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Lord Inglewood: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for drawing that point to our attention. We shall look at it, and, if the problem is as she described, we shall respond accordingly.

Baroness Turner of Camden: My Lords, I thank the Minister.

Earl Russell: My Lords, before the Minister sits down, am I right in understanding that since he spoke early to assist the House and to open his own amendments, it is still in order for other noble Lords to speak if they wish?

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, indeed, that is the point of the exercise.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that full, if rather rapid, exposition of the Government's amendments, which I have done my best to follow. I hope that he will forgive me for asking what may be a stupid question, but it would be helpful to have an explanation as it is one of the key reasons why my noble friends Lord Russell and Lady Seear and I tabled this group of amendments. I am referring to subsections (9) and (10) of the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, and, in particular to the adjudication officer.

The noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, said—he went a long way towards reassuring me—that one of the purposes of the long government amendment was to deal with the original part of the Bill we found objectionable; in particular, the possibility of the regulations laying down criteria.

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Lord Inglewood: My Lords, I apologise to the noble Baroness, but I did not properly understand to which subsection she was referring, and so it is pointless going on.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, I was going at the Minister's own speed in order to satisfy the Government Whip. If she will be merciful to me, I shall take it a bit more slowly. Subsection (9) of Amendment No. 45 deals, among other things, with regulations being able to prescribe the criteria that the adjudication officer must have in mind. As the Minister said, one of the matters that my noble friend and I found objectionable was the possibility that, by regulation, criteria for adjudication could be added. The Minister said —I think with considerable understanding of our worries—that there was never an intention to add to the criteria the adjudication officer would have to bear in mind, thereby qualifying to some extent his or her own independence.

The new clause appears to meet most of our objections. However, one worry remains with me and perhaps the Minister can put my mind at rest. Subsection (10) in Amendment No. 45 reads:

    "Regulations may provide ... for such matters as may be prescribed to be taken into account by an adjudication officer in giving a direction under subsection (9) (c)".

My concern is that that could be a complex way of reinstating the issue of adding to the criteria which the adjudication officer must bear in mind. It may be that the wording fully meets the point. However, on a simple woman's reading of it, I am not sure that it does.

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, I am always suspicious when I hear simple women's questions—and simple men's questions too. I understand that the clause is to enable the adjudication officer, when a reference is made to him, to propose an agreement for the parties to enter. I understand that in doing so he will be in the same position as the parties were when they first began discussing the matter. The purpose of the clause is to enable the adjudication officer to operate within exactly the same constraints as regards the agreement as the employment officer would have had to operate at first instance.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, that sounds a little like, "If I say no I mean yes; if I say yes I mean no", which we came to earlier in our discussions today. I shall ponder upon what the Minister has said and, if I do not fully understand it, I shall ask my noble friend to return to the matter at a later stage.

Earl Russell: My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister for that reply. Obviously, I must read it in considerable detail and I suspect that I must read it more than once. I found it very helpful as far as it went. I am particularly grateful to the Minister for his comments on the phrase "terms and conditions". He penetrated exactly what was in my mind when I tabled the amendments and I have never been quite so glad to be told that I was confused. On that point, the confusion is now entirely clarified.

I was also extremely grateful to the Minister for his examples, which I found entirely helpful. I am not certain that I was so entirely convinced by his replies to

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my own amendments. In respect of Amendment No. 34, Clause 9(1), I was reassured by the Minister's exposition of the Government's intentions. I was particularly reassured to be told that my amendments are unnecessary. As your Lordships know, the Government have two categories of amendment; the unnecessary and the wrecking. If I had been told that this was a wrecking amendment, I should have been most anxious indeed. However, as I am told that it is an unnecessary amendment I am a great deal less anxious.

I am grateful for the Minister's reassurance that the powers are in their intention benign. I wish to draw his attention to the fact that before we are through a little further drafting might be helpful. I can see nowhere in Clause 9(1) a statement to the effect that any requirements necessarily must be benign. However good the Government's present intentions may be, this Government or any government will not be here for ever.

In the past the Minister has been a little unsympathetic to the argument about the powers of future governments. The Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee comments on precisely that issue. The House may wish to bear in mind, however, that whatever the current intention of the departments, the powers would remain capable of being used to make amendments of substance.

Being reassured about the Government's intentions is not necessarily the end of the matter. Leaving powers lying about is a little like leaving unexploded bombs or mines: one may not intend to detonate them but in 10 or 20 years some unsuspecting person may detonate them to devastating effect. Is there any possibility of the Government agreeing to tighten the wording of Clause 9(1) so as to bring it into line with their intentions, with which I shall not argue, as the Minister stated them?

