on the detail, I understand that a few weeks ago Mr. Brown, the shadow Chancellor, vetoed attempts to extend the payment under JSA from six months to one year. As I recall, that was a matter which the noble Baroness particularly thought was "mean, nasty, brutish" and so forth.

I should like to know, as well as hearing a welcome from the noble Baroness for the regulations, exactly what is the updated position of the party opposite on JSA. Were the noble Baroness and Mr. McCartney correct? Was Mr. Meacher's assistant correct when he wrote the article? Or have the headmasters who summoned Mr. Meacher to their study and reprimanded him suggested that JSA is after all a splendid idea which should be backed and encouraged?

With those few thoughts on the wider scene, I commend the regulations to the House.

Moved, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 28th March be approved [16th Report from the Joint Committee].--(Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish.)

6.30 p.m.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I was about to thank the Minister for explaining the regulations. But given, first, that he entered into territory that is clearly unfamiliar to him when he talked about Red Pepper and, secondly, territory that was equally unfamiliar to him when he appeared not to be au fait with the reference to Hobbes and his assessment on the nasty state that currently surrounds us in the body politic of Britain, I have crossed out, rightly, my welcome thanks to him.

JSA replaces income support and unemployment benefit for those in the labour market. Last January we spent almost two-and-a-half hours discussing the JSA regulations--not the Bill but the regulations--that is, 160 pages, 10,000 lines and three times longer than the original Bill. At the time we reminded the House that, as a result of the regulations, 250,000 people were made poorer. Instead of having national insurance cover for 12 months, it was slashed to six. If one was under 25 one received a lower rate even so and after six months it was means tested which meant that if there was a spouse in work he or she would lose pound for pound.

Let us assume that it is the woman in part-time work. It is not surprising therefore that the only women who can afford to work are those who already have a husband in work. That accentuates the work-rich/work-poor divide that is such a problem in today's society. It equally affects

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the older man with a redundancy package which may exceed the capital rules and denies him benefit for which he has paid national insurance all his life.

We made the point then and make it tonight that a means test to JSA is a tax on a working wife. It is a tax on savings, and it also encourages dependency. If neither party is working they need more housing benefit and more council tax benefit rather than less; therefore, the partner on JSA will have to earn even more to spring both of them off dependency. He cannot, so he will not. Means-tested JSA locks people onto benefit because it costs too much to get off it. As the Social Security Select Committee recently said, JSA, like other means-tested benefits, may therefore be an additional incentive to fraud.

Last January we debated 160 pages of 172 regulations. Some months later we find ourselves debating amendments to 40 of those 172 regulations; in other words, the Government have found nearly a quarter of their regulations to be defective. The Government say that they need to bring the amendments forward because of what "detailed scrutiny" has revealed. That was the phrase the Minister used; it was used also by the Minister in the other place.

This House has a right to know why detailed scrutiny follows the introduction of regulations rather then precedes it, which is what this House has a right to expect. Therefore, we are having to amend regulations on such important matters as sanctions against young people, payment of training allowances, voluntary redundancy, hardship payments, volunteers, part-time students, short-time working, sickness periods, housing costs and occupational pensions, all to bring JSA and income support into line with each other. Talk about competence in drafting! The Government are giving a new meaning to the phrase "learning on the job". It is a pity about the unemployed who are at the receiving end of the Government's work experience programme.

We have seen exactly the same pattern with the Child Support Agency--it is not a new phenomenon--in which the Government pass a Bill, reject most of the amendments from the Opposition Benches, then six months later pass regulations and then spend the next two years amending the regulations and the legislation because they got it wrong as they were too arrogant to listen to the views from the Opposition Benches in the first place. Therefore, they have had to smuggle back in as regulations and amendments to legislation the very selfsame amendments that the Opposition moved in the first place.

Even the Treasury now admits that it has got it wrong in a wide swathe of social security matters. It has abandoned all considerations other than the narrowly financial. Therefore, the Government, the taxpayer and families have been paying the Treasury bill. The Treasury admits getting it wrong with the CSA and with incapacity benefit, and we now find that disabled people are actually dying before they receive the benefit moneys owed to them by the Benefits Agency. The Government are now getting it wrong on JSA, as these amendments, which represent one quarter of all the effective regulations, show. It is remarkable that after

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nearly 18 years in office the Government still cannot get their social security legislation right, their drafting or regulations, let alone their policies. They are all deeply flawed.

