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The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Simon of Highbury): The Government agree that complaints arising under any jurisdiction before an industrial tribunal should be heard and determined within a reasonable time. Over 80 per cent. of tribunal applicants come to a hearing within the target of 26 weeks, many of them well within the target. However, as the judgment in this appeal notes, the timely hearing and determination of cases depends on a number of factors including the co-operation of the parties concerned. The Government have noted the judgment which suggests a number of ways which the Court of Appeal considers that case management could be improved. These are, of course, matters for the independent judiciary who I am sure will also have noted them.
The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): My department fully supports the proposals to achieve a more open and accountable government set out in the White Paper for a Freedom of Information Act, presented by my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in December 1997.
Currently the individual arrangements for making papers available to the public, including in advance of meetings, are a matter for each NDPB. Commercial considerations may also play a part. Each NDPB sponsored by this department will comply fully with all proposals enacted by Parliament. It will also
Baroness Blackstone: Our White Paper Your right to Know: Freedom of Information proposes that universities should be among the bodies covered by a Freedom of Information Act, giving people a general statutory right of access to the information held by public authorities in connection with their public functions. We do not intend to require higher education institutions to publish the information listed in the question, but we believe students and others must be able to make informed decisions. The National Committee of Inquiry into Higher Education has proposed that institutions of higher education should develop, for each programme they offer, a programme specification which gives the intended outcomes of the programmes in terms of knowledge, understanding and skills. We welcome the positive response of the higher education representative bodies to this proposal.
Baroness Blackstone: Unless serving a benefit sanction, young people on the New Deal for 18-24 year olds waiting to take up an option place will continue to receive any benefits to which they are entitled until the day the placement is due to start.
Baroness Blackstone: Young people on the New Deal for 18-24 year olds who are dismissed from an option and who reclaim JSA within 13 weeks of leaving will have their case referred to an adjudication officer to decide whether a benefit sanction should be imposed. Those young people who are entitled to receive JSA will continue to receive it pending a decision.
Baroness Blackstone: The New Deal for 18-24 year olds has been designed to help all young unemployed people claiming the Jobseeker's Allowance for six months or more. JSA claimants are required to be available for work and actively seeking work. The New Deal will help any women aged 18-24 in refuges who claim JSA for six months or more. The programme begins with a gateway period, lasting for up to four months, which can include help from specialist agencies for young people with exceptional problems such as homelessness. Our commitment is that during the gateway, each young person will be provided with a chance to pursue one or more places in one or more of the four New Deal options before reaching the stage at which she is required to take up a place notified in writing by an employment officer. Women receiving income support because they have dependent children will not be required to join the New Deal programme for 18-24 year olds.
Baroness Blackstone: All young people who join the New Deal for 18-24 year olds will be claiming the Jobseeker's Allowance, which requires them to be available for and actively seeking work. The New Deal for 18-24 year olds is about identifying and responding to individual circumstances. During the gateway, which can last for up to four months, young unemployed people can receive help from specialist agencies to tackle such exceptional problems as homelessness. They will also receive support from their New Deal adviser who will be able to help them make appropriate choices about the steps they should take to increase their employability and find work. A young person reaching the closing stages of the gateway period who has been unable to obtain a place in a New Deal option will be required to take up the place in an option which his or her personal adviser considers the most appropriate available.
Baroness Blackstone: There are several welfare to work programmes including the New Deals for lone parents, disabled people and 18-24 year old unemployed people. Our New Deal for disabled people will aim to help people, including those suffering from mental illness, who are claiming incapacity benefits and who would like to work. The New Deal for 18-24 year olds has been designed to help young unemployed people who have been claiming the Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) for at least six months or more back into work. One of the conditions for receipt of JSA is that individuals should be capable of work. People with disabilities can, under JSA, restrict their availability for work in any way provided it is reasonable in the light of their condition. Where such restrictions are in place these will be taken fully into account while someone is on the New Deal.
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