Furthermore, I thought that the Government were a little unwise to use an argument from silence about the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee having made no criticism about the wording of Clause 9 as it stands. The Committee stated:

    "There is nevertheless a strong argument that the bill is no more than a skeleton bill, in spite of the Departments' arguments as to why the powers are needed to the extent provided for. The Committee must accordingly draw to the attention of the House the extent of the powers Parliament is being asked to delegate to Ministers".

With a general remark such as that, I would have thought that to make an argument ex silentio based on the words of the Committee is of very little weight.

But the Minister has said much for which I owe him nothing but thanks. Proceeding any further tonight would be inappropriate. I shall ask him to bear in mind the possibility of tightening the wording of Clause 9(1). I may wish to return to the matter later when I have read carefully what the Minister has said. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 34 not moved.]

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Lord McCarthy moved Amendment No. 35:

Page 7, line 37, leave out from ("officer") to second ("is") in line 38, and insert ("whereby the claimant agrees to carry out a set of reasonable jobseeking activities in return for the provision by the employment officer of appropriate assistance, including relevant training or jobsearch schemes,").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, we have had a long debate and have dealt with 24 amendments. For a long time the parties involved in the debate were arguing about which amendment would be pre-dinner and which would be after dinner. If we do not take this amendment at fair lick, I do not suppose that there will be any dinner—

Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, I cannot call the dinner break or adjournment for pleasure until 7.30 p.m., so it is up to your Lordships—and they will get dinner.

Lord McCarthy: My Lords, does that mean that at 7.30 p.m. the noble Baroness will order me out of the House?

Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, no.

Lord McCarthy: My Lords, I am glad about that. The amendment deals with the appalling Clause 9 and goes to precisely the same part of the clause as the previous amendment which was the subject of a marathon debate. We are trying to take out what we regard to be a largely meaningless phrase. It is:

    "and which complies with the prescribed requirements in force at the time when the agreement is made".

We wish to include words that are more precise and relevant to the central problem facing the jobseeker. We wish to put on the face of the Bill in place of the largely meaningless phrase which now appears a provision in respect of the jobseeker's agreement which states:

    "whereby the claimant agrees to carry out a set of reasonable jobseeking activities in return for the provision by the employment officer of appropriate assistance, including relevant training or jobsearch schemes".

That is intended to make the agreement a real agreement; a network of mutual obligations. As was said by Members on this side of the House when a similar amendment was moved in Committee, that is what an agreement is supposed to be. The Oxford English Dictionary states that an agreement is "A mutual understanding; a reconciliation; a covenant; a treaty; a contract; an accord which produces a harmony of interest after an interchange or exchange". That is what an agreement is and that is what we want the jobseeker's agreement to be. When a similar amendment was moved in Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, said that the jobseeker's agreement,

    "will set out what the jobseeker has agreed to do to meet the availability for work and actively seeking employment conditions of the JSA".

The jobseeker, he said, could propose terms so that the procedure was not entirely one-sided but if there was no agreement there was adjudication plus a defined series of appeals. Our point is that if there is adjudication, it will be on terms prescribed by the employment officer, the terms which he suggests are a reasonable JSA. I

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believe that if one reads what was said by the noble Lord on that occasion he accepted our point because he went on to say:

    "The Opposition want something very different. They want to use the agreement as a means of placing specific, perhaps almost contractual, responsibilities on the employment officer".

We accept that. We should like the employment officer to have a responsibility to help and we should like that prescription of responsibility to be on the face of the Bill.

The Minister said that,

    "it cannot be right that the individual employment officer should be bound to provide specific help".—[Official Report, 25/4/95; col. 895.]

I suggest now—and I would have suggested it at the time had it not been so late—that the Minister knows better than that. He knows that we are not asking for professional help or requiring that to be specified precisely on the face of the Bill. The help, if help there be, would be given by the Employment Service as a whole, not by individual employment officers.

Therefore, we are asking why there should not be a commitment to some kind of exchange—a set of reasonable jobseeking activities agreed by the jobseeker and, on the Employment Service side, what we call appropriate assistance in training, jobsearch and so on.

The difference arises when we come to adjudication. We argue that the jobseeker would be strengthened a little, but not over-strengthened. He can argue that what he has been asked to do is not appropriate or reasonable. I ask the Minister and the Government to consider that. If the amendment cannot be accepted, I ask the Government to tell us whether it would be possible to include something of that sort in the regulations. I beg to move.

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