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Lord Swinfen: My Lords, very briefly, I support this amendment. Civilian firms very often take in small groups of people in order to train them for new work. The

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Armed Forces need such people, quite obviously, in reasonably sized intakes of probably not less than 30 at any one time at a training centre. Therefore the centres have to wait until a sufficient number of high-quality recruits is available to train. There is a lot of merit in this amendment.

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, we are at one in recognising the importance of this country's Armed Forces. On 27th April, my noble friend said in Committee that we would give further consideration to the noble Earl's point about 16 and 17 year-olds who have applied to join Her Majesty's Armed Forces but who are waiting for their enlistment date. This amendment gives me an opportunity to return to that point.

We said at the time that we would need more time to give this complex matter full consideration. I fear that our early inquiries have only made the question more complicated. The three different services of Her Majesty's Armed Forces each have their own recruiting procedures. All need to be consulted about whether difficulties are experienced by young people who are waiting for their enlistment date. The Ministry of Defence told us in response to our initial inquiries that, on average, after receiving an offer a young person will wait about two months for his enlistment date, but in some cases the wait could be much longer.

When we last debated this point my noble friend suggested that he would like to incorporate young people in that provision. However, I am clear that it is important to strike a balance between young people who have to wait only a few weeks for their enlistment date and those who may have to wait considerably longer. For example, there will occasionally be cases in which the young person has to wait for perhaps as long as six months for his enlistment date. In such a case, it does not seem right to encourage him to sit at home on benefit when he could be in employment or undertaking useful training in the intervening period. Therefore, it is my intention to make special provision for young people who have a firm offer of an enlistment date but only if that date is within a fixed period.

However, there are a number of matters to be considered. There is the question of whether the young person waiting to join the Armed Forces should be required to show severe hardship to be entitled to JSA; whether there should be any period for which that is not required; and whether he should be required to register for either training or employment or both.

There are a number of matters on which it is important to get this matter right. I propose to consult further with the Ministry of Defence and other colleagues before writing to the noble Earl with our proposals. Having heard that explanation, I hope that he will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Earl Russell: My Lords, I am very grateful to the Minister for the trouble that he has taken on this matter and for his recognition that there is a genuine problem. However, it is true to say, important though it is to get things right, that if one looks for difficulties one will find them. I do not see why it is quite so important to work out exactly the average and the median waiting time. One

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should not be without visible legal means of support, whether it is for two months, three months, three weeks or even three days. If it is one day, it is too long. After all, we are dealing with people who have a very serious wish to undertake what is not a particularly easy form of work and not the sort of activity in which one would expect shirkers to get involved.

I hope that the Minister will not make a meal of the question of how long they must wait. If they must wait, they must eat; if they do not eat, they will not wait. It is as simple as that.

The Minister is also a little optimistic to suggest that they could be in employment or in useful training during a period which, by his own argument, will often not be more than two months. That mistake has been made before. It was made by King Charles I in the summer of 1640 when collecting troops to go and fight against Scotland. He did not have enough money, so he told them to wait for a few weeks, during which time they virtually all deserted. So he could not gather nearly so effective a force as he thought and he lost. I hope that that will not be a precedent.

I think that this matter is not so difficult as the Minister suggested. I may come back to it at Third Reading to see whether the Minister has managed to find ways to make it any simpler. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Brougham and Vaux: My Lords, I have begged the noble Lord to explain. It is most ungracious—

The Deputy Speaker: My Lords, despite my noble friend's intervention, the noble Earl asked leave to withdraw his amendment. Therefore, I put to the House that the amendment be, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Inglewood moved Amendment No. 63A:

Page 13, line 18, leave out from ("concerned") to ("or") in line 23 and insert ("has—
(i) failed to pursue an opportunity of obtaining training, or
(ii) rejected an offer of training,
and has not shown good cause for doing so;").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Clause 15(3) (b), as it now is, deals with the revocation of the severe hardship direction if it appears to the Secretary of State that the young person has failed to pursue or has rejected an opportunity for training.

In Committee the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, argued that there should be a provision on the face of the Bill that the direction should be revoked only if the person had acted without good cause. The noble Baroness argued most persuasively and my noble friend agreed to reflect further on her points. Yesterday I gave an undertaking to bring forward a suitable amendment. That is now on the Marshalled List as Amendment No. 63A.

The amendment makes clear that it is open to the 16 or 17 year-old who has rejected or failed to pursue an offer of training to say that he had good cause for so doing. But if he does not do so, the direction is revoked.

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If he does, and as a result it appears to the Secretary of State that he has shown good cause, the direction will remain in force.

Several times I have explained that that situation is exactly as it is now in practice. But we have been persuaded that it is right that that important protection should appear on the face of the Bill. That is precisely what the noble Baroness sought. I hope that she feels that the Bill has been improved in that respect.

The amendment also removes the references to employment in Clause 15. It will make clear that the sanctions in Clause 16 can be applied in respect of refusing, failing to pursue or leaving training which is covered by government guarantee but not employment.

I turn to Amendment No. 93A. This amendment makes plain on the face of the Bill that young people in receipt of JSA due to risk of severe hardship, will not receive a sanction under Clause 18 if they have a direction in force and have acted in such a way as to risk its revocation under Clause 15(3) (b) or have a direction in force and are receiving a reduced amount of JSA due to leaving a training course early. It clarifies the sanctions applicable to 16 and 17 year-olds subject to severe hardship direction.

In those directions we have shown a willingness to listen to advice from the Benches opposite. In particular we introduced the concept of "good cause" into Clause 15 and clarified the position on sanctions. I hope that your Lordships will be able to approve the amendment.

9.15 p.m.

Lord McCarthy: My Lords, my noble friend thanked the Minister last night in advance, so I can thank him today. We thank him for the amendments. They seem to be an advance and establish a principle; that is, that the Government, somewhat late in the day, have been converted to the idea that matters of importance should go on the face of the Bill.

Earl Russell: My Lords, I give a warm welcome to Amendment No. 63A.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, we are delighted to see the belated conversion of the Government to goody words like "reasonable", "suitable" and "good cause". We hope to see if they can be converted equally to the expunging of words like "regulations" and "as the Secretary of State may prescribe". We regard this as the first small step of the 39 steps to follow.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 64 to 66 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

Lord Inglewood moved Amendment No. 67:

Page 13, line 34, leave out from ("event") to end of line 36.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 68 not moved.]

Clause 16 [Reduced payments]:

Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde moved Amendment No. 69:

Page 13, line 41, after ("percentage") insert ("of not more than 10 per cent").

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The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 69 I shall speak also to Amendment No. 70. These amendments deal with the clause relating to young persons in the 16 to 18 age group.

Clause 16 deals with regulation. It is not clear what the reductions in benefit will be for this group of young people in the first stages of being involved in work if they are lucky enough to obtain employment. The clause says that the regulations may provide "in such circumstances"; it does not give them because they will be within the prescriptions. It says the allowance may be reduced by a percentage but does not state what the percentage is. If young people are receiving benefit, the reduction of an already small amount on which they have great difficulty managing may be punitive. We are saying that the amount should be not more than 10 per cent.

The clause states that the allowance will be reduced "for such a period". Amendment No. 70 seeks to ensure that the period is not more than one week. We are dealing with a vulnerable group of people. We have continually tabled amendments affecting this group but have made little progress. Those young people do not need to be turned away; they need help in a situation which often is not of their own making. The amendments are small. Their effect is that the prescriptions will be on the face of the Bill and not subject to regulation. They will therefore be clear for everyone to see. I beg to move.

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