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Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, again, before the noble Lord sits down and with the leave of the House, perhaps I may remind him that the point of this amendment came up following very helpful discussions with the Minister.

We accepted that he felt obliged to standardise the procedure across the country by coming from 21 hours down to 16 hours. We understood his thinking, although we thought that he could have been more generous. We understood that he was trying to achieve a standard formulation of 16 guided study hours.

We were concerned that that caught two groups of people. One, as my noble friend said, which had paid fairly heavy fees for a course—more than £100—which was deemed by the employment officer to represent such an investment in the course that those people were then disqualified from benefit; and a second group of those who had almost reached completion of the course and, as the noble Baroness said, were required to leave that course, sometimes perhaps for just a fortnight's temporary job before Christmas in Woolworths. Those

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people, nonetheless, after three months might have to give up the final month of a four months' course. We all thought that that was foolish and I thought that the Minister had accepted that.

Following the plea of my noble friend Lord McCarthy, and given that we have delayed the implementation of JSA until October though no doubt the guide and study rules will come in through guidance earlier, can the Minister say in the meantime that, at the time that the guided study hour regulations go out, there will be an accompanying note advising employment officers to look sympathetically at a situation in which somebody is undergoing an approved course of training or study relevant to his employment and is close to completing it? It would be an investment for the future. That would not be much. Clearly it could still be taken to adjudication or appeal if either side thought that the other side was behaving unreasonably. It would at least produce a climate in which we respected that situation.

Earl Russell: My Lords, perhaps I may ask one question before the noble Lord sits down. I welcome very warmly what he has said; but will he also consult the associations of colleges and the heads of further education institutions?

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, we seem to have been going back round the debate that we had on a number of occasions earlier. As I said, the case from the Benches opposite has been argued most persuasively. The hand that was trying to feed has been bitten a little. I have explained the Government's position. I do not see any need at all to take the matter any further at this stage.

Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde: My Lords, I have heard of giving on the one hand and taking back on the other, and we have just had a very good example of it. The Minister has made the point. The argument is accepted and the fact that it will probably put people back into work. But it will not be done immediately. We welcome the proposals put forward by the Minister. What we have great difficulty with is the timing of those proposals. We have some time in front of us to look at the whole area before this Bill goes on the statute book. If there needs to be a pilot course or if there needs to be more research, that is fine. But to say that it will not happen for a long time makes the apparently generous gesture almost worthless.

With due respect, it is not a reality to say that people on courses, if they gain employment, can rearrange the courses. They cannot. I have dealt with thousands of people who have been on such courses after being made redundant and had to retrain. It is not possible to go to the training centre, the TEC or the college and say, "You must rearrange my course because I have the opportunity of employment." One can imagine the trainer's response, "But you only have a few weeks to go. Why leave the course now when you will come out at the end with a skill that will increase your prospects?"

The Minister almost tripped himself up in saying that the logic is there, the case is made, but they are not going to implement the provisions as yet. I regret that the Minister should feel that we are biting the hand that feeds us. We are not. We are trying to ensure that people do not remain on the unemployment register for one day

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longer than necessary. Added skills will help towards that. We need perhaps to look at the whole debate again. I shall read the Minister's words tomorrow with increased interest and may well come back to the matter. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 82 to 90 not moved.]

Clause 19 [Exemptions from section 18]:

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 91:

Page 17, line 9, leave out subsection (1).

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment has already been spoken to. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 92 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

Lord Inglewood moved Amendment No. 93:

Page 17, line 14, at end insert:
("( ) Nothing in section 18, or in regulations under that section, shall be taken to prevent payment of a jobseeker's allowance merely because the claimant refuses to seek or accept employment in a situation which is vacant in consequence of a stoppage of work due to a trade dispute.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, one of the consequences of our accelerated progress through the amendments in the late hours of the Committee stage on 27th April was that the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, withdrew her amendment to put on the face of the Bill the protection from sanction for a person refusing to accept an offer of employment arising from a trade dispute. That denied me the rare pleasure of being able to accept an amendment from noble Lords on the Benches opposite. Not to be denied that pleasure a second time, I am bringing the same provision forward as a government amendment.

It was always the Government's intention to carry forward this provision, contained in current legislation, though we had been minded to provide for the protection in regulations. I hope that noble Lords opposite will accept this amendment as an indication of the importance of the provision. I beg to move.

Lord McCarthy: My Lords, of course we congratulate the Government. I never thought that this Government could surprise me. It may sadden me, annoy me, make me laugh, but not surprise me. But they surprised me tonight. I still do not know why they have done it but then I never knew why they took away this long-standing concession in 1988. I am only saddened that, as the noble Lord said, the amendment was tabled in our name and if I had moved it at 10.45 p.m. they may have accepted it. One can never tell.

I say only one word of warning: one damn thing leads to another. If the Government start giving back trade unionists their rights, one never knows where it will end.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 93A:

Page 17, line 14, at end insert:
("(1B) Section 18 does not apply, in the circumstances mentioned in subsection (5) of that section, if—

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(a) a direction is in force under section 15 with respect to the claimant; and
(b) he has acted in such a way as to risk—
(i) having that direction revoked under subsection (3) (b) of section 15; or
(ii) having the amount of his jobseeker's allowance reduced by virtue of section 16, because he has failed to complete a course of training.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 93A has already been spoken to. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Inglewood moved Amendment No. 94:

Page 17, line 15, leave out ("may") and insert ("shall").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is another of the consequences of our accelerated progress on 27th April when the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, withdrew her amendment to replace the power to make regulations for trial periods with a duty. As with Amendment No. 93, here I am not to be denied the pleasure again of responding positively to the noble Baroness's concerns and, incidentally, surprising the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy.

In other areas of the Bill we have resisted attempts from the Benches opposite to replace regulation-making powers with duties because of the need to retain flexibility in the way in which we provide for the detailed rules of JSA. In this instance there is no such concern.

The employment on trial rule enables people who have been unemployed for a certain length of time to take up work in the knowledge that if they subsequently decide to give it up after a specified time, there will be no question of a sanction for leaving the job voluntarily. The Government is confident that this protection from sanction provides a valuable incentive for unemployed people to try out areas of work that might be comparatively unfamiliar to them. Our hope is of course that once started in the job, they find that it is working out, and that they decide to stay in it. The success stories are those who do so. Paradoxically, the fewer people who actually end up using the rule and thus return to benefit, the better.

In the JSA White Paper, the Government confirmed their support for the employment on trial rule. We announced that it would be continued and improved. Our intention is that the qualifying period of unemployment will be reduced from six months to three months, and that people using the rule will be able to leave jobs without penalty at any time between the fourth and 12th weeks of employment, instead of the sixth and 12th weeks. This will help potentially an additional 200,000 people. I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, can accept this amendment as a response to her own amendment which was not moved in Committee. I beg to move.

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