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New Deal Regulations

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): Regulation 73 of the Jobseeker's Allowance Regulations 1996 (as amended by the Social Security Amendment (New Deal) Regulations 1997) sets out the circumstances which constitute good cause for refusing one of the options of the New Deal for 18-24 year olds. The list is not exhaustive and the adjudication officer will take into account any information a claimant makes available to support his or her position before reaching a decision on whether a sanction should be imposed.

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Blackstone: Opportunities for work, education and training under our New Deal for young people and long term unemployed adults will be provided pursuant to arrangements made by the Secretary of State under the Employment and Training Act 1973, as amended by the Employment Act 1988. The Social Security Amendment (New Deal) Regulations 1997

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implement our policy that young people who enter the New Deal have the responsibility to participate in the programme if they remain unemployed, and that there is no option of continuing indefinitely on full benefit for those who refuse to participate.

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    For how long and at what rate those who refuse to accept any of the four options under the welfare to work pilot schemes will lose benefit; and under what vires the loss of benefit is imposed.[HL279]

Baroness Blackstone: The New Deal for 18-24 year olds will help young people to improve their employability and to find work. In return young people have the responsibility to take advantage of the New Deal opportunities open to them. Young people who, without good cause, fail to attend or give up a place on one of the four New Deal options which has previously been notified to them in writing will lose their Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) for two weeks. If, having lost JSA for two weeks, they again, without good cause, fail to attend or give up a place at any time in the following 12 months they will lose JSA for four weeks. There is no upper limit to the number of occasions on which a four-week loss of JSA can recur in any 12 month period. Of course, in order to start receiving money young people have only to accept their place on the New Deal. These arrangements are set out in section 19 of the Jobseeker's Act 1995, and Part V of the Jobseeker's Allowance Regulations 1996, as amended by the Social Security Amendment (New Deal) Regulations 1997.

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the rate of disentitlement under the pilot schemes for welfare to work is the same as is intended to be applied under the full scheme.[HL280]

Baroness Blackstone: The New Deal for 18-24 year olds was introduced in a number of pathfinder areas in January 1998 and will be introduced in all other areas in Britain in April 1998. The benefit sanction arrangements will be the same in all areas of the country.

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether those who have accepted one of the options under the welfare to work pilot schemes will receive benefits while they wait for a placement to be found for them; and, if so, at what rate.[HL281]

Baroness Blackstone: Yes. Unless serving a benefit sanction, young people on the New Deal for 18-24 year olds will continue to receive Jobseeker's Allowance at the rate appropriate to their circumstances until they accept and take up a place on a New Deal option.

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether those who have accepted one of the four options under the welfare to work scheme will be compelled to accept the first placement they are offered; and whether and to what extent they will be allowed to wait for a suitable option.[HL282]

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Baroness Blackstone: Our commitment is that each young person on the New Deal for 18-24 years olds will be provided with the chance to pursue one or more places in one or more of the four New Deal options before reaching the stage at which he or she is required to take up a place notified in writing by an employment officer. No one will be compelled to accept the first and only placement they have been offered.

Palace of Westminster: Childcare Facilities

Lord Braine of Wheatley asked the Chairman of Committees:

    Whether the Administration and Works Sub-Committee will investigate the possibility of providing, as a short term measure, nursery places in other nurseries in the vicinity of the Palace of Westminster for the children of:


    (a) Peers;


    (b) Peers' staff; and


    (c) other staff of the House.[HL250]

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham): No. House of Lords provision for childcare extends only to staff of the House, under the voucher scheme.

Palace of Westminster: Childcare Vouchers

Lord Braine of Wheatley asked the Chairman of Committees:

    Whether the Administration and Works Sub-Committee will consider extending childcare vouchers to the staff of Peers.[HL249]

The Chairman of Committees: No. Peers' staff are not employees of the House.

Childcare Facilities in the House of Lords

Lord Braine of Wheatley asked the Chairman of Committees:

    In view of the fact that the provision of childcare facilities at the House of Commons is under consideration by the Commons Administration Committee and that a survey on childcare needs is also being circulated by that Committee, whether the Administration and Works Sub-Committee will seek the views of:
    (a) Peers;
    (b) Peers' staff; and
    (c) other staff of the House,

    about introducing childcare facilities within the House of Lords, or sharing any facilities that the House of Commons may introduce.[HL248]

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The Chairman of Committees: House of Lords provision for childcare extends only to staff of the House under arrangements set out in previous Written Answers (WA 9 22 May 1997). No representations have been received from staff to alter the basis of this provision, and it is not therefore proposed to carry out a survey of childcare needs in this House. The recommendations of the Commons Administration Committee will be considered by the Establishment Office when they are published.

General Affairs Council, 26-27 January

Lord Hogg of Cumbernauld asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will report on the outcome of the General Affairs Council held on 26-27 January in Brussels.[HL359]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): General Affairs Council: Contribution To PQ

Twenty four of the 25 A Points in document 5487/98, the text of which will be placed in the Libraries of the House as soon as it is available, were approved. Germany asked for the point on the adoption of a common position with a view to adopting a directive of the European Parliament and the Council on the approximation of the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the member states relating to the advertising and sponsorship of tobacco products to be withdrawn.

