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Lord Campbell of Croy: I support the amendment. The discussions in Committee today have made clear that this new kind of interview is not yet completely clear and it is not easy to predict how it will be operated. It is something new and experimental. I believe that it is especially necessary that there should be an annual report in the first few years to see how the system proposed is operating in practice.
If the Government, for some reason, oppose having an annual report on this new system of interviews-- I recognise that they may not find the wording of the amendment satisfactory--what do they propose to introduce in its place? How do they intend to inform Parliament and the public about how the system is operating?
Lord Hardy of Wath: I have no objection to an annual report if my noble friend wishes to produce one. However, much of the information it contained could be obtained easily in due course from answers to parliamentary questions. One would also expect Select Committees of this House or the other place to examine the matter very carefully.
I was puzzled by the noble Baroness's reference in her excellent speech to the burdens that the Government are placing upon businesses. She mentioned the large number of small businesses that exist in this country and then proposed imposing yet another burden on them by requiring the Government to consult them--thus adding to the grumbles that small businesses make about being distracted from their business purposes by more consultation with a government department.
Lord Addington: I like the idea of an annual report to Parliament. If the matter is discussed on the Floor of the House, it enables other bodies to see what the report contains and to add other information to the argument. That should not be overlooked. If the Minister casts her mind back to when she was in Opposition, she may remember how helpful it often was to have those outside bodies, as it were, "feeding the flames of the argument".
However, the noble Lord, Lord Hardy of Wath, found a flaw in this amendment--it was spotted by one of my noble friends. I suggest therefore that the principle is fine, though the wording may need changing.
Baroness Hollis of Heigham: This new clause seeks to formalise the process for reporting progress on the introduction of work-related interviews. It seeks to place on the face of the Bill a requirement for the Government to publish specified information in relation to the operation of the "one" service.
Before I develop what we intend to do, perhaps I can respond to a couple of the points made by the noble Baroness. I am puzzled, as was my noble friend Lord Hardy, about the propriety of why collecting statistics from business--apparently related to such
The noble Baroness also spoke of the New Deal not being successful. I know in some detail what is happening with the New Deal for lone parents. If we can persuade lone parents to come into the New Deal, it will be extremely successful. But it is voluntary. Lone parents do not necessarily come forward in response to letters and, because there is not the "one" interview to bring them into the scheme, they do not know what they are missing. I am also worried about that aspect.
Twice tonight the noble Baroness said that we will be spending £100 million on personal advisers. As a piece of entirely personal curiosity, can she write to me and tell me where that figure comes from? I do not recognise it from any of my sources. However, I understand and share the desire of Members of the Committee to ensure open access to information on the progress of the "one" service. It is entirely reasonable that Parliament should wish to judge the effectiveness of such an important and radical initiative. That is why we are placing great emphasis on the evaluation of the pilots. We will be collecting and publishing not only information sought by this amendment--my criticism would be that the amendment does not go far enough in that respect--but a whole range of other information. That will be crucial in evaluating whether the introduction of work-focused interviews improves the extent of labour market participation and provides claimants with a more efficient service tailored to their individual needs.
In response to the noble Baroness, we will be publishing information on the number of people who get jobs, the number who are referred onto training programmes and claimants' views of the service they received. We will be collecting data on an ongoing basis on all the key stages of the new process, including the numbers taking part in work-focused interviews, the number of interviews which are deferred and the number of referrals to specialist help.
Over and beyond the bare statistics, we will also be conducting a full, in-depth evaluation. It will have qualitative as well as quantitative elements, remembering that by the time pilots are finished around 450,000 will have passed through them. For example, it will assess the experience of both clients and employers, and explore their views on the effectiveness of the "one" service. We intend to evaluate the policy, its delivery, the costs and benefits of the programme and all aspects of benefit claiming through the "one" service. We will also identify--a point that has not been raised tonight--the extent to which the "one" service maintains the security and integrity of the benefit system.
So details of the evaluation will start to become available as the pilots progress. I can assure the Committee that information will be available at the appropriate time. We expect the summer of next year for the qualitative assessments of the non-compulsory pilots; probably summer or thereabouts for the more quantitative evaluation. But to place the requirement on
Lord Addington: I believe that the most important part of this amendment is the report to Parliament and that it allows for debate within Parliament. Can the Minister give me some indication that the Government expect to have a debate on the findings on a regular basis which will allow input from outside bodies to be fed to those who are not involved directly in the parliamentary machine in order to raise new points that will be helpful to the whole system?
Baroness Hollis of Heigham: Apart from all other ways of drawing attention to the content of the research, the noble Earl, Lord Russell, is an expert in tabling Unstarred Questions as opposed to Starred Questions drawing attention to recent reports such as those from Shelter, Mind, the Nuffield Foundation and others which over the years he has asked the House to debate at, I am sure, appropriate length. I expect no less stringent scrutiny of the Government's research than the noble Lord asks us to attach to the reports of other organisations.
Baroness Buscombe: I thank the Minister for her explanation. I am surprised that she was puzzled by my reference to business. It is tremendously important that we have the cost implications for business not least because of the burdens which have been placed on it since this Government came to power. There is no question but that this initiative will have implications for business.
As regards the training programme, I have stated that we estimate the cost as being £100 million. As the Minister believes that that is not in any way an accurate figure, can she say what she believes the cost will be?
Baroness Hollis of Heigham: The noble Baroness has mentioned that twice tonight. On what basis does she produce her figures? At the moment we are talking about 200 personal advisers and there will probably be 2,500 of them in due course. I have already spoken about training. We estimate that the average cost will be about £2,000 per head. Obviously, they will be earning EO salaries, which is approximately between £16,000 and £18,000 each.
Most of them will be currently in service. Some will be drawn from the New Deal. Most of them already exist within the employment service. They will be doing a lot of the work in any case. If the noble Baroness has some basis for her figures other than speculation, I would like to hear it. We have no figures of that kind. I shall be interested to know. On the ground of the
Baroness Buscombe: I am happy to provide the Minister with that information. As regards the level of professionalism that we are asking for on the part of the personal advisers, £2,500 is not a lot of money.
Baroness Hollis of Heigham: The training programme that we have been talking about over 35 days or seven weeks means that the upfront investment in their skills is around £2,000. I am trying to give the Committee an indication of how seriously we treat the training element and how much we are investing in human capital in the personal advisers in what we all accept is an important initiative.
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