The Government are no more competent in getting their sums right. Savings to the Treasury were originally going to be £410 million in the years 1996-1998. That figure then fell to £320 million. Meanwhile, the costs of introducing JSA have soared to £280 million, to be spent on new computers, additional training and nearly £11 million on consultancy fees. That figure has soared also. So obviously the savings target has been cut and cut again. The Minister was very silent on this matter. Will he tell us that the computer problems have now been resolved and that the JSA computers and the income support computers are now talking to each other? Or is it true that we now have two systems which are going to run in tandem for a further 15 months? What sort of chaos will that produce?

We now experience error rates on income support of 22 per cent. Nearly one-quarter of all income support payments are erroneous--not fraudulent--but erroneous from the Government's side. According to the National Audit Office, they have either underpaid or overpaid 22 per cent. of income support. What estimate of error do the Government now anticipate on JSA when they cannot even get their computers talking to each other over income support? Do they estimate a 25 per cent. error rate, or 30 or 35 per cent.? We are talking about taxpayers' money. This inability to deliver the system smoothly is frightening.

Many of the errors will be due to inadequate staff training and resources. The abolition of home visits has meant that inaccurate information is too often processed, so it is not surprising that inaccurate decisions come out the other end. What are the Government going to do about that as regards JSA? Every report we now receive from the National Audit Office, the Public Accounts Committee and from the Government's own annual reports, shows that the rate of error and fraud appears to be increasing rapidly. Any means-tested benefit risks high error and high fraud. JSA is a means-tested benefit and will carry with it a similar high likelihood of error and fraud.

We welcome Regulations Nos. 33 and 56A, and some of the adjustments for the disability benefits. But one regulation being introduced today is not an error in the sense that it is a deliberate piece of Government policy. It brings the treatment for asylum seekers for JSA in line with the changes already made to the asylum seekers and income support. When the Government were introducing those changes they claimed that they would save £200 million in denying benefits to people while they were seeking to establish their right to have support in this country. The Treasury might save £200 million, but we argued at the time that costs would be displaced elsewhere on to Churches, charities and local authorities. Will the Government now tell us what the balance sheet looks like? How much will be spent on reimbursing local authorities? Given that one-quarter of all the families have dependent children, how many

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such children do the Government expect to come within the Children Act 1989 and what do they expect the net overall savings will be?

It is a deeply wrong policy precisely because the Home Office cannot get its act together. Many asylum seekers are waiting a year or more to have their claims processed. The right way to deal with bogus claimants is to speed up the hearing and not to deny all claimants, other than those at the port of entry, benefit in the meantime whether they are bogus or not. Asylum seekers are losing their benefit not because they are not genuine--how can the DSS know that until the situation has been investigated?--but because the Home Office is not competent. That is unethical. If on top of that the Government do not know how many are affected, how much money will be saved and how many will come to local authorities for survival, they are adding administrative incompetence to deeply immoral policies and then wrapping the whole lot in Tory Party conference jingoism.

In his opening peroration I believe that the Minister said that the point of JSA was the motivating and enabling of unemployed people to move into work. Oh really? There are currently 12 people chasing every vacancy. Will the Minister tell us how, by turning JSA into a means-tested benefit and making it more penal, and by encouraging fraud and error in the process, that will add a single extra job to the labour market? I accept that instead of 12 people chasing every vacancy there may now be 13 doing that. Perhaps that 13th person will take away a job from the 12th person who might otherwise have got it. In what way does that create an extra job? Worse still, perhaps that 13th person would have got that job by being willing to undercut the wages of the other 12 jobseekers. If so, that will cost the taxpayer even more by adding to family credit or earnings top-up, if it is extended, because as we and the Minister know, in-work benefits are now the biggest growing expenditure sector within the DSS budget.

In what way does JSA, and these regulations, create a single extra job save for the private consultants on whom the Government have lavished £11 million? JSA is deeply flawed and we shall review it. As we see today, the Government cannot even yet get their drafting right. We shall have to take the job over.


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