At the instigation of the UK Presidency, the General Affairs Council adopted as an A point a new EU common position on Afghanistan. It supports UN peace efforts and promotes work on respect for human rights (particularly the rights of women) and the fight against drugs.

The Council noted the resolutions adopted by the European Parliament listed in Documents 11496/97 and 11502/97. Copies of these documents will also be placed in the Libraries of the House as soon as they become available.

The Council opened with an open debate on the presidency work programme for the first half of 1998.

My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary, as President of the Council, highlighted the main issues in the coming months: EMU, unemployment, crime and drugs, enlargement, and making common foreign and security policy more effective. The President of the Commission then explained the Commission's programme with reference to the presidency's intentions. Other member states commented and gave their full support to the programme's implementation.

In discussion of relations with the western Balkans, Ministers welcomed the formation of a new government in Republika Srpska and, in particular, the commitment by the new Prime Minister, Mr. Dodik, to co-operate fully on the implementation of the Dayton/Paris peace agreement. The Council agreed to

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provide an initial 6 million ecu in financial assistance. The appropriate Council bodies, in close co-ordination with the Office of High Representative, will be taking this forward urgently.

The Council welcomed the intended immediate presidency/commission visit to Banja Luka to review further assistance for the new government. The Council also looked forward to receiving detailed recommendations on the Commission's proposals for modifying procedures for delivering aid.

My honourable friend the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Derek Fatchett, reported to the GAC on the troika mission which he led to Algeria from 19-20 January. The Council reaffirmed the strong commitment of the Union to remain engaged and agreed to take forward the EU/Algeria dialogue, notably through the negotiations for the EU/Algeria association agreement and the proposed meeting between Foreign Minister Attaf and the UK presidency. The Council expressed its regret that offers of humanitarian assistance had not so far been taken up: they remained on the table. The Council also urged greater transparency on the part of the Government of Algeria. It regretted that the Government had not been able to provide unhindered access for international organisations, NGOs and the media. It looked to the Government of Algeria to accept a visit by representatives of the United Nations in the near future and encouraged greater contact between Algerian and European parliamentarians.

The Presidency briefed the Council on its proposed handling of the European Conference launch in London on 12 March, the launch of the accession process on 30 March and the start of accessing negotiations on 31 March.

On China, my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary reported on his recent visit to China and Hong Kong. The Council agreed this proposal for an EU/China summit and the need for an intensified dialogue on human rights questions.

Ministers expressed their concern at the increase in violence in Burundi and the stalled regional-sponsored peace process. The EU will review the situation in the Great Lakes region in early February, once the EU special envoy for the Great Lakes has returned from the region, and consider further action.

Sir Leon Brittan presented the Commission proposal for removing Russia and China from the list of non-market economies for the purposes of anti-dumping. The presidency informed member states that they expected to deal with this issue formally at the February GAC.

The GAC took note of the written report on the seventh EU/Japan Summit (Tokyo, 12 January 1998).

In response to the major influx of migrants from Iraq and the neighbouring region, the presidency has drawn up a 46 point action plan covering elements from all three pillars to deal with the problem. It has also established initial contact with the Turkish Government

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and the UNHCR. The action plan was adopted and will be considered at the Justice and Home Affairs Council on 29-30 January. Progress will be reviewed at the next GAC on 30 March.

The Council had a lengthy discussion on Iran and agreed that, given Iran's record of support for terrorism and its efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction, the EU should keep in place and develop measures to deter and impede Iranian activity in these areas, including by working for greater EU/US co-operation in these shared areas of real concern. However, the Council also agreed that recent political events in Iran were encouraging and merited a review of the common position adopted by the General Affairs Council on 29 April 1997. Until this review is completed, the existing common measures will remain in force.

The Council discussed the situation in the Middle East Peace Process in the light of the Foreign Secretary's recent visit to Washington, the visit to Israel and the Occupied Territories by my honourable friend the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Derek Fatchett and President Clinton's talks with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Arafat.

The Council reiterated that full and unconditional implementation of commitments made by the parties under the existing agreements is essential to restore mutual confidence in the peace process and provide a firm basis for a full resumption of negotiations on the Palestinian track. It stressed in particular the need for early progress on credible and significant further redeployments in line with the commitments made at the time of the Hebron agreement, as well as on other outstanding commitments under the interim agreement. The Council also underlined the importance of maximum and sustained co-operation between the parties in fighting terrorism, and of the avoidance of unilateral acts which pre-empt final status talks, in particular on settlements and Jerusalem.

The Council reiterated its support for US efforts to restore momentum in the peace process and reaffirmed its intention to play an active role in support of the negotiations, including through the activities of its special envoy, Ambassador Moratinos.

The Commission presented a communication on the role of the European Union in the peace process and its future economic assistance. The Communication will be discussed in depth at a later Council meeting.

In the margins of the GAC, Ministers also held the first Co-operation Council with Russia following the entry into force of a partnership and co-operation agreement with Russia on 1 December 1997. There was a useful discussion on foreign policy issues, and the EU and Russia agreed to continue with ongoing consultations on key foreign political topics.

There was also a political dialogue meeting with Albania at Foreign Minister level on 27 January. EU Ministers gave their full support to helping Albania achieve reconciliation and a return to normality but stressed that primary responsibility lay with the Albanians themselves. The meeting reinvigorated the contact between the parties under the 1992 co-operation agreement.

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