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Lord Harris of Greenwich: My Lords, perhaps I may--

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, this side.

Lord Richard: My Lords, I am reluctant to intervene as to whose questions I should answer. However, it seems to me that this side is at the head of the queue at present.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, yes, and I shall be brief. Will my noble friend confirm that the

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noble Lord, Lord Renton, was in error when he said that we had a referendum on our entry into the European Community? The true fact is that we had been in the Community for 18 months before we had a referendum to decide whether we remained in.

Lord Richard: My Lords, my noble friend is quite right.

Lord Harris of Greenwich: My Lords, perhaps I may now ask the noble Lord a question. Does he agree with me that, notwithstanding what has been said on the Conservative Benches this afternoon, it is quite clear that in the recent general election the people of Scotland and Wales understood precisely the issues as regards devolution? That is why there is not a single Conservative Member of Parliament in either Scotland or Wales.

Lord Richard: My Lords, out of deference to the tender feelings of the party opposite I had omitted to mention that fact in my answer.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: My Lords, the Prime Minister has asserted that he has a mandate to consult the Scottish people in a referendum. Can the noble Lord tell me who the Scottish people are?

Lord Richard: My Lords, the people who will be entitled to vote in the referendum are those who are resident in Scotland or Wales at the time that the referendum takes place.

Lord Beloff: My Lords, will the noble Lord the Leader of the House cast his mind back to only yesterday, when the Prime Minister said that a White Paper was sufficient because it would set out everything that was to be in the Bill? If the Prime Minister is correct, why not save money, paper and ink and publish the Bill before the referendums?

Lord Richard: My Lords, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister today wrote to the Leader of the Opposition in another place. He said:

    "Thank you for your letter of earlier today concerning the points we discussed in the House of Commons this afternoon.

    It has always been made clear that the referendum will take place on proposals set out in a White Paper. I made that clear in a speech as long ago as 28 June last year. It was clearly stated in the Labour Party Manifesto, which said 'as soon as possible after the election, we will enact legislation to allow the people of Scotland and Wales to vote in separate referendums on our proposals, which will be set out in white papers'. And it went on, 'following majorities in the referendums, we will introduce in the first year of the Parliament legislation on the substantive devolution proposals outlined in our white papers'.

    Donald Dewar also explained this to the House on 16 May, i.e. two days after my comments which you put to me, and again on 21 May. This has always been understood to be the case".

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It was understood to be the case by the electorates in Scotland and Wales at the last election.

Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, if the people of Scotland and Wales have the mandate, as the Lord Privy Seal claims, why does he need a referendum in the first place?

Lord Richard: My Lords, we took the sensible view that, in order to ensure popular consent for the proposals, we should hold a referendum before the Bill was introduced. I am slightly surprised that the allegation is now being made from the other side that this is an excess of democracy.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords--

Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords--

Lord Richard: My Lords, again I find myself in a somewhat embarrassing position. If someone else were answering Questions, I should now say that we should move on since we have only six minutes left for the last Question.

Benefits: Disentitlement

3.32 p.m.

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What knowledge they have of the experience of people disentitled to social security benefits without enjoying other legal means of support.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, people who become disentitled to benefits, such as 16 and 17 year-olds, come out of the system and it is therefore very difficult to track what happens to them. It is easier to research the position of people who stay within the system. That is, they move off one benefit such as incapacity benefit to another such as jobseeker's allowance. However, we are having a fundamental review of the social security system and for that we will need to be as informed as possible about the possible consequences of new directions in policy.

Earl Russell: My Lords, I welcome the Minister's remark about a fundamental review. Does she agree that wise governments attempt to find out the likely consequences of measures before they introduce them; and that therefore the Government might be prudent not to introduce any further measures of disentitlement to benefit until they are better able to answer this Question?

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I am not entirely sure whether the noble Earl refers to disentitlement of an individual within the existing system, such as JSA sanctions, or whether he refers to

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the proposed changes in benefit built into the previous Government's expenditure plans. Perhaps he will tell me to which of those he refers.

Earl Russell: To both, my Lords.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, on the first point, if an individual is disentitled to benefit because he or she fails to meet the conditions of JSA, it is open to that individual to change his or her behaviour accordingly and meet the conditions of entitlement. Benefits are conditional; that is, part of the rights and responsibility contract which I am sure the House would expect us to endorse. I certainly do.

On the second point, there are a number of measures in the pipeline which came from the previous Government. I shall not defend the policies of the previous Government; however, we are where we are, and those savings have been built into our spending plans. It is precisely because we are not happy about the effect of all of those decisions, as well as the need for a broad and strategic review, that we shall conduct such a review, which I hope will be both frank and open.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that I welcome her conversion to the view that people should not have the option of a life on the dole? Does she recall the number of occasions on which she did not support me when I put the same arguments in favour of 17 and 18 year-olds having three or four choices, none of which was life on the dole? Does she realise that I will at least be consistent and back her if she applies exactly the same rules to any further proposals that her party has for 18 to 25 year-olds?

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I shall be delighted to welcome the noble Lord's support on issues on which we agree. It would be splendid to receive his support for the review being conducted by my honourable friend the Minister of State, Mr. Frank Field. If so, I hope he will accept that his Government should long ago have introduced this measure, which we are now willing to take up and pursue.

Our criticism of the measures for 16 and 17 year-olds was two-fold. We were worried, first, about the severe hardship regime and, secondly, that the alternative offered by the previous regime in terms of adequate training, as well as education and opportunities, was in place. Too often, government training schemes were "make-work" schemes which simply churned youngsters from one scheme to another without any hope of realistic employment at the end of them. We are determined that in our new deal for 18 to 25 year-olds those youngsters will not only have the opportunity of work or education but of quality training which will ensure that they enhance the true wealth of this country.

Lord Skelmersdale: My Lords, the Minister referred to the review being undertaken by her honourable friend the Minister of State in another place. She also referred to the fact that the fullest investigations were going on

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in connection with that review. In terms of the Question, where do the Government intend to seek information on illegal means of support?

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I presume that the noble Lord refers to issues such as the black economy or possibly collusion. It is a very open question. We will try to do our best within the resources of the department. However, by definition, anything that is illegal is likely to be in the black side, the underside or the twilight of the economy. The House will acknowledge the difficulty of being able to attach a precise price tag to that kind of information.

Earl Russell: My Lords, does the Minister agree, as a fellow academic and without reference to any political party, that the invocation of moral principle to justify a policy in lieu of evidence is the last refuge of a government which have not done their homework?

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